Last Sunday in Imo State , travelers passing through Okigwe Road, Owerri, had a hect time trying to find their way out of the jam-packed vehicles, causing traffic gridlock.
For some time now, Owerri residents and travelers have not witnessed such a mammoth crowd of people along the serene Okigwe road.
Well, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP Imo State chapter was holding its “Stakeholders” meeting, after the storm. The Imo PDP was putting its heads together once more after a crisis that nearly drove the nails on the party’s coffin. But luckily for the party, it came out of the brouhaha with its soul intact.
The Peoples Democratic Party Imo State had been engulfed in a fire that nearly consumed the party. Although the party in the State got involved in the whole saga through “transfer of aggression” but it nearly paid the price with a demise.
How did it all start? The former National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Aminu Muazu, after the party lost the Presidential election under Goodluck Jonathan, eloped into exile. He may have feared what would follow after the 2015 election tsunami, if it was deciphered that some elements in the Northern part of the country in PDP connived with the then opposition All Progressive Congress APC, to dislodge PDP from Aso Rock.
Under the disappearing act by the former Governor of Bauchi State, the Deputy Chairman, Chief Uche Secondus stepped in under interim contraption. But the North where the position of National Chairman was zoned to wanted their position back so as to finish four years tenure left midway by Muazu.
So, the Governors of PDP led by Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State resolved to shop for a Northern fellow who will continue for Muazu.
After a long search, the lot fell on a former Governor of Borno State and Senator, Alhaji Modu Sheriff.
The arrangement was that Sheriff will within a few months conduct a convention where a new National Chairman will emerge to run a fresh mandate. And he/she must come from the North.
However, as time went on, Sheriff began to dig in and consolidate on the job. Rather than listen to the people who brought him into office, the former Borno State Governor began to scheme to remain in office infinitum, without giving any more thought to a National Convention.
Naturally, to remain in office, Sheriff sought across Nigeria for those who will back his plot to remain in office. He did not even need to worry about that because there were a lot of politicians who were ready to do his bidding, provided he also helps them in their own ambitions in 2019 elections.
But when Wike, Fayose and others discovered that Sheriff was not ready to conduct any Convention, they pilled pressure on him. By then it had started getting clearer that Sheriff would not only want to contest for the National Chairmanship position whenever the convention holds, against the earlier agreement that he would not, so as to produce an acceptable National Chairman, the Senator was also scheming to pick PDP’s Presidential ticket for 2019 election.
Therefore, when all these information got to the PDP heavy weights, they started fighting Sheriff to hold the Convention.
But by then Sheriff had recruited his own men, and was also fighting back with what he had.
In Imo State, Sheriff ‘s major backers include Senator Hope Uzodinma, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, Chief I D Nwoga, Prof Mrs Viola Onwuliri, Hon Goodluck Opiah, Barr Nnamdi Anyaehie etc.
After much persuasion, Wike, Fayose, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha, members of PDP Board of Trustees, former Ministers, including former President Goodluck Jonathan and others forced Sheriff to hold the National Convention at last. And Governor Wike promised to host the occasion in Portharcourt, Rivers State.
But having gotten information about Sheriff’s plot to emerge as the National Chairman under consensus in Portharcourt, Wike, Ihedioha, Fayose etc played along.
However, Sheriff was shocked to his bone marrows when seconds to the commencement of the ceremony, he discovered that Wike and his group had already penciled down who will be the next Chairman, but not him.
Out-twitted and over-maneuvered, Sheriff hurriedly called a Press Conference, flanked by two prominent Imo Sons, Senator Hope Uzodinma and Ikedi Ohakim, saying that the Convention has been cancelled, and thereafter jetted out of Rivers State in a chartered flight.
Confused and bewildered, the Wike camp went back to the drawing Board. But Sheriff headed to court immediately he arrived Abuja.
From there, PDP went into a long legal battle with itself. Every plea to Sheriff to withdraw the matter in the spirit of PDP’s ideology of “Family matter” could not yield any fruit.
However, before the Portharcourt debacle, the party had held its Ward, LGA and State Congress, which Imo was part of.
Under this scenario, PDP was divided into two camps, with Sheriff leading one Group and Uche Secondus championing the other.
After some legal battles, a new date was fixed for yet another Convention, still in Portharcourt. But this time, as PDP members arrived Rivers State, stern-looking security men had cordoned off the venue. But the party managed to elect the former of Kaduna State Governor and Senator, Alhaji Ahmed Markarfi as the new interim Chairman of the party, with the mandate to conduct a fresh Convention where a new and authentic National Chairman of PDP would emerge.
But Sheriff did not give Makarfi a breathing space as he was in court every day. Therefore, since the party was in court to determine who is the National Chairman, all other activities at all the levels, from Ward, LGA, and States were crippled, waiting for when the court will take the final decision on the matter.
Within this period, Imo PDP divided into two factions; one Group was led by Chief Charles Ezekwem, fully backed by Hon Emeka Ihedioha, Chief Emmauel Iwuanyanwu, Dr (Mrs) Kema Chikwe, all the Federal House members elected under PDP in Imo State except Hon Nnanna Igbokwe (Ahiazu/ Ezinihitte).
The other camp was led by Chief Nnamdi Anyaehie, financially supported by Senator Hope Uzodinma and Hon Nnanna Opiah. By then Ohakim had left them on a political sabbatical.
In Imo, these two Groups had their own Executives up to the Wards. They continued separately to galvanize their members, with the PDP spirit.
The matter had to get to this level because Sheriff adamantly resolved to see the end of the litigation than political solution.
