Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
After two weeks of consultations and moves to placate all aggrieved parties, the National Caretaker Committee set up to manage the affairs of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) finally took over the operations of the party on Tuesday.
Speaking while handing over the reins of office to the Head of Caretaker committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, on behalf of the dissolved National Working Committee, the former Deputy National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, advised the new leadership to take the party to the grassroots.
He gave assurance of the support of the former National Working Committee (NWC) members to the caretaker committee in order to move the party forward.
Secondus, who spoke at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja, said the party leaders should not just sit in Abuja and continue to claim to be leading the millions of party members across the country.
“Our leaders must go back to the grassroots. It is not enough to be in Abuja and say I am former this, former that. Or say I am strong here or there.
“We must go to the grassroots because we no longer have government, security agencies, and money,” Secondus said.
He also urged members of the party to buckle up and reposition the party to be strong enough to take over power and provide leadership for the country by 2019.
“This party is strong and capable of resolving its problems. This party is not divided. This party will move forward. This party is ready to capture power in 2019,” he said.
The Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu expressed optimism that with the trend of events, PDP would bounce back to reckoning in 2019.
“Our promise to the people of Nigeria is that we are going to produce the next president of this country in 2019. We will produce the president based on superior argument. We want our president to succeed but we believe that we have better things to offer to Nigeria because we have done that in the past and we will do it again,” he said.
The Governor of Ondo State and Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, also shared a similar optimism, saying that bad times in the country would provide an opportunity for the opposition party to get back to power.
“We are all united in the belief that PDP must wax strong as a strong opposition party, preparing to take over power in 2019. These are definitely happy times for PDP. But paradoxically these are unhappy times for the nation,” Mimiko said.
He said dying has never been that cheap in the country, adding that beheading and dying have never come to the forefront of national discuss.
“It seems that every day you open the newspaper, you see people dying here, beheaded there and people carting them away to secret graves. These are the worst of times for this nation. Our economy is bad, yes, but this is an era I call unbridled centrifugalism.
“All the centrifugal forces threatening to tear this nation apart are taking strength. Where they are taking the strength I don’t know. But the mismanagement of the affairs of this country is one of the renewed strength of these centrifugal forces. These are very worrisome times for this nation and I think we need prayers but we also need PDP,” he said.
Makarfi said his committee would stick to the mandates given to it and ensure that they successfully carry out those mandates in order to see that peace and vibrancy returns to the PDP.
He commended the party leaders, members and stakeholders that made it possible for the party to remain united.
According to him, PDP elected officials should always strive to showcase the good virtues of the party so that Nigerians can make their choice between it and the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government.
“In the process of doing this, if we have hurt anybody, I, as chairman of the caretaker committee publicly apologise on behalf of everybody. Let them in the spirit of democrats and norms also embrace dialogue and accommodate each other and move the party forward,” he said.
The Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Jibrin Walid, said he was also handing over the party’s assets to the caretaker committee on behalf of the board.
Walid said the party assets, including the National Secretariat at Wadata Plaza and the Legacy House, Maitama were earlier handed over to the BoT by the Inspector General of Police (IG) Solomon Arase.
The former National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, was absent at the ceremony.
Sheriff also failed to attend the Monday night peace meeting held at the Ondo State Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, as he was said to have jetted out of the country to London a day before.
The former Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, said the PDP had shown that it was still one united house that could use its internal mechanisms to resolve differences.
Others who were at the handover ceremony were members of the National Assembly Caucus; the governors of Abia, Ebonyi, Rivers, Ekiti, Akwa Ibom, Delta and Bayelsa States, the BoT members, some former governors, and former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana.
Meanwhile, a pro-democracy platform, Nigerians United for Democracy and Good Governance, has urged the leaders and stakeholders of the PDP to rise above the current crisis, set aside their narrow personal interests and unify their ranks for the good of the party and the overall health of the Nigerian democratic project.
In a statement signed by its National Co-ordinator, Alhaji Usman Ahmed Ustaz, and National Secretary, Prince Edward Adewale, on Monday at the end of its National Consultative Forum, the group said the current political and legal crisis bedevilling the party could have been averted if common sense had prevailed and aggrieved members of the party settled for internal conflict resolution mechanisms and not rushed to the law courts to procure all manner of injunctions.
However, there are indications that the crisis in the party may deepen as the Sheriff’s camp is set to initiate contempt proceedings against the caretaker committee at the Federal High Court in Lagos, it was learnt yesterday.
The party’s National Secretary, Prof Wale Oladipo, and Deputy National Legal Adviser, Bashir Maidugu, said the caretaker committee remains illegal and lack powers to run PDP’s affairs.
Sheriff, Oladipo and the National Auditor, Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju, had obtained an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the PDP from conducting any election into the offices of the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor, which they occupy, pending the hearing and determination of their substantive suit before Justice Ibrahim Buba.
But, while the order was subsisting, the caretaker committee was appointed.
Oladipo, in a statement yesterday, described the caretaker committee as a group of lawbreakers.
According to him, it was “very wrong” for the committee to take over PDP’s headquarters (also known as Wadata House).
He said: “Sheriff is out of the country and will be back tomorrow (today). The law breakers are in Wadata deceiving themselves. The law will take its course in the next one week.”
Maidugu said the caretaker committee was acting in defiance of subsisting court orders.
The complainants, through their lawyer Ajibola Oluyede, yesterday sought to move their motion to set aside the order made by Justice M. Liman of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt on May 23, which recognised the caretaker committee.
They are also praying the court to strike out PDP as plaintiff because the caretaker committee lacks the powers to invoke the party’s corporate personality. The defendants are also challenging the court’s jurisdiction.
According to Oluyede, the proceedings were stalled because the plaintiff was not ready with a response to the three applications, which he said were served on them five days ago.
The motion to discharge the order was filed on May 26 and will lapse tomorrow (June 9).