Last December, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held its national convention where members of the National Executive Committee were elected amidst controversy. Since then, things are no longer at ease with the largest opposition party, which has managed to weather similary storms in the past. The recent defection of some former ministers to Social Democratic Party (SDP) as well as the formation of the Coalition for Nigeria may open the floodgate of mass exodus, which the embattled party may not survive. SAMSON BENJAMIN highlights the travails of the party since it held its national convention
Before, during and after its national convention, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has gone through a lot of crises and several fence-mending efforts have been made to bring peace to the largest opposition party in Nigeria. However, about three months after, the efforts seem to be fruitless as the party has been hit by defections of some of its ranking members. Before now, the Fresh PDP had broken ranks with the party, 11 days after the national convention on December 20. Somehow, the rebellion was quelled and Fresh PDP seem to have lost steam, if not fizzled out completely.
However, three former ministers have reportedly left PDP after efforts at cementing the cracks hit the rocks. Last Friday, ex-Information Minister Jerry Gana, Professor Tunde Adeniran, former Minister of Education and ex-Niger Delta Minister Godsday Orubebe defected to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) with a horde of supporters. According to reports, SDP will subsequently merge with the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Peoples Salvation Party (PSP), in order to form a formidable party ahead of next year’s elections. In coming weeks, more chieftains of the PDP are expected to join SDP and the party, according to reports, is already meeting with the Olusegun Obasanjo-inspired Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM).
Significantly, the decision of the PDP top hats to leave the party, according to a source, followed the failure of the Seraike Dickson reconciliation committee to assuage them. Last Thursday, the ex PDP stalwarts voted with their feet after a marathon meeting at Ladi Kwali Hall in Sheraton Hotel, Abuja, where Professor Gana, Elder Orubebe and Sen. Joseph Akaagerger, a former Military Administrator of Katsina state where in attendance. Similarly, Chief Mike Oghiadhome, Chief of Staff to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, ex-Governor Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State and former Minister of Defence, Dr. Olu Agunloye were also at the meeting. On the SDP side were Dr Junaid Mohammed, a former member of the House of Representatives, Sen. Bassey Ewa Hensaw and a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Olamide Oni, as well as former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae. Thereafter, they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) after the meeting.
Generally, the leaders agreed to build a restructured, balanced equitable and truly functional Nigerian federation as well as a humane, free, seIf-reliant and democratic society. In addition, the groups want a dynamic, productive, transformed and sustainable economy. Similarly, they desire a just, fair, egalitarian and peaceful nation, a land that is full of opportunities for all Nigerians, including a national culture of raising good leaders through effective mentoring. In the end, they agreed to fuse together into one political platform, adopt the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as the political vehicle for the fused political formation and convene a non-elective convention for Saturday, 14th April, 2018. In addition, they agreed that the National Working Committee (NWC) will serve as the Interim Management Committee (IMC), until the said convention is held. Before then, they have resolved to set up a National Steering Committee(NSC) of 12 members to guide the IMC, especially during the transition period. They also agreed to raise a Constitution Review Committee to consider all necessary amendments to the party constitution. Specifically, Prof Gana and Dr Falae signed for the PDP decampees and SDP respectively.
Reconciling the differences
Before the December 9 convention, PDP was almost comatose as Senator Ali Modu Sherrif and Senator Ahmed Makarfi were battling for the leadership of the party. At that time, the party had set up the Seriake Dickson committee to resolve the feud but the Bayelsa State governor’s committee was unable to do so. In the end, the supreme court recognised Makarfi as the authentic chairman of the party at that time. Since then, the party had retained the Dickson committee as a standing peace and reconciliation committee. Specifically, it revved into life after the national convention and the fall outs that followed. Afterwards, the Bayelsa governor had reached out to the aggrieved and the fence mending started apace. According to him, the party was generally ‘’pleased with the outcome of the exercise (Convention) but we have established contact already with those who are dissatisfied and who have concerns, issues and grievances which is normal in an exercise such as this. Our contact with all the chairmanship candidates was very positive. Our overtures were well received and in the next couple of days and weeks, you are going to see a lot of activities in that regard undertaken by this committee. The committee will undertake several visits to those of our party leaders who may have concerns and issues. It is not our business in this committee to apportion blame. Our focus is to promote reconciliation because all party leaders are important. Their concerns are also very important. Where there are grievances it is the view of this committee that those grievances be looked into and addressed where possible”.
Somehow, Governor Dickson’s optimism was misplaced as the defection of Prof Gana and Co suggest. Significantly, the party didn’t just bank on that solo effort as former President Goodluck Jonathan also took part in the trouble shooting mission.
GEJ’s search for peace
Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, immediately after the elective convention, began a peace and reconciliation mission on his own. Specifically, his first port of call was the ex Minister of National Planning, Professor Abubakar Olarenwaju Suleiman’s home, the man who had contested and lost the post of National Publicity Secretary (NPS). After the convention, Professor Suleiman had described the election as a scam as he claimed that his surname was deliberately left out of the ballot papers to cause confusion. Specifically, he promised to head to court if his petition was not properly attended to.
However, Jonathan extended the olive branch to Suleiman when he visited the former minister. According to the ex president, “we should give the new executives of PDP some benefit of the doubt and see how things work out. If we fail to support them, we are not helping the party. I thank you for your doggedness and passion for PDP. You did well and members of our party know you are the best among the competitors. Put the events of Saturday night behind you and move on. Accept the outcome of the election as the wish of God. You should not allow yourself to be stampeded into any untoward action. I know better things await you. We cannot afford to lose you”. Somehow, Jonathan’s appeal has paid off as the academic-turned politician is still in PDP.
