- IG meets feuding factions as BoT reviews crisis today
Bolaji Adebiyi, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Dele Ogbodo in Abuja and Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
Hope of a speedy resolution of the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) rose yesterday as its Board of Trustees (BoT) moved to unite the warring factions, holding meetings with them to find a common ground.
“We are consulting with all the stakeholders, and I can report that we are making significant progress,” the secretary of the board, Chief Ojo Madueke, told THISDAY, adding that the BoT would meet today to review the crisis.
“We will make a statement tomorrow (today) after our meeting,” he said.
The BoT’s peace moves got a boost yesterday with eight of the 12 members of the dissolved Senator Modu Sheriff-led National Working Committee (NWC) declaring support for the Senator Ahmed Makarfi Caretaker Committee appointed by the National Convention of the party in Port Harcourt last Saturday.
“As products of the party’s National Convention, we accept without equivocation all decisions and resolutions of the National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party held at Port Harcourt on 21st May 2016,” they said in a statement signed by all the eight members.
The consenting ex-officials are, Prince Uche Secondus (Deputy National Chairman), Hon. Onwe Solomon Onwe ( Deputy National Secretary), Victor Yusufu Kwon (National Legal Adviser), Ambassador Kema Chikwe (National Woman Leader), Hon. Abdullahi Maibasira (National Youth Leader), Mr Bolaji Anani (National Financial Secretary), Alhaji Buhari Bala (National Treasurer), and Chief Olisa Metuh (National Publicity Secretary) who was indisposed.
They said that the dissolution of the NWC during the Port Harcourt convention was in line with their decision to freely give up their tenures for congresses and convention to be held later in the year.
Their declaration left Sheriff and the former National Secretary, Prof. Olawale Oladipo, stranded even as the latter and Makarfi met yesterday with the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mr. Solomon Arase, to give an undertaking that they would reach a compromise and ensure that there would be no breakdown of law and order at the party’s national secretariat which the police took over last Sunday.
According to the Police Force Public Relations Officer, ACP Olabisi Kolawole, who spoke to THISDAY on the outcome of the meeting, both factions agreed to maintain the peace.
But Madueke, who was also a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, regretted the polarisation of the party, assuring that the BoT was determined to exercise its responsibility under its constitution, adding that as the conscience of the party, the board has a duty to ensure that the PDP emerged stronger from the crisis.
The crisis had worsened on Saturday when the party’s National Convention dissolved its National Executive Committee (NEC) and the NWC, effectively removing from office its acting National Chairman, Sheriff, who was also the sole candidate for the position of the National Chairman at the convention, which scheduled election was frustrated by two rulings from the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos and Abuja.
The National Convention had in obedience to the court rulings put the election of the party’s national officers on hold, approving the composition of a caretaker committee headed by the former governor of Kaduna State, Makarfi, and saddled it with the responsibility of holding another convention within 90 days.
A parallel convention held in Abuja, however, set up a 57-member committee co-chaired by a former deputy Senate president, Ibrahim Mantu, and former minister of education, Prof. Tunde Adeniran.
The crisis deepened on Monday when two fresh but conflicting rulings of the Federal High Courts, sitting in Port Harcourt and Lagos barred two of the claimants to the chairmanship of the party, Sheriff and Makarfi, from parading themselves in that position.
Madueke, however, pleaded for caution yesterday, saying with the court rulings, the BoT needed to be careful in its handling of the crisis.
“The BoT is the only organ of the party left now that is unaffected by either the decision of the courts or the National Convention,” he stated, explaining that the board’s authority to resolve the crisis was grounded in the PDP’s constitution, which made it the custodian of the assets and conscience of the party.
This was also the position of the co-Chairman of the Prof. Jerry Gana group, Mantu, who told THISDAY yesterday that while his group would obey all the court orders, the BoT remained the only organ of the party it would subordinate itself to.
“We will obey the decisions of the courts. But the best solution to this is political solution. We believe that the BoT, being the conscience of the party, should now find the political solution to our political problem. We believe there are men and women of integrity in the BoT, the Governors’ Forum and the National Assembly caucus that can handle the problem,” Mantu said.
The group, which promised to cooperate with the Makarfi group, had laid down three conditions for peace, including that all peace meetings must be under the auspices of the BoT; the board should ratify Makarfi’s appointment as the Caretaker Committee chairman; and that the committee be expanded to take all interest groups.
The eight former officials of the party agreed with this position, adding that the National Convention’s actions were within its constitutional powers.
They said: “The decision of the National Convention dissolving the National Working Committee merely re-echoes our undeniable decision as members of National Working Committee to give up our tenures for congresses and Convention to be held in May 2016.
“The National Caretaker Committee constituted by the National Convention on 21st May 2016 is fully within the powers of the National Convention under Section 33(5)(e) of the party’s constitution.
“We recognise the Senator Ahmed Makarfi led National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party and offer the committee all our support and cooperation.
“As responsible and honourable party members who have had the privilege of serving the party at the highest levels, we do not support and are not party to any suit, action or activity seeking to challenge the decisions of the National Convention in appointing the National Caretaker Committee or dissolving the former NWC, which had, at any rate, earlier agreed to go.”
Sheriff, Oladipo and the former National Auditor, Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju, had filed a suit at the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, praying for an interlocutory injunction restraining PDP from conducting any election into the offices of the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor which they occupied, pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
The court obliged them and also restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from monitoring the election.
In his ruling on Tuesday, Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos, held that the Makarfi committee was appointed in violation of an order he made on 12 May, 2016. Justice Buba directed the IG Arase to enforce the order.
However, Justice A.M. Liman of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt ordered INEC to recognise the Makarfi-led committee of the PDP.
The court also restrained Sheriff, Oladipo and other sacked members of the NWC and NEC from parading themselves as officials of the PDP.
While speaking on the meeting between the IG, Sheriff and Makarfi, the Special Assistant to Sheriff on Media, Inua Bwala, said the politicians promised to go and sort things out.
“They went to meet with the Inspector General of Police on the crisis in the PDP. They told the IG that as politicians they are going to find political solutions to the problem,” he said.
He said that part of the agreement reached at the meeting with IG was that the police would continue to guard the national secretariat pending the time feuding groups resolve their differences.
Bwala alluded to the fact that the differences might soon be sorted out amicably, adding that both Sheriff and Makarfi exchanged banter at the police headquarters during their meeting.
The atmosphere at the PDP secretariat yesterday showed that there were prospects that the matter would be resolved soon as the police had scaled down its presence.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, yesterday in Port Harcourt said Sheriff had a hidden agenda before coming to the National Convention.
He also said Sheriff made a u-turn on the National Convention when he got information that he was not qualified to contest the election on Saturday.
He said: “We have seen that there is a hidden agenda. But nobody can destroy the PDP. The PDP will wax stronger.”
He noted that Sheriff had subjected himself to screening by the National Convention Screening Committee on Friday wherein he praised the transparent process, only to cite a court order on Saturday in a press conference when the result of the screening committee did not favour him.
The governor said by his anti-party actions, the former acting national chairman had proved his numerous critics right that he was out to destroy the PDP.
Wike, who served as Chairman of the 2016 National Convention Planning Committee, said that the main associates of the former acting national chairman were men of questionable character.
The governor said: “Those around the former acting national chairman have questionable character. They are people who think that they can use the judiciary to cause crisis.
“In my entire political career, I have never seen a man with many opponents as Senator Sheriff. Modu Sheriff should apologise to the party.”