Onyebuchi Ezigbo writes on the latest effort to settle the PDP crisis
The dust raised by the emergence of former Borno State Governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party appears to be gradually settling. Except for the pending court case by a former presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak, and the disagreement over Sheriff’s tenure raised by some former PDP ministers, he seems to be having some respite. There is an arrangement to let him run the affairs of the party for three months, before the next national convention.
Contrary to fears that Sheriff’s emergency would precipitate crisis of immense dimension that might lead to further implosion of the party, there has, instead, been more effective attempts to restore peace to the party. Before last Tuesday’s stakeholders meeting to resolve the conflict, the Sheriff leadership of the National Working Committee of the opposition party had faced a serious challenge both from party stakeholders and members of the public who saw him as a highly controversial figure not fit to head the party.
Those who opposed Sheriff said a party struggling to lift itself from the frustrations of electoral defeat suffered at the last general election deserved a man of integrity and impeccable character to lead it.
Leading the opposition against Sheriff were members of the party’s Board of Trustees and former PDP ministers who initially rejected him and asked him to resign, The BoT of PDP met on Monday and insisted that Sheriff must resign as chairman. Members of the board said that Sheriff was not an option for the post of national chairman of the party. The acting chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibril, at a press conference said, “We as the conscience of the party are still of the strong view that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff is not an option to be the party’s national chairman.”
A PDP chieftain from Abia State and former of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ojo Maduekwe, who expressed the concern of his colleagues, said leaving PDP was not an option for him. He said PDP had made some mistakes in the past by not building on its successes and also not checking impunity, which eventually led to the party’s fall.
In a similar vein, the forum of PDP former ministers met in Abuja and resolved to insist on their rejection of Sheriff as national chairman due to the illegitimacy that brought him to power. In a resolution after their meeting, the forum relaxed their stance on Sheriff’s resignation but called for the conduct of congresses at all levels of the party that would lead to the national convention to be held on March 28.
Chairman of the forum, Tanimu Turaki, said the former ministers felt that the process used to appoint the national chairman was flawed. “In the first instance, the person who presided over the meeting was barred by court injunction and to the best of our knowledge that injunction has not been lifted. We believe that we should not give room for impunity.
If the BoT chairman changes the position of BoT it will not change our position. We stand by them and we still feel the way we feel.
“Unless there are new reasons for us to reconsider our position we stand on our ground. But there will still be room for consultation.”
Among those who were at the meeting are John Odey, former minister of Solid Minerals; Musa Sad; Jerry Gana; Femi Fani-Kayode; Prof. ABC Nwosu; Josephine Aneni; Maduekwe; Prof. Tunde Adeniran; Amb. Aminu Wali; Shetima Mustapha; and Mallam Ibrahim Shekaru.
Another pressure group, PDP Rescue Group, led by Ambassador Wilberforce Juta, had earlier met last Sunday to register their grievances over the emergency of Sheriff as chairman of the party. Juta warned that the current National Working Committee of the party must not attempt to extend its tenure, adding that the March expiration date of their stay in office remains sacrosanct.
PDP Governors Forum
It took the intervention of the PDP Governors Forum and other party leaders, like the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekwerenmadu, to broker a middle-course deal that will accommodate all interests. It was in a surprise deal that was reached at a reconciliatory meeting of major organs of the party, made up of the governors’ forum, Board of Trustees, National Assembly caucus, and the NWC held at the Ondo State Governors Lodge in Asokoro. The party resolved to put an end the leadership crisis and forge ahead as one family. Addressing journalists at the venue of the stakeholders meeting, the governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, said all the major organs of the party had agreed to support the Sheriff-led leadership in order to forge ahead and maintain stability of the party.
With regard to the position of the other stakeholders like the PDP former ministers forum, Mimiko who was flanked by Sheriff, governors of Rivers, Akwa Ibom , and Ekiti states, Ekwerenadu and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio, said the critical stakeholders of the party had been reached out to and they had agreed to back the new chairman to organise the convention. Mimiko assured that within the next two weeks, a timetable will be rolled out, culminating in the holding of the national convention in three months.
“You are all aware of some controversies generated by the appointment of our new national chairman. 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,” Mimiko said.
He continued, “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 proces of ensuring that within three months, a national convention of our party is called. And we will brief all our members nationwide within the next two weeks of the timetable in that direction. In the next two weeks, the timetable will be out, all cumulating in our national convention within three months.”
Corroborating what the chairman of the PDP governors’ forum said, the chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibril, said the members of the BoT had also agreed to back down on their rejection of the new national chairman and cooperate with other organs to see to the actualisation of the national convention within the next three months. He called on the aggrieved members to sheath their sword and embrace the leadership of the party.
Negotiation with aggrieved PDP stakeholders was held at Ekweremadu’s residence. It involved the leadership of the party, BoT and the former ministers’ representatives. The delegation of the aggrieved ex-ministers of the party was led by the former governor of Kano State and ex-Minister of Education, Shekarau. The ex-ministers stated that Sheriff was the wrong choice for the post of chairman of the party. Others that spoke at the meeting were former Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odeh, and Fani-Kayode.
At the parley, 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 held to destroy the party. An agreement was reached in line with the constitution of the party, to ensure that Sheriff completes the remaining term of the current NWC.
Ekwerenmadu pleaded with the aggrieved parties, saying, “Sacrifice is expected on both sides – by those who are pro-Sheriff and those who are anti-Sheriff,” adding that three months should not be allowed to destroy the party. With this scenario, the party has been able to calm the agitation for leadership change, which may now be shifted till the next three months to a considerable level.
But what remains unclear is whether Sheriff will be expected to handover to a new man as chairman after the convention in May or he would still contest for the position. The next three months will be interesting as the main opposition party tries to sort the issues out.