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Sheriff and PDP chairmanship

By Iheanacho Nwosu

This is a special week for the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP). The party which has been in the throes of crisis since losing the March 28,2015 presidential election to the All Progressives Congress (APC) is set to court a new controversy . The choice of former governor of Borno state ,Ali Modu Sheriff as the Chairman of the party by the PDP Governors Forum, National Assembly caucus and some other leaders of the party will, sure, throw up ripples . A clear signal to that has already started with some members of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) stridently opposing his choice. Predictably, more robust debate on his emergence may take center stage in the next few days or weeks .

The decision of the Governors and National Assembly caucus is expected to be communicated to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of PDP as soon as possible .

Of a fact , most people knew that PDP Governors and stakeholders are likely to settle for somebody as a new chairman this week but there is doubt if anybody had thought about Sheriff.

“From this week we will start getting certain things behind us. We will start the process of rebuilding our great party after some meetings that will take place this week”, former senate president and BoT member of the party, Chief Adolphus Wabara said.

Happenings in the party in the last few months have led to a hail of predictions regarding the future of PDP. The battle has been fierce and has been fought on diverse fronts. Ahmed Gulak, erstwhile presidential aide on political matters is leading the pact in the duel over the chairmanship of the party. His suit against the acting national chairman, Uche Secondus which went in his favour emboldened him to fight for the top seat .

Former minister of Federal Capital Territory , Bala Mohammed is also in the trenches with Secondus over the office. He and Gukak are premising their contest for the PDP chairmanship on the argument that the North east is yet to serve out its term.

Beyond the disquiet over the chairmanship slot, the PDP has also been torn apart by the ongoing probe of the alleged Arms contract scandal. Top members of the party have been arrested, quizzed and arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). That all these developments have brought PDP to its knees is not polemical. Not unexpectedly, the situation has resulted in the ranks of the party being depleted as some members have joined the rival APC. The most touching of all in recent times is arguably, the resignation of former senate president , Chief Ken Nnamani from the party. Although he didn’t defect to APC, his well crafted reasons for quitting the PDP clearly sent a strong message that all was not well with the party.

His letter titled “PDP, the Burden and My Conscience read in part “ Without any iota of bitterness in my heart, I have decided to disengage from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and consequently step aside from partisan politics in the interim. I wish to express my profound gratitude to the party that gave me the platform with which I attained the height I did in the politics of our country.

“How I wish the efforts I mounted with some of my colleagues (many of whom have left the party) to keep the PDP on the path of its noble vision and values had been supported by those who were privileged to be at the helm of affairs of the party, it would have been a different day for the PDP. It would have been a day of victory and pride not of defeat and shame.”

He stressed “I recall that the virus of corruption of values and mission was what those my colleagues and I set out to cure through the formation of the PDP Reform Forum in 2010/11. We worked hard to draw up a new direction for the Party. This was to help steer the party away from illegality and impropriety so that PDP can fulfill its promise of being a vanguard of Nigeria’s political and economic development. A direction defined by strict adherence to basic rules and morality in the management of party affairs. Chief of these values is respect for choice of party members in electing party candidates for elections.

“With more than half a decade of championing such a fundamental but simple idea, I regret that the PDP leadership continues to rebuff internal democracy. The party allowed itself to be blinded by hubris to believe that it will remain in power and influence for 60 years in spite of several gross missteps and grievous misnomer. We foresaw this ditch and prescribed how to avert falling into it. “But we were dismissed as idealistic. Today the idealists have become realists.

Recently, even after our avoidable abysmal electoral defeat, I continued to believe that we can still chart a new course and retrieve victory from the jaw of defeat. I continued to urge the leadership of the party to believe that the time of defeat could be the time of renewal, and that renewal requires strategic thinking and bold actions. I urged that this is a time to reembrace internal democracy and principled leadership to reposition the party for new politics.

“We are living in different times and we need new tools, ethos and codes of conduct. We need to become a party of technocrats and professionals and not a party of mercenaries and rent seekers. We need to become the party of young men and women with new ideas and not a party of political dinosaurs. It is clear now that these pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Every day the crisis of confidence and the contradictions in our party deepen. We continue to lose members and morale. The rebuilding some of us had urged on the leadership is not happening. Those who led us to defeat are determined to continue to lead the party as undertakers.

