The Monday Discourse
With the palpable discontent in the two major political parties – the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party – the emergence of yet another mega party may be inevitable, write Shola Oyeyipo and Segun James
It is a matter of time, the idea of a mega party said to be in the works will start to yield into substance and ultimately, materialise. The political turf currently appears disenchanted, in a fashion reminiscent of the trappings that shaped the build-up to the 2015 general election. The talk about the possibility of a mega party to challenge the status quo is the in-thing. The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are believed to be treading in wrong places, result of which is the growing discontents in both political groups.
But should there be the need for a new and as it is called, mega party, what are grounds for it? Who would make up the party? At what time would this idea be deemed appropriate to birth, given the prevailing scenarios? Can the political space afford another chance as against some realignment to displace the status quo? These and more are some of the guiding posers that would tell eventually, the viability of the idea.
However, if the permutations of Nigeria’s first national chairman, Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), Chief Perry Opara and others, who share his dream, is anything to go by, Nigerians will soon be witnessing the birth of yet another political party. But presently, one has been formed in a hurry and its name is, Peoples Mega Party (PMP).
There have been growing indications that some members of the PDP other unhappy persons in the ruling APC as well as some other splinter groups in the Labour Party (LP), Hope Party, KOWA Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) had decided to pull out of their parties to float the new mega party in recent time.
Opara said a meeting held recently to fine tune the processes for the formation of the new party recorded impressive turnout and the people canvassed the formation of a mass movement that would provide a voice for the masses. His argument was that the PDP could no longer be a credible opposition party because “the umbrella of PDP has torn beyond repairs and the house is infected,” result of which is a negative impact on the image of PDP.
Whereas it is a well-known fact that the PDP is going through a turbulent time presently, Opara premised his decision on a presumed annihilation of the party hitherto known as the ‘largest party in Africa,’ and which had boasted to rule Nigeria for 60 uninterrupted years.
Explaining the rationale behind the coming party, Opara said: “The leadership of the party (PDP) is embroiled with corruption charges. In a situation where the BoT Chairman, NWC members and top leaders of the party are facing corruption charges, credible men can no longer remain in a stinking house.
“I assure Nigerians that as the probe continues, it will be difficult for leaders and members of PDP to visit Wadata Plaza. PDP has become a symbol of corruption, impunity and lawlessness. It will be difficult for PDP to win future elections in Nigeria.
“In the last election, party functionaries striped aspirants of their hard earned monies. Some aspirants spent more than N500 million just to get party ticket and after collecting huge sums from aspirants, they still denied them tickets. What a fraud! We have identified few elders, who are credible enough to lead and they will be identified in due course.”
Who is in PMP?
Those reported to have attended the maiden National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the proposed new party held at the Sheraton Hotels and Towers, Abuja and who adopted the convener, Opara, as the protem chairman of the proposed party included Chief John Agbara, who led the APGA faction into the alliance. He addressed the NEC members on the proposed party and gave his support.
Opara himself was an aide to former Special Adviser to former president Goodluck Jonathan, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, who was denied the PDP chairmanship. Though Gulak is yet to officially declare support for the PMP, possibilities are high that he would eventually pull his weight behind it.
Shedding more light on what to expect from the party in terms of membership composition, Opara said: “The people in the forefront of forming the mega party are majorly former members of the PDP, who are disenchanted with the high level of corruption, with the high level of impunity and high-handedness going on in the party. They have decided to form something new.
“There are APGA chairmen from many states, who identify themselves with the new party. We also have people from Labour Party (LP) and the Accord Party (AP). There are also disenchanted people from the APC, who feel that they want a new place. We don’t normally mention their names. Nobody has given me mandate to mention his name.”
But that announcement did not go down well with the Labour Party. The LP National chairman, Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam on Friday warned Opara to desist from linking LP to his party. He threatened to sue Opara if he does not desist from associating his with the political group.
