By COLLINS Ughalaa
On July 12, 2017, epochal and phenomenal event happened in Nigeria's political landscape. It was the day the Supreme Court delivered judgement on the leadership criss that rocked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and polarized the once ruling party. That judgement to so many people brought fresh hope and opportunity for the once largest party in Africa that ruled the country for 16 years.
Yes. That unique judgement that declared Senator Ahmed Makarfi the authentic National Chairman of the party may have brought the needed respite to the party at the national level, but in Imo State the situation is quite different. This is because the Makarfi group had dragged the Sheriff group in the state to court on which group was the authentic leadership line. The Imo PDP is also fractured into five factions with each having held its own congress. And until these matters are also resolved the Imo PDP may have murdered sleep. Because the Anyaehie group may continue to press their case in court to see if they can win by any stroke of justice, in addition to the other factions laying claims to the party leadership. And since the Supreme Court judgement is silent on the leadership crisis in Imo PDP, it is vain glorious for anyone to begin to apportion victory to himself.
It is possible that while the crisis in Imo PDP subsists the Ezekwem group may enjoy the recognition of the Makarfi led PDP. But both Makarfi and Ezekwem should know that Makarfi does not control the PDP in all the states. There are states, such as Bayelsa, that are controlled by Sheriff factions. Should the party then be thrown away in those states because they did not support Makarfi?
I believe that Makarfi realised the huge challenge cast on him by the judgement. This was obvious by his sober look at the Wadata Plaza Secretariat of the party on July 12. Moreover, Makarfi has not sounded triumphant since after the judgement. Rather he returned to his state where he was governor and two-term senator and quietly held a meeting with PDP members. He was not received with any 21 guns-shot, like Ihedioha. Makarfi's attitude may well bring speedy healing to the PDP but that of Ihedioha could be a clog in the wheel.
It was shocking, therefore, that instead of towing the path of Makarfi, and despite the unresolved crisis in Imo PDP, Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha took to the dancing floor in celebration of the Supreme Court victory. Doing this was like throwing mud in the face of some leaders of the party and any other person who may be intereted in the party.
And for some days I had ruminated on the recent public dance of Rt Hon Emeka Ihedioha, one of the great politicians the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has produced in Imo State, after the Supreme Court judgement. Ihedioha, otherwise known by his signature green cap, was the gubernatorial candidate of the PDP in Imo State in the 2015 governorship election. He was a three-time member of the Federal House of Reps and he became the Deputy Speaker and Acting Speaker of the House. But he has behaved as if he still has the ticket of the party. By his public dance in Owerri on Thursday one could be misled to think that the former lawmaker had won a governorship election. But that was not.
Ihedioha's public dance and popping the champaign runs fowl of the rituals in several Igbo communities for someone who killed a lion. In my community of Agwa in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State, before a man who killed a lion is allowed to pop the champaign and take to the dancing floor he is made to eat and drink some traditionally prepared concoction. In my community, this is called *ì gbujù aka*, or *ì ñù udu*, and it is done so as to stop the man who had killed a lion from killing human beings.
That is why, having ruminated over Ihedioha's public dance, Methinks it was unnecessary and amateur. My reason is that when two brothers go to war against each other the winner does not go on dancing spree or merry gendering or popping the champaign. This is so as to allow the fresh wounds heal well and give room enough for genuine reconciliation.
There are other reasons why Ihedioha's victory dance is ominous. The PDP is going into the 2019 general elections, including the governorship election in Imo State. No matter who becomes the party's flag bearer, the party needs more people than Ihedioha and his loyalists. Also, the Ihedioha victory dance seems to errornously personalise the Supreme Court victory to mean Ihedioha's victory. And I have heard some of his loyalists say "Ihedioha has won", " Ihedioha is a fighter" and "Ihedioha is the leader of Imo PDP". These wrong signals should be halted immediately if the PDP should win the peace and also and enjoy the war booty. If this is not done I foresee a situation where a fractured PDP goes into the general elections more devastated than they had been.
This triumphant disposition of a 'Mighty Man in Battle' is one of the things the handlers of the former lawmaker should advise him to avoid. I want to believe Ihedioha does not believe he does not need anyone to defeat Okorocha in 2019. No serious politician thinks that way, because politics, to my mind, includes bridge building and consensus building.
To defeat Okorocha should be a collective fight, where those who can throw stones would be allowed to so; those with their catapults and bows and arrows are allowed to shoot at the target; those who can bite or even haul verbal assaults are allowed the space to do so. Those who can sit at home and make food for the warring men are allowed to do so. Those who can stand by the wayside and cheer the fighters on and those who stay in their closet to offer prayers or libations are also allowed to do so, including those who just mourn and gnash their on the fraca. I think these people need no victory dance yet because there is yet victory. Therefore, they need no *Ajekun Iya* dance as performed by Senator Dino Melaye, and Ihedioha should fight the urge to engage in victory dance long before the battle gets started.
Ihedioha's misplaced victory dance is antithetic with the anticipated reconstruction and reconciliation among all factions in the party. It is also opposite what Makarfi is doing. Apart from the governorship election in 2019, the PDP will go into it's national convention in a couple of months. It is better for the PDP to go into the convention whole and intact, otherwise the second fall shall be greater than the first.
There is no argument that some people will leave the PDP for reasons best known to them, especially for the purpose of losing at the Supreme Court, but it should be noted that the Supreme Court verdict did not derobe anyone his party membership. Therefore, genuine efforts should be made to ensure that the party enjoys a robust healing process, instead of thinking that by the Supreme Court verdict some people are no longer members of the party.
