PDP: North Abandons Sheriff, Set to Pick Nominees for Port Harcourt Convention

  • Peace committee directs feuding parties to withdraw all court cases

Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The northern caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party Saturday set up a 16-member committee to screen and pick consensus candidates for offices zoned to the region ahead of the August 17 national convention of the party in Port Harcourt. The constitution of the committee headed by former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu signalled an intention by key politicians from Sheriff’s native region and core political base to go along with the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee. It was also an apparent abandonment of Sheriff, whose opposition to the caretaker committee formed at the party’s controversial convention on May 21 in Port Harcourt lies at the root of the current leadership crisis in PDP.

The PDP National Working Committee that Sheriff led had been dissolved by the May convention, which appointed the national caretaker committee to oversee the affairs of the party until the election of substantive national officers at a future convention.

Meanwhile, the peace committee set up by the PDP Board of Trustees to solve the conflict in the party has asked aggrieved parties to withdraw all court cases on the matter as a first step towards reconciliation. Chairman of the committee, Professor Jerry Gana, disclosed this yesterday in Abuja after a closed-door meeting of the BoT, where he submitted the report of his committee. He said withdrawal of the cases was one of the main recommendations of the report, stressing that its recommendations contain measures that would pacify and persuade Sheriff and other aggrieved members to drop their agitations.

PDP leaders had made spirited efforts at various levels to convince the aggrieved former national chairman to back down, before the decision to form the Mantu committee and move on with arrangements for the August 17 convention. Sheriff was still giving tough conditions for reconciliation as at Friday night, making the reconciliation bid by the Gana committee a frustrating and difficult exercise. The former Borno State governor insisted that the national convention should not hold as planned in Port Harcourt.

THISDAY gathered that Sheriff, among others, demanded that the convention venue should be moved to Abuja and that he should be made to chair the convention. But this did not go down well with the major stakeholders, especially the governors.

Nonetheless, it was learnt that the reconciliation committee recommended that Sheriff should co-chair the convention along with Makarfi. The committee, however, refused to shift the venue of the convention out of Port Harcourt, which might imply postponing it. The argument of those who opposed changing the convention plan was that the timeline for the caretaker committee to conclude its work would end by August 21. Failure to conclude the committee’s assignment and ensure the emergence of substantive national officers for the PDP may cause another round of constitutional problem, they say.

Speaking after submitting the report of the reconciliation committee to the chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibrin, at his residence in Asokoro, Abuja, Gana said he was confidence that the recommendations will go a long way in resolving the leadership crisis in the party. He said besides holding talks with the aggrieved parties, the committee also consulted widely among critical stakeholders of the party before arriving at its recommendations.

The former information minister said, “We have the support of all the organs of our party and party members, the governors’ forum, and the National Assembly caucus. We have tremendous respect for some of our members who are still aggrieved, hence this committee.
“We have recommended how they, too, can be made to feel at home so that we can welcome them at the convention. But it will be irresponsible of me to divulge, because the BoT will have to consider and rectify that aspect. We have given very weighty recommendations that, if approved, we will be waiting at the convention to receive these our aggrieved members.”
Gana said the peace committee had agreed that the convention should hold as scheduled, explaining that a new national leadership of PDP would be elected at the meeting.

While deliberating on the convention plan yesterday, the northern leaders agreed to proceed with the national convention on August 17 in Port Harcourt, saying it has their full blessing. Mantu, who read out the position of the leaders during the meeting, said after due consideration over the issues at stake, and given assurances by Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike that the exercise would be transparent, the northern caucus had resolved that the convention should go ahead as planned.

Those who attended the PDP northern caucus meeting yesterday included former governors Ibrahim Idris, Shehu Shema, Attahiru Bafarawa, Mahmud Shinkafi, James Bala Ngilari, Umaru Fintiri, Abubakadir Kure, Babangida Aliyu, and Sule Lamido. Others were Senator Philip Aduda, Aminu Wali, AVM Dan Suleiman, Dr. Haliru Bello Mohammed, and Solomon Ewuga.

However, there were misgivings among the northern leaders over the inclusiveness of the process for recommending nominees to the convention. Protesting the composition of the screening committee, former Niger State Governor Babangida Aliyu, said, “I must say that I am not happy that I was not consulted when my name was included and also when it was removed. But now that the chairman has explained to me, I have no problem with that. But some other persons who were not consulted are not happy with that.”

Aliyu observed that some persons, who were apparently not happy with the arrangement, had staged a walk out. “For instance, our zonal chairman has just walked out of the meeting. We should find out why. I would like to know because when we start doing things like this we will run into a lot of problems,” he said.

A member from Kaduna State also protested against the choice of nominees to the screen committee, saying a situation where the two persons representing his state are all from the southern part of the state is not fair.

Positions zoned to the North are Deputy National Chairman, National Secretary, National Financial Secretary, National Publicity Secretary, National Auditor, National Woman Leader, Deputy National Treasurer, Deputy National Organising Secretary, Deputy National Youth Leader, Deputy National Legal Adviser, and Deputy National Secretary.