THE nation’s biggest opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was saved from the pangs of self-inflicted extinction when the Supreme Court, on Wednesday, 12th July 2017, returned full authority to the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led main body of the party in a unanimous decision read by Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour.
The apex court’s five-man panel which entertained the appeal filed by the Makarfi faction to upturn the judgement of the Court of Appeal which had awarded it to the faction led by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, was led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria himself, Hon. Justice Walter Onnoghen.
Nigeria’s former ruling party was plunged into deep crises shortly after losing power to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 general election. Following the resignation of its former National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’Azu after leading the party to utter defeat, Sheriff was brought in through the influence of some governors. But when Sheriff’s National Executive Council (NEC) was dissolved at the Port Harcourt national convention on 21st May 2016 and replaced with the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee, the convoluted court tussles began.
During this crisis, the deeply factionalised PDP lost a lot of members both in the National Assembly and the various states of the federation to the ruling APC. It also lost the governorship elections of Edo and Ondo States. A faction of the party also went to establish a new outfit known as the Advanced People’s Democratic Alliance (APDA) which has already been registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Even though some people have blamed PDP’s woes on the ruling APC, the main reason for the party’s crisis was post-power trauma. Having been in power for sixteen years at the federal level, the party found it difficult to adjust to life outside power. Also, the culture of impunity, imposition and lack of regard for its own rules and due processes, which became rife in the party and has now spread to others, led many of its adherents to look elsewhere for political succour.
After its gruelling experience in political limbo, the PDP will do well to learn from its blunders. Even the ruling APC and others need to learn from the experiences of their older and more experienced rival. They should strive to entrench internal democracy, fair play and reward those who make sacrifices for the good of the political parties and our democracy at large.
With the PDP back ostensibly on its feet, we can now expect healthy and credible opposition to the ruling APC with a view to improving the quality of governance and internal party administration. We commend the Supreme Court for the quick disposal of this legal challenge and look forward to a vibrant uptick in the pace of political activities toward 2019.