The die is cast, war drum pierced, storm calmed and the clash of the titans ended abruptly. The position of the Peoples Democratic Party after the landmark judgment of the apex court, the Supreme Court, can be likened to this illustration.
Hitherto, the two factions in the PDP, led by Senator Ali Modu Sherrif and Senator Ahmed Markafi, respectively, had stalled peace advancement and sanity within the rank and file of the once dominant party in Nigeria, having held power for 16 years.
The fight between the two political gladiators, had taken tolls on the numerical strength of the party as several members, who were either genuinely tired of the raging battle for supremacy or out of sheer lust for money, defected to the All Progressives Congress for greener pastures.
Reasons advanced for the raging battle was nor far-fetched as each faction harped on the judgments of the lower courts, which gave each of them power at the different sessions to superintend over the affairs of the party.
The PDP, even right from its conception, has remained a party to beat, considering the calibre of the big-wigs in its fold: retired army generals, experienced politicians, dating back to the days of the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo; intelligentsia, former heads of state, former governors and senators, business moguls, diplomats and technocrats; all rolled into a formidable and unbeatable cabal.
No wonder, its 1999 candidate, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, beat his opponent from the All Progressives Party, Chief Olu Falae, hands down in the 1999 general elections. However, in 2015, the party lost power to the ruling APC as a result of infighting, arising from lack of trust, antics and shenanigans of disgruntled, adventurous but covetous politicians within the fold. By that time, the then president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president, widely believed to be Jonathan’s godfather, had parted ways. Defection upon defection and the centre could no longer hold. These and many other factors led to the defeat of the party in the 2015 general elections.
This historic judgment of the Supreme Court had upheld the appeal of the Makarfi faction and transferred power to Senator Makarfi as the authentic Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party. With this landmark judgment, relief came on the way of the party and reconciliatory efforts began unabated. But those who defected in the wake of the crisis have not returned.
For any proposed built-up strategies to work with appreciable results, the like of Chief Obasanjo, who left the party with a large chunk of his loyalists; Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankwaso, Aminu Tambuwal, Senate President Bukola Saraki and many others must be brought back to the fold.
By December 2017, Senator Makarfi will unequivocally transfer the mantle of leadership to a duly elected party Chairman. Crisis within the Ogun State chapter of the PDP has not subsided with Bayo Dayo of the Ali Modu Sherrif-camp still holding sway to leadership. A pocket of skirmishes is still bedeviling some state chapters across the country. For the party to return to power, come 2019, it requires a charismatic leadership, a leadership that is transparent, level headed with proven integrity and sagacity. This is a necessity that can propel or fast-track a smooth pragmatic transition. The most worrisome development now is the unhealthy rumour that Sheriff and his supporters are migrating to another party. This must not be allowed. The party should endeavour to break that conspiracy and return a chunk of them to the fold.
Among the contestants for the position of party Chairman is no less a person than Otunba Gbenga Daniel, fondly referred to as OGD. Many people constantly refer to this enigma as a man of the people with proven skills for conflict resolution and management. He has been tested with proven ability to successfully weather storms. A product of Obafemi Awolowo mentorship, he had already come in contact with the late sage in his twenties and maximised the opportunity to imbibe the philosophy and ideology of a man many people believed to be one of the greatest politicians in the history of Nigeria.
Recall that it was OGD who then brokered peace between the two factions of the Odua Peoples Congress, even when other previous attempts by some Yoruba elders had failed. He performed this great feat while he was the governor of Ogun State. Because of his strong connection with both the high-ups and the masses, he possesses the capacity to bring back to the fold, those that had hitherto left the party.
An astute, dynamic and thoroughbred patriot, OGD was once described by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, as a true son of our forebears, deserving of the popular song: “Omo olejo baba ka ma binu Omo.” Of course, OGD was, and apparently still is Obasanjo’s political son. No matter what the mouth that eats pepper and salt says, the relationship between the duo remains unshaken and will, in part, come to bear on OGD’s disposition as the Chairman of the party.
OGD is ably qualified for the exalted position of the party’s chairmanship because of his antecedents. Besides, former and current PDP governors have indicated their intention to support his ambition because “only the deep can call to the deep”.
The PDP should, as a matter of urgency, put a round peg in the round hole so that by 2019 general elections, power must change hands and the ‘change’ would have been changed.
*Akinyemi is a public affairs commentator