Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Before Supreme Court Finally Kills PDP

The dizzying pace at which mundane things are elevated to national prominence has since made me lose sense of what is right and what is wrong. So, to keep my sanity, I’ve since concluded that every one is right. All correct, sir!

If you say the economy is in recession, you’re correct. If you prefer to live in denial and insist that there is no recession, you’re also correct. Hameed Ali versus the Senators? Magu versus the Senators? Hospitalised El-Rufai versus convalescing Buhari? All correct!
But there is one thing I have a fairly clear head about. And that is what is the mess the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has brought upon itself.
Now, if there is anything the PDP is very good at – apart from impunity, it is the uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory (apologies: Chinua Achebe). Of course, I don’t expect the All Progressives Congress (APC) people to gloat at that, because everything that was wrong with PDP is beginning to appear in APC.
However, the PDP is a master of the art of self-destruct!
When it was in government, it was fighting itself, providing opposition to its own government. And now that it is out of power, it has contrived to produce a most fractious split right down its middle. And even as the simple solution to its problem stares it in the face, it’s looking with eyes wide shut.
It is fixated at a Supreme Court that does not hold any promise of good news.
Yes, soon after the Appeal Court verdict that upheld Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff’s claim to the party’s chairmanship, the Sen. Ahmed Makarfi faction appealed the judgment, and is now expecting a favourable ruling from the apex court.
But, irrespective of whatever direction the pendulum swings at the apex court, the PDP would still be the loser. But we’ll return to that later.

As for the Appeal court judgment, many of us, who know little about law are still dumbfounded by what happened. For one, it was rather an oddity that while the lead judgment, which gave victory to Sheriff, was hand-written and delivered in a few minutes, the dissenting judgment was carefully typed, ran into several pages and took about two hours to deliver. So, the thinking in the ‘losing’ camp now is that minority verdict may indeed have been the main judgment that got switched at the last minute. But that is in the realm of conjecture.
There is also the not-too-little issue of the use of the party’s national secretariat, the Wadata Plaza. When Makarfi was the legally recognised chairman of the party (even in caretaker capacity), the police, an agency of the Presidency, barricaded Wadata Plaza, denying Makarfi access to the secretariat, but as soon as Sheriff got his own judgment, the police literally supervised his takeover of the headquarters. It gives the impression that whatever Sheriff is doing in PDP is at the instance of the APC-led central government. Of course, there have also been rumours of the APC/Presidency actually funding Sheriff. But this is a little hard to fathom, considering that Sheriff, on his own, has enough money to keep PDP unsettled for the next 60 years. In fact, his legendary deep pockets were believed to be the reason some governors wanted to draft him into the chairmanship in the first instance.
Today, however, it is very clear that many PDP stakeholders cannot fathom the idea of Sheriff running their party. They feel he carries a huge moral burden, which any intelligent rival party can always capitalise on, when the chips are down. And I’m not talking about all the unsubstantiated dalliance with the Boko Haram insurgents.
There is also a huge trust deficit. In the short romance Sheriff has had with Governors Nyesom Wike and Ayo Fayose (both of whom have been held responsible for drafting him into the PDP chairmanship race in the first place) for instance, the former Borno governor is said to have reneged on so many gentleman agreements that the two governors, and several other key leaders of the party, do not want anything to do with him. They don’t trust him. But then, trust is such an expensive commodity and it would be naïve to expect to find it among cheap politicians.
Incidentally, Bayelsa State governor, Hon. Henry Seriake Dickson, who chairs the party’s reconciliation committee, and who is today being mischievously branded as a Sheriff supporter, never liked the idea of a Sheriff chairmanship. He believed more in Makarfi
Painfully, however, Sheriff has an Appeal Court judgment, declaring him substantive chairman of the party – which compelled Dickson, himself a lawyer, to submit the report of his committee to the former Borno governor, who, as we speak, is the legally recognised leader of the party.
But then, Sheriff would be deceiving himself if thinks the court verdict would automatically make PDP members queue behind him. No. The party members still know who their leaders are. Most of them are with Makarfi. But there’s a huge difference between emotions and law. And that is what Dickson has continued to point out, as he continues to push the template for a political resolution of the PDP crises.
The argument is simple: Irrespective of  how the Supreme Court case goes, PDP would still need to come back to the round table. For if they wait until the apex court rules, it might be too late to pick the pieces of PDP back together.
If the Makarfi faction wins, Sheriff wouldn’t be expected to suddenly fall into line. The party would remain eternally factionalised. Sheriff could even leave the party. And he would definitely not be going alone. For whether we like it or not, there is a handful of notable PDP entities in his camp.
Similarly, if Supreme Court confirms Sheriff, he could even become more emboldened and less disposed to any other political solution. He would hound his opponents out of the party and complete the ‘undertaker’ job he was always suspected to have been seconded by the APC to do in PDP. Where would that leave the people in the Makarfi camp? And what about those currently sitting on the fence? Is the alternative Advanced-PDP? No!
So, I think, now may be the last chance for the leaders of the party to come together and rescue their party. One is impressed by the frenzy of visits by all parties – Makarfi, Sheriff, Dickson, etc. to founding fathers and other informal leaders of the party. The hope is that everyone would resolve to make some sacrifice for the sake of the party, before another court verdict throws spanner into the works.
The idea of a unity convention recommended by the Dickson committee looks very inviting, especially as Sheriff is said to have committed (in writing) not to run for the chairmanship. He has also thrown open nominations for the convention committee to the party’s organs. By the time the Makarfi camp makes some concessions too, then the PDP can begin to talk of a new dawn. It’s doable. Instead of splitting hairs over how the Dickson committee report was not skewed against Sheriff, the PDP factions should see in it, a window of opportunity to save their party, and embrace it.
For me, however, the future of PDP lies in first easing out both Makarfi and Sheriff, without causing any of them to lose face, as it were. That solution does not lie with the courts. For until the various stakeholders resolve to close ranks, the PDP would still be in turmoil irrespective of who wins at the Supreme Court.
That turmoil would persist so much that the party would never be able to genuinely field a candidate for elections. About two or three list of candidates would be sent to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for every election and, trust INEC, they would endorse the list of candidates with the unlikeliest chance of winning.
In fact, this much-awaited Supreme Court judgment could be the final death knell for the PDP if the leaders do not begin work on Plan B right away. That Plan B is dialogue. Political solution.
*Steve Nwosu is a commentator on public issues                                                                                                          

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