Right from the tenure of business mogul, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, as Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, the party had been experiencing leadership crisis with particular reference to its chairmanship.
With Alhaji Adamu Muazu taking over from Tukur, stability was maintained. However, with the resignation of Muazu, PDP was thrown once more into crisis as the vacant seat became a hot cake for many contenders. In some cases, some persons unilaterally assumed the position.
It got to a point when Mallam Ahmed Gulak, the political adviser to then President Goodluck Jonathan, secured a court judgment to the effect that the remaining period of Muazu’s tenure as the national Chairman must be filled by a candidate from the North East since Muazu was from that region, and in line with the zoning formula of the party.
With this, Gulak, being the plaintiff in the case and having got the nod of the court, assumed the position of party chairman since he hails from the North East. This, however, did not go down well with other members of the party, especially from the North East, who felt that the party must have a say in the appointment of who succeeds Alhaji Muazu from the zone.
This was the dilemma of the party when Senator Ali Modu Sheriff defected from the All Progressives Congress to PDP, having failed to realise his ambition in the former.
With Sheriff now in PDP and coming from the North- East, he showed interest in the position of the party’s chairmanship. His interest was welcomed as well as opposed. His supporters in the PDP saw him, not only as a plutocrat that would deploy his resources to the party and a neutral person that would read and see matters impartially, but also as a fearless individual that would give the ruling party, APC, a fight. The supporters are made up of mostly governors and some prominent politicians in the party.
However, the opposition to his appointment, made up mostly of former ministers in the erstwhile administration of President Jonathan, Board of Trustees’ members and out-spoken politicians in the party, pointed out that Sheriff was unsuitable because of his dictatorial disposition and the allegation of Boko Haram sponsor tag hanging over him.
After discussions, the two groups resolved that Senator Sheriff be given the chairmanship of the party, while his members in the National Working Committee and National Executive Council should remain in office for three months, being the duration for the expiration of Muazu’s tenure. Within this period, Sheriff and his group were mandated to reconcile the warring factions in the party and organise elections for various offices in the impending convention. It was after this resolution that Senator Sheriff assumed the chairmanship.
Not long afterwards, rumours went round that Sheriff was working towards ensuring that the chairmanship position of the party, already zoned to the South in the upcoming convention, went back to the North. This was contrary to the zoning system of the PDP. More so, as the party had zoned the presidential ticket to the North for the 2019 elections.
Allegations were rife that, not only would the chairmanship be zoned to the North, it was programmed for the North East and calculated to favour Sheriff. It was also alleged that he was plotting to eventually transmute from the position of national chairman to its presidential candidate in 2019. All these angered the rank and file at the PDP, including the early supporters of Sheriff who smelt a rat. Opposition to his agenda began to build up.
No doubt, within his short spell as the acting national chairman of the party, Senator Sheriff did what was humanly possible to reconcile the aggrieved persons or groups. Remaining silent or unperturbed in spite of overwhelming allegations of a self succession plan leveled against him was perhaps his undoing. What transpired at the party’s convention in Port Harcourt is now history. It left the party with a more complicated leadership crisis, with three people laying claim to its leadership in interim capacities.
No doubt, what happened in Port-Harcourt was a political setback for Sheriff and the party. He was given the opportunity to help rebuild; it was an opportunity to enhance his political fortunes and write his name in gold. But that was not to be.
His political fortunes had began to dwindle from his period as the Borno State Governor when he contested a Senatorial seat under the All Nigeria People’s Party and was defeated by Ahmed Zanna of the PDP in the Borno Central Senatorial Zone. Thereafter, he left the APC for PDP in search of greener pasture. That now appears elusive. Even the PDP in Borno, his home state, is not at peace due to internal wrangling, leading to massive defection of members to APC.
In the aftermath of the conflicts, there have been reconciliatory moves. But who and which group will make the ultimate sacrifice of letting go in the common interest. And if Sheriff decides to leave the party, where does he go from here, bearing in mind that APC and PDP are the dominant parties that call the shot. If he chooses to remain in PDP, in what capacity will that be? The implications of him remaining or exiting remains to be seen over the next 90 days during which the national convention of the party will be held.
- Victor Izekor, a public affairs commentator, writes from Maiduguri.