Never at any time, has the avowed loyalty of the ousted chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ali Modu Sheriff being put to test than now. The Supreme Court in Abuja, booted him off the seat he so coveted, in a landmark judgement, July 12, 20017. But the die-hard sacked factional leader of the party, reacted that he was shocked at the decision of the court, adding that he would get interpretations from his lawyers in the ended suit, to know what to do.
True to the political character he had so far exhibited all through the leadership squabble, especially being adamant to political solution, Senator Sheriff seems to be having options ‘C’ and ‘D’. Option ‘C’ could be funnily taken the case to God’s own court in heaven since Nigeria’s Supreme Court is the apex place to entertain such cases, and will not review the same case twice. Option ‘D’ could be pulling out of the PDP with his so-called supporters. Recall that he and his group had used-and-divide rule as option ‘A’ and law suits as option ‘B’ before the final crash.
Already, the sacked chairman has made press statement that it is considering to stay put in the PDP or it will decamp to another party with his supporters, moves that reaffirm the desperado in Senator Sheriff, former governor of Borno State.
The panel of Supreme Court justices in its judgment dubbed Sheriff as “power-hungry” and “desperate” to remain in office as chairman of the party, despite the validity of the Port-Harcourt Convention and his disqualification in election for the post of chairman, due to lack of two years tax clearance and valid membership card, as required by the party’s constitution. Recall that Court of Appeal in Port-Harcourt had upturned a High Court judgement that was against Senator Sheriff to invalidate the victory of Senator Ahmed Makarfi as chairman of the party, but the Court of Appeal judgement has now been quashed by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court quashed the Appeal Court judgment because, the Port-Harcourt Convention was convened and ratified by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP as the highest decision making body, thus valid in the eyes of the party’s constitution, as prayed by the appellant, the NCW . The Supreme Court Judgement re-echoed the issue election candidates trying to eat their cakes and having them back. It has also re-empowered national executive council of political parties and conventions as the highest authorities over election of internal officers and nomination of candidates for general elections.
Thus far, the Rubicon test for Senator Sheriff is whether he and his group will honour the final judgement, see it as the right thing done by the judiciary whose favourable judgment he once secured, and remain in the PDP. Doing so is the admirable option for a man who had severally justified his die-hard stances on the leadership squabbles, with politically correct statements that he was insistent on remaining in office, for the party’s interest, to reposition it, not selfish motive like his opponents had.
Taking a soft-approach now, especially by seeing the final judgment as a mere democratic process, not political ego trip, could help to overhaul the political image disaster that the long battles had created for him, and his political career, and even the PDP. On the reverse, decamping to another party could paint him and his group as having had selfish motives or as persons who were enlisted to kill the PDP. A contrary move to exit the party could indeed, de-market him and his core loyalists.
On the part of Senator Makarfi, his faction and the entire PDP, the task on ground is to really take advantage of the long awaited Supreme Court judgement, to finally reconcile all aggrieved persons and factions in the party. Good Heavens, Senator Makarfi and his group; the leader of the party, former President Goodluck Jonathan; the party’s caucus in the Senate through Senator Goodswill Apkabio and other top brass such as Prof. Jerry Gana, have sued for oneness so as to reposition the party for credible opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), and to try to wrest power from it in 2019.
Most impressive is the description of the recent judgement by the aforesaid leaders, as that of “no victor, no vanquished”. These developments which elated observers and many members of the PDP have necessitated calls for sincere reconciliation, in order to provide a strong opposition and alternative party in the country’s democracy.
Against this backdrop, the task is once again on the topmost leader of the party, former President Jonathan once disrespected by Senator Sheriff – to swing into fatherly roles once again haven respected the Rule of Law by letting the court cases to end. He, Jonathan needs to apply tact, persuasion and experience to finally douse the acrimonies in the party. The ousted Sheriff and his clique should be called for a family discussion to appease wounded minds, just as Senator Makarfi and his group should be made to see their victory as that of the entire party and carry all former factions along.
On the part of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led reconciliation committee which had gone the whole hog to placate aggrieved and dissenting members, the last peace ditch is expected to be achieved more than ever. The committee if it is to continue, once again needs to go round to give overtures to members and groups either still lying low within the party or out/going out to other parties, return. Such should however be done with diplomacy and minimal publicity because, parties in reconciliation often do not want certain aspects of the matters in the public domain.
Most importantly, the PDP, which ought to have learnt bitter lessons from the internal earthquake that drove many of its high members and rank and files to other parties, one factor for its painful defeat in 2015, should institutionalize the ethos of internal democracy. It should do so, besides firm political restitution to God Who gives power, and the masses who vote in elections in order to rebrand and assure that the party is a changed one.
By doing so and being guided by experts in political public relations, to help it rebrand, especially through advice of being socially responsible in public service, might indeed change huge public perception about the PDP product in the political market space and court of public opinion.
When rejuvenated, the PDP should indeed, engage APC, the ruling party on issues concerning policies and programmes of the administration, and do so for the betterment of the populace who are the proverbial grasses that suffer while two elephants fight. Excessive personalization and privatization of criticisms as it has been before the 2015 elections and two years after would need be de-emphasized and replaced with provision of viable alternative solutions to policies and programmes criticized by the opposition.
To encourage such scenario, it is obligatory for the ruling APC to feel free towards constructive and input-based criticisms from the opposition party, PDP as well as from electorate, professionals, academics and other opinion leaders who have contrary ideas about policies and programmes of government. After all a dancer does not see his or her back, as such society they say is built by the critic, not the leader.
When calls are made concerning avoiding utterances that could inflame crises and division in the country, they are mostly directed at youths, clergy and traditional rulers, ignoring the political leaders who in the name of politics make painful and incisive utterances that are inflaming conflict in the nations polity. Therefore, those in the corridors of power and those in the opposition, should eschew such destructive behaviours. They should couch public statements with the best expressions and be diplomatic, to court respect and admiration from the people as well as promote conducive atmosphere for democracy to continue to wax on.
The ruling party, APC and the biggest opposition party equally need to drop the much-exhibited behaviour that tends to typify political contest as war. Politics though is war to an extent, is different from that in which real arms and ammunitions are physically deployed. Politics is merely a contest that involves the use of charisma, good manifestos and persuasive skills to market oneself, party or programmes to the electorate and the governed as well of delivery of the goodies as promised.
This competitive nature of politics, especially in ideal democracy is what makes the use of political communication as the veritable tool for endearing candidates, parties, government and programmes to the people. This is one aspect glaringly lacking in our countries democracy since re-enactment in 1999. Therefore, the ruling APC and the opposition parties, especially the PDD, should shun the quarrelsome approach that have ensued since 2015 electioneering campaigns, up to this moment, and adopt strategic marketing, advertising, public relations, political science, lobbying, journalism and social media strategies and tactics for effective political communication. All these areas have good local professionals to handle for parties, candidates and government, but are neglected, just as foreigners who might not be conversant with the Nigerian political culture and communication terrain are rather enlisted at exorbitant fees.
Indeed, the so-called political war, and repositioning of Nigeria for greatness, can only be won with intellectualism deployed through effective, persuasive, ethical communication and debates, not unleashing of venoms and divisive politicking by political parties and politicians.
The road to greatness through change of political and leadership attitudes as well as behaviours or through restructuring as now clamoured for is in our own hands in this global village. So let the leaders, political parties and the citizens at large, turn a new leaf.