The Re-unification of PDP And Nigeria’s Political Permutations

By Enideneze Etete
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After painful defeat in 2015 and loosing of power to the emergent mega party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), its leaders and members were in disarray like sheep without shepherd. The body of the party, like that of the temple of the human being became unholy for the soul which has eternal aspect of life to habit. Thus, the party was akin to a body without soul, and was dead even while still alive, as the soul left it temporarily. But thanks to its leader, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and Governor the Seriake Dickson-led reconciliation committee for re-uniting the body and soul of the party.

The near demise of the PDP for about two years, since the APC captured power, especially at the centre, was occasioned by external and internal factors.

Externally, the President Mohammadu Buhari APC-led government wielded the big stick and hit hard on the top-notches and vocal voices of the party. Characteristic of the APC, the president used the machinery of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and its ferocious attack ‘dog’, Mr. Ibrahim Magu as well as propaganda, personified in the ‘Minister of Propaganda’, Mr. Lai Mohammed who is the Josef Goebel of our time. With these arsenals, President Buhari and APC, to borrow their language “technically decimated” the PDP, like they did to Boko Haram.

Since the APC took over, it made no pretence in its intent to crutch PDP, the biggest opposition party into pieces. This, the ruling APC actually did, to the extent that vocal voices like those of Olisa Metu, the PDP’s spokesman, Doyin Okupe, Femi Fani Kayode and others, faded out like music recorded on a tape that got bad. It was the treatments meted out on them in the EFCC dungeon as well as the media parade of these men and others, by Mr. Magu and the Josef Goebel of our time that killed the dissenting voices. Only Fayose and Nyesome Wike, Governors of Ekiti and Rivers states, respectively, bolstered courage to continue speaking out against the APC government. Wike’s voice now seems to be tamed by the allegations of bribery to national electoral officials during the last House Assembly re-run elections in the state.

Although, some of the PDP politicians and their cronies might not be saints, the Buhari’s government’s anti-corruption drama has been seen by many people as one-sided as well as a populist programme to endear himself and his party to the disenchanted masses who were given undesired “change”, that now has to begin with them, not the president and the APC anymore. The anti-corruption programme and propaganda were also instruments to de-market the PDP/Jonathan more and more, and take away peoples’ attention from the lackluster performance of the new government whose impending failure was noticed early by the people.

Internally, the PDP has its own problem of lack of internal democracy as well as greed in some of its leaders who place personal and ethnic interest higher than party ideology if it there is one. These reasons account for the back and forth decamping by top and low members. These weaknesses in the PDP, alleged non-performance while in power for sixteen years and the masses’ desire for real, change caused its controversial defeat in 2015 presidential election. In that election, former President Goodluck Jonathan stunningly and ‘patriotically’ caved in like a molten magma in an Aso Rock that suffered volcanic eruption.

Jonathan’s “most painful decision” in his leadership career, as he put it in his valedictory speech, shored up his image globally. Not only that, it also would have promoted the PDP for being politically mature. Above all, the peaceful exit of Ex-president Jonathan saved the country from the speculated bloodshed as the winner, famed for the “Baboon and the Monkey will be soaked in blood” threat might not have taken it lightly. If it had so happened, the violence might have been worse than that of June 12, 1993 in the country as well as that of 2011 presidential election in the North.

As the disappointed electorate waited to no avail for the much preached-change to manifest, and as they wished that strong opposition, even if it is from the PDP, should pose threat to the APC, leadership and factional tussles were the only news from the ousted party for about two years. Many citizens who had equally realised the gimmick of change, true to one of Ex-president Jonathan’s valedictory statements, began to regret the enthronement of the APC as well as compared the government to Jonathan’s. The masses, commonly say that during PDP/Jonathan’s era prices of goods/services; free speech; respect for rule of law; budget proposal/implementation; projects and lots more were far better than now.

They however, give it to the APC/Buhari government in terms of quelling the Boko Haram insurgency to an impressive level as well as for recovering stolen public funds. Despite that, they detest the poverty and hunger of now and wish that “corruption”, that is PDP/Jonathan, as painted by the APC government, should rather “be brought back” because they were “laughing and crying in Jonathan’s era.