Wike, Secondus woo George
Similarly, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, and Prince Uche Secondus, a day after the convention, had met with a former Deputy National Chairman of the party and chairmanship aspirant, Chief Bode George to sue for peace.
Confirming their visit, Secondus said “yes, we met. Chief Bode George remains my boss and I will always cherish him. I have tremendous respect for him and I will need him in the task ahead”. However, it was not clear whether Wike apologized to George for disparaging the Yoruba race, as he alleged while withdrawing from the chairmanship race.
Fresh PDP emerges
In spite of the peace efforts, a group of aggrieved PDP members opened a secretariat at Maitama district in Abuja and addressed journalists on December 20. At a press briefing, Prince Emmanuel Obi-Nwosu, the Director-General of FPDP, said that the faction has dissociated itself from the last convention. Significantly, the faction had alleged the bastardization of PDP ideas as one of the reasons why FPDP was formed. ‘’Over the years, the high ideals of our founding fathers which heralded the formation of PDP have been eroded by new entrants into the party who introduced very corrupt and anti-democratic practices that eventually led to the colossal loss which the party suffered in 2015,’’ FPDP recalled.
In addition, the faction alleged that “the overbearing negative influence of some governors in the party has worsened the future of the PDP since after the 2015 elections.” In this regard, the faction recalled “that we held our National Convention on the 9th and 10th of December, 2017 at Eagle Square here in Abuja. It was supposed to be an elective convention where a new National Working Committee (NWC) of the party will be elected. Most tragically, there was no election on that day, but a selection of pre-determined persons who were eventually announced as the new NWC members”.
According to FPDP, “as concerned candidates and stakeholders of our party, we deem this perfidy that took place at Eagles Square a charade orchestrated by the former National Caretaker Committee, led by the former governor of Kaduna state, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and perfected by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led National Convention Planning Committee.’’ The group accused the NCC of “deliberately refusing to release the delegates list as was agreed upon by all aspirants barely 24 hours to the convention, which is contrary to our party’s constitution. This was a complete aberration as it made it impossible for aspirants to crosscheck the authenticity of the list.”
In addition, they accused the Makarfi-led caretaker committee of disregarding the petition against chairman and secretary of the electoral committee, former governor of Benue state, Chief Gabriel Suswam and Dr Sunday Onor, respectively. “The entire process of selecting the purported Uche Secondus NWC was concluded days before the convention, and a list of those selected was published which eventually was circulated at the Eagles Square long before voting commenced. Evidence is available to show that some names in the fraudulent unity list collected nomination forms after the official closing date and some others were not even screened as required by the party’s electoral guidelines,” they further alleged.
Continuing, the faction said, “The most despicable part of the entire moonlight play was that the so-called unity list was printed on the letterhead paper of our great party, suggesting that it was authorized by the leadership of the party and the national executive committee. The fraudulent unity list was openly circulated to the delegates without restraint and the Electoral Committee Chairman, Chief Gabriel Suswam, who supervised the entire charade. He even confiscated the telephone handset of an agent to a candidate who dared to challenge the fraud and captured the event with his camera phone. “
According to him, their action is “part of the resolve to ensure that PDP sweeps polls in the 2019 elections.’’ Prince Obi-Nwosu promised that FPDP will inaugurate what he referred to as “authentic National Working Committee (NWC) after the yuletide.
According to the group, FPDP will start electronic membership registration and afterwards, primaries will be conducted electronically after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has released its time-table.
According to FPDP, the long wait for a new PDP is over as their faction will provide a robust opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Fresh PDP returns to mainstream
On January 22, Senator Walid Jibrin, Board of Trustees (BoT) chairman, announced that members of Fresh PDP have retraced their steps to the mainstream. In a statement issued to journalists, he noted that the group was constantly in touch with various organs of the party in the past couple of weeks. “The BoT and the national leadership of the party were very well involved and played a great role in the dissolution of the Fresh PDP recently formed by some aggrieved members of the party, ‘’ he said. The BoT chairman claimed that ‘’I was the first to interact with the group when it was formed, pleading with them to follow the reconciliation methodology set by the party. ‘’
According to Jibrin, ‘’now that the group has been totally dismantled, PDP is now fully set to take over the mantle of leadership at the federal, state, and local government levels.’’ He pledged the commitment of the board of trustees to bring all aggrieved members of the party under the common shade of the PDP. Senator Jibrin promised that “the BoT shall intensify it’s efforts in bringing total peace and unity to the party as can be seen in my setting up of BoT’s internal reconciliation committee to settle its aggrieved members under the chairmanship of Senator David Mark.’’
Significantly, Obi-Nwosu has dissociated himself from the reported disbandment of the splinter group, describing those who negotiated with the mainstream PDP as shameless. According to him, the sell outs had exhibited insatiable appetite for financial compensation. “The shameful and most pathetic show of unbridled poverty and greed exhibited by these individuals masquerading as spokespersons for the Fresh PDP is most condemnable as they do not have the authority of the DG to do so,’’ he said. However, in spite of the DG’s denial, nothing has been heard of Fresh PDP since then and PDP put up a façade of one united family until Gana and Co pulled out last week.
Right now, the task before the Dickson Committee is to stave off a raft of defections from the party as Gana and Co may have opened the floodgate of a mass exodus which will further deplete PDP.