OKECHUKWU JOMBO writes on the brewing leadership crisis within the Peoples Democratic Party and posits that the party will likely survive the crisis like the proverbial cat with nine lives
Former ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seem not to have learnt any lesson at all from the calamity that befell it during the 2015 general election. This is because all the mistakes they made when they were in power that led to their failure in the last general election are still been repeated with impunity.
Example is what is currently happening in the party concerning zoning arrangement for forthcoming national convention and 2019 elections. The matter which should not have been a problem is already tearing the party apart just like it did before the last election.
This has led the PDP zoning committee to be under pressure to alter its zoning arrangement and move the office of national chairman, reportedly zoned to the North East, to another geo-political zone.
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, may force the zoning committee, led by Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, to move the position to the North West geopolitical zone.
The governors were also disturbed by threats by sizeable number of PDP federal lawmakers to move enmasse to the ruling All Progressive 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 last week in Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, was aborted as the governors abandoned other members of the committee inside the Lagos Hall and moved to the Ondo State Government Lodge in Asokoro for a separate meeting.
Sighted with Emmanuel, leaving the hotel for the other venue were: Ifeanyi Okowa; Ben Ayade and Olusegun Mimiko, governors of Delta, Cross Rivers and Ondo states, respectively.
In the initial zoning formula 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 organizing 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 have claimed that the zoning arrangement was an orchestrated plot to allow Senator Sheriff, his deputy, Uche Secondus and the incumbent national secretary of the party, Professor Wale Oladipo return to the national secretariat after next month’s convention, as they noted that the various offices have been zoned to their respective geo-political zones.
The party swam in crisis for a long time until their leadership was cut short in the 2015 general election. Members contended every decision of the party; some dragged the party to court at every instance while those in the leadership believed in imposition of candidates. At every election party faithful paid heavily to be given positions either in the boards or MDAs.
Everyone thought that with their failure they would learn their lessons but alas what is happening has remained the same. A former political adviser to the president Dr Gulak dragged the party to the court last year 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 will calm frayed nerves but it was not to be as all hell went lose with some calling for his removal immediately.
Some of the party chieftains left the party citing these entire crises while some still remain like former of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ojo Maduekwe, who expressed the concern of his colleagues, but maintained that 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 also not checking impunity, which eventually led to the party’s fall.
Every attempt to solve these problems always led to further ones like what happened when the forum of PDP former ministers met in Abuja and resolved to insist on their rejection of Sheriff as national chairman due to the illegitimacy that brought him to power. In a resolution after their meeting, the forum relaxed their stance on Sheriff’s resignation but called for the conduct of congresses at all levels of the party that would lead to the national convention to be held on March 28.
Chairman of the forum, Tanimu Turaki, said 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 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 BoT chairman 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.”
Another pressure group, PDP Rescue Group, led by Ambassador Wilberforce Juta, had earlier met to register their grievances over the emergency of Sheriff as chairman of the party. Juta warned that the current National Working Committee of the party must not attempt to extend its tenure, adding that the March expiration date of their stay in office remains 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 will 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 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.
“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 process 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 actualization of the national convention within the next three months. He called on the aggrieved members to sheath their sword 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 delegation of the aggrieved ex-ministers of the party was led by the former governor of Kano State and ex-Minister of Education, Shekarau. 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 remaining term of the current NWC.
That was how that problem was solved but the one on zoning that is rearing its head ahead of the national convention will be another acid test in crisis management for the leaders and members of the PDP. Whichever way the zoning war goes, it will certainly leave some scars that will serve as reminder of the outcome of one of the many wars that was fought, lost and won, within the PDP.