THE MARKAFI VICTORY AND THE 2019 ELECTIONS
By Anthony Opara
On Wednesday July 12, the highest court in Nigeria, the Supreme Court delivered judgement on the leadership tussle in the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) between Senators Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi for the Chairmanship of the party.
The court ruled in favour of Senator Ahmed Makarfi as Chairman of the party holding that the Party Convention that produced him as chairman was legal and therefore he was validly elected as Chairman of the party. The Judgment ended months of political bickering that had led to the fictionalization of the party into the Makarfi and Sheriff camps.
The story is a straight forward one. After President Goodluck Jonathan lost the Presidential election to Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress in the 2015 General elections the PDP was thrown into disarray to put it mildly. Some party elders approached Alhaji Modu Sheriff, the former Governor of Bornu State to hold forth until the party could get things going once again via a National Convention. Not many people in the party were comfortable with Alhaji Sheriff as many in the party saw him as a mole of the APC who will achieve nothing but further destabilization of the party. However, the elders contended that Alhaji Sheriff had the political experience and deep pockets needed to hold forth as party Chair until the PDP can find their feet.
In the forefront of those who were anxious to see the former Governor depart as Chair were Governors Wike of Rivers State and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti and these men rallied other members to organize a convention in Port Harcourt to elect new executives for the party. Their hard work paid off when the Convention held and elected a team led by Senator Makarfi as Chairman.
As would be expected, Alhaji Sheriff would have none of this and filed an action at the Federal High Court to challenge what he called the so called Victory of the Makarfi led executive. Elders of the party including the Board of Trustees intervened and asked Alhaji Sheriff to accept the verdict of the National Convention but he refused. He appealed the victory of the Makarfi led group and the Court ruled in his favour and he promptly took over the party’s headquarters, the Wadata Plaza in Abuja.
To all intents and purposes the party was balkanized into two factions – the Sheriff and Makarfi factions and even in the states the balkanization was to be seen as some people declared for Sheriff while some others declared for the Makarfi faction to the effect that the capacity of the party to present candidates in elections that had become due was affected and court cases became the order of the day.
A last ditch effort was made by party elders who empaneled the Seriake Dickson Committee to bring all the factions to the party and effect an agreement that will bind members across all the states. This committee moved from state to state to consult party members to bring the contending forces to agree on the way forward. The two factions had people to represent them in the Dickson Committee so that any agreement would be binding on all factions. While this was going the Makarfi faction approached the Supreme Court to adjudicate on the contentious issue of the Chairmanship of the party.
It is important to state that while this was ongoing the party tried to organize another convention and members agreed in the main to go for another Convention that would exclude both factional Chairmen. Party stalwarts like Aleogho Raymond Dokpesi, the retired Chairman of DAAR Communications prepared to run for the Chair of the party and made the corner stone of his campaign bringing all factions of the party together and wresting power from the APC.
All this are now history as the Supreme Court has held that Alhaji Alli Modu Sheriff was an interloper and that the proper Chairman of the party was Alhaji Makarfi who was elected by the highest organ of the party which is the National Convention. Now that this issue has been decided what remains is to see the steps that would be taken by the Makarfi group in bringing all factions into the big PDP umbrella which many saw as torn hopelessly by the actions and inactions of the members of the party. The problems in the party can be blamed in the emergence of new political parties in the political horizon. Its for this reason that Chief Dokpesi and some other PDP members pulled out and formed a new party. Some others are contemplating doing likewise while some more have joined other parties to attain their political objectives.
Many have ruled out PDP as a viable opposition to the ruling APC and this is given the fact that the party was embroiled in internal crisis to play an active opposition and given that the fight against corruption seems to be focused on members of the party and this is not surprising given the role they played in the Jonathan government which Nigerians agree was one riddled with corruption. The PDP will now have discovered that its not easy to play opposition politics especially given the Nigerian type where the winner takes all.
Alhaji Makarfi’s work is pretty cut out for him which is to bring back all the lost sheep of the big umbrella and reconcile the several splinter groups in the party and perhaps bring back some of those who left out of annoyance in order to seek better platforms to achieve their political ends. The recent victory of Ademola Adeleke who won the Osun West Senatorial district in last Saturday’s rerun election is to some a good omen. He has taken over the seat vacated by his elder brother Senator Isiaka Adeleke who died in undisclosed but suspicious circumstances. What the Senate President, Dr Olubukola Saraki said at his swearing in is rather instructive. The Senate President while welcoming the new Senator said the only thing missing was that he belonged to the opposition PDP unlike his late elder brother who was a stalwart of the APC and went ahead to excoriate the leadership of the APC in Osun State that mismanaged the party primaries that saw the exit of Ademola to PDP from where he defeated the APC candidate, former Senator Hussain.
Nigerians are obviously disenchanted with the APC as the party has not fulfilled many of the numerous promises made to Nigerians. It is so bad that the party is denying the promises saying that they did not know the extent of the rot created by the former government but Nigerians are saying that after two years the party should quit giving excuses and provide the promised dividends of democracy. The absence of the President hasn’t helped matters as health challenges have really plagued the President and hampered his competency. The President agreed with this view when he said he was not as strong as he used to be and that the problems of Nigeria were taking a toll on his health. The Presidency appear to be in disarray as members of the Federal Executive Council appear to speak with a cacophony of voices. The Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo is Acting President but that appears to be in name only as he has failed to even swear in two Ministers approved by the Senate to represent their states following deaths that hit the council. Matters got to a head on this recently such that the House of Representatives moved a motion directing the Acting President to swear the men in promptly. These are several examples of a bunging administration that if Nigerians were to go the polls today the consensus is that the APC will lose massively.
The Makarfi administration should not allow someone like Senator Ademola Adeleke to decamp back to the APC from where he came to the PDP. All efforts should be made to consolidate and rebuild the party to make it ready to take over from the APC come 2019 if this bungling continues.
Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Chairman, PDP