In this report, CHIBUZO UKAIBE reflects on some of the high and low points of the leading opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), this outgoing year.
As far as political survival is concerned, analysts aver that 2017 was a defining year for the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The outgoing year measurably saw to the end of its 14 months leadership crisis.
Much like the previous year, the former ruling party had started off this closing year on a turbulent note, tethering on implosion.
The intense internal leadership crisis, which pitched party members against each other in camps belonging to former national chairmen, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff and Sen Ahmed Makarfi.
Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, had emerged national chairman after resignation of former Borno State governor, Adamu Mu'azu, who was forced to resign after the party lost the 2015 presidential election.
The former Borno State governor who was imposed on the party by the governors, much to the chagrin of major stakeholders in the party, eventually fell out with the governors barely hours to a national convention which held in Port Harcourt in May 2016. Sheriff was roundly rejected at the convention ground.
Sheriff felt he won't be used and dumped so cheaply. He held fast to the seat, just as he enjoyed fringe support from some members including Sen Buruji Kashamu; Sen Hope Uzodinma; Chris Uba and some other lawmakers.
Makarfi, on the other hand emerged chairman of the national caretaker committee, at the same convention. The mandate of Makarfi's team was to guide the party into having a substantive National Working Committee (NWC).
Unlike Sheriff, Makarfi's team enjoyed the support of all organs of the party, such that the party stakeholders who fought the governors over their choice of Sheriff, found victory in emergence of the former Kaduna State governor.
Recall that while the Port Harcourt convention held, a protest parallel convention, composed of influential members of the party's Board of Trustees (BoT) and former ministers of the party, was also held in Abuja.
As news filtered in that Sheriff had been rejected at the convention, the Abuja convention erupted in joy, claiming victory over its outcome.
But that victory was as pyrrhic as it culminated in series of legal fireworks, party secretariat take overs by the camps and eventual lock down for over 9 months. The two camps eventually setup parallel national headquarters.
The crisis peaked with the loss of two governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, due to distractions emerging from the two camps holding parallel primaries and presenting candidates for the contest. The intra party crisis, further led to members, especially in the National Assembly, defecting to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
At the turn of 2017, many pundits had started predicting the death of the former ruling party. The multiple legal fire works continued to rage, series of peace meetings failed to amount to anything.
With over 11 cases spread across different judicial strata in different states, prospects of a political solution was expedient but elusive.
The interventions from party organs, influential leaders and even some former presidents, got to a head when Sheriff angrily walked out on former President Goodluck Jonathan at a party gathering in Abuja to resolve the crisis. The meeting held in April.
Sheriff, who arrived the meeting after Makarfi and other dignitaries had settle in, stormed out of the gathering because he was not accorded recognition as national chairman of the party based on a court judgement which had been appealed.
Failure of political solution, Supreme Court judgement and APDA option
That incident sealed off further attempts at reaching a political resolution as advocated by some party members, including the Bayelsa State governor, Hon Seriake Dickson, who was the chairman of a reconciliation committee at the time.
With the political solution ruled out, all hopes were on the judiciary to determine the fate of the party. At the time, the case was at the Supreme Court for final determination.
As the wait for the final judgment persisted, the Sheriff camp seems more hopeful of favorable judgement. With the circumstances surrounding their loss of the governorship polls in Edo and Ondo States, and their claim that Sheriff enjoyed the support of the APC government, the Makarfi-led camp was in panic mode.
In a bid to create an alternative platform, they master-minded and sponsored the registration of Advanced Peoples Democratic Party (APDA). This much was attested to by media mogul, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, in the course of his campaign to emerge national chairman of the party at the recent elective national convention.
However, in July the Supreme Court gave judgment recognizing Makarfi-led camp as the authentic leadership of the party. By that judgement, Sheriff was sent packing from the party, ending a 14 month leadership tussle that significantly silenced the largest opposition party at a time it's voice was needed.
In August the party held a none elective national convention in Abuja to celebrate the party's return and extend tenure of the Makarfi team ahead of an elective convention to usher in substantive party executives.
Before then, the caretaker committee, had embarked on series of reconciliatory moves in states where the party was split as a result of national leadership crisis. The party seemed to be on a rebound, regaining the goodwill and political mileage it had lost in course of the crisis.
