PDP Board of Trustees Oversees a Difficult Reconciliation

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As various groups in PDP tussle with one another for control of the opposition party, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, in Abuja, looks at the prospects of the reconciliation effort led by the Board of Trustees

Peace may be gradually returning to the once all-powerful Peoples Democratic Party, but the party is still far from achieving full reconciliation between the various feuding elements. As at Thursday, the reconciliation effort initiated at the behest of the national caucus and stakeholders of the party in Abuja appeared to be on the rocks, as some parties to the dispute failed to withdraw their pending court cases. Part of the resolutions reached at the stakeholders’ peace meeting, which comprised governors, National Assembly members, the Board of Trustees, and aggrieved PDP stakeholders, was that all the suits instituted against the party should be withdrawn.

Resolution

The sign of gradual return of peace in the PDP came after a pledge last week by the chairman of the national caretaker committee, Ahmed Makarfi, and the ousted national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, to find a solution to their disagreement.

The appointment of the Makarfi-led caretaker committee had received the endorsement of the party’s Board of Trustees and most members of the dissolved National Working Committee.

The Port Harcourt convention had also set up a reconciliatory committee led by Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson. The Dickson committee was well received by leaders of the party, including Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, Professor Jerry Gana, and the 12 governors on the party’s platform.

In a resolution endorsed by eight members of the sacked NWC on Wednesday, they said they accept without equivocation all decisions and resolutions of the national convention of the PDP held in Port Harcourt on May 21, including the appointment of a caretaker committee to take over the running of the party.

The resolution was signed by eight members of the NWC, Prince Uche Secondus (deputy national chairman), Hon. Onwe Solomon Onwe (deputy national secretary), Victor Yusufu Kwon (national legal adviser), Dr. Kema Chikwe (former national woman leader), Hon. Abdullahi Maibasira (national youth leader), Elder Bolaji Anani (national financial secretary), Alhaji Buhari Bala, OFR (national treasurer), and Chief Olisa Metuh (national publicity secretary), who was indisposed on health grounds but agreed with the resolution.

They said the dissolution of the NWC at the Port Harcourt convention was in line with their decision to freely give up their tenures for congresses and convention to be held. The resolution read, “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 in Port Harcourt on 21st May 2016.

“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 PDP 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 level, 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.”

Continuous Litigation

Sheriff and two other members of the dissolved NWC, the former national secretary, Professor Adewole Oladipo, and national auditor, Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju, had filed a suit at the Federal High Court, 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.

They got the court to bar the party from conducting elections into the three offices pending the hearing and determination of the suit. The judge also restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission 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 May 12. Buba directed the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, to enforce the order.

However, in another suit, Justice A.M. Liman, of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had 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 National Executive Committee from parading themselves as officials of the PDP.

BoT Takeover

But contrary to expectations, the caretaker committee headed by Makarfi failed to resume duty on Wednesday due to a subsisting court injunction.

It would be recalled the PDP has been dogged with crisis, which led to closure of the party’s secretariat from May 22 to May 30, when it was reopened on the orders of Arase. However, the party’s BoT on Wednesday said it was taking over affairs at the PDP pending the resolution of the leadership crisis rocking the party.

The BoT chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, who addressed workers at the party’s secretariat on Wednesday, said the board was the only legal body of the party now that had not been encumbered by any court order. Before the takeover by the BoT, both Sheriff and Markarfi had met with Arase, where they made an undertaking to ensure that peace reigned and none of the aggrieved groups would constitute a breach to the peace. It was based on that premise that the police decided to withdraw its men from the PDP national secretariat and allow the reopening of the place last Monday.

The BoT chairman came to the meeting accompanied by the secretary of the board, Ambassador Ojo Maduekwe, former deputy senate president, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, and former senate majority leader, Senator Stella Omu, among others. Jibril explained that the sealing off of the national secretariat by men of the Nigeria Police was to protect and safeguard the party’s property.

He said, “Nobody has taken the BoT to court.‎ Today the BoT remains the only legal body now in the whole setup and that is why we are here to play our role. We are here to perform our duty according to PDP constitution, hoping that our problems will soon be resolved.”

Jibrin ‎said the board would operate from the board room, adding, “We are not going to take over anybody’s office.” He described the problem of the party as temporary, saying it would be overcome soon. According to him, “We have gone very far to resolve this matter, we are making contacts and consultations and we are not here to blame anybody, but to resolve the problem.”

On the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State, the process that will lead to selection of PDP candidate, and how the party will meet INEC’s timetable, Jubrin said, “I want to assure that we are putting heads together with our lawyers, which will not last long. So be rest assured that everything will be in order.