In Imo State, every effort made to bring Hope Uzodinma and Emeka Ihedioha together was not fruitful. Ihedioha believed his Group would win. Uzodinma was optimistic of victory. So, everything was left for the court to decide.
But while the Ihedioha Group made it clear that it will pull out of PDP to either float another political party or join an existing one, the Hope Uzodinma Group swore it will remain in PDP no matter the outcome.
It was under this circumstance that the Supreme Court gave verdict on the matter on who between Sheriff and Makarfi was the authentic National Chairman of the party. In the end, the Supreme Court said that the highest organ of any political party is the Convention. In that case, the Court affirmed that the party was legally right in electing Makarfi in Portharcourt.
However, if pundits thought that the final out-come of the Supreme Court judgment would mark the end of Imo PDP crisis, they were joking. This was because, while the Ihedioha people maintained their agreement by not going away from PDP, since it did not lose, the Hope Uzodinma Group, however had remained in PDP with another option other than what was agreed abinitio.
The Group which promised to remain in PDP whether it lost in Supreme Court or not has refused to submit to the recognized PDP Executive in the State. The Group has maintained that it is the recognized Group and will show that in Abuja when the National Convention comes. This was after Supreme Court verdict.
At last, the National Convention came last December and the Chief Anyaehie led Executive, financed by Hope Uzodinma was not allowed near the Convention ground in Abuja where Chief Uche Secondus emerged the new National Chairman. Instead it was the Charles Ezekwem Executive that participated in the Convention onbehalf of Imo PDP.
Yet again, despite the Abuja out-come, the Anyaehie Group has vehemently refused to recognize the Ezekwem Executive, saying that there is still a litigation before an Orlu High Court challenging the Ezekwem Executive.
Weeks ago, the Hope Uzodinma people were touring some LGAs in the face of both the Supreme Court judgment and Convention fall-outs in Abuja.
Many have been asking why the Hope Uzodinma Group has refused to abide by any of its vows, including the final legal determination of Imo PDP Executive, which was authenticated by the emergence of Uche Secondus as the dully elected National Chairman of the party.
Indeed, many have also asked that the Hope Uzodinma Group should be approached for reconciliation, even as many accuse Charles Ezekwem and his Chief Supporter, Hon Ihedioha of high-handedness.
However what many forgot was that at the beginning of the crisis, the Ezekwem led Executive had extended Olive branch to that of Anyaehie, powered by Hope Uzodinma.
But the Group refused any settlement out of court, maybe, with the conviction that it has a good case before the Supreme Court. When every mechanism for settlement was left in the hand of the court, and the matter came out to the disappointment of Hope Uzodinma Group, who should be blamed now? Is it the Ezekwem Executive that has since thrown the door open for whoever wants to return to PDP to do so, or the Hope Uzodinma people who rather than be bold enough and return to the family, want to be appealed to and assuaged to return home?
In a conflict resolution, there are modalities, which include shifting grounds and giving concessions.
However, when one of the parties remain rigid and adamant, you don’t give conditions when in the end the out-come ends in your opponents favour. This is because you had exhausted all the avenues for concession. Therefore, in the Imo PDP issue, both parties agreed that the Supreme Court judgment is the last resort to peace. In this case, if the Ihedioha camp loses, it will leave the party. But if the Uzodinma Group loses it will still remain in PDP. So, what is holding the Uzodinma people from keeping to their words? That is; returning home to PDP.
However, it is quite unfortunate if Imo PDP loses the Anyaehie Group personified in Senator Hope Uzodinma.
But it must be noted that Imo PDP cannot cease to exist because one person or Group refused to accept status quo. It is therefore fallacious for commentators to heap blames on Charles Ezekwem and Ihedioha as if they were not following the genesis of the present Imo PDP crisis.
What many should ask is; what would have been the fate of Ezekwem, Ihedioha and their followers had Sheriff won the Supreme Court outing? Would Ezekwem and Ihedioha been concede grounds after they had said they would leave PDP if they lost at the Court?
The Imo scenario is ironically incredible, when we realize that Sheriff who started all these has since moved on, including attending APC meetings.
It shows that Sheriff is a man of his words, by obeying the court judgment, while his followers in Imo State keep fighting even after the war has be declared won and lost.
However, the last outing on Sunday by Imo PDP is an indication that the party has resurrected again against evil permutations. Those who stayed away from the meeting that day were not missed, rather they would be the ones to regret, as the entire Imo PDP premises was filled to the brim with valuable personages.
But really, the absence of Senator Hope Uzodinma and Chief Ikedi Ohakim was felt, because PDP is a family and the more the merrier.
Having said this, we must realize that every Leader has a role to play in PDP, but no Leader exists without followers. But if certain Leaders have decided to chart a new course, that will not stop the existence of Imo PDP because nature abhors vacuum.
We must also take note that some of these Leaders we argue for never won their political Wards in elections, talkless of their LGAs. If a Leader is judged by his contributions to the party, we must not over-look elections, which is the most important to a political party. So, what would it benefit Imo PDP if a Leader cannot work for the party to win in his/her domain during elections and yet occupy front seats at meetings as a Leader?
What Imo PDP should do now is to galvanize itself and create more Leaders, since others have vacated, because the ship must sail on.
Already, PDP has a lot of things going for it in Imo. No one needs to be told that PDP administrations both at the States and National level raised the bar of development for the masses then.
In the last three years, Nigerians have seen what is called poverty and suffer. And that of Imo State is in high index.
Therefore, Imo PDP should put her house in order and move to the grassroots and sale it’s itself. Imo people still root for the party. Imo PDP is greater than any individual or Groups.