2019: Inside PDP’s plans to topple APC
The acrimony in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last two years, occasioned by the protracted leadership tussle between Senators Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sheriff had, to a great extent, compelled many optimists and die-hard supporters of the party to give up. However, the recent Supreme Court judgment did not only rekindle hope in the PDP, but gave its handlers the confidence to write-off the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) long before the 2019 election year.
Leaders of the PDP have in the last few days rolled out plans that would help them win in 2019 as evidenced in the confidence they exuded shortly after the Supreme Court judgment that settled their protracted crisis.
They made many collective proclamations and individual statements on how they would recapture power from the APC.
Though the PDP leaders have made public some of the strategies they would adopt to unseat the APC, they nonetheless, for the sake of expediency, kept other tricks very close to their chests.
It was gathered that PDP handlers would between now and election time work tirelessly to revive its comatose structures across the country, bring back key elders, senior officials and members that defected to other parties.
This, it was further learnt, would be achieved by deploying facts and figures in convincing Nigerians that the ruling APC is not actually what it said it was before 2015.
Most importantly, the PDP will weed out elements who were allegedly planted by the ruling APC to cause confusion within its ranks.
Sources within the party said some of the strategies they would use will only be unveiled as the political temperament progresses ahead of 2019, just like what the APC did between 2013 and 2014 ahead of the 2015 elections.
The aggressive manner which the PDP is trying to rediscover itself is evident in the way many of its leaders who hitherto disappeared from the political scene suddenly resurfaced with much confidence. They all regained their voices shortly after the Supreme Court which upheld Senator Makarfi as national chairman.
Already, people like the acclaimed national leader of the party, ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, Senator Makarfi, Chief Olabode George and the chairman of the Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, have all said a lot to renew hope in the minds of their followers that indeed, there would be another opportunity for the PDP.
They all found relief when the three-man panel of justices at the Supreme Court stated that in the course of the two year dispute, Sheriff had displayed an “infantile desperation to remain in power” which was not legally his.
Sheriff had filed 10 different suits in different courts within one year in his bid to remain in power, an act the Supreme Court said would only gather dust in judicial archives.
On the day the Supreme Court announced the final judgment, many PDP leaders thronged to the court in Abuja. They included former governors of Jigawa and Kano, Sule Lamido and Ibrahim Shekarau; governors Ayo Fayose and Nyesom Wike of Ekiti and Rivers States, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Olabode Bode George, Emeka Ihedioha Ben Obi and Dayo Adeyeye and Professor Jerry Gana were all at the Supreme Court and later at the PDP secretariat, signifying a new realignment for the party.
Jonathan, who had distanced himself from serious politicking, also said PDP is now back.
What PDP leaders did before the judgment
Sources said Jonathan and other leaders had endless sleepless nights when the PDP case reached the apex court considering the fact that Sheriff, the embattled chairman of the party, had won in many of the cases in High Courts and the Appeal Court.
“He (Jonathan) was really disturbed because he doesn’t want to be made a laughing stock on the grounds that the PDP fell under his watch,” a source in the PDP said.
“Though the ex-president did not directly try to influence the judgment at the Supreme Court in any way, he directed some of the best legal brains working for him to put heads together with Makarfi’s lawyers in order not to have a miscarriage at the apex court,” he said.
“President Jonathan was actually disturbed because Sheriff had cursed and disparaged almost everyone in the PDP. At a time, he walked out on Jonathan and later issued a statement asking anyone not satisfied with his leadership to leave the PDP and form another one. So, we were able to argue our case very well at the Supreme Court and judgment favoured us,” he said.
In several twits on his Twitter handle a few minutes after the judgment, Jonathan removed the veil on his shoulders to re-launch himself firmly in the PDP by calling on former members of the party that defected over the leadership crisis to return “home.”
“I thank God for this day of Justice and may God bless Nigeria,” he said.
Another apparent advantage for the PDP is that most of its leaders do not see the issue of zoning its presidential candidate as a problem.
At its Port Harcourt convention in 2016 which was contested by Sheriff but upheld by the Supreme Court, the PDP leaders had adopted the report of the Senator Ike Ekweremadu-led committee which zoned the party’s presidential ticket to the North and the national chairmanship position to the South.
And in the last one week, PDP leaders held four major meetings and resolved many contentious issues.
The meetings included the expanded caucus meeting, the caucus meeting, the BoT meeting and the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting.
At the end of the meetings, leaders of the party resolved to hold a non-elective convention in August this year.
The National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said they would use the special non-elective convention to settle all the constitutional matters.
Sources said there is the likelihood for the tenure of the Makarfi-led caretaker committee to be extended. This, according to the sources, is to enable it organize a convention that will usher in new elected leaders for the party.
Other areas which the PDP leaders harped include discipline and impunity, two areas which pundits said affected the party in 2015 when many of its vibrant followers were frustrated.
The NEC meeting held recently proposed amendments in the party’s constitution that will deal with issues of discipline, internal democracy and administrative bottlenecks.
The Makarfi-led caretaker committee had during one of the meetings announced what it called “amnesty” for the Sheriff group.
In a separate interview, Makarfi, who sounded very serious, said a line had been drawn, meaning that any member who erred again after the Supreme Court judgment would face the wrath of the law.
Political solution may prove tough
While there is evidence of sanity in the PDP, the Makarfi committee would have to contend with recalcitrant members and this would only be resolved through political massaging.
For instance, The South West faction of the PDP loyal to Sheriff has defected to the Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN).
The faction, which has representation in all the six states of the South-west, said the alleged inflammatory statements of the Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, and removal of the names of some of the leaders of the party in the region at recent meetings held in Abuja, were responsible for their decision to leave the PDP.
The South-west chairman of the faction and former PDP chairman in Ondo State, Hon. Ebenezer Alabi, said they resolved to leave the party for Governor Fayose and his cohorts.
“We believe in the judiciary and we had intention of cooperating with the Makarfi group before they started making inflammatory comments. They said they wanted to give us amnesty as if we were Boko Haram or militants,” he said.
Sheriff also proved defiant in a statement he issued after the various meetings held by the party which he did not attend.
In a statement by his spokesman, Bernard Mikko, Sheriff, who sounded as if he is still the chairman of the party, called on his supporters to remain in the PDP until it was returned to the grass roots.
Bigwigs who quit PDP that must return
Many PDP chieftains have left the party and while some might likely return in the event realignment in the APC did not favour them, others must be cajoled to have soft spot for it even if they would not return.
Prominent politicians that are no longer in the PDP include former president Olusegun Obasanjo, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, former PDP national chairman Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, former governors Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Joshua Dariye (Plateau), Orji Uzor Kalu (Abia), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi) and Saminu Turaki (Jigawa).
Incumbent governor Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and Samuel Ortom (Benue) were all members of the PDP before they defected to the APC at the height of electioneering.
Others that defected include former Senate President Ken Nnamani, former governor of the old Anambra State, Senator Jim Nwobodo, Senator Nelson Effiong (Akwa Ibom South), Senator Andy Uba (Anambra South), former PDP national chairman, Chief Barnabas Gemade, former governor of Edo State Oserheimen Osunbor, former deputy governor of Jigawa State Alhaji Ahmed Mahmud Gumel and Senator Muhammad Baban Beta among many others.
Thousands of PDP followers across the 37 states of the federal have defected and would need to be convinced to return to make it strong ahead of 2019.
But the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, said they are not afraid.
“Makarfi or Ali-Modu Sheriff is no threat to us, we are looking at the institution and not the person. The PDP is a party that institutionalised corruption and failed to handle the security of the nation,” he said.