Olawale Olaleye in Lagos and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, on Tuesday got a three-month breather through a peace deal brokered by governors of the party that will enable him to superintend over the affairs of the party before organising a national convention scheduled for May.
But just as the peace deal brokered by the governors was being presented, one of the party’s aggrieved stakeholders – former ministers of the PDP – kicked against the arrangement, insisting that Sheriff must step down along with other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) to make way for a national convention on March 28.
The embattled Sheriff, who has been on the hot seat since his emergence last week, was mandated to work with other members of the NWC to organise the national convention in May.
His emergence has been trailed by widespread outrage from both members of the PDP and other political stakeholders who saw the development as a setback for the opposition party still searching for a way to worm itself back to national reckoning.
However, in a surprise deal reached at the reconciliatory meeting of major organs of the party, made up of the PDP Governors’ Forum, its Board of Trustees (BoT), National Assembly caucus, and the NWC held at the Ondo State governor’s lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, the party agreed to hold a national convention in May that would usher in new executives to superintend its affairs.
Addressing journalists, who thronged the venue of the stakeholders’ meeting, the Governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, said the party resolved to end the crisis over the leadership of the party and to forge ahead as one family.
“As you can see we are just from a meeting. You are all aware of some controversies generated by the appointment of our new national chairman.
“In view of the recent developments of our party, I want to let you know that all organs of the party – the governors’ forum, National Assembly caucus, BoT have – agreed to stand by our national chairman to ensure that our party moves forward,” he said.
With regards to the position of the other stakeholders like the PDP Former Ministers’ Forum, Mimiko, who was flanked by Sheriff, the governors of Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti States, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekwerenadu and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, said all the important organs and stakeholders of the party had been reached and all were in agreement to give backing to the new chairman to organise the convention that would usher in a new beginning for the party.
“We have put behind us all the controversies in the last few days and I want to assure you that we are together as a party. We have also mandated the national chairman and the National Working Committee to put in motion immediately the processes of ensuring that within three months, a national convention of our party is held.
“We will brief all our members nationwide within the next two weeks of the timetable in this direction. In the next two weeks, the timetable will be out, all cumulating in our national convention within three months.
“I want to assure all of you that PDP is ready to work as one to move the country forward. We want to assure you that the party is ready to give Nigerians good governance.
“Let them know that as one big family, we are set and ready to move forward and ensure that we give good governance to the country,” he said.
The Chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibril, said his colleagues had agreed to back down on their rejection of the new national chairman and cooperate with other organs to actualise the national convention within the next three months.
He called on all aggrieved members of the party, including former ministers of the party to sheathe their swords and embrace the leadership of the party.
Prior to the briefing, ex-ministers of the PDP met in Abuja and restated their rejection of Sheriff as national chairman of the party due to the illegitimacy that brought him to power.
In their resolution after their meeting, the forum, however, relaxed their stance on Sheriff’s resignation but called for the conduct of congresses at all levels of the party leading to the national convention to be held on March 28, so as to return power to the people.
The forum also condemned all acts of impunity in the running of the party and called for adherence to the party’s constitution.
The forum agreed to continue with consultations with all relevant stakeholders, and noted with dismay the threat to one of its members, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, by Sheriff. It stated that a threat to one of its members was a threat to all.
The chairman of the forum, Mr. Tanimu Turaki, further added that the former ministers felt that the process deployed to appoint the national chairman was flawed.
Former ministers, who attended the meeting were John Odey, Musa Sada, Jerry Gana, Fani- Kayode, Prof. ABC Nwosu, Mrs Josephine Anenih, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Ambassador Aminu Wali, Shetima Mustapha and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Also reacting to Sheriff’s threat to deal with him, Fani-Kayode, a former aviation minister, said he was not scared of him and accused the party’s chairman of attempting to set fire to the PDP and the entire country with his imposed chairmanship.
Addressing journalists before the meeting of the ex-ministers’ forum he said: “Well my first question is who is Ali Modu Sheriff, is he a Nigerian or Chadian? The second thing is that he came as the national chairman or claiming to be one, and you want to move the party forward, and the first thing you do is to start issuing threats.
“This I think is unacceptable and nobody is intimidated. The fact of the matter is that he wants to set Nigeria on fire, he also wants to set PDP on fire and that fire is going to consume him and him alone.
“With regards to the personal threats to me, I am more than ready for him, I am waiting for him and I assure him, that I am not like anybody he has met before in his life. He will meet a resistance he never expected.
“I am never intimidated. We will remove him, we will ensure that he does not remain national chairman because he has divided this party and this meeting we are having today will take a decision on that and I would not like to preempt their decision.
“I sincerely hope that all the other stakeholders of the party recognise that this man is divisive, he is unacceptable, he is unfit, and he is somebody that none us has any respect for and cannot move our party forward.”
Meanwhile, informed sources within the PDP said the decision to allow Sheriff a short spell as chairman was brokered by Senator Ekweremadu at his Abuja residence Monday night.
It was gathered that Ekweremadu, who is the highest elected public office holder in the PDP, met separately with aggrieved ex-ministers of the party led by the former Governor of Kano State and ex-Minister of Education, Shekarau.
The ex-ministers, who attended in their numbers collectively stated that Sheriff was the wrong choice for the post of chairman of the party.
Other than Shekarau, other ex-ministers that spoke at the meeting were Odeh and Fani-Kayode.
In his response, Ekweremadu told them that while the feelings of various critical stakeholders of the party could not be brushed aside, it would not be in the interest of anyone to allow the extreme positions they hold to destroy the party.
He reportedly said that the middle ground would be to ensure that the constitution of the party is upheld by ensuring that Sheriff completes the remaining term of the current NWC.
He said Sheriff would only have a very short period in office.
“If that is the case, sacrifice is expected on both sides – by those who are pro-Sheriff and those who are anti-Sheriff. A little over a month or at most two to three months should not be allowed to destroy the party,” he was quoted as stating.
THISDAY also gathered that the same compromise was reached in the meeting between Ekweremadu and the members of the PDP BoT at his residence Monday night, paving the way for the larger meeting of all stakeholders of the party at the Ondo State governor’s lodge yesterday.