“We, the BoT, have been asked under the constitution of the party to be in charge of the assets and the liabilities of the PDP generally. It is in that respect that the Inspector General of Police, having considered the importance of our constitution and having considered the importance of the staff of the PDP headquarters here, ordered that this place be opened and not only be opened but is entrusted in the hands of the BoT.

“PDP will never die, we are only on sabbatical and once the sabbatical is over, we are going to take over our leadership, we are going back in 2019.”

On his part, Maduekwe said the board had decided to oversee the affairs of the party to prevent a vacuum in the face of conflicting court orders. “We are giving members opportunity to withdraw all cases in court so that PDP can rebrand,” he stated.

… And at the State Chapters

PDP is also trying to resolve fierce feuds among members over control of some states’ party apparatuses.

During a visit to Makarfi in Kaduna penultimate Saturday, Dickson canvassed for support for the caretaker committee, with his host also appealing to all interests in the party to “unite in the interest of Nigerians who have confidence in the viability of our party.”

A leader of the party in Nasarawa State, Alhaji Muhammad Agabi, said on Wednesday that the party was looking up to its founding fathers, like former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, to wade in for “a complete reconciliation.”

The Kaduna State chapter of PDP is gradually picking up the pieces after suffering a humiliating defeat during the 2015 general elections after being in power for 16 years. The party recently held its state congresses, which led to the emergence of a new leadership headed by Mr. Hassan Hyet, a former aviation minister, as chairman.

The new leadership has yet come up with any roadmap, but THISDAY learnt that appeasement of its aggrieved members was a top priority. The PDP state youth leader, Mr. Danjuma Sarki, said the new leadership will set up a reconciliation committee that will bring every member back to the fold.

This, according to him, would be after the inauguration of the leaders of the party at the local government level, which had since commenced.

Sarki said, “The new leadership definitely has an agenda to reconcile all aggrieved party members who may have felt hurt for one thing or the other. I know that members of the party are very optimistic and very confident about the new leadership. The people who are holding positions in the party now are active politicians who are very experienced.”

The emergence of a former governor of the state, Makarfi, as chairman of the national caretaker committee is seen as a big boost to the party in Kaduna State. Makarfi, who governed the state between 1999 and 2007, has a rich record of achievements that have become a reference point. He is highly respected across the state and his influence is expected to positively impact the reconciliation process.

Confusion in Adamawa PDP over Authentic Party Chairman

The recently concluded congresses of party produced Alhaji Abdulrahman Bobboi and Zira Tumba as state chairman and secretary, respectively, without the support of the state executive led by Chief Joel Madaki.

The Madaki executive said the congresses culd not hold water because they were done contrary to the party’s constitution, stressing that the electoral committee should had liaised with the state executive to conduct the congresses rather than allow themselves to be hijacked by the Abuja politicians.

The development has degenerated to the PDP having two offices in the state. While the PDP office of the Madaki-led executive is located at Bank Road, opposite the Adamawa State Polytechnic, the Bobboi-led executive is located at Mohammed Mustapha Way, all in Yola, the state capital.

However, the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee has announced its recognition of Madaki as the PDP chairman in Adamawa State. The recognition was contained in a letter to the party dated May 31, signed by Makarfi and Sen. Ben Obi.

The letter, which was copied to the Commissioner of Police and Director, State Security Service, said the recognition was due to pending litigation over the authentic leaders of the party in the state. It said the committee had withdrawn its earlier recognition of the new leaders who emerged during the recent state congress in which Bobboi and Tumba were elected.

The Madaki group is insisting that its tenure has not elapsed, while the Bobboi group say Madaki and his men must leave. The development had led to two separate primaries for chairmanship and councillorship candidates, to represent the party in the June 25 local government election in the state.

The letter signed by Makarfi and Obi titled, “Re-New PDP Executives in Adamawa,” reads in part: “Our letter on above subject matter dated 24th May 2016 introducing Barr Abdurahman Bobboi and Mr Zira Tumba Diwe refers.

“Due to pending litigation at Federal High Court, Abuja in suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/314/2013 and dispute over the recent congresses, we are hereby withdrawing our letter of May 24th 2016.

The old executive committee under the chairmanship of Chief Joel Madaki and Barr A.T Shehu should continue to be attended to by you, pending the resolution of the matter.”

When contacted by phone, Bobboi said he was in a meeting in Abuja over the matter.

Meanwhile, many candidates who emerged from the separate PDP primaries have expressed concern over the development. “This issue of party leadership is seriously affecting us. We want amicable resolution of the problem as some members have started moving to other political parties,” a councillorship candidate, who simply identified himself as Mohammed, said.