PDP Leadership at Crossroads

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The Peoples Democratic Party leadership crisis lingers even after the appellate court declares Ali Modu Sheriff as the national leader of party. The Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee takes the battle to Supreme court

By Olu Ojewale  |  Mar 6, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THERE is no end in sight to the leadership crisis rocking the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. While some of the party leaders are angling for a political resolution of the crisis others are asking for further legal battles.

Also, while some party leaders are asking for political showdown many others prefer to allow Ali Modu Sheriff, the recognised national chairman of the party and the main cause of the political division among party members, to stay until August when the party would hold another convention and ease him out of office.

By press time, it was difficult to ascertain which option the party leaders are willing to take.

For instance, on Wednesday, February 22, Sheriff said he planned to vacate his post as the national chairman of the PDP after convening a national convention to elect new leaders. He, therefore, pleaded with the Ahmed Makarfi Committee, the governors and other stakeholders to allow peace in the party, and wait for the convention to change the leadership.

The former Borno State governor spoke in Abuja, while receiving the party’s South West zonal leaders who visited him. He, however, did not state the convention’s date and venue.

Sheriff used the occasion to send a message to governors on the PDP platform, asking them to be careful not to divide the party with their actions and utterances because of their sensitive position in the party. “The governors are very important, they are leaders of this party by their own right. They don’t have to divide the party,” he said.

Besides, Sheriff said he had an agreement with Ahmed Makarfi, chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, to abide with the ruling of the appellate court. He said: “Makarfi and I resolved that whatever is the outcome of the Appeal Court judgment, we would not destroy our party; that the judgment from the Court of Appeal would be the final judgment for everybody.

“We spoke to all Nigerians about this; it is on record. But all the same, everybody has the right to do what he wants to do. But it is good to place on record what we had as agreement.

“Now the Court of Appeal has made a pronouncement that the status quo ante be maintained, being that myself and members of the legally constituted party executive‎ that did not resign should still remain in office”.

Sheriff said he had transmitted all legal documents to the police and the Department of State Services, DSS, for the reopening of the party’s national secretariat which he believed would be opened by Friday, February 24.

Cairo Ojougboh, deputy national chairman, Sheriff’s faction, said the date for the convention would be fixed after consultations with all stakeholders. “That is why we are calling everybody to come on board so that we can collectively put our house in order before the convention. We want to organise a convention that will be acceptable to all. We can’t achieve that without due consultation,” Ojougboh said.

But the party’s caretaker committee, led by Ahmed Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna State, was not amused by these. Rather, Dayo Adeyeye, spokesman of the Committee, simply retorted: “What convention and what is the time and date for the convention?”

Makarfi
Makarfi

Tunde Adeniran, one of the prominent backers of the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee, has canvassed a political solution to the party’s leadership crisis.

Adeniran, a former minister of Education and a member of the party’s Board of Trustees, BoT, in a statement on Wednesday, February 22, said relying on the courts would not solve the party’s leadership logjam.

He, therefore, called on the PDP founding fathers to work towards realising a political solution rather than the legal tussle current being nurtured by the two political gladiators – Sheriff and Makarfi.

He said, “The future of democracy in Nigeria depends on the PDP’s unity and return to its core values, vision and mission taking power to the people and saving them from the suffocating grip of anti-democratic forces.

“This is an appeal to all PDP members nationwide that whatever our positions on the contending issues and views on the appeal court decision, this is not the time for mutual recrimination or vitriolic attacks on any of our members, grandstanding and self – serving rhetorics. So much damage has been done to the PDP, democratic development and the rule of law that we should no longer fuel the combustible political packages designed by enemies of democracy from within and without.”

Earlier when Sheriff visited Minna, Niger State, where he met with Ibrahim Babangida, a retired general and former head of state, he got a similar support from Babangida Aliyu, a former governor of Niger State, who appealed to other members of the party to rally round him for the sake of the party and Nigeria.

Aliyu said: “Now we have a legal decision, which supports the position of the matter. Even though other people talk about going higher (Supreme Court), others are saying ‘No’, we should start widening the solution, that we don’t waste time in terms of legality…

“Those of us who love to see solution to this party will continue to find ways of mending it. I think we should all bury our ambitions; you can’t have an ambition without a platform.

“We need to all come together and appeal to all PDP lovers and members to really look at the issues objectively, so that we have a platform that we can call a party, which can win elections; not a fragmented party.”