This wish manifested at Sokoto and Karu, Nasarawa last year when Jonathan attended public functions. He was clamoured for – to come back to elective politics, and that they will vote for him. Instructively, these are Northern states. This sentiment predicted earlier by Dele Momodu in a write-up, seem to be enveloping many parts of the political landscape in the country.

In his usual demeanor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had said via his social media platforms that he will not contest election, but will instead run an NGO to serve humanity, the more. His resolve is welcomed by many Nigerians, even his supporters. However, anything can happen in politics. Time shall tell.

Despite the paradoxical positive aura, the PDP was far from being positioned to take advantage of the unsatisfactory political and economic scenarios under the APC/Buhari Government.

Apart from been “technically decimated” by the APC government at the centre as well as taking time to manage the psychology of defeat and the corruption-shame, the iconoclastic and controversial Senator Ali Ahmadu Sheriff, Ex-governor of Borno State, was a major factor to make or mare the PDP. Like the factional leadership feud steered by Karwa Baraje and Barmanga Turku, which cracked the PDP ahead of the 2015 elections, and caused its ouster, the party had operated in two-opposing folds for about two years now.

Lingering court cases from lower to higher levels of the court system, closure of the national secretariat in Abuja; holding of parallel conventions in different places; intra-party media wars and lots more were the tell tales of the squabbles in the party.

An adamant Ahmadu Sheriff, former governor of Borno State, was the protagonist. His antagonist was Ahmed Markafi. Both factional leaders had governors, party elders and rank-and-files on their camps. They all won and lost injunctions and substantive suits on who is the rightful chairman of the party. Sheriff’s victory at the Appeal Court, made him even more solid in his insistence that he is the chairman and has to run the affairs of the party. On many occasions, he insisted that he was in his house, when the party wooed him to take up the position, as such he will never chicken out.

While Sheriff was accused of being hoisted by the APC to ruin the PDP, as another option to sound the death knell of the latter, he accused the other faction for fighting him because he refused to accede to some sitting governors’ scheming to have vice presidential ticket for 2019 election in the country. The Markafi group alleged that Sheriff was ambitious to run as president on the plank of the PDP, hence ran the party as personal estate. Recently, Sheriff tended to affirm this allegation as he is quoted in the media as haven said, God will decide his presidential ambition.

On the allegation that Buhari and APC were behind Sheriff’s moves in the PDP, some pundits say, Sheriff has never being in good terms with President Buhari, and would never have such pact with him. But Governor Ayodele Fayose, after the first presentation of the Dickson reconciliation committee to Sheriff’s faction, reechoed the allegation that Senator Sherriff was bribed by external foes of the party to cause friction.

However, some feel that when it comes to clinching presidential power, the North, precisely Hausa and Fulani can always unite under the uniting maxim that “even if it is a goat that will be president, let it be Hausa/Fulani goat”. This is the latest version of “born-to-rule” which caused political and ethno-religious sentiments in the country. So, anything can happen, and Sheriff could cooperate when the Northern agenda becomes paramount. This is what some Northerners who were key to the success of the PDP did when the North/West alliance of Buhari/Osinbajo ticket came up, and they betrayed Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to pave way for North’s return to power.

In all that happened – the serious factional crisis in the PDP, after the 2015 general elections, the leader of the party and ousted President Jonathan remained mum in his characteristic manner that is ironically admired as an aspect of his wisdom and humility.

But Jonathan’s silence was also interpreted as haven come from the shock of the 2015 election; the harassment of his ousted government, aides and kith and kin by the Buhari government; extant anti-corruption court cases and the need to be offstage a while in order to rest. Jonathan himself confirmed in the media that his silence was due to the need to rest as well as avoid contempt of court as there were matters his utterances could prejudice.

But these explanations were made light by his global outings, which though were also avenues to nice-out, but rather tasked the man who was out to rest. In some of such outings, utterances in his public lectures countered his resolve to be silent, as some were near contempt of court. One easily recalled statement is that which he said “Sambo Dasuki did not steal money”. But he really needs accolades for not talking too much and also for trying to talk on some occasions about issues of party and national colourations. Jonathan’s decision not to talk or not to wade into the crisis in the party that gave him fortune – to coast from deputy governorship in the watery terrain of Bayelsa to presidential house in the rocky and breezy, seat of national power in Abuja was indeed no longer golden.