“I do not believe I should continue to be a member of the PDP as it is defined today. This is certainly not the party I joined years ago to help change my country. I do not also believe that the PDP as it is managed today will provide an opportunity for me to continue to play the politics of principles and values which I set for myself as a young man on leaving graduate school and working for a large multinational in the United States in the 70s and 80s.

“Therefore, today I resign my membership of the PDP. In stepping out of partisan politics for the meantime, I will continue to be politically engaged. I will also continue to support the government and all the elected officers in Nigeria to repositioning the nation. I will also constructively criticize them when by commission or omission they take actions that could damage the prospects of transforming Nigeria into a productive, merit-based and honestly governed country.

“As I leave PDP, I wish the leaders a new awakening and ethical revival. I cherish all the friends I made while in PDP and hope the friendship will continue to flourish.”

Nnamani took some steps alongside some party leaders to address key challenges holding the party down. For instance, last year , he was among the elders and leaders of the party known as the PDP Leaders and Elders Committee that submitted proposal to the Secondus leadership on how to nip the problems of the party in the bud.

These were some of the requests by the committee “Urgent need to fill the vacancy created by resignation of the former National Chairman of the Party:

Dr. Ahmed Adamu Muazu resigned his position as the chairman on 20th May, 2015. Article 47(6) of PDP Constitution provides as follows: Where a vacancy occurs in any offices of the Party, the Executive Committee at the appropriate level shall appoint another person from the area or zone where the officer originated from, pending the conduct of election to fill the vacancy. The former Chairman of the Party, Dr Ahmed Adamu Muazu hails from North East Geo-Political zone. Therefore, in view of Article 47 (6) of our Party’s Constitution, another person from that Geo-political zone ought to have been appointed to fill the vacancy created by his resignation so that the people of that zone (North East) can have a sense of belonging and all Party faithfuls and Nigerians will know that our Party has respect for its constitution. We are aware that quite a number of applicants from that zone have made their intentions known to the NWC in writing for more than two months and yet no steps have been taken.

“Urgent need to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of the former BOT Chairman:

Chief Tony Anenih was the BOT Chairman prior to his resignation on 20th May 2015. The BOT should now call urgent meeting of its members where they should elect among themselves a fit and proper person who will radiate leadership and confidence to serve as the Conscience of the Party as he is truly should be under our Constitution. It is worrisome that some members of BOT have defected to other Political Parties and this now calls for proper reconstitution of the Board of Trustees (BOT). It must be emphasized that the BOT is a fundamental pillar for rebuilding of our Party‘s glory. It is extremely dangerous for our Party not to have leaders appointed in line with the Constitution of the Party. Any organisation without a properly constituted leadership will definitely run into disarray.

“Final Submission: Flowing from resolution (1) and (2) above, it is our sincere hope that PDP Stakeholders who have contributed in no small measure in various capacities from 1998 till date will make themselves readily available to partner with us and any other person who is sincere and committed to rebuilding our Party to take its rightful place in the political landscape of the Country. This can readily be done if we as a Party move quickly to fill the vacancies in the NWC and the BOT and thereby restoring confidence and hope in the minds of our teeming members which will give them a sense of direction without further delay.”

The move flunked. The proposal was thrown into the dustbin and that marked its end.

The Committee was not happy with the treatment of the proposal but there was nothing it could do about it. The situation was not helped by the lack of attention members of the committee were getting from the party’s Governors. The Governors were right in not caring much about happenings at Wadata house. Their fate was then hanging in the air as they were waiting for the courts to decided their election disputes. “Our governors could not have left serious election issues to talk about crisis in PDP” APDP leader said then.

Now all that is over. The Governors have all won their legal battles at the Supreme Court and can now focus on ways of rebuilding the party.

Yesterday’s meeting has thrown up former governor of Borno state, Ali Modu Sheriff as the new Chair. The decision , certainly is going to generate huge ripples both within and outside the party. Was that the decision of PDP Governors? Can his choice calm frayed nerves in the party? How far can PDP go with him calling the shot? How did PDP Governors and National Assembly members arrive at him? These are questions that would be dotting Sheriff’s emergence in days to come. Whether answers to these questions would be given is another thing. What is certain is that his choice will rankle some top shots in the party.