The peace move agreed by the two factions contending for power in the Peoples Democratic Party came under threat from fresh wrangling over the terms of the resolution last week. THISDAY learnt that there was disagreement between the chairman of the PDP national caretaker committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and the ousted national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, over who should supervise the fresh national convention decided as part of the settlement process.
The main opposition party had become factionalised since after its controversial national convention on May 21 in Port Harcourt. Sheriff was removed as national chairman at the Port Harcourt convention and replaced with Makarfi, who was appointed to head a caretaker committee assembled to run the affairs of the party. But Sheriff insisted he was PDP national chairman, citing foul play in the process of his removal. Efforts by the PDP Board of Trustees to settle the warring factions and put the party back on track had proved abortive.
A second convention on August 17 in Port Harcourt, which was held to try to resolve the issues and elect substantive national officers for the party, ended without election, just like the first one. However, recently, Makarfi and Sheriff held joint meetings and made public appearances that seemed to show that the party was nearly at the successful end of a difficult reconciliation process.
But the rivalry for supremacy between them resumed last week as the factions tried to decide on the terms of reference to be given to a proposed joint reconciliation committee. Makarfi and Sheriff disagreed on the composition of the committee, which would organise the next national convention.
Sheriff’s loyalists who confided in THISDAY at the weekend alleged that the Makarfi group was trying to use the committee to dictate what would happen at the national convention.
But the secretary of the PDP caretaker committee, Senator Ben Obi, yesterday denied knowledge of any deadlock in the peace process or clash of interest between the two main actors in the crisis. Obi said discussions were still on-going regarding the terms of reference to be given to the joint reconciliation committee.
However, sources from the Sheriff group, who preferred to remain anonymous due to the sensitive nature of the issues, said they were pushing for a revisit of the conduct of congresses in some states where there were alleged manipulations during the exercise.
One of the sources alleged, “The point of disagreement is that Makarfi wants to retain the chairmanship of the party in order to be in a position to determine who occupies key positions in the new convention committee.”
Members of the Sheriff group believe he should be the one to supervise the convention since the PDP constitution does not recognise the caretaker committee.
According to the source, “What the Sheriff group is saying is that, yes, we want to organise a convention, but we want to go back to the state congresses and ward congresses. Let us meet everyone at the ward level to decide what they want and be able to elect their own delegates.
“Sheriff should supervise the convention. By law there is no caretaker committee in the PDP constitution. We have suggested that the committee for the reconciliation should be co-chaired with one person from the Makarfi side and another from our side, who will then come up with an authentic timetable for congresses and a new national convention. But before the next convention we should revisit the last congresses and let everyone play a role in the selection process.”
The source added, “Sheriff is not interested in the chairmanship of the PDP. What he is interested in is maintaining internal party democracy. Sheriff is not happy about how the governors dictate things in the party, how their impunity has wrecked the party. He wants a strong party so that Nigerians can decide in an election. He believes that party supremacy should hold supreme. But the PDP governors have destroyed the party and it is because of this that the party failed in the election.”
He alleged further, “Everybody from the North has a political ambition and they want to achieve that ambition through the PDP because all of them feel that APC will fail. So there is no need postponing the crisis.”
Recently, PDP had planned to inaugurate a reconciliation committee to help reunite the warring factions, but at the last minute, the inauguration was postponed. Observers attributed the postponement to diametrically opposed views held by the two key actors in the party’s crisis.