There are some members of the party that should nevertheless be commended for their foresight and statesmanship. I mean those who in the midst of this crisis did not add salt to injury but chose to work both underground and on the surface for peace. These people should not be told the party is someone else's protest group, or that someone has bought it all the way from the national headquarters of the party, or that others are merely working or should be working to crown him governor in 2019.
It was for the purpose of stopping people from sending the wrong signal of the party belonging to someone that forced the leaders of the party to give a directive that no member of the state exco should follow any aspirant about. But this directive has been flouted as Ihedioha now attends burials and weddings and other personal functions with the state exco of the Ezekwem group. Also, on Thursday, 13 July, 2017, Ihedioha took advantage of the party exco that went to receive their Chairman, Chief Charles Ezekwem, at the airport - even though that heroic and noisy reception was unnecessary - and then held what was tagged a victory rally where loyalists of the lawmaker sang and danced, with women singing all sorts of victory songs and rallying along Okigwe Road, Owerri.
Some opponents of the PDP took some pictures and claimed the PDP victory rally was a mess and that they could not mobilise people to the event. This may well be why Governor Okorocha hurriedly mobolised members of the State Development Council (SDC) for a meeting in Owerri, and the pictures flooded the social media with the boasting that the Governor can mobilise a crowd, and thus stands almost unchallengeable in 2019. But some PDP chieftains have told me that the party called no meeting nor organised any victory rally on Thursday; that it was Chief Ezekwem, chairman of the Makarfi faction in Imo State, that was being received by his state exco. I was further told that there are calls for a meeting of party leaders in Owerri which could hold any time soon. I wonder if there could have been a major political meeting of the PDP without former governors Udenwa and Ohakim, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator SamDaddy, Hon ThankGod Ezeani, Hon Ikenga Mayor Eze, Hon Ezenwa Onyewuchi, etc. I doubt.
Following this, therefore, Ihedioha should be warned not to celebrate like the man who got the mat against the man that got the ground. He should recall that one of the problems that caused him his governorship election in 2015 was his mismanagement of his victory. A wise man does not allow bad event to repeat. It was possible that many who left the PDP in 2015 could have stayed back if they were handled differently and better after the floored PDP governorship primary election. It would matter nothing if Ihedioha emerges PDP guber candidate and loses again in 2019. That would be more devastating.
For the purpose of not scattering the PDP flock, Ihedioha and other leaders of the party should put on their thinking cap and see how to resolve the legal battle subsisting in court on the Imo PDP leadership and also ensure that every member of the PDP is given the opportunity to remain to build a better party. Imo PDP should explore the political solution and not be like the hen that scatters its food with its toes. After all, the umbrella is wide enough for everyone.
This brings to the fore the need to open the PDP and encourage other people to come in. Nobody should pretend that the party belongs to him and that the party's gubernatorial ticket is his any time. The PDP should discourage impunity in all of its colours. It is public knowledge that it is the preponderance of impunity in the party that has kept it in tatters for years. The PDP should stamp its feet firmly on the ground and insist that there is no space for impunity in the party any more.
If not for impunity, how can one explain the introduction of Ihedioha at the party secretariat on Thursday as "party candidate 2019". This attitude is dangerous for the peace and general wellbeing of the party. Ihedioha should rather look at the general interest of the party and not the 2019 guber ticket, because when the time comes it will be up for grabs and only the competent best will take it. This should be Ihedioha's preoccupation now, and he should not inteepret the competent best to mean Ihedioha.
A serious politician like Ihedioha from Mbaise should also consider the Ahiara Diocese lingering brouhaha and read clearly the effect it could have on his chances at the state governorship election in 2019, considering the huge population of the Catholic faithful in Imo State and their voting pattern.
Instead Ihedioha has begun dancing the *surugede* dance. He has been dancing to the tunes played for him by political opportunists and sychophants. Dr Mrs. Kema Chikwe led the pack by giving 21 guns-shot to Ihedioa at Emekuku. Party faithful have not asking "for what?" Did Ihedioha win any jackpot? Did the Supreme Court reverse his case against Governor Okorocha and made him Imo State Governor? Was Dr. Chikwe not among those who killed the party and Ihedioha in 2015? Has she ever won her ward and LGA in any election? Apart from her political appointments and memebership of the PDP NEC, what's the political relevance of Chikwe in real terms, and how has she paid the PDP back for all the party has done for her?
Ihedioha should be advised that he is not the leader of the PDP. I have not seen in the PDP constitution that a former governoship candidate is the leader of the party, especially in a state that has former governors and serving members of the national assembly. Rather the PDP constitution recognises the leadership of former governors and sitting members of the national assembly. And we have two former governors Ikedi Ohakim and Achike Udenwa. In addition, the party has two serving senators and eight House of Reps members.
As a seasoned politician it is worisome how he has joined others in digging his own political grave and writing his political obituary, by believing that the Supreme Court judgement is about him. Ihedioha thinks that the Supreme Court judgement gives him any special advantage over others. He thinks the judgement has resolved the crisis in Imo State PDP where there are about five factions. He seems not to reckon with the reality that the judgement rather provides the opportunity for a political solution to the crisis in Imo PDP, and this would require sitting down "around a well polished mahogany tabke". If sitting down at the discussion table should be possible, Ihedioha should stop this dangerous *surugede* dance. He should realise that a man who killed a lion is given some concoction to prevent him from killing people and possibly committing suicide, like the mighty Okonkwo of Things Fall Apart.