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PDP: Like Sheriff, like Jonathan.

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Jonathan receives Sheriff

Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to cope with conflict by peaceful means.~Ronald Reagan

Widely regarded by many Americans as the greatest president, the above quote was in an address by the 40th POTUS at the commencement exercises of Eureka College (Illinois) in May 1982. Remarkably he was equally commemorating his 50th graduation anniversary having become an alumnus of the same school in 1932. In his time President Reagan often harped on the need to supplant the old policy of hostility with the Soviet Union with gradual reduction of nuclear weapons, while covertly pursuing a scheme to sabotage their economy, a paradoxical strategy which nevertheless proved ruthlessly effective in diminishing Soviet power in the twilight of the twentieth century.

On Monday news filtered in that Ali Modu Sheriff and his supporters visited Goodluck Jonathan as part of his consultation and appeal for acceptance since the appeal court victory of last week. Sheriff accompanied by a former governor of Niger state Babangida Aliyu had earlier made a similar visit to ex-military leader IBB at his hilltop mansion in Minna.

It was reported that former president Jonathan while receiving them in his Abuja residence repeatedly referred to Sheriff as “my chairman” in his characteristic humility. He later assured newsmen that he had also met the others and that the problem of the party is being resolved as they are one family.

In other news however, the Ahmed Markafi led faction had despite a police cordon, gathered in Fayose’s Abuja residence to announce that they have appealed the judgement at the Supreme Court and went on to issue a communique that totally rejected Sheriff as party chairman stating that they “are not at all deceived by the supposed olive branch being offered by Senator Ali Modu Sherrif, knowing that the only thing that can come from traitors of his ilk is nothing but a poisoned chalice and a Greek gift”.

Strong words I must say, it appears some party members didn’t get Reagan’s memo, the die is cast and the result may likely be a requiem rather than revival for the once upon a time Africa’s ‘largest’ party.

Let us take a look at the party’s road to perdition. A party founded on the virtuous principles of the G-34 led by former Vice President Alex Ekwueme, PDP grew to capture the seat of power in 1999. The party’s membership spread across the 6 geopolitical zones while it also built solid structures in all 36 states of the federation.

Indeed so formidable was PDP in our national politics that its former Chairman Vincent Ogbulafor boasted that the party will rule Nigeria for 60yrs! Our people say that “no one should gloat over prison when the police have not departed”. I wonder what Ogbulafor will make of the current imbroglio.

Once and again with many African stories, attaining success is often easier than managing it. The party became intoxicated with power and relegated the people. PDP had money and power, the essential ingredients required to improve the well-being of people, rather it chose to conquer and further pauperise them.

We watched helplessly for 16yrs as they continued their wilful misrule while looting our collective patrimony with gleeful impunity. The party was so corrupt that it gained the notorious alias of “share the money”. As if that wasn’t enough, they also made sure our votes didn’t count as they rigged their way to electoral victories throughout the nation. Well, nothing lasts forever they say and like I warned in my article 10 years ago, the rise of progressives which coalesced into the APC resulted in the ultimate defeat of the party of looters.

Since its defeat, the party has continued stuttering in a downward slide to ignominy. Not only have they failed to offer a whimper let alone serious opposition, they have equally been embroiled in a needless leadership tussle. Without delving into the chronology of the party’s numerous crisis which some trace back to its very 1st convention, when retired military money bags hijacked the process to thwart the candidacy of a better qualified Ekwueme for their fellow jackboot Obasanjo.

Let us assess the current crisis which I believe was precipitated by ex-president Goodluck Jonathan’s insistence to contest elections in contravention of the rotational ‘gentleman agreement’ of the party, recall that while the former president chose to maintain calm in the face of startling revelations of wanton corruption under his watch, those who were to steer the ship rarely got off to a united start.

When Senator Ike Ekweremadu who is the highest elected member of the party selfishly joined Saraki in the senate leadership, yours truly had wondered how one can offer credible opposition from an APC dominated NASS leadership? To me, that move magnified the leadership vacuum earlier created by Jonathan’s indifference and thus presented an opportunity for Governors to hijack the throne.