According to Abdulsalam, “It is wrong and fraudulent to link the Labour Party with the political group,” because according to him, no registered member of the Labour Party would join the PMP or any party due to the ideology and vibrancy of LP.
“I want to assert that no registered Labour Party member has shown interest in joining him and will have anything to do with his (Opara) movement. We are warning him not to drag us into this. He should show remorse and stop linking us to his agenda otherwise we would take him to court and formally write to INEC about this,” Abdulsalam warned.
Also, deputy national publicity secretary of the PDP, Mr. Abdullahi Jalo said the PDP is not deterred with the activities of Opara and his cohorts, stating, “The PDP is not deterred; the PDP is not even concerned about Opara; if the so-called faction of the PDP is pulling out to join a faction of APGA to form the PMP, that is not important to the PDP now.”
The Problem with PDP
There is no hiding the fact that there are some very displeased people within the PDP. This has been so since the days of former president Jonathan. It was the reason five state governors and other notable leaders of the party, including former president Olusegun Obasanjo quit the party and openly supported President Muhammadu Buhari. At some point, within the PDP itself, there is a perception among members that the PDP has been made to look like a contaminated political party to Nigerians and that it would be counterproductive to continue to use it to push itself as a credible opposition party.
Before now, former governors Sule Lamido, Godswill Akpabio, Muazu Aliyu and other PDP top notch like former defence chief, Theophilus Danjuma, former finance minister, Adamu Ciroma and a few others had been reported to be working on an alliance with other parties, which could have necessitated a change of name for the PDP.
Though some forces within the party were not favourably disposed to the proposal, fact is that the PDP has been embroiled in controversy since losing the presidential election. The contention has been that stalwarts of the party accused the National Working Committee (NWC) of leading the party to its most disastrous outing and called on the NWC members to resign their positions.
The proponents of the sack of the NWC also accused the leadership of siphoning campaign funds. The NWC members were accused of collecting money running into several millions each but failed to do anything for the victory of its candidate, Goodluck Jonathan while on the other hand, the NWC accused the presidential campaign organisation of causing Jonathan’s defeat by carrying out hate speech against the APC candidate, Mr. Buhari and the people of the North.
Currently, the party is enmeshed in a leadership crisis it is working round the clock to resolve and that is due to the emergence of former Borno State governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the National Chairman of the party against the wish of some members of the PDP BoT.
2019 Tearing Down APC
Contrary to expectations that the ruling APC would consolidate on its unprecedented electoral victory, not long after the party took over the rein of power, watchers have been confused as to whether there is an actual APC leader or whether the party is still under the tight grip of the different factions that gave birth to it.
The dichotomy within the party was brought to fore after the National Assembly leadership election that threw up Senate President Bukola Saraki as the Senate President. This was an indication that the APC was yet to evolve into one united party.
The APC is a coalition of political parties and people with different ideas and motives and as such, the PDP arm of the APC in getting their goals met easily formed an alliance with their former comrade in the PDP to get Saraki to the Senate President position, a move considered a slap on the APC leadership.
As things stand in the party today, though the ruling party is still holding itself together as one entity on the surface, it is polarised along the camps of former Lagos State governor, Senator Bola Tinubu, Senate President Saraki, National chairman, Chief John Oyegun, former vice president, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and some other splinter groups and interests.
Observers have traced the APC woes to the alleged decision of President Buhari to serve only one term as party bigwigs are already fighting hard to retain control of the party’s machinery ahead of 2019 general election. Politicians have started forming alliances ahead of the 2019 elections.
In fact, the general belief is that the decision of the opposition PDP to thwart efforts of candidates presented by the APC for the position of Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives is in connection with the 2019 presidential contest.
Indications that all is not well within the APC are observable in several ways. For instance, Saraki has repeatedly said his travail at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), where he is facing 13-count charge is nothing but a political witch hunt while some others in the party are aggrieved that they have been excluded from the power equation in the party.
