Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
There was a ray of hope at the weekend that the leadership crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may come to an end soon, as the fueding parties move to have a reconciliatory meeting.
Ahead of the meeting billed to hold early this week, the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction has mandated one of its key members and former national vice chairman (South-South), Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, to lead the peace talks with Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee on its behalf. The Senator Makarfi Caretaker Committee had earlier set up a peace panel headed by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekwerenmadu.
Peace eluded the main opposition party since it appointed Sheriff to replace Alhaji Adamu Muazu who resigned his position as national chairman following the party’s defeat at the 2015 presidential poll. The leadership tussle within the party got even worse following the decision by stakeholders to sack the entire National Working Committee of the party, including Sheriff, at its last national convention in Port Harcourt.
Sheriff, the former national secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, and the national auditor, Adewole Adeyanju, rejected their sack and continued to pursue the matter in court, resulting in various court orders that ignited controversy over who is legally in charge of the affairs of the party.
But after six weeks of intense political battle for the soul of PDP, Sheriff and his loyalists appeared set for discussions with the mainstream leadership of the party in a bid to end the crisis.
Ojougboh confirmed to THISDAY on phone on Saturday that there were ongoing efforts on both sides to reconcile their differences.
“I have been delegated to coordinate peace talks on behalf of the Sheriff-led faction to see possible avenues for reconciliation. But I think that there are some fifth columnists on this issue who do not want peaceful reconciliation, even some of them in the parties outside of the PDP do not want to see an end to the dispute. However, we are working towards reconciliation and will one day surprise everybody,” he said.
Ojuogboh had earlier said that what piqued Sheriff was the way and manner he was eased out of office and as a condition for peace, he (Sheriff) insisted he should be allowed to superintend over fresh national convention where a new national chairman would be elected.
Commenting on the search for peace in the party, Secretary of the Markarfi caretaker committee, Senator Ben Obi, said the party acted immediately after the peace meeting brokered by the former Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, and mandated the Ekweremadu-led committee to mediate in the conflict.
Senator Obi in a telephone interview with THISDAY on Saturday explained that the peace committee had its members drawn from the Board of Trustees, PDP governors and the National Assembly.
Senator Obi said that Sheriff and his group had rebuffed initial efforts to make peace by not accepting to holding a meeting with the peace committee but instead elected to pursue legal option.
“Sheriff had refused to submit to dialogue and had been avoiding the peace committee. If they are now available, then they can meet with the committee headed by Senator Ekweremadu,” he said.
On the demand made by Sheriff that he should be allowed to organise fresh convention, Obi said that such a situation does not arise since there had been a validly-held national convention at which he was removed and the caretaker committee appointed.
Similarly, a source close to Senator Ekweremadu said there had always been consultations by the stakeholders on how to resolve the dispute but what he could not say was whether the deputy senate president had held any formal meeting with Sheriff on the matter.
“There has been consultations between the parties in the dispute to see if there could be peaceful resolution of the matter, the only thing is that I cannot confirm if there has been any formal meeting between the Deputy Senate President and Sheriff,” he said.
“I know the deputy senate president has been in touch with all the contending interests and they too have been in constant touch with him. The important thing is that everybody appears willing and indeed ready to close ranks to move the party forward,” the source added.
Before now, the crisis in the PDP seemed to have defied solution and the party was heading for the rocks with the power tussle threatening to undermine the chances of the party to field gubernatorial candidates at both the upcoming Edo and Ondo states’ governorship elections.
Sheriff had suffered series of set-backs in his attempt to hang on to office. For instance, Justice Husseini Baba of the FCT High Court had dismissed a suit he filed seeking to affirm him as the National Chairman of the PDP.
The judge while striking out the case described Sheriff as busy body after majority of the former NWC members that Sheriff joined as Plaintiffs denied in court that they were part of the suit.
Another Federal High Court in Apo, Abuja presided over by Justice Valentine Ashi also delivered a judgment sacking all national officers of the party including Sheriff who assumed office on the basis of an illegal amendment of Article 46(7) of the party’s Constitution. The latest set-back suffered by Sheriff came last Friday when the same FCT Federal High Court in Apo, struck out his motion seeking to set aside the earlier ruling sacking him as the national chairman of the PDP.