Senator Ahmed Makarfi takes over as Head of the Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following the failed attempt to produce an acceptable national leadership at the botched Convention. How far can the new Caretaker committee go in restoring peace to the crisis-ridden party, asks Olisemeka Obeche
Chieftains of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) across the country must have heaved sighs of relief following the eventual inauguration of a new National Caretaker Committee headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi to manage the affairs of the crisis-ridden party. The Makarfi experiment became the party’s latest option for addressing the intra-party rifts following the collapse of the Senator Ali Modu Sherriff’s transition project.
Sheriff, who was foisted on the PDP as its National Chairman and handed over the task of uniting party members and restructuring the PDP ahead of the next general election turned out to be a major source of division in the party, with a faction plotting for his prolonged stay in office while another fiercely sought his removal. His leadership’s decision to sanction a controversial party office zoning formular became the last straw that broke his back.
Even when the party’s convention was held in Port Harcourt, a parallel convention by the faction of the party that had been traditionally opposed to Sheriff’s leadership took place in Abuja. The end result was the sacking of the Sheriff-led executive on May 21 and the subsequent shopping for a “new messiah” to lead the party’s scattering flocks back to the fold. Consequently, on June 7, Makarfi was given the mandate to serve as head of the Caretaker Committee, thereby bringing an end to Sherriff’s reign as acting chairman of the party.
Expectedly, there is a renewed hope among the PDP leaders that the crisis bedeviling the party will be addressed under the new leadership. Makarfi, former Kaduna State Governor, also hinted that his appointment heralds a new dawn for the party when he tweeted shortly after his inauguration: “It is time to make friends and not enemies. It is time to rebuild our party. Let us make peace with all men.” While advocating for dialogue among aggrieved party leaders, Makarfi also assured that his leadership would stick to the mandate given to it and ensure that it is implemented to the letter “in order to see that peace and vibrancy returns to PDP.”
Other party chieftains also expressed their desire to join hands with the new leadership to end the crisis and reposition the party ahead of the 2019 general elections. “We are all united in the belief that PDP must wax stronger as opposition party, preparing to take over power in 2019. This is definitely happy times for PDP,” said Olusegun Mimiko, Ondo State Governor and Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum.
Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu also expressed optimism that PDP’s troubles are finally over. “Our promise to the people of Nigeria is that we are going to produce the next president of this country in 2019. We want our (current) president to succeed but we believe that we have better things to offer Nigeria because we have done it in the past and we will do it again,” Ekwerenmadu said.
Prince Uche Secondus, former PDP Deputy National Chairman insists the party is repositioning itself as a formidable platform and that the crisis did not affect it. “This party (PDP) is strong and capable of resolving its problems. This party is not divided. This party will move forward. This party is ready to capture power in 2019,” Secondus said.
As part of the moves to finally resolve the imbroglio, former National Deputy Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George has urged Sheriff to sheathe his sword and assist the caretaker committee to reposition the party.
George, a former military governor of Ondo State, declared that the crisis in the party was over following the emergence of the caretaker committee, but insists that only zoning can bring peace to the party.“The PDP has been pulled back from the precipice. We have to restrategise to be able to position the party as a credible and formidable platform. I appeal to Sheriff; if he is really committed to the stability of the party and believes in building the party, as he once told us, he should go and withdraw his case,” George said.
According to him, since the next presidential candidate will come from the North, the South is expected to produce the chairman. “It should be turn by turn, if equity, justice and fairness are to be promoted,” he stressed.
George listed the qualities expected from the next PDP National Chairman, stressing that he should be intellectually sound and ready to weather the storm. “He should know his onions. He should be responsible, respectable, not money conscious, and he must have networks. Look at the APC chairman, Oyegun, a former federal permanent secretary and governor. He is known in the country. The PDP must look for somebody who will be at par with Oyegun or somebody who is above him.”
Despite the optimism about PDP’s possibility of finding the elusive peace under Makarfi, there are indications that the crisis may deepen as Sheriff’s camp was reportedly set to initiate legal action against the newly installed caretaker committee. According to the party’s former National Secretary, Professor Wale Oladipo and Deputy National Legal Adviser, Bashir Maidugu, the Makarfi-led caretaker committee remains illegal and lack powers to run PDP’s affairs.
The Sheriff camp has already obtained an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the PDP from conducting any election into the offices of the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor, pending the determination of their substantive suit before Justice Ibrahim Buba of Federal High Court Lagos.
The court order was still subsisting when the caretaker committee was constituted, hence, Professor Oladipo insists that the Makarfi leadership is a group of law breakers. “The lawbreakers in Wadata (PDP National Secretariat) are deceiving themselves. The law will take its course in the next one week,” he said. Political analysts fear that another legal imbroglio may throw spanner into the works of the Makarfi-led committee.