Fayose, being a smart politician seized the moment and rallied his colleagues to fill the position left by Alhaji Adamu Muazu with the former Borno state governor. It is no secret that he was instrumental in Sheriff’s emergence as the acting Chairman of the party despite the screening of about 5 other candidates of which Sheriff wasn’t even among. In the usual manner of disregarding laid down principles, the party had once again shot itself in the foot.

Olisa Metuh had said then that Sheriff was picked by National Caucus of PDP comprising the governors, members of the National Working committee, NWC and the leadership of the National Assembly. Sheriff himself thanked the governor profusely on his visit to Ado-Ekiti acknowledging that he helped him become the leader of the party.

The coast looked to be clear and some expected the ship to set sail but that didn’t happen and may not happen anytime soon. Some say that certain elements within the party hierarchy had learnt of an alleged plot by the new chairman to contest the 2019 presidential election with Fayose as his running mate.

This is quite plausible as it was common knowledge that the party had already zoned its presidency to the North, and considering the vociferous manner in which the Ekiti state governor has since mounted his opposition to Sheriff one is left with the feeling that he is trying rather too hard to disprove the allegation in order to regain the trust his colleagues.

Others suggest that Sheriff whose nephew is married to Buhari’s daughter was planted by the APC to ensure that the opposition is perennially swimming in shark infested waters. Again this is also believable given the mastery of political unity attributed to the North whenever there is need to support their own.

But Sheriff has severally denied all the accusations and even alleged that those desperate to push him out were planning to impose Atiku as the party’s candidate in the 2019 elections. He pointedly named Wike and Uche Secondus as those behind the plot.

In the wake of all these, there are some who have called for an end to further litigation. Of particular note is the common sense Senator Ben Murray Bruce who described the dispute as childish and called for the party to “work with Sheriff and go to a convention”.

It is ludicrous that the leadership of a party is being determined by courts. It was amusing reading the appeal court judgement as I realised that the bone of contention in the split decision was the manner Sheriff was sacked. I mean if article 42 of the party’s constitution did not make it mandatory for a vote of no confidence to be passed prior to his sack then it shouldn’t an issue.

Even some who would rather the litigation ends so as to unite under Sheriff at least till the convention are apprehensive of his Boko Haram stigma. In fairness to Sheriff, the man I met a few times at El Sultan night club Maiduguri in the early 90s cannot be described as a Muslim fanatic, he probably used the movement then led by late Mohammed Yusuf as a means to an end until the bubble burst.

Already some state chapters of the party from the South South and South East have issued statements rejecting the appeal court judgement. This is terrible politics that will lead to further problems. As 2019 approaches the future is looking bleak for the party and the question begs, who will bell the cat?

The founding fathers are disenchanted. Ekwueme recently told us he has been weeping for the party. Ciroma and Lawan Kaita have retired, Obasanjo is ‘partyless’ while Ogbeh and Atiku are in APC. Anenih couldn’t care less and even IBB being courted by Sheriff is not as strong as he used to be.

The only notable founding father that can be saddled with the job is Sule Lamido who still nurses a presidential ambition. He is also facing corruption charges and has kept a low profile.

It then leaves us with only one option, Jonathan. Despite the looting spree that characterised his tenure he still has some goodwill. This is politics and this is also Nigeria. Let’s not forget that he pulled over 12m votes in his defeat. He is considered a nice man by his admirers and this is an opportunity for him to rise and lead the party which he couldn’t lead well in power. He should unite members and ensure that a fair convention is held elect CREDIBLE party leaders.

In the meantime, the party should do some self-examination because many are convinced that the only uniting factor was access to the treasury. Nigerians have not seen enough remorse to trust them again so soon even with the economy struggling under this govt. The party should dispel the belief that the battle for its soul is purely for 2019.

Having ruled for 16yrs the party still has structures and remain the largest opposition. It is still a brand even if for the corrupt, after all, we are fantastically corrupt. However, the greatest threat to any democracy is the lack of vibrant opposition and this is why well-meaning Nigerians should call on Jonathan rise to the challenge and lead the process to stabilise his party.

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