The possibility of Nigeria ending up as a one party state in 2019 has continued to move from speculations to reality with the worsening crisis rocking the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Like a cancerous disease with a single aim to destroy, PDP crisis keeps snowballing into worse situations anytime the party seems to get its acts together to try and fix its problems.
The recent intervention of former President Goodluck Jonathan and its effect on the troubled party is a quick example of this.
With the efforts already made by Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson-led reconciliation committee, many Nigerians had thought a political solution to the party’s crisis was in sight when Jonathan summoned the warring factions for a peace meeting.
However, the way and manner Ali Modu Sheriff walked out on the stakeholders of the party, his allegation of Jonathan being hired with N50million to destroy likely peace in the party, and Ahmed Makarfi group branding Sheriff’s faction “pigs in the mud”, have again worsened the situation in the party.
While Nigeria boasts of over 38 registered political parties, it remains a well-known fact that only two political parties, the PDP and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have structures across the nation to be able to wrestle for national political space in the country.
But the protracted crisis in PDP, which seemingly has the capacity to permanently destroy the once acclaimed most populous political party of the black race, places Nigeria at risk of ending up a one party state, with all its dangers ahead 2019 general elections.
This is very worrisome, more so when considered what could become of the opposition party in the event that the current national chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who many of the PDP stakeholders have openly denounced, is affirmed as the party leader’s by the Supreme Court.
It is sequel upon this unpleasant but likely occurrence that Ripples Nigeria takes a fresh look at how PDP got into its present predicament, the underplay of forces in the crisis and how the reality of Nigeria delving into a one party state stares everybody in the face.
The supremacy battles
Although PDP has had a myriad of problems in the past and was able to overcome them and moved on, it has, however, not been able to overcome its present crisis believed to have started in 2012.
First, many point at the battle of supremacy that ensued between former PDP chairman, Bamanga Tukur, and the former governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako in 2012 as the root of the crisis in the party.
Following the dissolution of Adamawa State party executive by the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), Nyako dragged the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) then led by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, into the matter. He alleged that Tukur was behind the action because he wanted his son as the state governor in 2015.
The governors in their response demanded that Tukur must resign as the party’s national chairman.
Second, there was the problem of President Jonathan allegedly refusing to adhere to a purported agreement signed in 2010 in which he was said to have vowed not to seek re-election in 2015. His insistence to run as President and eventual adoption as candidate of the party did not go down well with many governors and party stakeholders like former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Then, there was also the issue of a face-off between Jonathan and the chairman of NGF, Amaechi, following the governor’s quarrels with Jonathan’s wife, Patience.
Although Tukur eventually resigned, the problems created by his leadership and other internal wrangling culminated in seven PDP governors, Rabi’u Kwankwaso (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Abdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), Sule Lamido (Jigawa) and Babangida Aliyu (Niger), abandoning the party.
The governors then teamed up with other aggrieved party chieftains of the party led by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, ex-acting national chairman of the PDP, Kawu Baraje, a former Osun State governor and erstwhile national secretary of the party, Olagunsoye Oyinlola to float a new PDP (nPDP) group.
These PDP leaders later defected to the APC along with some members of the party in the Senate and House of Representatives, including current Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara.
The effect of the abandonment of the party by many of its stakeholders, including its former President, Obasanjo and other devastating internal squabbles led to then incumbent President and candidate of the PDP, Jonathan losing the 2015 presidential election to Muhammadu Buhari, the candidate of the APC.
The outcome of the 2015 election threw up another level of crisis in the party. Members of the PDP were devastated and confused as to the next line of action and how to put the seeming shattered house together to form a formidable opposition.
The situation left the party in a state of absolute despair.
Wrecked, without a soul
Following PDP’s loss of 2015 election, despondency set in. The once most populous party in the black world found itself in limbo.
In the ensuing situation the party found itself, its national chairman, Adamu Mu’azu, who received much of the blames for loss of the 2015 presidential election bowed to calls for his resignation.
