By Abraham Ogbodo
This is Nigeria’s fourth attempt at democracy hence the ongoing dispensation is aptly called the Fourth Republic. Ordinarily, some measure of mastery should be assured having gone through the same process four times over. But if nothing is learnt or mastered in subsequent performance and the approach remains constant, sheer repetition of a process is not going to translate to different outcome.
Last week, Ondo State Governor, Olusegun Mimiko visited Aso Rock Villa. It could be described as unplanned visit because the decision by Mimiko to be at the headquarters only propped up after INEC had made statements about parties and their candidates in the upcoming governorship election in Ondo State. Specifically, the governor was in Abuja to tell President Muhammadu Buhari that Ondo State is being pushed to the precipice following the decision by INEC to stay with Jimoh Ibrahim, instead of Eyitayo Jegede, as the PDP candidate in the November 26 election.
The background to all of this is rather familiar. There is a certain Ali Modu Sheriff who has become like a shadow that cannot be detached from the substance except darkness is induced. This is what has forced the PDP to have two leadership faces. Modu Sheriff is one and the other is former governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi. This monstrous outlook has subsisted even when the party has gone extra lengths within the prescribed rules to prove that it has only one face represented by Makarfi. Somehow, the party is not able to use all the means of communication available to it to say to who its national chairman is and who is not.
Others who seek to reap political benefits call the current state of affairs in the PDP intra-party crisis. Because the crisis is not yielding to judicial arbitration, the capacity of the party to attack and kill the snake in its house is greatly weakened too. If nothing is done, the PDP could be obliterated to free the democratic space of opposition politics. There is no other quicker way for a conscious society to migrate on its own volition from democracy to dictatorship.
For now, this whole thing about the PDP’s inability to solve its problems may taste very sweet. The official position is that the APC and the presidency have no hands in what is happening in the PDP, contrary to the belief in some quarters. The problem has been fully offloaded at the doorstep of the judiciary to crack. It is taken that the courts have the powers to decide even, in spite of the PDP, who between Modu-Sheriff and Ahmed Markafi is the authentic chairman of the party. Consequently, persons and institutions central to the imbroglio and which can at least voice opinions to create a refraction in the narrative are showing an unusual degree of piety.
Everybody is playing the ostrich and pretending not to know what is happening with Ali Modu-Sheriff and the PDP. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for instance, has become very law abiding, obeying court rulings even before they are written and served on it and without any threat of enforcement by court bailiffs. Regarding the Ondo election, the commission has explained that its listing of Jimoh Ibrahim as the PDP standard bearer is in obedience of a ruling by a Federal High Court Abuja, presided over by Justice Okon Abang who has remained disturbingly constant in a particular sense in the matter between the PDP and Ali Modu Sheriff. The commission did not say if it also received an order by another High Court in Akure presided over by Justice William Olamide same day, saying Mr. Eritayo Jegede should remain the PDP candidate.
For whatever reason, INEC is refusing to follow its own rule in determining who should fly the PDP flag in the Ondo election. Before now, the commission must have witnessed the conduct of the party primaries that produced the candidates for the election. It is part of the provision of the electoral act and if that becomes a pre-condition in the determination of the issue at hand, is the commission going to say it witnessed the primaries of both candidates in the hope that the court would choose one of them to contest the election?
Within the legal framework, the PDP has exhausted all options to make the simple case that Modu-Sheriff is not its national chairman. It remains for it to take up arms and chase away Modu Sheriff from its house. Besides, I do not think the man himself is fighting to stay because he thinks he is being unfairly treated by the party or that he has something unique to offer the party.
It is clear that Ali Modu Sheriff chanced on a fresh purpose within his gamble for the PDP chairmanship and as he manifests the new purpose, the wellbeing of the party becomes less of a motivation than the death of the party. He desires the PDP to go so that other things can happen. Otherwise, which true leader will work so hard to subordinate the institution he aspires to lead to his ambition? But here is a Modu Sheriff who seems all too happy to flourish in the ashes of the PDP if he does not remain the national chairman of the party.
Modu Sheriff’s personal ambition to lead the PDP at all costs is in order. What is not fine is the danger his ambition portends to democracy. It is like the survival of plural democracy is tied to his ambition since the PDP, the only opposition party in the ongoing experiment, can no longer strike rhythm with Sheriff on board. So far, he has created this attrition that weakens the party ahead of electoral contests. In the Edo governorship election Modu Sheriff faction of the PDP threw up Matthew Iduriyekwenwu as the PDP candidate to slow down Osagie Ize-Iyamu who finally contested the election as the party’s candidate.
While the PDP has remained entangled in the technicality of law, none of the yesteryear defenders of democracy seems ready to offer any help. To others like Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the APC national chairman, it is good politics if the PDP is held down by an orchestrated conspiracy. Nobody is saying the law should not be used to subvert the democratic process. I will say however that it does not take too long to complete a cycle and for today’s hunters to switch roles and become the hunted of tomorrow.
Meanwhile, in this season of great trepidation in the judiciary, one man is constantly standing up for recognition. He is Justice Okon Abang. Nobody has mentioned him in hushed tone as such and no DSS has visited him in the middle of the night to search his house for evidence of corrupt practices as a judge. He is among the clean lot and has been displaying uncanny judicial courage, which I guess the authorities are very happy about. Most of the judicial pronouncements that have turned Ali Modu Sheriff into a cat with nine lives within the PDP came from his court in Abuja. Everything he has said or even failed to say has gone into the chronicles for review by future generation. That will be judgment of history, which comes close to approximating the judgment of God. I will not say more than that.
For now, Governor Mimiko, the Iroko of Ondo politics is facing a stormy conspiracy that could uproot him. He has warned of dire consequences should the law be pursued outside justice in the Ondo election and the Iroko forced to go down by ill-wind.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Abraham Ogbodo/Guardian