Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to help resolve the leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has raised fresh hopes, but recent reactions of some stakeholders suggest the new moves may not go far, reports Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan
Following his defeat at the last presidential election, former President Goodluck Jonathan has not been very visible within his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Instead, he had kept a dignified silence over the affairs of the opposition party. Even as the party meandered from one leadership crisis to another, the former President, rather than interfere publicly, reportedly chose to watch as things unfold.
It would be recalled that Jonathan, shortly after leaving Aso Rock in May 2015, had announced to members of the PDP in particular and Nigerians in general, that he was taking a sabbatical from party politics. And for nearly two years, it appeared that the former President, with his silence and inaction over the crisis within his party, was still enjoying his sabbatical.
While his silence lasted, many members of the party opined that the party was suffering from Jonathan’s decision to watch while things go wrong. According to this school of thought, as the last President elected on the platform of the troubled party, the Bayelsa State-born politician is still the leader of the opposition PDP.
Consequently, much was expected from him by many people within and outside the party in the resolution of the crisis that is threatening to force the PDP into extinction barely two years after it left government at the centre. Many people called out to the former President to end his self-imposed political leave and do something about the crisis in his party.
Engineer Deji Doherty, a former Acting National Vice Chairman of the PDP in the South-West, while speaking on how best the PDP crisis can be resolved, urged Jonathan to break his silence and intervene as the leader of the party. The former governorship aspirant in Lagos State said those struggling to resolve the problems in the party today cannot do as much as the former President will do to bring peace to the PDP.
“I have said this before and I want to say it again, the major problem with PDP today is that the leader is quiet. I have been talking to a lot of people. I believe the problem is not only about Ali Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi. It is a rooted problem in the PDP, whereby you have leaders, who think about themselves and nobody else.
It is because we don’t have leaders, who are selfless in creating a democratic system within the party. You have leaders who want boys who will always do their bids. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the last president we had is the leader of the party no matter what anyone thinks. Governors are aspirants, who evolved through the party. They are members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, so their voice must be heard, but they do not have to say that they are leaders of the party at the national level,” he said.
And the man spoke
But a couple of weeks back, Jonathan broke his silence and offered to help resolve the problem within the troubled PDP, provided the warring factions are ready to give peace a chance in the interest of the party. Not only did he host the various factional leaders of the party, the former President offered to midwife a political solution to the lingering crisis.
Jonathan, who reiterated his readiness to remain active politically on the platform of the opposition PDP, said it is time for the party to put behind it the many problems bedeviling it and prepare to return to its winning ways. The former President said he is now ready to intervene in the crisis and help find a political solution to it.
True to his words, he quickly met separately with the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee and Senator Modu Sheriff leadership of the troubled party, as well as members of the Board of Trustees (BoT), led by Senator Walid Jibrin. At all the meetings, the former President canvassed for a political solution to the crisis.
The ex-President also met with State governors elected on the platform of the PDP at his office in Maitama, Abuja, as part of efforts to resolve the issues holding the party back. Governors of Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Taraba, Cross Rivers, Abia, Ebonyi, Gombe and Bayelsa states were in attendance while Rivers State was represented by the deputy governor.
At the end of the meeting between the former President and the PDP governors,, which lasted for about five hours, the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, announced that as a result of Jonathan’s intervention in the crisis, they have resolved to pursue a political solution to end the crisis.
Fayose said: “It is my pleasure to tell you that we are here at the instance of the former president. He is genuinely concerned by what is going on in the party. And he thought that an interactive session with the governors will go a long way to dousing tension. “We want to assure all our supporters that we believe in this party, we believe in the success of this party.”
A source also told The Nation, that “It was gathered that Jonathan, while discussing with the various stakeholders, had stressed that the easiest way out of the melee is for the party to organize a national convention where a new leadership will be elected for the party as soon as possible. And in line with this, he has been urging the two factions to be ready to willingly leave office soon.
“He made it clear that rather than for the party to continue in unending litigations, it is better that the two factional leaderships give way for a new executive committee that will emerge at a unity convention to be held as soon as possible. He made it clear that the two factional leaderships will have to give way for peace to reign in PDP.”
Not a few persons have praised the former President’s intervention in the crisis, with many believing that an end is in sight to the unending rancor that has held PDP by its jugular since 2015. To many, chieftains in the two factions should be too willing to cooperate with Jonathan and the governors in their bid to resolve the lingering crisis.
A member of the Lagos State House of Assembly, representing Ojo Constituency, Hon. Victor Akande, who is a chieftain of the PDP, submitted that Jonathan’s timely intervention is exactly what the party needs as it prepares to give the ruling APC a run for its money at the 2019 general elections across the country.
”We thank ex-President Jonathan for this political solution. I am happy he heeded our call. Any PDP leader that claims to love the party will toe the line of peace. We should go for truce and no longer court. If our leaders have the interest of the party at heart, they should look forward to resolving crisis. Everyone should sit down and discuss. Jonathan should find the lasting solution to the party’s problems, he can do it,” he said.
But few days after the President’s swift moves appeared to be yielding positive results, questions about how far he can go to restore PDP to peaceful ways are popping up. This is due to some indications that the two factions may still find it difficult to work together to achieve the unity convention proposed by ex-President Jonathan.
Signs that Jonathan may have to do more than he has done if he intends to pull through his peace mission emerged after the Governor Seriake Dickson-led Reconciliation Committee of the party, submitted its report to the leaderships of the two warring factions, with the preposition that a national unity convention should hold on the 30th of June, 2017.
“The Convention Committee shall be responsible for the conduct of the elections to all national offices for the party, including the zoning of such offices. That as part of the sacrifice to be made in order to reposition the party, the Committee is of the view that all national officers who may claim that their tenure still subsists beyond the proposed convention are hereby requested to relinquish their claim in the interest of the party.
“For the purpose of the convention, all officers, elected at the ward, local, state and zonal levels before the first Port-Harcourt convention of 21st May of 2016, are deemed validly elected except for the election held in some states that were declared by NEC as inconclusive,” Dickson had stated while explaining the contents of the report.
Sadly for the embattled party, Sheriff and Makarfi have disagreed over the report. While Sheriff accepted the recommendations of the committee, though he said his faction will study it and make amendments where necessary, Makarfi rejected it, describing the report as a breach of the February 17 Appeal Court judgement, which reinstated Sheriff as the party’s National Chairman.
And while the Sherif faction mandated its National Organising Secretary, Okey Nnadozie, to begin preparation towards the proposed convention, indications emerged that the Makarfi faction may be toying with the idea of boycotting the convention. And public comments by the chieftains of the two factions have only widened the gap in the past few days.
Makarfi in a statement, during the week, stated that his faction’s National Caretaker Committee disagreed with the recommendations. He said: “I am shocked and disappointed that the Governor of Bayelsa made public presentation of a purported report approved or endorsed by us and other stakeholders as reported.
“The committee did not see any draft report, although Dickson promised to come with it. In any case, as personal advice I referred him to the organs of the party and the Goodluck Committee. Neither Senator Makarfi nor the Caretaker Committee has given or accepted any terms to or from anybody,” the statement added.
With these developments, not a few persons, within and outside the troubled party, are once again worried about what will become of the ongoing effort to save the opposition party from its self-inflicted crisis. And the question on most lips is whether the efforts of former President Jonathan will prove efficient enough to end the lingering leadership crisis.