The crisis that trailed who takes over from Alhaji Lai Mohammed as the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, when he was appointed minister is another. Also, the crisis that rocked the APC despite its victory in Kogi State; the crisis in Plateau APC over extension of LG chairmen’s tenure and in fact, the recent altercation between Senator Dino Melaye, who while speaking at a debate on the need for Nigerians to patronise made-in-Nigeria goods and maligned Governor Adams Oshiomhole and the governor’s response, which described Dino as “shameless,” and without a “matrimonial home,” are all indications of the crack within the ruling party.
More importantly is the alleged style of the president which tends to disregard party supremacy and carries on as if emerged as an independent candidate. Buhari has been accused severally of discountenancing the role of the party in government. He was accused of having single-handedly picked his cabinet members without the inputs of those leaders who worked round the clock to ensure his success at the poll.
In addition, he is said to have been taking many other sensitive decision as president without recourse to the platform through which he got to power. These are some of the interests clearly playing out and against the positive standing of the party that newly secured power at the centre.
Looking Out for the Signs
As it was in 2013, when the leadership of the PDP allowed five of its governors to leave the party and form the new PDP (nPDP) before eventually joining force with other people of like-minds to form the APC during a moment of internal crisis, a move which heralded the decline of the party as a political behemoth and led to the loss of the presidency in 2015 and several states, the signs are here again.
In the APC, the internal crisis brewing and forcing members to the extreme action of possibly forming a new political party may be as a result of President Buhari’s alleged abandonment of the coalition that brought him to power and concentrating juicy political patronage on the members of his former political party – the CPC – whom he insisted are more loyal to him than members of the coalition that brought him to power.
The President’s statement is believed to have alienated the very people, who worked to ensure his emergence not only as the presidential candidate of the APC, but also as the president and commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after three fruitless tries.
Majority of those feeling angry are people from the former ACN, the dominate party in the South-western part of the country, whose leader Tinubu and his followers has in recent times being distancing himself from the activities of the federal government.
In some states were rerun polls had taken place, the president and the federal government had been accused of abandoning the party and its candidates, a situation which they claimed has found the party in confusion. Besides, the president’s deliberate refusal sponsor the party’s candidates in those elections, when it was obvious that they did not have the personal means to prosecute the election was said to have robbed them of victories.
But in the PDP, the phenomenon has been building up even before the election, which the party lost last year. The controversial nomination of President Goodluck Jonathan as the sole candidate of the PDP had created bad blood among the faithful. This was followed by the imposition of unpopular candidates by the leadership of the party on the people.
Following the loss of the party after 16 years in office and the subsequent acceptance of defeat, the PDP was said to have become leaderless and rudderless. The first inclination of this was when a former governor of Akwa Ibom State and now senator, Chief Godswill Akpabio paid a visit to former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, a few weeks after the PDP lost to the APC.
Akpabio was said to have gone to seek the return of Atiku to the PDP and to give the party effective leadership, which it had apparently lost.
Inside sources has it that Akpabio promised Atiku the support of the leadership come 2019 if he still has a presidential ambition. The Senator is believed to be one of the leaders of the renegades that are angling for the formation of a new party from the ashes of the PDP.
This is made worse by the emergence and growing influence of the likes of Governors Ayodele Fayose and Segun Mimiko in the PDP. Those seeking the break-up of the PDP are angry that both governors, who ensured the emergence of Alhaji Modu Sherrif, a PDP returnee just as themselves, as the national chairman of the may be weakening the party further.
This was proven with the mass outrage that followed the emergence of Sherriff as chairman. There was widespread outrage from both members of the PDP and other political stakeholders, who saw the development as a setback for the opposition party still searching for a way to worm itself back into national reckoning.
However, in a surprise deal reached at the reconciliatory meeting of major organs of the party, made up of the PDP Governors’ Forum, its Board of Trustees (BoT), National Assembly caucus, and the NWC held at the Ondo State Governor’s lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, the party agreed to hold a national convention in May that would usher in new executives to superintend its affairs.