His resignation saw Uche Secondus become the acting PDP national chairman.
Secondus in his speech at the 67th NEC meeting of the party on October 15, 2015 said, “Our party has witnessed challenging times after our disappointing loss in the last elections. We moved from pain, despair, soul- searching and now by the grace of the almighty God, we have started the process of re-building confidence in ourselves for a brighter future for the party.”
However, PDP rather than re-build has continued to tread on a path that may eventually lead to its doom.
The Sheriff albatross
The coming of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the next chairman of the party has become its albatross, a burden whose weight the party has continued to find too heavy to carry.
Among many others who declared their intentions to be the next chairman of the party, based on the zoning formula that requires somebody from the North-east zone to complete Muazu’s tenure, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was chosen.
Sheriff, a former Borno State governor, on February 16, 2016 was picked by the national caucus of PDP comprising the governors, members of NWC and the leadership of the National Assembly as the party national chairman.
Within seconds of Sheriff’s emergence, it was clear that the crisis in PDP had moved to a higher dimension as a sharp division among the organs of the party over his choice was immediately felt.
Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, who was the director of media and publicity for the Jonathan/Sambo Presidential Campaign Organisation, had in his response accused Sheriff of being behind the birth of Boko Haram.
He had said, “I wonder whether they (PDP leaders) have lost their fear of God. I wonder whether they have forgotten the evil that was visited on our people, and is still being visited on them, over the last seven years by Boko Haram? I wonder whether they know at whose instance it was that Mohammed Yusuf, the erstwhile leader of Boko Haram, was killed by our security forces whilst in police custody in 2009 just so that he wouldn’t live to tell the whole world who gave him the funds to set up his murderous cult?”
As expected by many, Sheriff’s reign did not last long before he was rejected by the party following opposition to Sheriff’s leadership by several members of the party.
On May 21, 2016, barely three weeks of becoming PDP chairman, Sheriff was shown the exit door during the party’s national convention in Port Harcourt and replaced with a caretaker chairman, former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
That action only deepened the crisis in the party and divided it into two factions, one of Sheriff, the other of Makarfi. What followed was a legal battle.
Judicial swings and a festering sore
The legal battle over PDP leadership tussle cast doubts over the sincerity of the Nigerian judiciary, following controversies over different court judgments in the matter. Both Makarfi and Sheriff enjoyed a fair share of favourable rulings by different courts of competent but same jurisdiction.
The dramatic court rulings started on May 12, 2016 with Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos restraining the PDP from holding elections into offices of the national chairman, national secretary, and national auditor pending the determination of a suit before him.
While PDP went ahead on May 21, 2016 to appoint Makarfi chairman of the party and also filled other positions in its leadership, Justice Buba, in a latter ruling sacked the Makarfi-led caretaker committee because it was appointed contrary to his May 12, 2016 restraining order.
However, on May 24, 2016 a Federal High Court siting in Port Harcourt, apparently overruled Justice Buba’s order and restrained Sheriff from parading himself as PDP chairman, validated the party convention and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to recognise Makarfi as the valid chairman of the party.
Again, on June 29, 2016 Valentine Ashi of the FCT High Court in Abuja nullified Sheriff’s chairmanship on the grounds that the process that brought him in was illegal.
On July 4, 2015, Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt further affirmed Sheriff’s removal, stating that the May 21, 2016 convention was in order.
All judges of the Federal High Court on July 8, 2016 were directed by Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta, to stay clear of any matter concerning the PDP crisis pending the determination of appeals before the appellate court.
But on July 28, 2016, after a stay of execution or an order vacating the unfavourable High Court ruling was granted, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja sacked Makarfi as PDP chairman on the grounds that the July 4 judgment of Judge Liman could not overrule the May 12 restraining order because both courts are of coordinate jurisdiction.
