The nation was caught in the web of political confusion in 2009/2010 following the protracted illness and consequent long absence of late President Umar Yar’Adua without transmitting a letter to the National Assembly, so as to enable the then Vice President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to steer the ship of state in an acting capacity. Nigeria was in a fix. Then came the Senate with the Doctrine of Necessity, a novel term at the time in our political lexicon. The Doctrine of Necessity is the basis on which extra-legal actions by state actors, which are designed to restore order, are found to be constitutional. It is used to define and validate extra-constitutional issues and actions that fall outside the purview of the constitution, but which are necessary to preserve political stability, as it did for Nigeria at the time.
However, it was not until the dinner event hosted by Senators in honour of the newly appointed Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed, at the Transcorps Hilton Hotel, Abuja in May 2010 that Senator Ike Ekweremadu was revealed at the real brain behind the Doctrine that bailed the water. Senator Mohammed described Ekweremadu as the author of that Doctrine of Necessity, noting that Ekweremadu’s ability to think outside the box pulled the nation back from the brinks of disaster.
When it comes to political stratagem and thinking outside the box, Ekweremadu, is one man that is highly respected. His ability to pick the 2015 PDP sensorial ticket and primary election structures at the expense of an incumbent Governor of his State as well as his return as the Deputy Senate President against all permutations, remain clear pointers to that. So, it did not come to many as a big surprise when Ekweremadu brought his political brinkmanship to bear in the crisis that erupted in the main opposition party following the emergence of the former two-term governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, as the Chairman of the PDP.
While the Governors were said to be the mastermind of Sheriff’s emergence, other equally very critical stakeholders in the party, notably the Board of Trustees (BoT) and Forum of Former Ministers under the PDP were conspicuously miffed at his choice. The PDP Rescue Group led by a founding member of the party and aspirant to the chairmanship position, Wilberforce Juta, also lambasted those behind Sheriff’s emergence, insisting that “the decision by the NEC was against the will and wishes of the generality of faithful”. It demanded Sheriff to “do the needful by stepping down honourably”.
But thank God for what the media now refer to as the Ekweremadu Formula, which has so far doused the palpable tension. Media reports have it that the decision to allow Sheriff a short spell as chairman was brokered by Senator Ekweremadu at his Abuja residence in the evening of Monday 22nd February. According to the reports, Ekweremadu, who is the highest elected public office holder in the PDP, met separately with aggrieved ex-ministers led by the former Governor of Kano State and ex-Minister of Education, Ibrahim Shekarau.
It was gathered that the ex-ministers who attended in their numbers collectively stated that Sheriff was the wrong choice for the post of chairman of the party, complaining about the credibility burden and alleged imposition. But in response, Ekweremadu was said to have 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 hold to destroy the party. He was reported to have reminded them that the mistake of the past in which a whooping five governors and their supporters were allowed to leave the party due to poor crisis management mechanism was responsible for the party’s woes today.
He, therefore, canvassed a middle ground, which was to ensure that the constitution of the party was upheld, in which case, Sheriff would only complete the remaining lifespan of the present National Working Committee (NWC), which ends in about two months. That period would also allow the party to conduct the congresses and national convention for a full transition into another NWC. A particular report quoted Ekweremadu as saying, “If that is the case, sacrifice is expected on both sides – by those who are pro-Sheriff and those who are anti-Sheriff. A little over a month or at most two to three months should not be allowed to destroy the party”.
The same suggestion, which was said to have softened the ex-ministers was also tabled by Ekweremadu in a meeting with the BOT at his residence the same Monday night, paving the way for the larger meeting of all stakeholders of the party at the Ondo State governor’s lodge where a three-month stint was handed to Sheriff. Thus, by a dint of right-thinking and compromise by critical stakeholders, an amicable resolution of what detractors had earnestly hoped would be the end of the PDP, was resolved amicably. And this is to the credit of all the stakeholders.
Whatever the misgivings, one thing that is clear is that the PDP cannot afford the luxury of another bout of internal crisis. Historically, it is crystal clear that the APC decimation of the PDP in the 2015 election could not have been possible without the breakaway of the five governors. Sadly, the grass turned out not to be green on the other side, as the discrimination, persecution, and indignity suffered by the ex-PDP family within the APC have shown. They were not considered for anything, from Presidency to the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. And what they got for themselves by deft political moves typical of the PDP breeds has never gone down well with entrenched forces within the APC.
Truly, PDP’s unity is even most imperative now in the face of a tyrannical federal administration that entertains no form of opposition. It doesn’t need any crisis in the face of a government which anti-graft crusade is clearly a clear vendetta and onslaught against the PDP and perceived enemies. Importantly, as in the military era of General Sani Abacha, when their founding fathers (G34) stood against brazen despotism, the nation looks up to the PDP to galvanize a responsible and vibrant opposition to all forms of civilian dictatorship, with attendant self-confessed disdain for the rule of law.
Therefore, PDP needs to build more selfless statesmen and deep thinkers like Ekweremadu to lead the party. Given some brilliant stunts pulled by its young leaders from 29th May 2015 till today, such as its determinant role in the emergence of the leadership of the 8th National Assembly to the extent that one of its own also emerged as the Deputy Senate President; the vibrant opposition provided by the one man riot squad called Ayo Fayose; the huge victories scored in Bayelsa under the gallant Seriake Dickson who rallied the Ijaw nation to refuse to be undone in their home; the fear-no-man leadership of Nyesom Wike in Rivers State; the resounding successful defence of the people’s mandates in Akwa Ibom, Abia, Delta, Taraba, etc, it is crystal clear that the PDP fortunes could have been different if its leaders had listened to the right people.
Oyeleye writes from Akure