For Makarfi’s PDP, a devil’s alternative to stay afloat
Last Tuesday’s statement from the leadership of the Ahmed Makarfi faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) directing its members to use alternative platforms in seeking elective offices has not only shown the depth of its frustration on the crisis rocking the opposition party but also exposed the fluidity of Nigeria’s political party system.
The country’s political parties, having lost their individual ideological characteristics and unique manifestoes over the years, have become so identical that movement across platforms has become the pastime of desperate politicians who are always in search of any platform to fulfill political aspirations.
Aside from its effect on discipline of members and overall performance of party machinery, the basic rules governing administrations of political parties are no longer sacrosanct. The crisis that split the PDP towards the end of rule in 2015 and the current one rocking the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a result of the emergence of the leadership of the National Assembly, are direct consequences of unbridled carpet-crossing and lack of control by the leadership.
Attempts by the system to sanitize the process by proffering acceptable reasons for a lawmaker to have a justified defection has lost its steam as many politicians take advantage of whatever crisis existing in their parties’ leadership to abandon the platforms on which they were elected.
The controversial caretaker committee of the party said in the statement that pending the outcome of the case it instituted at the Supreme Court challenging the Port Harcourt Court of Appeal’s recognition of Ali Modu-Sheriff as the chairman of the party, members of the mainstream PDP should use other political parties to pursue their ambitions.
Although it expressed optimism that the apex court would reverse the earlier judicial pronouncement, the faction was apprehensive of losing grounds in several on-going local council elections across the country through sabotage from the rival faction and deliberate suppression by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
More like a devil’s alternative to stay afloat, the Makarfi’s faction had successfully used the tactic to remain relevant in Delta State last month when it hid under the banner of Accord Party (AP) to win an election into a vacant seat in the House of Assembly during a bye-election where it clearly defeated the Sheriff faction of the PDP.
In Delta, the Makarfi faction, to which the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa belongs, is believed to have rallied its members, at least for election purposes, under the banner of AP while it still wears the toga of PDP.
The faction’s national spokesman, Dayo Adeyeye, who issued the statement, was however not specific about which of the registered political parties should be adopted by the state branches adding that each state should decide on which platform to use.
He denied that the faction’s leadership had picked a particular newly registered political party, a development that caused more confusion among members who were at a loss on the modalities adopted by the party to merge with the new platform.
According to Adeyeye, “since the platform of our great party is currently in dispute, we recognize the anxiety of our patriotic and loyal members to avoid a repeat of the Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections experience where Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff and his co-travellers, tried to scuttle the chances of our members by fielding APC lackeys and surrogates as alternative candidates in order to distract and dissipate the energy and concentration of our genuine candidates in those elections.
“It is indisputable that this was the main reason for our defeat particularly in the Ondo governorship election. That was why we decided not to run parallel congresses in Anambra in order not to subject our members to the agony of a disputed platform.
“It is also important to state at this point that Senator Sheriff and his cohorts have been creating factional chapters in different states of the federation in order to compromise our chances in the local government elections.
“In the circumstances and with no hope of the Ali Modu Sheriff problem abating before the Supreme Court judgement, we are left with no choice than to consider ways by which our members will not be disenfranchised in these elections.
“However, our position is not to choose a platform for any State where true PDP candidates are denied the opportunity to stand for the elections. State chapters are allowed to take any decision they consider appropriate.”
Indeed, within the states where local government elections are holding, the intra-party crisis has created parallel leaderships whose divisions can be easily exploited to shield the PDP away for participating in the contests or at best, present surrogates to carry the party’s flag with the utmost aim of decimating the opposition. In Lagos where the council election is scheduled to hold on July 22, the party state secretariat in Ikeja has become an object of dispute between the two factions.
Last week, the Sheriff faction, under the leadership of Segun Adewale, attempted to take over the property as the former Borno governor did in Abuja with the Wadata House national headquarters of the party but the Markafi faction, led by Moshood El-Salvador, resisted it.
While the two factions sought the protection of security agencies in their bid to occupy the complex to prevent violence, elder statesman and chieftain of the party, Chief Olabode George, who is the original tenant in the complex took possession and handed it over to the Markafi group.
George, one of the founding fathers of the PDP who was the party’s National Vice-Chairman for the Southwest geo-political zone, told The Guardian that the crisis, if not nipped in the bud is capable of not only destroying the PDP but the entire political structures in Nigeria.
He alleged that the Sheriff faction in Lagos was out to destroy the party’s opportunities to win the council elections and constitute a proper opposition to the APC government in the state.
Although George did not disclose which alternative political platform the Makarfi faction would settle for in Lagos to contest the election, feelers from within the party pointed to the newly registered Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA).
A credible source within the leadership of the faction in Lagos said yesterday that arrangements were almost concluded to float APDA and make it a winning party pending the time that the apex court would determine the PDP case.
In Ondo, while a large chunk of the Markafi group is believed to be warming up to use the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which was used by one of its former chieftains, Chief Olusola Oke, to contest last gubernatorial election in the state, some of the members are toying with the idea of floating APDA.
There are also unconfirmed reports that Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, who is also the chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, may be preparing his supporters to move into the AD for the purpose of contesting next year’s governorship election if the matter at the apex court is still pending.
This strategy to remain relevant will however be temporary and serve only the immediate election purposes if the faction gets a favourable judgment at the apex court.
And Adeyeye was optimistic of this when he said, “We have a good Case and our ground of Appeal is solid. We believe ultimately that justice will be served on the leadership crisis in our party and we are also confident that the Judiciary will continue to remain independent, unbiased and neutral.”
However the court-recognised Sheriff faction, speaking through its spokesman, Cairo Ojougboh, said the Makarfi group had no authority to issue any directive to PDP members.
Stressing that the caretaker committee of Makarfi is illegal, Ojougboh said, “As far as we are concerned, we are one family and whatever problem we have in PDP we should not wash our dirty linen in the public.’’
According to him, “The party had conducted successful council elections in Ebonyi and that it was currently preparing for elections in Cross River and other states. The National Chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, conducted these exercises and our primaries are open to all party members.
“PDP is an embodiment of great Nigerians, including our governors, who are performing very well in their various states and our youth organisations all across the states. What surprises us is that Makarfi claims he has a strong appeal at the Supreme Court when the Court of Appeal has made it clear that he disobeyed the order of court in Lagos and Abuja.
“Is Makarfi expecting that the law will be re-written for them, to suit their personal interest?By their attitude they are still unrepentant. We implore them to have a change of heart and return to the fold so that we can adequately prepare to return to power in 2019.’’