By Tonnie Iredia
In 1998, some Nigerian political leaders who described themselves as likeminded decided to set up political parties as channels for taking-over government from the departing military administration. The most formidable of such parties was known as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was so powerful that at a point its leaders boasted openly that they would govern Nigeria for at least 50 years.
Perhaps many people believed them on account of the solid points they canvassed as their objectives. Among other things, they promised to organize Nigeria’s productive labour and be responsive to the aspirations of the people. They also pledged to support the rule of law through devolution and power rotation as well as to fiercely defend democracy.
After 16 years, the nation found that the party was entrenched in self interest only. With election rigging always preceded by rancorous party primaries, they could not develop the nation. Indeed, the PDP could not even manage itself let alone its convoluted electoral victories. The focus on that party in this article is quite rational because apart from a handful of our current political leaders, all Nigerian politicians graduated from the PDP School of Political Confusion. So the other parties are no better.
The chairman of a body is the natural head of that body, but it is not uncharitable to describe PDP as a headless body considering that the party always operates as if it has never had a head. If how the founding chairman-Chief Solomon Lar was eased out of office is not quite clear, what about his successors? Barnabas Gemade, Audu Ogbeh, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Vincent Ogbulafor, together with the indomitable Ahmadu Ali who was nicknamed ‘Garrison Commander’ were all virtually rubbished. The first complaint against Bamanga Tukur was that he was doing things differently from how others did it before.
For this reason, the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) rejected his memorandum to reform the party as well as his plan to constitute advisory body led by a distinguished second republic Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekweume to generate ideas and strategies to move the party forward. Adamu Muazu’s plan to reconcile all warring factions and caucuses within the party so as to end the wrangling that long bedeviled the party was applauded; so was his solemn pledge to correct any injustice done to any party member. Thus, he went about apologizing to those the party offended. In the end, Muazu was eased out as an alleged traitor.
Interestingly, each of the past chairmen naively assumed he was best positioned to put the party aright not knowing that the position of PDP chairman is ill-fated. Hence a few months ago, Ali Modu Sheriff former Borno State Governor assumed he was God sent to revamp the party. Today, Sheriff is only one of the 4 current chairmen of the PDP. The others are former deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, former education Minister Prof, Tunde Adeniran and former Kaduna State Governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. The leaders emerged from 2 parallel conventions of the same party held last Saturday in Port Harcourt and Abuja.
But since both conventions cannot be legal, the party approached the Judiciary to resolve the matter. One of the cases took place in Port Harcourt where the court upheld the leadership of the group led by Makarfi. As for the other case which was decided in Lagos, the court ruled against the Makarfi group in which case, both factions are right depending on the location and disposition of the analyst. So who is causing political chaos with respect to the matter, is it the contending parties or the judges who produced conflicting judgments?
The other day one analyst said on national television that since the case had been decided by a High Court in Port Harcourt, it was improper for the Lagos High Court to have sought to over-rule its Port Harcourt colleague. It would have been a different thing according to the analyst, if the second court was the Higher Court of Appeal. The argument is that bearing in mind that the Lagos Court knows the established hierarchy of courts in Nigeria its involvement in a matter already decided in a court of coordinate jurisdiction is unfortunate.
Another analyst is also not satisfied with the Port Harcourt decision. The argument this time is that those who met in the River State Capital with a Lawyer-Governor as host were involved in an illegal convention. To start with, contrary to the impression that the Lagos Court was the second to act, it was in reality the first to order as far back as May 12 that the convention should not hold. Accordingly, no one could meet to oust Modu Sheriff. Those who did either in Port Harcourt or Abuja acted in contempt of court. Incidentally, the post of PDP chairman is quite powerful because according to Article 35 of the party’s constitution, only the National Chairman of the party is empowered to “summon and preside over the meetings of the National Convention, the National Executive Committee, the National Caucus and the National Working Committee of the party.”
Based on the above therefore, neither the Mantu/Adeniran faction nor the Makarfi etc group had legal right to hold any convention at which they purported to have rubbished Sheriff. So, none of them is a proper Chairman but because different judges have recognized different factions, everyone is both right and wrong. Sheriff himself is still chairman because he is yet to summon and preside over any convention. He cancelled the one earlier slated for last Saturday in obedience to a court injunction. So, he is still chairman though without followers, having been deserted thereby bringing PDP once more to its headless status.
This leaves the nation in confusion as the main opposition party that could put the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) on its toes is itself in disarray. In fact, some lawyers were also confused as two of them appeared in court with each claiming to be the right counsel of the PDP. Our fear now is that this dangerous confusion may filter into the ruling party as many PDP members belong to the APC at night and vice versa.