As PDP Crisis Worsens in the Aftermath of Ondo Election

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Onyebuchi Ezigbo writes that PDP may be on the path to self-destruction with the aggravation of its internal crisis following the governorship election in Ondo State, which it lost

One would have thought that the grim reality that no success can be achieved under the atmosphere of crisis and instability has dawned on the warring factions of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as they lick their wounds following the party’s defeat at the just concluded governorship election in Ondo state. But the loss which is the second in a row, having been defeated in another governorship election in Edo state, last month has rather sparked off a new wave of conflict and mudslinging.

With what happened at the courts before the Ondo governorship elections, one is tempted to conclude that the feuding parties are not ready for any peaceful settlement of the crisis. Or how can anyone explain the dirty tactics adopted during the legal tussle over the party’s candidacy for the Ondo election? Even with the intervening judicial pronouncements by the Supreme Court which came in the last minute to resolve the controversy over which of the candidates, Eyitayo Jegede or Jimoh Ibrahim should represent the PDP in the Ondo poll, the antagonism between sides has refused five way. In what will clearly put the future of the party in jeopardy, each of the factions, have gone haywire threatening one another with sanctions.

In some of the state chapters of the party, the rival state executives have engaged in pronouncement of suspensions and counter suspensions on their members. While the leadership of the PDP led by the chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi has come out to reject the result of the Ondo governorship poll, the other faction led by Senator Modu Sheriff has attributed the loses the party recorded in both the Edo and Ondo states’ governorship elections on impunity and non-adherence to internal democratic practice. In a statement issued last Monday by the Spokesman of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the party called for the cancelation of the poll, accusing INEC of conniving with the APC to rig the election. “In view of the fact that the election was blatantly manipulated from the beginning to the end to favour the APC, we vehemently reject the results of the November 26, 2016 gubernatorial election in Ondo state. The election and all actions leading to it fall short of laid down principles guiding conduct of elections in Nigeria.

“We have instructed our candidate and the Ondo state chapter of our party to proceed to the Tribunal to challenge the outcome of the election. We call on the Judiciary to redeem Nigeria’s image on this matter as we request for the total cancellation of the ellection in Ondo State” Apart from citing voting irregularities, Adeyeye also blamed the setback the party had suffered in the Ondo election on the role of Justice Okon Abang and those he referred to as “charlatans in PDP” who he accused of allowing themselves to be used by the APC “to destroy our chances in the Ondo state election”. PDP also blamed INEC which it alleged worked in collaboration with the APC led Administration to deny its candidate, Eyitayo Jegede time to campaign and sell party manifesto to the electorates in Ondo State. “Our persistent call for the postponement of the Election which was backed and supported by more than 20 other political parties were all rejected by INEC which were acting the script of the APC.

It was a carefully planned and well orchestrated strategy to rig the Election well in advance by preventing the PDP from planning and campaigning for the Election”. However, the Sheriff’s faction through his deputy and the former National Vice Chairman (South-South), Dr. Cairo Ojoughoh addressed a press conference also on Monday in Abuja blaming the loss on the impunity and the continued existence of the caretaker committee led by Senator Makarfi. Ojougboh who said that they met to review the outcome of the Ondo poll by their National Working Committee, noted that impunity and lack of respect for the PDP constitution and the rule of law were the major problems that led to the failure in the Edo and Ondo elections. Specifically, he blamed the the out-going governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko foisting his preferred candidate and kinsman, Eyitayo Jegede on the party rather than allowing people from other zones in the state to produce a candidate. Ojougboh said that as far as the group is concerned if the party does not retrace its wrong steps by disbanding the national caretaker committee in order the reunite it’s members, it is bound to suffer a similar fate in the next governorship election is Ekiti state.

“The impact of impunity in the PDP manifested itself in the actual sense for the first time in 2011 general elections when the then ACN defeated the PDP in Nasarawa State. We had a sitting Governor then who could not deliver. This was the first warning against impunity. It was ignored. “In Edo State, we told all who cared to listen that the party hierarchy was defective and that the leadership needed to be changed to allow the sixty Stalwarts of the PDP who defected to APC to return to the fold, off course the Governors refused. There was no surprise to the result.

