Governors of the crisis ridden Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) met last well in Abuja amidst a confusion over whether they will leave the party or not, ahead of the Supreme Court judgment over the leadership tussle rocking the leading opposition party. CHIBUZO UKAIBE writes
The wait for the Supreme Court judgment has sent the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) into series of mood swing.
First, it was grandstanding by the two factions led by Sen Ali Modu Sheriff and Sen Ahmed Makarfi, over which side would get victory. Later there was silence.
And then there was a conflicting signal from the Makarfi camp and its loyalists, over whether PDP was a wise choice for elections as they waited the Apex court’s judgment. While they distanced themselves from any particular party, they, in another breath, gave authority to their state chapters to use any other platform other than PDP to seek for election.
The fear for Makarfi loyalists, valid as it seemed, was informed by the poor out of the party in the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, largely because of the major distractions arising from the leadership crisis which saw to intense legal battles over the emergence of double candidates.
Yet again, there was silence. But this time it was shorter as Governors Ayo Fayose (Ekiti) and Nyesom Wike (Rivers) to two major antagonists of Sheriff made allusions to dumping the PDP if the Supreme Court rules against the Makarfi faction.
Before long, party chieftains from the Makarfi camp were linked with the formation of a new political party. Makarfi denied vehemently that it had a hand in the formation of the new party.
The permutation, according to watchers of the Makarfi camp, was that an alternative platform had become inevitable in the face of their loss at the Supreme Court. Apparently, expectation that the highest court would call a decision in their favor was becoming low, expectedly so.
They had earlier suffered a shock loss at the Court of Appeal in Portharcourt which declared Sheriff national chairman of the party.
While the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party rubbished talks of any plan of either abandoning the PDP, changing its name or forming a new party, Sheriff, who had led the accusation against the Makarfi camp over the formation of the new party, maintained that the faction had encouraged members to leave the party.
The presence of some pro-Makarfi members at the unveiling of the Advanced Democratic Peoples Alliance (APDA) gave fillip to Sheriff’s claims. But Makarfi yet again denied sponsoring the new party.
Speculations were however rife that PDP governors like Wike and Fayose were backing the new party and were bidding time before they adopt the party.
While the new party have repeatedly denied being sponsored by PDP chieftains, they hurriedly posit that their doors are opened to the members of the PDP.
As the permutations and double speaks continued, the PDP governors met. The meeting took place at Ekiti Lodge, Asokoro residence of Chairman of the forum and Ekiti state governor, Ayo Fayose.
The meeting raised some eyesbrows, not because it held barely 24 hours before the new parties got certificates of registration from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but because there was a split within the ranks of the governors, along lines of Sheriff and Makarfi.
Present at the meeting were Present at the time of this report are Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta) and Ebitemi Banigo (Deputy Governor, Rivers).
Also present at the meeting are Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Leo Ogor; former Abia state governor, Senator Theophilus Orji; former ministers, Prof. Jerry Gana, Zainab Maina and Inna Ciroma.
While governor Dickson of Bayelsa is perceived to have a soft spot for Sheriff, Fayose and Wike are clearly on the side of Makarfi. However, for some other governors, have been on the fence.
In his opening remark before they went into a close door meeting, Fayose said “This is our usual PDP Governors Forum meeting and deliberating on issues of interest and concern to our party. Our members are looking out for and to hear progress being made in the party. And we are pleased that our party, despite our challenges is forging ahead.
“We are putting our best and we are hopeful all we end well with the party and our members. Today, the party met to further reaffirm our confidence in the PDP, believing that the PDP stays and stands united to win elections in 2019.
“We are hopeful that the outcome of the court will further unite the party. There will be no winner, there will be no vanquished.
We believe in the PDP and we believe in the tomorrow of this party.
“That is the essence of our deliberation and we believe that we will come out stronger than ever before.”
Speaking with the press after their meeting he said , “You see, what’s important is that as individuals, we are still loyal to this party. Whatever statement, whatever position we have taken before this meeting is still our personal decision, personal statement. But look at all the governors standing here, wherever the party goes, we go.”
Asked whatever they will all abide by the decision of the Supreme Court, he said “the party is more important than all of us and we believe in this party. We believe the tomorrow of this party will be great and we are going to stand by this party till the end.”
On the relationship between their meeting and the NWC led by Senator Ali Sheriff, Fayose noted “You see, this party is beyond everybody, whether Sheriff, Makarfi or Fayose.
We are saying again that we all believe in this party. We believe in the tomorrow of this party and we believe that this party will come together united for victory in 2019.”
However, it is gathered that the judgement of the Supreme Court remains a major determinant to whether most of the governors will remain in PDP or not.
A PDP source hinted “We know that the major factor as far as the leadership crisis is concerned is the judgement of the Supreme Court. The level of mistrust between most of the governors and the Sheriff led camp is high. But they also know that if the apex court rules in his favour, they will largely have to work with him on his terms.
“On the other hand, Sheriff will have to prove to them that their interests won’t undermined like in Edo and Ondo states. The perception that he is working with the APC will be something they have to thrash out exhaustively. But beyond that is allowing them have a free hold of their party structures in the states, which perhaps is far more crucial to the governors.”
But with the history of failed political solutions to the leadership crisis, it remains very unlikely that both camps can work together regardless of how the judgement goes.
However, the narrative from the Sheriff camp has been that the party must return to the grassroots. He has persistently maintained that transparency must be the watch word in affairs of the party, a punch line that party faithful, desirous of enjoying the full compliments of a democratic party, latch onto.
“We want the party to return to the people. The problems that PDP has suffered over the years is flagrant impunity and imposition of candidates. We want to stop this and at the heart of this problem are the governors”, a supporter of Sheriff who pleaded not to be named told our correspondent.
For watchers of the party, the inherent crisis of confidence that has grown in the party for the party over the years will come to a head when the Supreme Court gives it judgment. They opine that the inability of the party, over the years, to purge itself of unwholesome tendencies, has remained its major undoing, noting that the much awaited Supreme Court judgment could just be a last chance to salvage what is left of the former ruling party.