At the convention ground, the party had boasted of its return to glory days, unleashed criticisms against the governing party.
While the party basked in its new found legitimacy, having won a by-election in Osun State, its hope of winning the Anambra State governorship election could not materialize.
Ahead of the November 18 governorship election in Anambra State, the party had held series of meetings with various factions of the party in the state. The three factions however met and agreed to work together. But the party's primaries sparked a fresh tussle as some aspirants backed out of the contest.
Ifeanyi Uba who participated in the primaries faulted the process and called for a fresh exercise. He alleged that he and other aspirants were surcharged by the party leadership and other interests who were bent on giving the ticket to Oseloka Obaze, a former secretary to the government of Anambra State during the administration of former governor Peter Obi.
While series of attempts to resolve the issue failed, Uba defected to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Other aggrieved PDP aspirants were said to have worked against the party which resulted in its defeat at the election.
As the party nursed its wounds after the election, its rank swelled with the eventual defection of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar into its fold in November. Atiku's return has been a subject of a lot of speculation such that he had long fallen out with his former party, APC.
Before his defection to PDP, a chieftain of the party from the former vice president's home state, Adamawa, Dr Umar Ardo, who incidentally was Atiku's former aide, had raised the alarm that the Waziri had taken over the party in the state.
By December 9, PDP held the much anticipated elective national convention to produce substantive party executives of the party.
Candidates for various party offices campaigned across the country, seeking the vote of delegates. They also reached out to very influential members of the party seeking their blessings ahead of the contest.
The emergence of Prince Uche Secondus, a former deputy national chairman, as the new national chairman created ripples within the party, a situation which threatens, somewhat, the stability of the leading opposition platform ahead of 2019.
Secondus rode on the support of PDP governors, former governors and federal lawmakers, who resisted attempts by some members of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) and founding fathers of the party, to emerge winner.
The tussle was indicative of an inner scramble for who will emerge the presidential candidate in 2019, it was also reflective of which power bloc will control the soul of the party ahead of much-anticipate general election.
The forces that opposed Secondus had argued for micro-zoning to the South-west as a measure of ensuring inclusivity in the party. The argument was that the region has never occupied the position and with 2019 in the offing, it would be expedient to consolidate whatever in roads were made after the 2015 general election.
But the governors (who control the war chest of the party) and other party stakeholders from the South would have none of that. They insisted that the party zoned the position to the entirety of the South just like it did with the zoning of the presidential ticket to the whole North.
The Southern leaders technically jettisoned an earlier political consensus in the build up to the botched August 2016 convention which zoned the chairmanship to the South-west. Interestingly, the only South-west governor, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, was also not keen on having the chairman from his region, much less his state, where one of the leading contenders, former minister of Education, Prof Tunde Adeniran, was from.
As such in the build up to last Saturday's convention, while the South-south and South-east regions, which have the bulk of serving governors were bound to go in same political direction, the Northern bloc of the party was poised to decide whether or not the South-west would clinch the position.
This manifested when some powerful stakeholders in North, led by former minister of information, Prof Jerry Gana, former governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau, declared their support for the South-west to produce the national chairman. They went as far as asking delegates from the region to support a South-west delegate. This was however resisted by some other stakeholders from the region.
Signs that the Northern bloc might not go the way of the South-west began to emerge when another set of party leaders from the North, warned that unless the South-west gets a consensus candidate it would be difficult to support their aspiration.
While the region dragged on the issue of arriving at a consensus candidate, the withdrawal of some contenders barely 24 hours to the convention was, according to analysts, too late.
Miffed at the party's refusal to micro-zone the national chairmanship to the South-west, as well as what he termed an insult on the Yoruba PDP members by the Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, former deputy national chairman, Chief Bode George withdrew from the race on the eve of the convention. He however said he was not withdrawing for any candidate.
Former governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja, his former Ogun State counterpart, Gbenga Daniel and former Lagos State governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje, withdrew barely hours to the commencement of the convention.
Beyond the chairmanship tussle, the feeling that the 20 positions in the current executive was seemingly zoned to individuals rather than the region also caused disenchantment.