In another judgment by Justice Watila of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt on August 16, 2016, the court affirmed the legitimacy of the Makarfi-led faction and ordered INEC, the Police Force, and all other relevant agencies to be present at the PDP convention slated for August 17.
A latter judgment on the same case and on the same date August 16, by Justice Okon Abang ordered that the PDP national convention should not hold. He equally ordered all relevant agencies to stay clear of the convention.
On August 17, the venue of the convention was sealed off by security agencies. Though the convention still held but in another venue. During the meeting the tenure of the Makarfi caretaker committee was extended.
The crisis and legal battles continued as the party headed to the appeal.
However, the party received a heavy knock once again following the judgment of the Appeal Court siting in Port Harcourt on Thursday February 16, 2017, which declared Ali Sheriff, who does not enjoy the support of majority of the party members as the authentic national chairman of the party.
In a split decision, two out of the three-member panel of justices of the appellate court sided with Sheriff and ruled that it was illegal to replace him with the Makarfi-led caretaker committee.
Voice of Esau, hand of Jacob
Sheriff has been accused by members of Makarfi-led PDP of working with President Buhari and the APC to destroy PDP.
This accusation is premised on the fact that before joining PDP in July 2014, Sheriff was a member of the APC.
He was also in the same party with President Muhammadu Buhari, the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), under which platform Buhari contested for presidency in 2003 and 2007.
Those who insist that Sheriff is working with APC to destroy PDP cite how he also worked with former President Obasanjo to destroy ANPP as an opposition party.
While nobody has been able to prove how Sheriff destroyed his former party, ANPP, it remains a matter of concern that majority of Borno ANPP senators under Sheriff’s government supported the alleged Third Term project of former President Obasanjo.
Fani-Kayode, who is one of those linking Sheriff to APC, had in his reaction to the Court of Appeal’s decision that sanctioned Sheriff’s chairmanship tweeted, ‘’The decision by the Court of Appeal in PH to recognise Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the national chairman of the PDP is a victory for Buhari.”
PDP Governors Forum chairman and Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, also alleged that Sheriff received $1million from the APC to fund the convention being planned by the Sheriff group, adding that the APC is doing all that “so as to sustain the party’s plot to turn Nigeria to a one party state.”
Democracy, a troubled horizon
With the failure of recent peace efforts by former President Jonathan to address the crisis in the party, many analysts believe that the fate of PDP hangs in whatever will be the outcome of the appeal before the Supreme Court.
Already, Senator Makarfi, a major combatant in the crisis, is reported to have said that there may not be PDP as presently known should the apex court fail to reverse the judgment of the Port Harcourt Court of Appeal that upheld Sheriff as PDP national chairman.
“Except if that judgment is reversed by the Supreme Court. If it is upheld, God forbid, it basically means that there can be only convention in August to elect chairman and secretary and auditor and I tell you, before August, there will be no PDP then as we know it now.
“If we say people should wait under the circumstances it is not possible. Let people think wisely and even know what the court said. We are praying and hoping that justice will be done so that this quagmire can be laid to rest,” Makarfi had said when he addressed a delegation of Borno State PDP members who paid him a solidarity visit in Abuja.”
More worrisome is the fact that Fayose, his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike and several other PDP members had made public vows that Sheriff would never be allowed to continue as the party chairman.
“There cannot be any meaningful reconciliation with an impossible character like Senator Ali Modu Sheriff who is obviously working for political interests different from that of the PDP,” Fayose had said in response to moves by Dickson’s reconciliation committee to foster peace in the party.
It is then left to be seen what will happen in the event that the Supreme Court upholds the judgment of the appellate court.
There are very strong indications that Makarfi and his group, should they lose at the court, may have no other option than form a new party, a structure that may be to weak to effectively fight for political space ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Nigeria’s political horizon, therefore, looks fearfully like one in which the ruling APC, with all its baggage, is set to dominate and, perhaps, drag Nigeria’s fledgling democracy towards a one party state.
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