With some of its leaders already facing corruption charges, the Peoples Democratic Party is also immersed in leadership crisis with the appointment of Ali Modu Sheriff, former governor of Borno State
| By Olu Ojewale | Mar 7, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT |
THESE are certainly, not the best of times for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In the past few months, a good number of the party leaders have been arrested by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on allegations of corruption. Prominent among them are Haliru Bello Mohammed, former national chairman; Bashir Yuguda, former minister of state for Finance; Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa, former governor of Sokoto State and Sagir Attahiru, his son; Raymond Dokpesi, party leader, South-South; Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary and Abba Moro, a former interior minister among others.
As if that is not bad enough, the party itself is now deeply divided over the choice of Ali Modu-Sheriff, former governor of Borno State, as the national chairman of the party. Since Tuesday, February 16, when the PDP National Working Committee, NWC, announced Sheriff as the new national chairman of the PDP, to complete the tenure of Adamu Mu’azu, who resigned in the wake the party’s loss at the general elections last year, the party has been immersed in another crisis.
Sheriff was picked from a number of party leaders who showed interest to occupy the position zoned to the North-East, pending the national convention of the party to elect a new national chairman from the Southern zone.
But the choice of the former governor has become a subject of contention within the party. The controversy deepened on Tuesday, February 23, as former ministers of the party, senators, Board of Trustees members and governors, again, openly disagreed.
Rising from the joint meeting held at the Ondo State Governor’s Lodge, Abuja, at the behest of the PDP Governors Forum, the group reported that it had resolved that Sheriff should spend three months in office after which the party would organise a national convention to elect a new chairman.
The meeting was attended by some members of the Board of Trustees, the national caucus and the National Assembly caucus. Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State and chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, while addressing journalists after the meeting, said that the controversies that trailed the appointment of Sheriff had been laid to rest.
Mimiko said: “In view of the recent development of our party, I want to let you know that all the organs of the party, the Governors’ Forum, National Assembly caucus, and the BoT have agreed to stand by our national chairman to ensure that our party moves forward….
“We have also mandated the National Working Committee to put in motion the processes of ensuring that within three months the national convention of our party is called.”
Mimiko, who was flanked by other governors, said that the NWC had been mandated to, within two weeks, produce a timetable for the congresses that would lead to the national convention.
Walid Jibrin, acting chairman of the BoT, and Ahmadu Ali, a former national chairman of the party, represented the board at the meeting. The BoT, had earlier kicked against Sheriff’s leadership of the party.
Speaking on the development, Jibrin said that the BoT agreed with what Mimiko said and gave Sheriff two weeks within which to produce a timetable for the next convention, which would hold in May.
He expressed the hope that the lingering crisis in the party would be resolved within three months.
Jibrin’s hope may turn to nightmare if some persons in the party refuse to be pacified. Leading in this category are the former ministers produced by the PDP from 1999 to 2015, who have insisted that the Sheriff must leave.
The former ministers who met in Abuja, also on Tuesday, February 23, asked Sheriff to go. Taminu Turaki, SAN, chairman of the forum, who was also a former minister of Special Duties, read the communiqué of the meeting, which was attended by about 40 members.
The communiqué read by Turaki said in part: “The forum rejects Sheriff as PDP chairman due to the illegitimacy that brought him and the forum also commended the BoT for the rejection as well. The forum calls for the conduct of congresses at all levels that would lead to the national convention before March.
“If and when we see reason to accept the decision, we should be presented with fresh reasons why the decision was taken. Our position is guided by convention, the party constitution and the Nigeria Constitution.”
The PDP senators similarly held a separate meeting on the issue, but did not grant a press interview after the meeting which lasted about two hours.
Nevertheless, one of them disclosed that they agreed to drop their threat to defect en masse over the issue pending the time the new chairman would have finished his assignment in two months and leave.
He said: “The senators also agreed to reach out to organs of the party to communicate their decision and await further directions on congresses and the national convention.”
That notwithstanding, the youth wing of the PDP’s North-West appears to be inconsolable. It has so far insisted that Sheriff must be replaced immediately.
Ibrahim Ahmadu, coordinator of the North-West of the PDP youth wing, said in an interview that Sheriff’s appointment was illegal and should not be allowed to stand.
Ahmadu said the PDP had once again missed the point by its appointment of the Borno State-born politician without the stakeholders’ approval.
He reasoned: “His appointment has caused more havoc within the party as some leaders and a former president have condemned the appointment.