Alas, he waded into the PDP’s imbroglio and talked with the warlords in the party, to sheath their sword and re-unite for another external battle in 2019. He had began breaking his silence about the party’s strife from when he attended Chief Tony Anenih’s birthday last year, where the latter, Anenih retirement from active politics.

Recall that Dr. Jonathan had soon after the defeat of his party in 2015, made attempts to address all psychological and political issues that affected the party as well as reconcile factions, before he retired to a period of rest, but the dissenting elements in the party went astray like ship without captain.

Jonathan’s last peace effort made recently to the admiration of many party members and even observers, has been seen as epochal. The warring factions of Sheriff and Markafi have been literarily brought together under the roof of the party’s national secretariat at the Wadata Plaza in Abuja. Party activities seem set at the secretariat, but for the protest by unpaid workers of the party that they won’t work unless they are paid their bag log of unpaid salaries.

At the peace meeting Dr. Jonathan was said to have advised the party to re-unite as one family once again, and be ready to face other parties in 2019. By this, he has done the needful, to prevent the party from dying a shameful death.

The development has sent jitters to the APC which had thought the PDP has been “technically decimated”. Perhaps, the APC forgot that the PDP has a way of wriggling itself out of quagmire of any magnitude, as it had done in the past.

The unification of the PDP, though too early for celebration, might also meet the wishes of some Nigerians who crave for a strong opposition and alternative choice to the APC in the 2019 elections, if elections will be free and fair under the watch of the ruling APC, as PDP did in 2015.

But, the expected emergence of a mega party, which plots to take large part of the PDP and the APC as well as other inconsequential parties is the fear of the unknown to the new PDP. Perhaps this is one immediate reason why, the PDP had to put its house together ahead of the next elections.

As a way of reinforcing the new-found unity, the Governor Seriake Dickson led reconciliation committee of the party which before the 2015 elections traversed the country to persuade members to put the broken bones together, is at work again.

The effort of the committee is a major reason why the party retained governorship and legislative seats in many states of the South-South and South-East, and few from other zones. All things being equal, the committee could still do more than that this time around, to give the PDP better footing for the next elections.

Already, the Governor Dickson-led committee has made recommendations such as withdrawal of all intra-party cases in the courts, use of political solution to finally douse all frictions as well as convocation of a unity convention, this year.

As usual in political reconciliations, a faction of the Markafi supporters was initially not in the same page with others who have acquiesced to the peace accord. One of his staunch of supporters, Governor Fayose of Ekiti State expressed disgust at the reconciliation on the grounds that the leadership tussle matter was still at that Supreme Court besides allegation that Sheriff was still playing the scripts of the alleged sponsors who want to kill PDP. Fayose vowed that the battle line was still drawn, and that for him and his state, Sherriff was not the leader of the party. Some state chairmen of the party equally protested against the reconciliation initially.

They premised their grouse on sentiments that the way and manner the reconciliation committee went about the reconciliation and presented its report to the Sheriff-faction of the party made them to smell a rat. The splinter Chairman, Ahmed Markafi, himself expressed similar reservations about the efforts of the committee.

But as expected of any arbiter, the Dickson Committee cleared itself of any perceived sentiments alleged by the Markafi group. The committee denied it has no hidden agenda, but wants the PDP to come up strong as a united family, to fight external battles instead of in-house fight. Dickson said the reconciliation was already sending jitters to other parties. He assured that as the party was able to conduct the past congresses at all levels, besides holding on to its strongholds in the South-South and South-East in 2015 elections, except loosing at the centre, will retain those places and take over the centre in 2019. He therefore called for sincere unity of mind.

On the activities of some party members at the state and local government and ward levels, Governor Dickson said, though they were more stable unlike the national level, some persons altered the list of party officials at those levels, and need to be disciplined by the party.

To pacify the Markafi group, Governor Henry Dickson, chairman of the committee presented the reconciliation report to Markafi and his group as it had done to the Sheriff group. Apparently honoured, Markafi assured that the report would be looked into, and will be opened for inputs from all organs of the party, so as to create a feeling of inclusiveness and make the recommendations binding. He appreciated the efforts of the committee which had spent time to reconcile the factions.

