Onyebuchi Ezigbo writes that with a recently botched peace effort, the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party might have to forgo a political solution
There seems to be no letting off the steam in the protracted leadership crisis currently rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The dispute, which started as a mere disagreement over the chairmanship position, has now engulfed the entire structures of the party, affecting not only the national leadership but also the state and of course, the local government wings of the party.
The crisis has held the party and members hostage for almost one year. Within the period, several attempts had been made to resolve the dispute to no avail. The latest of such efforts to broker peace and reconciliation among the warring parties, championed by former President Goodluck Jonathan also hit the rocks.
And unfortunately, the failure of the Jonathan reconciliatory effort has further created serious doubt as to whether the parties were indeed ready to embrace political solution. In fact, it has left the party with no other option than to leave the matter at the Supreme Court, where the Senator Ahmed Makarfi had since taken it.
The hopes of a peaceful resolution of the long-drawn leadership crisis in the PDP dimed when one of the key actors in the conflict, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff stormed out midway into a stakeholders’ meeting convened by Jonathan in Abuja a fortnight ago. The peace meeting was held with high expectations ended in disagreement, when Sheriff against all pleadings, left the venue in protest over non-recognition as the national chairman.
Although Sheriff had got a favorable ruling from the last Appeal Court judgment recognising him as the PDP chairman, the ruling was immediately appealed by the National Caretaker Committee headed by Makarfi and has since been at the Supreme Court.
Most of the stakeholders, who were at the peace talks, had expected the two antagonistic factions to drop their rivalry and ego to give room for reconciliation. But they were taken aback when the former governor of Borno State insisted on his right to preside over the meeting. He even objected to former President Jonathan’s right as the convener of the peace parley to chair it.
A heated argument later ensued with all the party leaders standing on their feet. Sheriff still insisted that nothing would be discussed unless he was given the opportunity to sit as the chairman and address the stakeholders. After series of interventions and persuasion failed to calm nerves, Sheriff finally walked out on the meeting along with his deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh and their other loyalists.
However, on his way of out of the meeting venue, Sheriff said there was no way a meeting of the party could take place without his being given the opportunity to make an opening remark.
“The party as today has one national chairman, which is Ali Modu Sheriff. There is no PDP meeting that will take place under any arrangement that I will not make an opening remark as a national chairman.”
The former governor however said he would accept the peace template contained in the report of the Reconciliation Committee headed by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Seireka Dickson.
“I think that Governor Dickson made a proposal, and we have accepted it. Other people have a programme to bring an agenda, which is not part of that proposal and as the national chairman of the party, what I told you people in my office is that I will not be party to anybody using any means to do another programme. I will not be a party to it”
But the peace meeting continued without Sheriff and some of his loyalists. At the end of the meeting, a proposal for the setting up of another reconciliation committee was agreed upon.
Apart having an enlarged membership of about 40 stakeholders, the new peace panel is to be headed by either of three top leaders of the party: ex-President Jonathan, former Vice-President Namadi Sambo or former Senate President David Mark. Jonathan said the 40-man committee would come up with a political solution to the crisis. According to him, the committee would consist of six nominees of the Board of Trustees (BoT), six nominees of the Sheriff led National Working Committee (NWC) and six nominees of National Caretaker Committee to be drawn from the six geo-political zone.
Other members of the committee are all the PDP governors, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Senate Minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, House of Representatives minority leader, Hon Leo Ogor.
Jonathan added that two former governors, two former ministers, two women and two youths would also be appointed to serve in the committee. Jonathan assured that once the committee is formed, it would come up with a roadmap for peace in the party within two weeks.
However, one thing that remained unclear at the end of the meeting was the status of the report of the peace and reconciliation committee led by Dickson, which had earlier recommended a unity convention under the supervision of Sheriff.
The Sheriff leadership had rejected the proposal to set up a new reconciliation committee, insisting that it would instead stick with the recommendations of the Dickson committee. Sheriff was quoted as saying he and his National Working Committee would go ahead with plans to hold a national convention, with or without the participation of the Makarfi-led National Caretaker committee.
Sheriff’s words: “We have a programme, which was initiated by Dickson, anything that is outside that, I will not be part of it”.
The apparent flop of the Jonathan intervention and the inability of the major organs of the PDP to address in specific terms, the contents of the Dickson reconciliation committee report had further compounded issues and are threatening to further plunge the opposition party into deeper crisis.
With the resumption of verbal war between the warring factions, which has become even more intense now, any hope of political solution could only exist in the realm of imagination and not based on the reality of the things on the ground.
Rather than continuing to put their supporters in suspense, pretending that they were ready for dialogue, it serves the two sides better to get down to business and prepare for their legal battle at the Supreme Court, when the appeal comes up on May 4.
Pix: L-R Former President Goodluck Jonathan_ embattled PDP National Chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff and Chairman, PDP Board of Trustees, Alhaji Wali Jubril at the failed Stakeholders? meet in Abuja recently