Perhaps, Aliyu and the academic politician would need more than that to persuade the likes of Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, who believes that Sheriff does not deserve to be the party leader. Speaking in an interview on Wednesday, February 22, he described the factional national chairman of the PDP as “a general without soldiers.”

Fayose challenged Sheriff to go for a popularity test with Makarfi, his main contender.

“Without any gain saying, Markafi is high above Sheriff. Markafi has the state governors supporting him. The National Assembly caucus are backing Markafi. Former ministers, former governors, former members of the National Assembly are also in support of Markafi. In quantity and quality of support, Markafi is shoulder high above Sheriff, who is only deluding himself with the rent-a-crowd politicians he goes to town with. All the organs of the party, including the Board of Trustees, are firmly behind Markafi,” he said.

Fayose, who is current chairman of the PDP Governors Forum, said further: “We are still under the leadership of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee and we are taking the matter to the Supreme Court.”

Taking a similar hard-line is Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister of Aviation. Fani-Kayode, while ruling out the possibility of the Makarfi faction of the PDP working with Sheriff, said in a statement on Monday, February 20: “Those that say that they will work with Ali Modu Sheriff are misguided and naive.   Worse still, anyone that calls for members of the PDP to rally behind him and recognise him as our national chairman is a simpleton and a fool.”

The former minister described Sheriff as “agent of destruction,” and that  “no good can come out of him.”

The former minister said all the strong elements in the PDP were against Sheriff, emphasising: “The PDP Ministers Forum stood their ground. At first, no one believed us until eventually 90 percent of our party members lined up behind those of us that opposed Sheriff and that supported Makarfi.”

Fani-Kayode also accused Sheriff of masterminding the travails of the opposition’s leaders in recent times. In a tweet on Wednesday, February 22, Fani-Kayode claimed that Sheriff was responsible for the arrest and detention of top PDP leaders.

Since the Court of Appeal delivered its judgement on Friday, February 20, recognising Sheriff both parties in the leadership tussle have held various meetings with their respective leaders and members in order to channel a course of action. Information also has it that both factions were also in contact with their legal luminaries on the way forward.

After a meeting with former President Goodluck Jonathan in his house in Abuja on Monday, February 20, the Sheriff group flew a kite saying it had the endorsement of the former president. This was denied immediately by Jonathan, who reportedly addressed Sheriff as “my chairman” during the visit. The former president, therefore, accused the media of infusing mischief in their report, stressing that he welcomed Sheriff to his house in line with a mediation role he was playing towards undying and strengthening the PDP.

The statement issued by Jonathan’s media aide added: “Indeed, it may interest you to know that after meeting with Sheriff, the former President also met with Senator Ahmed Makarfi, leader of the PDP Caretaker Committee, and the party’s Board of Trustees chairman, Senator Walid Jubril, later in the evening.”

Besides, Taminu Turaki, a former Special Duties Minister Taminu Turaki, also led a group of the former ministers to meet behind closed doors with Jonathan on the same crisis. The meeting lasted for more than two hours.

Turaki said after the meeting that they exchanged fruitful ideas on the way forward with the former president on how to resolve the crisis in the party.

Governor Ayo Fayose
Fayose

The former minister canvassed understanding by parties to the crisis, adding that internal mediation process was ongoing to resolve the matter so that the party could move ahead. “Even after the Supreme Court must have given its verdict, we will still sit together to explore reconciliation options,” Turaki on behalf of his colleagues said.

Observers said by Turaki’s statement it appeared that the leaders were working on all options available to resolve the crisis. But at the press time, no one would want to hazard a guess.

Charles Ideho, a public analyst, believes that the judgment which made Sheriff the authentic leader of the PDP meant more problems for the party.

“It will continue to divide it along the line of parochial interests. Even if Sheriff wins the final battle at the Supreme Court, it will be victory for him and his meagre supporters and a loss to virile opposition,” Ideho said.

Similarly, Onyekachi Ubani, a lawyer and second national president of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, however, appealed to the PDP members not to allow the judgment to deepen the crisis in the party. Ubani said the crisis plaguing the party should be speedily resolved to enable the PDP to play its role as an opposition party.

“PDP needs to get it right and form a united and strong opposition to make our democracy better. Though there are other political parties, PDP has the national strength to put the ruling party in check. We really need the party,” Ubani said.

But whether a political or legal solution would be found ahead of August when Sheriff’s tenure is supposed to expire is another matter. For now, the PDP looks as divided as day and night.

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