By Bolaji Adebiyi and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Factional National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Modu Sheriff, said at the weekend that he was open to reconciliation with the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee of the party, explaining, however, that he would only accept resolutions that were in conformity with the constitution of the party.
“I am open to reconciliation. But whatever we are going to do must be grounded in the constitution of the party,” he told Thisday in an exclusive interview in Abuja.
The PDP has been immersed in crisis since the botched May 22, 2016 National Convention of the party, where the party practically broke into two distinct factions with Sheriff insisting that he remained the national chairman of the party, and refusing to recognise the Makarfi Committee.
Another convention slated for August 17, 2016 in Port Harcourt also failed as a deluge of conflicting court orders deepened the division within the party.
Two reconciliation committees, the Board of Trustees’ Prof. Jerry Gana-led Committee and the Governor Seriake Dickson-led Committee instituted by the National Executive Committee of the party, have been unable to resolve the logjam as both factions dug in their positions endangering the chances of the party in the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States.
But Sheriff told Thisday that his insistence on the due processes laid down by the party’s constitution for leadership succession was in the best interest of the PDP, saying that the crisis arose from the refusal of some leaders to respect party rules and regulations.
“The problem is that they are used to doing things the way they like. They can elect a national chairman today and throw him away like toilet paper tomorrow,” he said, explaining that he was poised to put an end to the impunity in the party.
Saying that the party must be rescued from a handful of people, who felt they owned the PDP, and returned to the members, Sheriff said his mission was to reposition the PDP to a winning electoral machine, contending that this was only possible if party members were given a sense of ownership by the leaders respecting their rights as equal stakeholders.
Specifically on the way out of the logjam, he said he was ready to team up with the Makarfi faction to organise another convention in Abuja provided that his position as the national chairman would not be compromised.
“I think we have to reconstitute the convention committee properly and put in place a zoning committee that is based on the principles laid down by the party constitution, which does not recognise caretaker committee at the national level,” he said.
Told that this might not be acceptable to the Makarfi faction, Sheriff insisted that only the National Executive Committee could constitute the committees and that if the provisions of the constitution were followed he remained the only national chairman that could summon the meeting of the NEC for this purpose.
“The constitution says when a chairman resigns, the NEC would appoint another person from the zone of the former chairman to act, pending the election of a substantive chairman. As long as there is no elective chairman I remain the National Chairman,” he argued.
He said he did not foreclose accommodating the Makarfi faction, preferring, however, to deal more with the Governor Dickson-led reconciliation committee, which he said had shown more integrity in the handling of the crisis.
According to him: “Dickson Committee was the one officially appointed by the party and that is the one I have confidence in. It is a standing committee of the party. We made him a chairman and it was made by everybody then, we didn’t foresee that we were going to have problems. He was elected in NEC as chairman of reconciliation committee. So that has mandate, he has authority from the party to bring reconciliation. Leaders of the party can also do this but I won’t accept anyone who has soiled his hands.”