However, while Secondus scored 2000 votes, former minister of education, Prof Tunde Adeniran came a distant second with 231 votes. Other aspirant, Chief Raymond Dokpesi and former minister of Sport Taoheed Adedoja polled 66 and zero votes respectively.
Secondus' victory attracted scruples. The emergence of a unity list of candidates who eventually were winners of the convention ignited grievances from other candidates.
Adeniran rejected the results and left the gathering in protest. Similarly, Dokpesi cautiously faulted the entire process, but remained at the venue. Expectedly, the outcome of convention has since set the party in reconciliation mode, and as anticipated by the party, a post convention reconciliation committee, under the leadership of the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson which was setup swung into action.
Emerging parallel NWC
Despite on going post conventions reconciliation process, some aggrieved candidates and stakeholders threatened to form a parallel National Working Committee (NWC), barely a week after the convention.
The aggrieved candidates who rejected the results arising from the national convention, demanded the immediate release of what they call the authentic results of the actual votes cast by delegates at the convention.
They called on the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) to ensure the immediate execution of the demands by convening an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting within seven days from December 12, 2019.
They further threatened to announce the correct results from the convention and inaugurate what they call the authentic NWC of the party if the BOT fails to attend to their demands.
The statement signed by the candidates and stakeholders namely; Prince Obi-Nwosu Emmanuel, Hassan Adamu, Chief Dr Godwin Chinedu Duru, Comrade Edede Franklyn Maduabuchi and Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar.
Two, out of the five signatories of the statement, Chief Godwin Chinedu Duru and Comrade Edede Franklyn Maduabuchi contested for the positions of National Organising Committee and National Youth Leader respectively at the convention.
True to their threat, the aggrieved members on Wednesday opened a parallel national secretariat of the party at No. 10, Tito Street, Asokoro in Abuja.
They further disclosed that the party had been reformed and rebranded to be called "Fresh PDP."
The aggrieved chieftains who briefed newsmen at their new secretariat said the December 9, convention of the party which produced the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) was a charade.
A member of the convention planning committee, Prince Obi-Nwosu Emmanuel Butches; Deputy Director General of Prof. Tunde Adeniran Campaign Organisation, Chief Olukayode Akindele; contender for the office of National Organising Secretary, Chief Godwin Chinedu Duru; aspirant for the office of National Youth Leader, Comrade Franklyne Edede and Alhaji Hassan Adamu signed the text of the press conference.
Reading the speech on behalf of others, Obi-Nwosu Emmanuel claimed that the process of selecting the "purported NWC" was concluded days before the convention.
He said the names of the "authentic NWC" of the PDP would be announced in early January, 2018, when political activities would kick-off fully.
"We reject in its entirety, the selected NWC list and we call on INEC and all other relevant authorities to disregard the purported election of the NWC because they weren't elected in line with the provisions of our party constitution and in accordance with the electoral guidelines for the convention.
"As committed and dedicated candidates and party stakeholders, we have decided to ensure that internal democracy is sustained in the party and that the dreams of our founding fathers who laboured and sacrificed so much to build the party are not destroyed.
"To this effect, we have officially opened a national secretariat of the party here in Asokoro, Abuja, from where the authentic NWC of the party will be operating.
"Today, the PDP that Nigerians have yearned for is born. We hereby declare that the era of impunity, imposition and manipulation of our party's internal election process is dead and buried.
"Delegate system which has been fraudulently manipulated is to be replaced with direct primaries through electronic voting. The party chairmen at all levels shall be the party leaders in their respective jurisdictions.
"As part of our resolve to ensure that PDP sweeps the polls in 2019, we shall inaugurate the authentic NWC, commence mass mobilisation of new members and computerisation of party activies and financial transactions immediately after the holidays.
"The long wait for a truly re-branded PDP is over. Nigerians now have every reason to hope for a very robust opposition to the ruling APC," they said.
Going down memory lane, the "Fresh PDP" said, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, "deliberately refused" to release the delegate list until barely 24 hours to the convention, describing it as an abberation.
They also claimed that some persons on the "fraudulent unity list" collected nomination forms after the official closing date.