In Ondo State, the script was written in 2013 when Governor Mimiko returned to PDP. All members he met on the ground left the Party for him and he took over the PDP. The structure was handed over to the Labour Party.
“If Oke had not gone to AD and Mimiko managed leadership sportsmanly, PDP would have won the election convincingly”

For Ojougboh, the only way forward for the party, is to disband the national caretaker committee and to recognize Senator Sheriff as the authentic national chairman who is authorized to initiate process for a national convention. The blame-game has gotten to the stage where both sides have started threatening each other with sanctions. On its part, the PDP responded by warning the factional chairman, Senator Sheriff to desist from parading himself in that capacity or be ready to go to jail. Spokesman of the Makarfi-led PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, defended the legality of the caretaker committee, saying that the committee has been confirmed severally by the courts as the authentic body saddled with the task of providing leadership for the party pending the hosting of an elective convention

He said “our attention has been drawn to another set of garbage and tissues of lies put together by the discredited loyalists of Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff in the name of a press statement on Monday, November 28, 2016, wherein, the group tried to sustain it’s illegal claim to the leadership of our party. The courts have spoken, and their pronouncements are binding. However, those who wish to spend the rest of their lives behind prison bars may continue to utter heresy against the court. We hope their children would be proud to bear the family names of convicts. First and foremost, we wish to state categorically that in consonance with Judgement of various Courts, which Ali Modu-Sheriff and his team of confused travellers have not bothered to appeal, the former Borno State Governor is not the Chairman of our Party, the PDP.

Adeyeye tried to buttress his argument on the legal status conferred on Makarfi leadership by drawing attention to the judgement delivered by Justice Valentine Ashi of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, which he said stated clearly that Senator Sheriff was never and is not the PDP National Chairman.
“ It is instructive to note that Senator Modu Sheriff and his team of circus performers have not deemed it fit to appeal the Court Judgements. It is tripartite in law that a Judgment not appeal is binding on the defendant.

“It is also morally wrong to accuse the National Caretaker Committee of being the reason why the party is facing challenges in terms of unfavourable election results especially in Edo and Ondo States. Everyone knows who the real enemies of PDP are. We won’t also forget in a hurry the ignoble role Jimoh Ibrahim played in scuttling our campaign for the Ondo Election. We also know those who pushed him forward for the hatchet job. We are amused that the agents of darkness, used by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to cause confusion and frustrate our campaign for the Ondo Election, can accuse the National Caretaker Committee of impunity.

However, we simply want them to define what impunity is, using their acts of betrayal as a case study. What they are doing is the worst form of impunity, lawlessness, greed and avarice. Their call on the National Caretaker Committee to self disband is uncharitable and unconstitutional. If they have any shame, they are the ones that should quietly disband. But honours can’t be expected from impostors. No matter what they say, we are determined as a political party to forge ahead and put our house in order even without their inputs. The Natonal Caretaker Committee has not called for their expulsion against the claims they are making, the time for that has not come. But the rain of vengeance will not hang forever in the clouds.

“The Natonal Caretaker Committee wish to appreciate all loyal party members, urging them to keep the faith as the Appelate Courts will do justice to the various appeals pending before it at the appropiate time; to put an end to the antics of these enemies of progress masquerading as members of our party”.

In what seemed as unending verbal war, the Deputy National Chairman of the Sheriff’s group, Dr. Ojougboh’ said it is the caretaker committee that is actually playing with jail term because there is a form 48 and 49 already issued against them from the Federal High Court for contempt.
Ojougboh said: “It is the caretaker committee that is actually playing with jail term because there is a form 48 and 49 already issued against them from the Federal High Court that is waiting for them. The effort to serve and arrest them was aborted because they evaded the law. Justice Mohammed J of Abuja High Court ruled that the tenure of NWC expires in 2018 and therefore, Sheriff remain the only and authentic National Chairman”. What has followed all these diatribe is a wave of suspension and counter suspension witnessed last week. First, it was the Osun state chapter that kick-started the orgy of sanctions, slamming the former national secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo and three others with suspension.

Apparently in its revenge, loyalists of Oladipo also announced the suspension of the Senator Iyoola Omisore and threatened to deal with rest of his supporters. The scenario was re-enacted in Ogun state where another chieftain of the party and a key actor in the ongoing crisis, Senator Buruji Kashamu was also suspended from the party for alleged violations of PDP constitution. With the gale of threats of sanctions and suspensions prevailing in the party it is becoming very apparent that peace moves have taken the back-seat and that only lies with the judiciary and perhaps miracle to pull the party from the brink.