Analysis: What is the fate of the PDP under Ali Modu Sheriff?

by Mark Amaza

The leadership crisis bedeviling the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) was laid to rest last week when the Court of Appeal ruled that former Borno State Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff is the authentic chairman of the party, handing a defeat to the faction led by the former Kaduna State governor, Ahmed Makarfi.

Of course, this judgment has not gone down with everyone in the party as the Makarfi faction has already stated that they will appeal at the Supreme Court and at least one PDP governor, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State has rejected the verdict of the court. On the other hand, some senior members of the party including former President Goodluck Jonathan and former Head of State Ibrahim Babangida are calling on members to unite behind Sheriff.

Such has become the situation within Nigeria’s main opposition party – no one expected that the party that held power at the centre and most of Nigeria for 16 years will disintegrate so fast after losing one election. The bleeding within the party which started with the defection of five governors in 2013 to the then newly-formed All Progressives’ Congress (APC) is yet to be stopped.

It does not seem likely that Ali Modu Sheriff will be the unifying force the party needs, especially with about two years to the next general elections and a few state governorship elections before then, such as in Ekiti and Osun States.

The election of Sheriff as the party chairman by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party in February 2016 was a controversial one from the start, as the party’s Board of Trustees had immediately rejected him. They were later joined by the Northern Elders’ Forum of the party, several state party chapters and ironically, the PDP Governors’ Forum which was behind his election.

In truth, Sheriff as the chairman of the PDP gives the party a very dark stain on their reputation, as he is widely perceived to be behind the rise of the Boko Haram terrorist organization when due to his association with the organization’s late founder Mohammed Yusuf, he appointed one of Yusuf’s lieutenants, Buji Foi as the State Commissioner for Religious Affairs.

Another irony is that prior to Sheriff defecting to the PDP from the APC in 2014, his present party used his being part of the APC to consistently accuse the then opposition party of financing terrorism. It is quite the twist that Sheriff today is leading the party.

For a party who has lost a lot of their high-profile members that have either decamped or retired from active politics, having to struggle against the negative perception that comes with having Sheriff as the top leader is one more headache they will rather not have.

Not only that, until the case is resolved at the Supreme Court and the matter laid to a final rest, the confusion within the party will continue and will be apparent especially in matters like selecting party candidates for elections, with each faction presenting its own. This was evident during the Ondo State elections last year where the factions presented different candidates: Eyitayo Jegede from the Makarfi faction and Jimoh Ibrahim from the Sheriff faction. It took the judgment of the Supreme Court on November 24th, a mere two days before the election. It is not unlikely that this confusion was a reason behind the party’s loss.

In the event that Sheriff triumphs again at the Supreme Court, he will have the herculean task of bringing the party together and building it up towards the next general elections, and time will not be on his side.

It is safe to say that the road ahead of the PDP is very rough with Sheriff as its national chairman.

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