PDP Crisis Worsens, Police Seal Abuja Secretariat

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Wike gives reason for Sheriff’s ouster, INEC awaits report of monitoring team

By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The aftermath of the rancorous national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continued to reverberate yesterday, following the sealing of the premises of the national secretariat of the party by the police, preventing human and vehicular movement in and out of the premises.

The ill-fated convention of the party in Port Harcourt which led to the ouster of the national chairman of the PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, also saw leaders of the party further polarised into different camps.

At the PDP national secretariat yesterday, stern-looking policemen took over all its entry and exist points. THISDAY gathered that the deployment of the policemen was on the orders of the Inspector General (IG) of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, following what security sources said was the perceived factionalisation of the opposition party after two parallel conventions were held in Abuja and Port Harcourt respectively on Saturday.

The police came in two heavy-duty trucks and used them to cordon-off the road leading to the PDP secretariat. Though the policemen did not respond to enquiries on their mission, it was learnt that they were under instructions not to allow anyone entry into the party’s office.

Not even the embattled former governor of Borno State who is resisting his ouster at the Port Harcourt convention could gain entry into his office.

Sheriff had described his removal as a coup that will not stand. He was eased from his position in a most dramatic manner, when the governors of the party and other leaders held an emergency meeting at the Rivers State governor’s lodge in Port Harcourt, ostensibly to chart a way forward, following a court order restraining the party from holding an elective convention.

At the meeting, Sheriff was asked to step down so that the party will select a more acceptable man for the job. Later, the governors and party leaders, together with delegates to the convention trouped to the Sharks Stadium, where they went ahead with the convention to remove Sheriff via a voice vote.

In place of the sacked Sheriff-led NWC, a new caretaker committee was appointed with Senator Ahmed Makarfi as interim national chairman, Senator Ben Obi (secretary), Senator Ugbesia (member), Senator Abdul Ningi (Member), Mr. Dayo Adeyeye (member), Aisha Aliyu  (member), Mr. Usman (member).

The caretaker committee is expected to preside over a new convention of the party that will usher in new executives.

However, his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Inua Bwala who spoke to THISDAY on Sunday said Sheriff was not going anywhere, adding that the Port Harcourt incident was a foiled coup, implying that his principal will still go ahead to act as the chairman of the party.

Bwala also said that Sheriff had summoned a meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party in his house to deliberate on the latest crisis rocking the party.

Bwala said: “The NWC is meeting today, some of these governors are backing out and some major stakeholders in NEC and BoT have rejected what happened in Port Harcourt.

“They are all heading to Sheriff’s house for a meeting. As far as we are concerned, what happened in Port Harcourt was a foiled coup.”

While the meeting was in progress, Bwala held a press briefing during which he described what transpired on Saturday in Port Harcourt as “most unfortunate”.

He added: “The NWC and other leaders of the party are currently in a meeting with Sheriff and at the end of the meeting they are likely going to come up with a solution on the way forward and based on that the party may after due consideration of all the court cases decide on a new date to proceed with a new convention.”

INEC to Study Report of Monitors

However, as the PDP lurched into another crisis, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday said it would take a position on the PDP leadership tussle only after studying the report of the team it sent to monitor the Port Harcourt convention.

The Deputy Director in charge of Media and Publicity, Mr. Nick Dazang who spoke to THISDAY on the phone said the commission was aware of the events in the opposition party, but would wait for the report of the monitoring team before making its position known on the Port Harcourt convention.

Wike: Why Sheriff was Shown the Exit

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the National Convention Planning Committee and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has explained that the party had to let Sheriff go because his leadership was destabilising the party.

In an interview on Saturday night after the convention in Port Harcourt, Wike said: “All along, the crisis has been about the former acting chairman whose emergence was strongly opposed.

“This is destabilising the party and so we had to let him go. What is important is the party and not the individual. No sacrifice is too much for anyone to make as far as PDP is concerned.”

He noted that he had no personal interest in supporting Sheriff, as he was the best option at the time he emerged.

He said PDP would continue to grow from strength to strength, as it remained the only hope for the country.

“We will not allow the PDP to die or suffer divisions under our watch. History will never forgive us if we watch the party die,” Wike said.

The governor said the party leaders would work towards maintaining unity amongst all members of the party.

He said despite the challenges, the convention was successful, because the party was repositioned in the interest of the nation.