Earlier, the Dickson Committee had met with the PDP caucus in the National Assembly to brief it of its efforts as well as call for its support to build a new united party. The committee was received by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Minority Leader, Senator Goodswill Akpabio, all of the PDP, and others, who declared support to see that PDP comes back stronger. Remarking that the country under APC is in turmoil, they said the PDP needs to unite to take over power so as to make things better. They thanked the Dickson-led committee for its efforts and called on factions to bury the hatchets.

Alas, the Sheriff and Markafi factions were reportedly re-united, albeit for now, as anything might still happen. God Forbid! Reports have it that, Ahmadu Sheriff has as part of conditions attached, agreed not to contest as chairman of the party in the proposed unity convention. The last was yet to be heard from Sheriff, as observers keep watch on him.

Giving the latest acceptance of the reconciliation by the two factions, the obstinacy of those who were against the settlement, especially Fayose, who though might be bidding for his share of the gains of the reconciliation, as well as those of his mammoth supporters, by opposing the move, has to be tamed. Surely, Dr. Jonathan whom Fayose has so stood by till now would be made to bulge into his (Jonathan’s) overtures to abide by the reconciliation. Or, Jonathan would use a Yoruba elder that Fayose might not shun, giving the Yoruba culture of respect.

The recent outburst by Governor Fayose, espouses his hidden political agenda. He is said to be mooting vice presidential ambition. Recall that he, Fayose had publicly declared to his people that even if it is not PDP, he will still one day call for their support. So could his refusal to abide by the peace accord in PDP be connected to interest in the expected mega party? Your guess is as good as mine.

One of his colleagues, Governor Nyesome Wike, another strong loyalist of Former president Goodluck also made a social visit to Sokoto, for Governor Aminu Tambuwal’s daughter’s wedding. Tambuwal was one plotter the defeat of Jonathan, Wike’s godfather. The social outing turned to political platform on which, Wike offended the sensibility of South-South/Niger Delta, when he assured of the non-disintegration of Nigeria. Like few of his other governor-colleagues who have being very outspoken, Wike might also be having vice-presidential ambition, hence has to playing the chess game with Northerners. Ali Ahmadu Sheriff had alleged him of such shady scheming before him. But Wike denied and equally alleged Sheriff of having presidential election ambition.

The antiques of some politicians in the PDP and APC that may join the mega party could be the sign-post to disaster in the long-awaited new party. Even if it comes on board, it could have a lot of strange bed fellows and over-ambitious political aspirants that will project personal and sectional interests, lest, they will resort to the usual strategies of decamping to other parties or re-aligning to form other so-called meager parties.

Even the APC, giving the analyses made earlier might not be favoured by the citizens and supporters, who feel the party has unleashed on them what is known as ‘salo’ – the worst form of ill-luck that the character, Santiago in Ernest Hemmingway’s popular novel, The Old Man and the Sea suffered in fishing expeditions. This ‘salo’ for many Nigerians is what may have brought the present bad luck and harrowing economic situation. They are mostly angry about the hazy and unfulfilled promises of change and better deal, which have manifested more in passing the buck of bad economy and poor governance to the Jonathan government as well as pushing the change slogan to them as ‘Change begins with me”, not with the APC/the government any more.

Nigerians say, they are wiser than before, and would no longer be deceived by euphonic party slogans, pseudo-positive personality traits of candidates, bogus manifestos, ethnic and religious gimmicks as well as propaganda in the social media, as unique selling propositions (USPs) to market bad products to them.

The ball is now therefore, in the court of the PDP whose body and soul have reunited, to really unite, restitute and spring surprises if it can. The mega party to come as well as any others should also gear up to sell their programmes to the electorate ethically and try to clinch power to make the expected difference.

Acclaimed men and women of God as well as traditionalists who have also made predications on which party, who and how the next elections as well as how the nation’s political and economic landscapes will be, should also pray for prophesies to come to pass, for the good of all. Should any party or persons turn down the people, then prophets should invite God’s wraith to remove the soul from the body of such party or persons.

That is the kind of oath that governor Owele Okorocha (APC) of Imo State, once rumoured to have been given spiritual slap, perhaps due to the ‘voodoo’ that pensioners owed arrears likely sprayed in Owerri, has advocated for public officers in Nigeria.