PDP Crisis Deepens, Sherif Takes over National Secretariat

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  • Says he has court order to stay in office till 2018 without election

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has again erupted in crisis as the former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sherriff, monday took over the Wadata House National Secretariat of the party at Wuse, Abuja, insisting that he is the valid national chairman of the party.

Sherriff had been removed from office following the dissolution of the party’s national Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC) by the National convention convened in Port Harcourt on 21 May, 2016.

The convention subsequently constituted a seven-man caretaker committee headed by a former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi, to steer the affairs of the party, pending the convening of another national convention within three months.

The other members of the committee were Senator Ben Obi (secretary), Senator Odion Ugbesie, Senator Abdul Ningi, Mr Kabir Usman, Mr Dayo Adeyeye and Alhaja Aisha Aliyu.

But Sheriff in company with Wale Oladipo and Adewole Adeyanju, National Secretary and National Auditor of the defunct NWC, went to the national secretariat yesterday with their supporters to take it over.

Addressing a press conference inside the party’s NWC Hall, Sheriff said he was back on the national chairmanship seat following a Lagos High Court order and that his tenure would run till 2018.

In a swift response, the Chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, Makarfi, said he and members of the committee would be addressing the latest move by Sheriff today.

According to Makarfi, the committee had had comprehensive consultations with party stakeholders and would state its position at the end of the consultations.

Sheriff, who drove to the party’s headquarters as early as 7am yesterday in a long convoy of hundreds of his supporters, attempted to gain entry to the premises but was stopped by men of the Nigerian Police Force.

The former governor of Borno State made two further attempts to gain access to his office at the Wadata Plaza as well as the party’s office annex known as Legacy House in Maitama without success. But his third attempt paid off as he was let in at 11.58 am by the police team that was in charge of the premises.

The police asked Sheriff to leave his supporters behind before he could be allowed to enter the party’s premises.

Following a directive from the police authorities and after a mild drama between aides of Sheriff over the continued blockade of the gate, a Divisional Police Officer stepped forward and ordered the policemen to throw the gate open.

Sheriff finally gained entry into the party’s national secretariat to address journalists at 1.23 pm.

Sheriff said he did not campaign to be the PDP chairman but that he was persuaded by the PDP national caucus to step in for the job.

He boasted that having staked his reputation to work for PDP, nobody had the right to stop him.

He said: “The National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, is here with me. He knows that both the NWC members and all the PDP governors begged me to come to become chairman. All the NWC, BoT and governor’s forum supported my being chairman and when it came to voting, I got 69 votes to emerge the winner over other contenders.”

Sheriff said he was not part of what happened at the convention ground in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, adding that he and members of the NWC met at a hotel to formally postpone the convention in reverence to a valid court order.

He quoted a Lagos court ruling which barred the party from conducting election for the three positions — the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor — during the ill-fated convention.

According to him, since he as the national chairman did not approve of the convention, anything arising from it remained null and void.

He said it was public knowledge that there was an order by the Federal High Court in Lagos declaring him the authentic national chairman of the PDP.

“I have kept away from taking steps that could jeopardise the law, following an exparte order from the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, which had given a contradictory order, restraining me from operating as the chairman of our party notwithstanding some further orders from the Federal High Court Lagos, specifically directing the Inspector General of Police to provide me with adequate security to enable me carry out my duties. Now the ex parte order given in Port Harcourt has since lapsed on the 9 June and has not been renewed,” he said.

Sheriff said he had come fully armed with all the necessary court orders to resume as the national chairman, as directed by a court of competent jurisdiction.

He said: “We have to this effect served the necessary court orders on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is the impartial arbiter in matters like this; the police as custodians of the law; and we will make same available to you gentlemen of the press, so that you can make informed analysis of the issues involved.”

Sheriff said he had set up a committee headed by Hope Uzodinma to oversee the Edo State governorship primary and congress for the forthcoming election.

According to him, the only people that will be screened by the committee are those that can produce evidence of payment of the specified N10 million.

“We have also asked all interested PDP members to come and purchase nomination forms for the Edo State governorship primary. The cost of the form for the primary election is N10 million and not N16 million as was announced by the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee,” he said.