If you ask ten leading chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) why the party seems permanently set on the turbulent mode, they will give you ten different reasons why the “largest party in Africa” is as restive as it is.
But one major reason that sewed the seed of the unending crisis is impunity.
It is a party that took all the time to put together a constitution, but its leaders always believe they are a head ahead of the constitution, and so too many times, ran the party based on the rule of the thumb.
The signs that the party was gone to self-destruct have been there. What had managed to hold its incompatible fabrics together is the greasy allure of power. And as soon as that nectar was removed from the withering flower, the storm of self-determination has been blowing the party. The result is what we see today: an umbrella that is not only in shreds, but its pieces and strips being pulled asunder, while a few party god-fathers clutch on to the handle of an umbrella that no longer has a covering.
And as the Bible would say, a house that is divided against itself cannot stand. That is the present fate of the PDP.
This explains why all the reconciliatory efforts of the party have hardly yielded desired results. I recall the Alex Ekwueme committee: how it went round and round trying to reconcile aggrieved and wronged members of the party. While a few returned, many simply journeyed out of the party, irretrievably. The PDP is a party that whimsically reverses itself at will, depending on the “signals from above”.
It is a party where the “body language” of the leader (oftentimes the President) is superior to the clear provisions of its constitution. It is a party where its operations are structured and tweaked to agree with the narrow preferences and idiosyncrasies of its leader. That was why former president Olusegun Obasanjo operated and ran the party like an emperor. Party chairmen who dared to differ from Mr. President were shown the door. Party Chairmen who wanted to remain in the corridors of power and enjoy the perks thereof had to zip their own understanding of the party’s constitution and do the stated or implied bid of Mr. President.
That was why even elective conventions were organized to fulfil the desires of Mr. President. That was why Obasanjo almost got his third term ambition while the party apparatchik watched haplessly. That was why former President Jonathan reversed himself on the power-rotation agreement between North and South. That was why Jonathan even denied the agreement of not seeking second term in office. And as it were, he did not get it.
Have we forgotten how Alex Ekwueme felt he was manipulated out of reckoning in one of those conventions where he wanted to become the party’s presidential candidate? And when his protests were struck down, the old man simply packed his bags to Okoh to nurture his grey hair.
Ever since then, the culture of imposition of candidates had become the bane of the party at all levels. So-called party leaders will negate party guidelines and impose their godsons or aspirants who had “settled” them most as the candidates of the party… all because almost always, whoever the party presented (in its strongholds) was bound to win the election. It was so assured at the time that one former National Chairman of the party, Vincent Ogbulafor (where has he been even?) boasted that the PDP will be in power for 50 years. Not anymore! The party was stopped on the 15th year. And that is why there is irreconcilable tension and polarization in the party.
And in those days, the much talked about internal conflict-resolution mechanism of the PDP was not far from a “settlement” mechanism where those who were unjustly pushed out of party candidacy line, were compensated either with contracts or appointments, to calm their nerves.
But with PDP out of power, the internal conflict resolution mechanism has simply refused to boot. Neither the nectars nor the petals of the flower are in sight anymore. That is why the falcon can no longer hear the falconer, and it seems things are gradually falling apart.
Were it not so, the party will not be under the siege of 17 court cases running at the same time, with the courts, in various jurisdictions and divisions, firing very divergent and conflicting judgements as if the facts are not the same.
I wonder what the National Judicial Council (NJC) says about all these contra-judgements.
Beside the cockiness and indiscipline of party chieftains, one other plague the PDP will have to deal with is the judicial bullets being fired at the heart of the party from all directions.
Almost like a throwback to the sad days of June 12 1993 saga, the courts are at their whimsical best.
While a particular judge in Abuja Division is always granting the prayers of Ali Modu Sheriff (accused of being a despoilation agent) and recognizing him as the authentic and valid national chairman of the party, another judge somewhere in Port Harcourt is always shooting down Sheriff and hoisting the flag of Ahmed Markarfi as the valid Chairman of interim national Committee of the party.
In the latest drama that ended last Wednesday, while an Abuja judge—Justice Okon Abang granted Sherif’s order seeking a ban of the Port Harcourt convention and even ordering the Police IG to enforce the order, another judge in Port Harcourt, Justice Ibrahim Watila granted Ben Obi’s request that the convention be allowed to hold. Justice Watila went ahead to order both the INEC, Police and DSS to provide coverage for the August 17 convention.
The Chairman of the convention committee and governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike had boasted last Tuesday, that the convention would hold as planned.
They were shocked to find out when they woke up Wednesday morning, that the venue of the convention—Sharks Stadium, Port Harcourt, had been sealed off. Meaning is that the IG chose to obey Justice Abang’s order.
Left with no choice, the party apparatchik assembled at the state’s party secretariat where they extended the tenure of the Markarfi committee by another 12 months. The idea is that before then, all the fiery darts of court cases and court orders would have been doused and the party will come under one umbrella again.
But while the party chiefs were drafting the resolution of the convention that never really was, another Abuja judge, Justice Valentine Ashi affirmed the June 29 sack of Sherif as the party’s chairman. Surely, the last has not been heard, as Sherif is bound to yet release another volley from his armoury.
While we wait for the next scene of this comedy of errors, I ask a few questions:
First, since Sheriff is against the holding of the so-called convention in Port Harcourt, why do the party leaders insist on holding it in no other place but Port Harcourt?
Second, why was the Jerry Gana reconciliation committee in a hurry to submit a report whether or not the aggrieved parties are still firing from different cylinders? Is it not now obvious that the “micro-wave strategy” of Jerry Gana did not work as the party is back to point origin?
Third, who is bearing the cost of these political fiascos?
All things considered, the PDP needs to be re-tooled and re-launched in a way that it will be equipped to play its historic messianic role of delivering the nation from any philistine administration like the Abacha junta from which Nigeria was rescued in 1998. It can only do this on the ethos of justice and fairness predicated on sincerity of purpose, otherwise the house shall not stand.