“We want to call on the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party to come together and salvage the PDP from total collapse and humiliation. It has become necessary for all of us to put our house in order in order to wrest power from the current All Progressives Congress, APC, government at all levels in 2019.”
Femi Fani-Kayode, former spokesperson of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation in the 2015 elections, in a newspaper article berated the NWC of the PDP for daring to pick the person of Sheriff to lead the party.
He said: “What on earth has happened to us? As the Book of Galatians in the Holy Bible asks, “who has bewitched us”? Over the course of the last 17 years, in terms of the quality of party leadership, the PDP has gradually descended into the unceremonious cesspit of mediocrity.
“Worst still, with the recent appointment of Ali Modu-Sheriff as our acting national chairman, we have chosen to spit in the wind, sleep with the dogs, dance on the graves of our fallen heroes, piss on the blood and bones of the slaughtered innocents and wallow in the filthy pool of compromise, deceit, doublespeak and shame.”
Fani-Kayode, who described Sheriff as the “indisputable founder of Boko Haram,” said the new PDP chairman “is also the erstwhile godfather and sponsor of Governor Shettima Ali, the present APC governor of Borno State (until they fell out); he is a man that has a very deep and profound relationship and association with Idris Deby, president of Chad and he is a man whose son is married to the daughter of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
He said further: “I really do wonder whether those that made this decision have lost all sense of rationality. I wonder whether they have lost their ability to see reason properly and to exercise their discretion in a logical, responsible and lucid manner.
“I wonder whether they have lost their fear of God. I wonder whether they have forgotten the evil that was visited on our people, and is still being visited on them, over the last seven years by Boko Haram?”
Similarly, Doyin Okupe, a former special adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, on public affairs, lambasted the party’s leaders for installing Sheriff as national chairman.
Okupe, in a radio interview on Tuesday, February 23, said that though Sheriff was his longstanding political associate and a friend, his choice as the PDP national chairman was wrong in the current situation.
“For now, he is a wrong candidate to lead the PDP and also coming in at a wrong time,” Okupe said.
He alluded to insinuation in some quarters that Sheriff could have gotten the position based on his wealth with which he could use to fund the activities of the party.
“But the antagonists believe that he is bringing along with his wealth a crushing weight of burden capable of fatally destroying the few strands of moral fibres on which rejuvenation will depend on,” he said.
Okupe, however, vowed not to leave the PDP, saying: “We will continue to engage all who care to listen and deepen consultation across the country seeking help from everyone ready to help to revive this severely challenged sickened giant. But if it is the divine will of God that our present masters must kill the PDP, then by the Grace of God we shall yet tarry at the graveside to bid it farewell.”
No matter, Sheriff has an unwavering strong ally in Ayodele Fayose, governor of Ekiti State.
Fayose said at a press conference: “His emergence at this time is the best thing in the present circumstance. Those who are aggrieved should sheathe their sword and deploy their time and resources into fighting the All Progressives Congress, APC, instead of their own party.”
The governor said it was erroneous for anyone to associate the new party chairman with Boko Haram when it had not been proven. He argued: “Sheriff’’s son’s marriage to Buhari’s daughter and no one has called the president a Boko Haram sponsor by association. Or are they also saying President Buhari could have allowed his own daughter to marry the son of Ali Modu-Sheriff if he was indeed a Boko Haram sponsor?”
He described those linking the new chairman to the Boko Haram insurgents as mischief makers, asking: “Has Ali Modu-Sheriff been tried and convicted by any court for sponsoring Boko Haram? Has he been tried for involvement in Boko Haram activities?
“Even APC Senator Ali Ndume is being tried for allegedly making contacts with the Boko Haram sect 73 times and he is still the Senate leader.”
It was learnt that Fayose was one of the leading sponsors of Sheriff for the post. Sheriff’s name reportedly suggested by the governor based on his perceived ruggedness and for being a founding member of the APC. Fayose had argued that as a pioneer member of the APC, Sheriff would be in best position to speak to disgruntled members of the APC such as Bukola Saraki, Senate president, who is currently being tried at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for alleged false declaration of assets during his tenure as governor some years back, to return to the PDP, which he had earlier deserted to join the ruling party. He claimed that his supporters in the Senate and various arms of the government who may have found themselves in similar position would like to follow him to the PDP.
Although the governors also considered some of allegations raised against Sheriff, it was also reasoned that none of them had been proved to convict the new PDP helmsman.
Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the party, said that the process of picking Sheriff was transparent and constitutional. Metuh said the North-East caucus sent names of five people to its national counterpart, which included Wilberforce Juta, former governor of the defunct Gongola State; Saidu Kumo, a former senator; Girigiri Lawan, a former senator; Shehu Gabam and Mohammed Garba.
But four of them did not meet the requirement after the screening exercise. Hence, the caucus decided to expand the search and invited more interested candidates for who would occupy the position of chairman of the party.
Metuh explained that during the exercise Juta and Sheriff made the cut. And that Nuhu Ribadu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission EFCC, refused to show up for screening. The PDP spokesman said the choice of Sheriff was decided based on his antecedent and the fact he is a Muslim. “When look at the NWC as presently constituted, all members of the party hierarchy are Christians. It will be insensitive of us to appoint another Christian to be the party chairman,” he said. Speaking at an interview, Metuh said contrary to insinuations in some quarters about Sheriff’s alleged connection with the Boko Haram, nothing has been found against him and such should not be used to disqualify him.
When asked whether Sheriff was picked because of his tremendous wealth, Metuh said: “In that case we should have gone for (Aliko) Dangote.”
Despite opposition to his leadership as the national chairman of the PDP, Sheriff, 0n February 23, declared that he would not resign his new appointment.
Addressing a press conference after a brief handover where he formally took over the affairs of the party, he said his appointment was divinely ordained.
“The leadership of this party, in their wisdom asked me to lead. If the NEC of this party collectively asks me to leave, I will leave, but not somebody who contested an election and got one vote,” Sheriff said, apparently referring to Juta.
He, however, promised to reposition the party and take it to election within a time frame decided by the leaders to conduct a credible, effective congress that would stand the test of time.
On his alleged links with Boko Haram, Sheriff said no authority in the country had ever accused him of having links with the terrorist group. Visibly annoyed over reports linking him with the terrorist group, Sheriff specifically declared that Fani-Kayode, “would not go scot-free” for allegedly creating the impression to the public that he, Sheriff, sponsored Boko Haram.
The Sheriff’s statement on Fani-Kayode is also having a ripple effect as some members regarded it as affront.
Turaki, a former minister, said: “A threat against one is a threat against all.”
The exit of Mu’azu in May 2015, not only created a vacuum in the leadership of the PDP, it also brought about a succession imbroglio.
Following Mu’azu’s resignation Uche Secondus, his deputy, stepping in quietly to fill the vacuum. Since then, the leadership of party has been in contention.
First was the desire of members from the North-East, where the office of the national chairman of the party was zoned to, to fill the position. This is based on Section 47(6) of the party’s constitution: “Where a vacancy occurs in any of the offices of the party, the executive committee at the appropriate level shall appoint another person from the area or the zone where the officer originated from, pending the conduct of the election to fill the vacancy.”
On Tuesday, February 16, the Secondus-led NWC, which had earlier resisted the claim of the North-West, yielded to the court-induced pressure as its members joined a few powerful others to choose Sheriff as the party’s new helmsman of the party.
Ahmed Gulak, former adviser on political affairs to former President Jonathan, had earlier approached the court, asking it to help his zone retrieve its mandate from Secondus. The court ruled that the party must comply with its own constitution. Thus, the FCT high court on December 16, 2015, ruled that the party must pick someone from the zone or in the alternative, allow Gulak to assume office within 14 days of the judgement. It was based on the judgement that Gulak unilaterally proclaimed himself as the national chairman of the party on January 28. Gulak’s action was said to have gingered the party and the governors into action to look for ways to salvage what remained of the former ruling party.
Consequently, Sheriff was picked as the PDP national chairman on Tuesday, February 16, at the party’s national executive committee meeting in Abuja.
Sheriff was until 2014 a member of the APC, the product of the 2013 merger talks between All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and two other opposition parties.
He was as a two-time ANPP governor of Borno State, a former ANPP senator, and former chairman of the APC Board of Trustees.
Notwithstanding his controversial appointment, Sheriff and the PDP have an enormous task on their hands with some of its leaders standing trial for corruption in various courts.
The latest in the series was the arrest of Secondus on Wednesday, February 24. The PDP, in a statement issued by Victor Kwon, national legal adviser of the party, described the arrest as the ‘oppressive and unfair treatments’ against its key leaders by the federal government.
This, perhaps, should remind the PDP that it should have to put it house in order if it seriously wants to wrestle power from the incumbent APC in 2019.