OKECHUKWU JOMBO writes that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP is used to internal crisis, but has always managed to surmount it. Will this time be any different?
Former ruling party the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seems not to have learnt any lesson from the past. This is because all the mistakes it made when it was in power, which led to its failure in the last general election, are still being committed.
An example of this is the current imbroglio over the zoning arrangement for 2019 elections. The matter, which should not have been a problem is already tearing the party apart just like it did before the last general election. This has led the PDP zoning committee to consider altering its zoning arrangement and move the office of national chairman, already zoned to the North-East, to another geopolitical zone.
Due to threats by certain stakeholders of the party to conduct a parallel national convention to stop the incumbent national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff from retaining the office, the zoning committee, led by Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, may re-zone the position to the North-West geopolitical zone. The governors are also disturbed by threats by a sizeable number of PDP federal lawmakers to move en masse to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, if Senator Sheriff returns to Wadata Plaza as national chairman after May 21.
It was also gathered that the meeting of the zoning committee, scheduled to hold during the week in Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, was aborted as the governors abandoned other members of the committee at the venue and moved to the Ondo State Government Lodge in Asokoro for a separate meeting. Amongst those seen leaving with Governor Emmanuel for the other venue were Governors Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State; Ben Ayade of Cross River State and Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State.
In the initial zoning arrangement, which would have been presented to the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC, for ratification, the office of national chairman, deputy national chairman, national secretary and national organising secretary have been zoned to the North-East, South-South, South-West And South-East, respectively.
Those smarting for a showdown with the zoning committee claim that the zoning arrangement was an orchestrated plot to allow Senator Sheriff, his deputy, Uche Secondus and the incumbent national secretary of the party, Prof. Wale Oladipo, return to the national secretariat after next month’s convention. They further noted that the various offices have been zoned to their respective geopolitical zones.
Before the 2015 elections, the party swam in crisis when disgruntled members contested every decision made by the party’s leadership and dragged it to court at every instance, mostly because the PDP leadership believed in imposition of candidates costing the party its 16-year hold of the country’s political structure.
Subsequently, many people believed that with the party’s failure, its members would learn a lesson and close ranks, but what is happening now is the same old uproar that led to its defeat. A former political adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, dragged the party to court recently over the position of National Chairman and won.
When the current acting National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff emerged one would have thought that it would calm frayed nerves but on the contrary, all hell broke loose. Some PDP members have even gone as far as calling for his removal immediately.
Some of the party chieftains left the party citing these reasons while others remain in the party. Former of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ojo Maduekwe, who expressed the concern of his colleagues, said leaving PDP was not an option for him. He said PDP had made some mistakes in the past by not building on its successes and not checking impunity, which eventually lead to the party’s fall.
It would appear that every attempt to solve the PDP’s problems leads to further complications. One of such examples is what happened when the forum of PDP former ministers met in Abuja and resolved to insist on the removal of Sheriff as national chairman due to the illegitimacy that brought him to power. In a resolution after the meeting, the forum relaxed its stance on Sheriff’s resignation, but called for the conduct of congresses at all levels of the party that would have lead to the national convention in March.
Chairman of the forum, Tanimu Turaki, said that the former ministers felt that the process used to appoint the national chairman was flawed. “In the first instance, the person who presided over the meeting was barred by a court injunction and to the best of our knowledge that injunction has not been lifted. We believe that we should not give room for impunity.
If the chairman, board of trustees, BoT changes the position of BoT it will not change our position. We stand by them and we still feel the way we feel.
“Unless there are new reasons for us to reconsider our position we stand on our ground. But there will still be room for consultation.”
Among those who were at the meeting were John Odey; Musa Said; Jerry Gana; Femi Fani-Kayode; Prof. ABC Nwosu; Josephine Aneni; Maduekwe; Prof. Tunde Adeniran; Amb. Aminu Wali; Shetima Mustapha and Mallam Ibrahim Shekaru.
Another pressure group, PDP Rescue Group, led by Ambassador Wilberforce Juta, had earlier met to register their grievance over the emergence of Sheriff as chairman of the party. Juta warned that the current National Working Committee, NWC of the party must not attempt to extend its tenure, adding that the March expiration date of the committees stay in office remained sacrosanct.
It took the intervention of the PDP Governors Forum and other party leaders, like the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerenmadu, to broker a middle-course deal that would accommodate all interests. It was in a surprise deal that was reached at a reconciliatory meeting of major organs of the party, made up of the governors’ forum, Board of Trustees, National Assembly caucus, and the NWC held at the Ondo State Governors Lodge in Asokoro.
The party resolved to put an end the leadership crisis and forge ahead as one family. Addressing journalists at the venue of the stakeholders meeting, the governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, said all the major organs of the party had agreed to support the Sheriff-led leadership in order to forge ahead and maintain stability of the party.
With regard to the position of the other stakeholders like the PDP Former Ministers Forum, Mimiko who was flanked by Sheriff, governors of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, and Ekiti states, Ekwerenadu and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, said the critical stakeholders of the party had been reached out to and they had agreed to back the new chairman to organise the convention. Mimiko assured that within the next two weeks, a timetable will be rolled out, culminating in the holding of the national convention in three months.
“You are all aware of some controversies generated by the appointment of our new national chairman. 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,” Mimiko said.
He continued, “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 proces of ensuring that within three months, a national convention of our party is called.
“And we will brief all our members nationwide within the next two weeks of the timetable in that direction. In the next two weeks, the timetable will be out, all cumulating in our national convention within three months.”
Corroborating what the chairman of the PDP governors’ forum said, the chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibril, said the members of the BoT had also agreed to back down on their rejection of the new national chairman and cooperate with other organs to see to the actualisation of the national convention within the next three months. He called on the aggrieved members to sheath their swords and embrace the leadership of the party.
Negotiation with aggrieved PDP stakeholders was held at Ekweremadu’s residence. It involved the leadership of the party, BoT and the former ministers’ representatives. The former governor of Kano State and ex-Minister of Education, Shekarau, led the delegation of the aggrieved ex-ministers of the party. The ex-ministers stated that Sheriff was the wrong choice for the post of chairman of the party. Others that spoke at the meeting were former Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odeh, and Fani-Kayode.
At the parley, Ekweremadu told them that while the feelings of various critical stakeholders of the party could not be brushed aside, it would not be in the interest of anyone to allow the extreme positions they held to destroy the party.
An agreement was reached in line with the constitution of the party, to ensure that Sheriff completes the term of the current NWC.
Although the issue of the national chairmanship of the party was resolved, the problem of where to zone certain offices to still remains and one is left to wonder if the party would once again rise above that crisis or self-destruct as it did in 2015.

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