According to Mimiko, who addressed the press after the meeting, the party resolved to end the crisis over the leadership of the party and to forge ahead as one family.
“As you can see, we are just from a meeting. You are all aware of some controversies generated by the appointment of our new national chairman. In view of the recent developments of our party, I want to let you know that all organs of the party – the governors’ forum, National Assembly caucus, BoT – have agreed to stand by our national chairman to ensure that our party moves forward,” he said.
With regards to the position of the other stakeholders like the PDP Former Ministers’ Forum, Mimiko, who was flanked by Sheriff, the governors of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti States, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekwerenadu and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, said all the important organs and stakeholders of the party had been reached and all were in agreement to give backing to the new chairman to organise the convention that would usher in a new beginning for the party.
“We have put behind us all the controversies in the last few days and I want to assure you that we are together as a party. We have also mandated the national chairman and the National Working Committee to put in motion immediately, the processes of ensuring that within three months, a national convention of our party is held.
“We will brief all our members nationwide within the next two weeks of the timetable in this direction. In the next two weeks, the timetable will be out, all cumulating in our national convention within three months. I want to assure all of you that PDP is ready to work as one to move the country forward. We want to assure you that the party is ready to give Nigerians good governance. Let them know that as one big family, we are set and ready to move forward and ensure that we give good governance to the country,” he said.
The Chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibril, said his colleagues had agreed to back down on their rejection of the new national chairman and cooperate with other organs to actualise the national convention within the next three months. He called on all aggrieved members of the party, including former ministers of the party to sheathe their swords and embrace the leadership of the party.
Prior to the briefing, ex-ministers of the PDP met in Abuja and restated their rejection of Sheriff as national chairman of the party due to the illegitimacy that brought him to power.
In their resolution, the forum however relaxed its stance on Sheriff’s resignation but called for the conduct of congresses at all levels of the party leading to the national convention to be held on March 28, so as to return power to the people.
The forum also condemned all acts of impunity in the running of the party and called for adherence to the party’s constitution. The forum agreed to continue with consultations with all relevant stakeholders, and noted with dismay, the threat to one of its members, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, by Sheriff. It stated that a threat to one of its members was a threat to all.
The chairman of the forum, Mr. Tanimu Turaki, further insisted that the former ministers felt that the process deployed to appoint the national chairman was flawed.
Former ministers, who attended the meeting were John Odey, Musa Sada, Jerry Gana, Fani-Kayode, Prof. ABC Nwosu, Mrs Josephine Anenih, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Ambassador Aminu Wali, Shetima Mustapha and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Also reacting to Sheriff’s threat to deal with him, Fani-Kayode, a former aviation minister, said he was not scared of him and accused the party’s chairman of attempting to set fire to the PDP and the entire country with his imposed chairmanship.
Addressing journalists before the meeting of the ex-ministers, he said: “Well, my first question is: who is Ali Modu Sheriff? Is he a Nigerian or Chadian? The second thing is that he came as the national chairman or claiming to be one, and you want to move the party forward, and the first thing you do is to start issuing threats.
“This I think is unacceptable and nobody is intimidated. The fact of the matter is that he wants to set Nigeria on fire; he also wants to set PDP on fire and that fire is going to consume him and him alone. With regards to the personal threats to me, I am more than ready for him; I am waiting for him and I assure him that I am not be like anybody he has met before in his life. He will meet a resistance he never expected.
“I am never intimidated. We will remove him, we will ensure that he does not remain national chairman because he has divided this party and this meeting we are having today will take a decision on that and I would not like to preempt their decision. I sincerely hope that all the other stakeholders of the party recognise that this man is divisive; he is unacceptable; he is unfit, and he is somebody that none us has any respect for and cannot move our party forward.”
