- Party’s secretariat remains under lock and key
- Police warn factional groups over threat to peace
Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
There were signs monday that activities at the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has been shutdown in the last two days following the removal of Senator Ali Sheriff as its national chairman, may return to normal as the caretaker committee moves to start work tuesday.
The caretaker committee of the PDP which has former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi as its chairman and Senator Ben Obi as secretary, is planning as part of its initial engagements, to address a press conference tuesday.
However, the premises of the party’s secretariat in Abuja which was sealed on Saturday night by the police, remained sealed last night.
The police deployed in the secretariat refused to allow anyone into the secretariat except food vendors who operate in the premises to access their shops, a situation that has raised questions over which of the factions of the party will be allowed into the secretariat.
However, a source close to the caretaker committee disclosed monday that the committee might resume work today and reel out its operational strategies.
Similarly, a reliable source from the Concerned PDP Stakeholders group told THISDAY that the group was scheduled to hold a crucial meeting at the residence of the former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu last night on the latest developments in the party.
THISDAY learnt that the governors had asked the Makarfi-led caretaker team to negotiate with the leadership of the Board of Trustees and to try and use the instrumentality of the board to reach out to other aggrieved groups, including the Concerned PDP Stakeholders group, for a possible deal.
It was also learnt that a press conference would be addressed by the committee on its operations and the mandate given to it at the convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
There were also indications that Sheriff and his loyalists in the dissolved National Working Committee may adopted a strategy on how to confront their removal.
According to sources at the closed-door meeting Sheriff had with his loyalists on Sunday night, the embattled former governor of Borno State may be contemplating instituting a lawsuit against his removal at the courts.
The source said that Sheriff has dispatched his legal team to Lagos with a view to continuing with the court case before the Lagos High Court which had ordered PDP not to elect new officers at its Port Harcourt convention.
However, PDP’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Abdullahi Jalo, yesterday accused the sacked chairman of plotting to destabilise the party.
Addressing newsmen in Abuja yesterday, Jalo also revealed that the root cause of the persistent crisis that threatened to tear the party apart was the plot by Sheriff to hold on to power and contest the 2019 presidential election on the party’s platform.
The former deputy spokesman said if Sheriff had refused to vacate the seat, the crisis in the PDP would have continued and might have led to the disintegration of the opposition party.
Jalo explained that during the 71st National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party, it was agreed that his tenure had expired because he was completing the tenure of Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Mu’azu, which ended in March, and should therefore have vacated the office honourably.
He further explained that Sheriff had not been given a waiver by the party, adding that the NEC took the decision that only the national convention, which eventually sacked him, would have guaranteed the extension of his tenure through voting by delegates.
Jalo insisted that Sheriff should step down honorably for the caretaker committee headed by Makarfi to take charge, pointing out that the committee was legitimate, in order, and has the backing of the law.
He said the objective of the PDP was not for the party to die, but to reign supreme, reclaim power in 2019 and provide good governance to Nigerians.
Jalo stressed that the Gana-led Concerned PDP Stakeholders went out of their way to rescue the party from “imminent collapse” and should not be seen as a tool for the division of the party.
He said: “The convention in Port Harcourt saw the danger ahead and unanimously resolved that we should give way for peace to reign, and the party is more supreme than any individual in the NWC.
“So in order to bring peace, Jerry Gana, Ibrahim Mantu, Turaki, Zainab Maina and many others insisted that Ali Modu Sheriff should go.
“His tenure has expired long ago, but he was only granted the favour by the governors to the detriment of long serving members who laboured for the party.”
Meanwhile, the police yesterday justified their closure of the PDP secretariat, stating that intelligence reports indicated that some aggrieved factional leaders and members of the party had perfected plans to engage thugs to disrupts the public peace and security in Abuja.
The Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, in a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Office, ACP Olabisi Kolawole, said any acts geared at disrupting the peace in Abuja will be firmly dealt with.
The statement said: “The plan of the brains behind this development was to infiltrate Abuja and attack the National Headquarters of the Peoples Democratic Party with the intent to forcefully occupy the facility.
“Towards perfecting this criminality, credible police sources confirmed that the actors will mobilise into Abuja with effect from Monday 23rd May 2016 and they intend to march through major streets in Abuja before proceeding to the PDP secretariat to manifest their intention.
“Consequently, the IG has directed the deployment of police assets to secure the PDP secretariat and protect the staff until the threat to internal security that is being occasioned by the intra-party crisis within the PDP is stabilised.”
The police action, he averred, was a proactive measure put in place in furtherance to the statutory mandate of the Nigeria Police to prevent a breakdown of law and order and protect lives and property.
The IG warned all actors in the crisis as well as their loyalists to refrain from any act that may threaten public order, stating that the police will “deal promptly, firmly and decisively with such persons or group in line with their legal obligations”.