Early resolution of crisis will save the PDP, says Olafeso
In this interview with Niyi Bello, the National Vice-Chairman of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South West, Olorogun Eddy Olafeso, traced the origin of the crisis rocking the political groupings and concluded: “Peace is just a short distance away.” Excerpts:
How can peace return to the PDP?
We all want to have peace in our party but the truth and reality of this, given the character of the person who has taken over the leadership of our party, that is Ali Modu Sheriff, a two-term governor under the ANPP, a two-term senator of the APP and one of the founding members of APC, we may find it difficult to achieve. This man has nothing to offer us in the PDP because he was not groomed in the democratic way that the PDP was founded and entrenched. Rather than have anything to do with Sherifff, some of us would go back home and stop playing politics. If the country must have credible leadership, this kind of politicians should not be allowed any space in the country’s politics.
I agree that his coming into our party was made possible by some of our leaders. After we lost the 2015 elections and the former leadership of Adamu Muazu stepped aside, we needed to have somebody at the helm of affairs and our constitution stated expressly that the replacement must come from the North East, where Muazu comes from, to complete his term. That was the reason why the focus was on the North East. But like a thunderbolt, this name came up and some of our governors supported him. The idea was for him to spend the rest of Muazu’s tenure, which was about three months at that time and that after the period; the party would have its national convention, which was scheduled for March 26, 2016.
Suddenly, this man that came in to complete a tenure, wanted to become the chairman. We are also hearing from the grapevine that he equally wanted to take the presidential ticket of the party which the party had already zoned to the north to correct the imbalance created by the emergence of Jonathan that ended the tenure of Yar’ Adua. And so PDP became a theatre of war even in our unsettled position as an opposition party. The truth is that, and former President Jonathan can bear me witness, Sheriff made overtures and actually lobbied to become a member of the PDP. While there is nothing wrong being a member because he was obviously frustrated out of APC, what is wrong is his attempt to take over the party completely. That is how we came to this quagmire. From the first judgment in Port Harcourt to the appeal of February 17, this man has refused to let go of the leadership of the party even when the court was against him. Chaos are being created everywhere with this situation. I am speaking for my other five colleagues, zonal chairmen of the PDP that we will have nothing to do with his leadership.
Under the law as pronounced by the courts, the man is the chairman of the party
Is law made for man or man for law? Yes the courts have spoken but has it happened anywhere in modern democracy for the court to pronounce the leadership of a political party? Leadership and followership are given out of free volition. It is never by compulsion. So nobody can force me to be a follower of somebody I don’t believe in.
Markafi faction stated that it was going to abide by whatever decision the court takes on the matter
We didn’t say that. There are options because we have the right of association. If the final arbiter says that Sheriff is the chairman of our party then some of us would have no option but to take a walk and quit partisan politics. You don’t have to be a soothsayer to know that this man has no good plan for our party. He has insulted almost every member of the party.
He seems to be winning some governors to his side
That is in the realm of rumours. Until I hear a governor say so, I am not going to believe that. If he has that support how come he has not convened a broad-based stakeholders meeting in Abuja. Even the one that former President Jonathan convened, Sheriff showed traits of somebody not capable of heading a platform like the PDP. As far as many of us in the party are concerned, it was the convention in Port Harcourt that brought Markafi in and we all must stand by the letters of that convention. The party as presently constituted is dying and we all must prevent its demise because it will not augur well for our country’s democracy. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo said PDP was dead, many of us didn’t take him serious but as a Yoruba man who also respects the opinion of elders, I am taking a second look at that statement. Former President Obasanjo is not a kid as far as politics in Nigeria is concerned. If things continue like this, then I am afraid the party will die.
What then is the way out of this problem confronting the PDP?
Peace is just a short distance away. Some of us are still convinced that the judiciary will do the needful by handing the party back to the Markafi group because it is the convention of the party, which has the ultimate power to make decision for the party, which produced Markafi. It will be unfair of anybody to think that Markafi is in a power game with somebody. He cannot abdicate that responsibility because the party machinery put him there.