The reconciliation and harmonization committees set up by the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have failed in its primary assignment to restore peace in troubled state chapters. Instead, they have compounded the problems of the party. The objective was to reintegrate the feuding members, particularly the supporters of the former national chairman, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff, who was sacked by the Supreme Court.
Observers say the position of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee in recent time has put spanner in the reconciliation process. Before the Supreme Court judgment, both factions had promised to abide with the court ruling and vowed to work together for the progress of the party.
Both Makarfi and Sheriff have breached the undertakings. Since the judgment was delivered, Sheriff and his group have distanced themselves from the party. Sheriff said the PDP is now in the hands of looters and ruled out having anything to do with the party. If Sheriff, who lost out in the struggle had stayed away from the party, then, who will Makarfi reconcile with? Observers have described the move as a exercise in futility.
Owing to Sheriff’s indifference to the party, Makarfi has deviated from his proclamation of “no victor no vanquished”. Makarfi is now talking tough. He said: Those who genuinely repent and give in to the party will be given equal chance in the party. We don’t have luxury of time. We won’t allow circumstance to hold us back. We called both sides. You can’t force everybody to come”.
On what he has done to ensure Sheriff remains in the PDP, Makarfi said: “It is not up to us for him to remain in the party. It is his choice. I have not talked to him after the Supreme Court judgment. I am sorry, I have not. Many people who are his supporters were at the convention. They participated in various committees at the convention. Individuals will make their personal decision.”
Analysts say the PDP’s reconciliation move is cosmetic; the party’s leadership does not recognise Sheriff as a factor to contend with. A PDP stalwart said: Makarfi may have reneged on his no victor, no vanquished stance. It is now winner takes all. The reconciliation committees members are members of the Makarfi-led NCC. That is why reconciliation moves have sparked fresh row in some states. Sheriff and his supporters have read between the lines that the Supreme Court has laid to rest their political relevance in the PDP.
A member of the Sheriff’s group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Makarfi meant well in his bid for reconciliation, but the hawks surrounding him have forced him to act against his will. He added: “He started with ‘no victor, no vanquished’ mantra, but the hawks in the party have changed the humane approach. He has now resolved to grant amnesty to members that are loyal to Sheriff as if to say they are criminals.”
Reconciliation in the Southwest is dead on arrival. Some members loyal to Sheriff have defected to opposition parties because of the condition given by the Makarfi group that they would not be regarded as PDP members, unless they purge themselves of anti-party activities. They have been labelled as rebels and they would be treated as such. Hence, they decided to call it quit.
The Sheriff’s faction has been expelled from the Ondo State chapter for allegedly frustrating the reconciliation process. Those expelled include the Chairman of the faction, Biyi Poroye, Johnson Alabi, Yemi Ajonibode and Ademola Genty. The party alleged that the expelled members failed to appear before a disciplinary committee set up by the party in the state.
The party also announced the suspension of members of the Poroye-led executive, pending when they will appear before the disciplinary committee.
Poroye said the Makarfi-led PDP was not sincere with the reconciliation and harmonization of the two groups. He wondered why the Ondo State chapter could decide to expel members, if the reconciliation move was to restore peace in the party. “They have a hidden agenda; they have taken over the party; let them do whatever they like with the party, he said.
There were two parallel executives in Nasarawa State before the Supreme Court verdict that declared Makarfi as the authentic leader. Sheriff had dissolved the state executive of the party headed by Hon. Francis Orogo. He installed his loyalist Hon. Muhammed Sarki Tanko. According to Sheriff, the state executive of the party was sacked because of anti-party activities.
Makarfi has recognized Orogo. The Tanko group are complaining that the new national leadership did not recognize it abd has not involved it in the reconciliation process. A member of the group said: “We are being treated like orphans simply because of our loyalty to Sheriff.”
He added: “It is wrong of Makarfi group to think we are not relevant in Nasarawa politics. Politics is a game of number. You cannot say because we are supporters of Sheriff and ignore us. We have alternatives. PDP is not the only party in the country. If that is what they meant by carrying everybody along in rebuilding PDP so that it will bounce back into reckoning, I wish Makarfi and his people best of luck.”