Informed sources within the PDP said the decision to allow Sheriff a short spell as chairman was brokered by Senator Ekweremadu at his Abuja residence. It was gathered that Ekweremadu, who is the highest elected public office holder in the PDP, met separately with aggrieved ex-ministers of the party led by the former governor of Kano State and ex-Minister of Education, Shekarau.
The ex-ministers, who attended in their numbers, collectively stated that Sheriff was a wrong choice for the post of chairman of the party.
Other than Shekarau, other ex-ministers that spoke at the meeting were Odeh and Fani-Kayode.
Waiting on the Mega Party
There is no gainsaying that the success or failure of the PMP or any other party for that matter to come out strong depends absolutely on how much peace the Sheriff leadership is able to bring to the table in the PDP and how much the APC can get from its peace meetings including the recent one held with Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo at his Aso Rock office, Abuja. Even where the parties are unable to put their houses in order, the main question is, is it likely that PMP makes any strong incursion into the Nigerian political space? The answer to that question is not in the affirmative yet considering the position taken by most of the speakers, who see no basis for such an action now, especially the Opara show.
A notable PDP stalwart in the South-west, who spoke with THISDAY on the condition of anonymity said: “Those people are simply jokers. They only want to be noticed. I can’t see them making any serious impact with the party they are planning to float.”
According to him, what should be paramount to any well-meaning member of the former ruling party is how to reposition the party and not to further put the party in disarray.
This was similar to the position taken by the chairman, Kwara State PDP, Mr. Iyiola Oyedepo, who said the proponents of the new party were merely being selfish and inconsiderate about the future of the party.
Talking about those behind the PMP, Oyedepo said: “That is their own problem. There is no reason to do so, except that they want to be selfish. Not everybody would be happy about issues at times, but because you are not happy you should not bring down a house. It is the highest level of indiscipline and I think they are not patriotic members of the party.”
His Lagos State counterpart, Captain Olatunji Shelle (rtd) shares similar opinion about the development. To him, rather engaging in feuds that will ultimately affect Nigerians, time is now that Nigerians, irrespective of party affiliation, should concern themselves with how to move the country forward.
“It is too early to start making comments on the matter. Politics is too dynamic. I don’t even know the people. Now, everybody is looking for the best for Nigeria. All those running around are not good. If you are a councilor, local government chairman or a state governor, you can make the state work effectively.
“If I come to this life again, I will look at the party to join. I am looking forward to a party that will restructure Nigeria; a party that will make states, LGAs more powerful. Nigerians don’t have conscience. If we have conscience we will do things right. Let people work to make Nigeria better. All those parties cannot make Nigeria better,” he said.
Speaking for APC, former Kogi State Commissioner for Information and currently the Managing Director of the about to be launched APC News Online, Dr. Tom Ohikere, said members of the ruling party are not part of the proposed mega party. Though he agreed that there could be some teething problems in the party, he maintained that it is not to the extent that members of the party would join Opara’s new party.
“The APC is not involved. The APC presently, is in the process of consolidating on our emerging gains from the 2015 general election. There are no factions in our party as some people are speculating. At this stage in party politics, you should expect things of this nature but there is no crack in the wall of our party.
“Don’t forget that so many forces came together to form our party and they got success for the party. Appointments have not been fully made, so, you should expect people that are currently redundant to be talking. Yet, APC today has the largest vessel for political appointments in Africa and efforts are being made to do things properly and not in the PDP way.
“For instance, APC wants to put round pegs in round holes. So, efforts are being made to recognise able hands to man the federal boards and other critical appointments. When that is done, you will see that there is no critical problem to warrant any breakaway in the party,” Ohikere said.
Certainly, there are many angles to the issue at hand. It could be that some persons are pre-empting the others or there is a conscious effort to stop the idea from materializing. But at least, there are elements of concerns and or alternative facts in the matter relating to the issue of a party to challenge the status quo. The point that cannot be lost in the whole is that the birth of this idea is contingent purely on the management of the delicate situations in both parties – the APC and the PDP.