The dissolution of the PDP executive in Kebbi has deepened the party’s crisis in the state. Like Nasarawa, there were two party chairmen in Kebbi before the Supreme Court declared Makarfi winner. The two chairmen were appointed by parallel executives. One of them, Alhaji Musa Ibrahim Dan’illela, was said to have been unanimously appointed as chairman by the majority of the executive members at an emergency meeting held in January. His rival, Alhaji Ali Bagudo was appointed by Sheriff after a meeting held with some national officers in Birni Kebbi.
Dan’illela’s group belongs to Makarfi while Sheriff enjoys the sympathy of Bagudo. The Bagudo group has alleged that the national leadership of the party dissolved the state executive to pave way for Dan’illela to take over the party in December when the state congress is to hold. They even criticized the composition of the caretaker committee which they said was lopsided in favor of Dan’illela group. The national leaders should have looked for neutral persons to be appointed as caretaker committee members.
Reconciliation of warring factions in Kwara State has hit the rocks. The National Caretaker Committee had on Saturday August 12, at its non-elective convention in Abuja, dissolved the factional executive committees of the party in the state.
A reconciliatory meeting presided over by Makarfi was deadlocked as the two factions, led by Mr Iyiola Oyedepo and Mr Sunday Fagbemi, failed to reach a compromise. The Makarfi-led NCC had summoned the party stakeholders to Abuja in a bid to reconcile them and engage Senator Solomon Ewuga as a mediator between the two warring factions. Makarfi had warned that they risked losing the party’s structure in the state to members that might join later.
The dissolution of the Ogun State executive led by Chief Adebayo Dayo had pitched the party’s financier in the state, Senator Buruji Kashamu, against the NCC. Kashamu said: “The action of the Senator Makarfi-led NCC, which derives its legitimacy from the court, is not only an affront on the peace-loving leaders and members of our party in Ogun State but a most devastating slap on the judiciary,” Kashamu said.
According to Kashamu, the caretaker committee constituted for Ogun “is one sided and made up of former governor Gbenga Daniel’s nominees with the exception of the chairman. How then could these people be talking of reconciliation and harmonization? Clearly, they are liars and deceivers.
“Having emerged from a validly organised conference which was ratified by the 71st National Executive Committee, the NCC is aware of the valid and subsisting judgment in favor of the Adebayo Dayo-led State Executive Committee of the PDP in Suit NO HC/L/CS/636/2016 which has yet to be appealed, set aside or upturned; yet it chose to continue on the path of impunity and lawlessness. I don’t see how these people can reposition the party. They want to compound its problems.
He said it was surprising that the NCC and other organs of the party, which, he said were products of the law, could encourage illegality and impunity.
There are indications that the reconciliation moves may not be able to achieve much success. Sheriff has ruled out teaming up with the victorious group to rebuild and reposition the party. He chided the Makarfi leadership, saying the party is now in the hands of looters. The comment is a setback on the efforts to bring every interest group on the table for reconciliation.
Analysts had predicted that the court judgment cannot restore peace to the divided former ruling party. Such analysts had advised the party to seek political solution rather than judicial pronouncement in solving the crisis.
Lagos lawyer and human rights activist Mr Monday Ubani said it would have been better if the two factions had settled their differences out of court rather than allowed the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the party. He argued: The court judgment can’t heal the festered wounds. The court judgment has handed over the part’s machinery to a group, while the other group is reluctant to remain in the fold.
Ubani noted that the NCC have dissolved the caretaker committee set up by Sheriff in all state chapters and also instituted a disciplinary committee to deal with erring members. How can they achieve reconciliation with this kind of move. It is aimed at getting rid of Sheriff’s men and their supporters.
Another legal scholar, Dr Tunde Adelana, cautioned Makarfi against treating Sheriff,s supporters as rebels. Adelana said the antics of Sheriff’s faction would continue to destabilise the former ruling party. As long as there are disgruntled party members after the convention and later the primaries, the party would remain vulnerable. He said the Supreme Court judgment may not necessarily be a good omen for Makarfi-led leadership unless it is magnanimous in victory.
Adelana added: “Makarfi should remember that the leadership tussle had created so much distrust in the PDP that party members view one another with suspicion. The task before Makarfi now is to rebuild the party by bringing every group on board. This is not the time for PDP to engage in chest beating or discriminating against any group for it to regain its lost glory.”