Makarfi-led PDP Kick-starts Move to Form New Political Alliance

  •  Sets up 85-man c’ttee, to court ex-party members in APC
  •  A’Court in marathon hearing on Ondo crisis, sitting resumes tuesday

Tobi Soniyi, Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and James Sowole in Akure

Amidst the unresolved intra-party crisis within its fold, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have decided to chart a new course by setting in motion a process that would eventually lead to the formation of a new political alliance ahead of the 2019 general election.

In this regard, the main opposition party under the leadership of the National Caretaker Committee chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, will today inaugurate a committee known as the Strategy Review and Inter-Party Affairs Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Jerry Gana.
The new committee, which is made up of 85 prominent leaders of the PDP, also has the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Austin Opara, as its secretary.

PDP’s move is a reflection of the new thinking among its key leaders who having been frustrated at resolving the differences with the factional national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and are now looking for an alternative platform.

According to sources at the secretariat of the Makarfi-led PDP in Abuja, the inauguration of the committee will formally open up the process of dialogue and consultations with other political parties, including former members of the PDP who left to join the All Progressives Congress (APC), with a view to building a formidable platform.

Although the terms of reference for the committee were not published along with the membership of the committee in the newspaper advertisement published last week, THISDAY gathered that the list of prominent politicians that make up the committee was indicative that the party was looking towards a re-alignment ahead of the 2019 elections.

Some of the members of the committee include Senators Adolphus Wabara, Ibrahim Mantu, Sam Egwu, Ibrahim Kazaure, Stella Omu, Iyiola Omisore, Adamu Gumba, Emmanuel Bwacha, Saidu Kumo, Ayo Adeseun, Tunde Ogbeha, Ibrahim Ida and Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.

Others are former Governors Attahiru Bafarawa, Peter Obi, Liyel Imoke, Gbenga Daniel, Abdulkadir Kure, Sule Lamido, Idris Wada, Boni Haruna, Babangida Aliyu, Jonah David Jang and Mukhtar Yero.
Others include Mukhtar Shagari, Salimot Makanjuola Badru, Chief Tom Ikimi, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu and Chief Dubem Onyia.

The move to form a new political alliance is coming just as more facts have emerged on why the recent peace initiative in PDP collapsed.

THISDAY gathered from reliable sources in the factions of the party led by Senators Makarfi and Sheriff that both sides disagreed on the composition of the reconciliation committee and who will chair it.

It was learnt that soon after Makarfi and Sheriff accepted to forge peace and settle their differences, the feuding sides accepted that one of the founding fathers of the party and the former National Security Adviser, Alhaji Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, should be the one to mediate on the crisis.

Both Sheriff and Makarfi attended several peace meetings in the residence of Gusau where ideas were canvassed on how to go about setting up the reconciliation committee.

The party leaders had initially settled for 12 nominees on both sides to the committee, but had to review it to 15 at the request of Makarfi.

A source said Makarfi later changed his mind and suggested that the committee be slashed to just three representatives each from both sides of the divide, which Sheriff accepted.

According to another source from the Sheriff camp, the disagreement arose when the issue of who would chair the reconciliation committee was to be decided.

He noted that while Sheriff proposed that he and Makarfi should both step down to allow members of the reconciliation committee to choose a chairman from among themselves to pilot the affairs of the party till the next convention, Makarfi was reluctant to give up his position and objected to the idea.

“It was at this stage that Sheriff then proposed that the reconciliation committee should be headed by former President Goodluck Jonathan, but Makarfi also rejected the idea, leading to a stalemate,” the source revealed.

The source, who claimed to have monitored the proceedings closely, spoke of how Makarfi kept most of the stakeholders of the party on his side in the dark about the true picture of things regarding his talks with Sheriff.

For instance, the source alleged that Makarfi failed to relay to the leaders of the National Assembly Caucus of the party the offers made by Sheriff to step down if Makarfi was ready to do likewise.

According to the source, it got to a point where the former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu arrived from his South African trip and enquired to know the progress on the peace talks, only to discover from Gusau that Sheriff had indeed been forthcoming with offers on how to end the lingering dispute in the party.

However on his part, Makarfi blamed Sheriff for reneging on the agreements they reached.
He had told journalists in an interview in Kaduna at the weekend that the key area where they had a problem was the issue of the terms of reference for the reconciliation committee.

He said: “What we agreed was that the other side (Sheriff’s faction) will join the caretaker committee (Makarfi’s committee). And that was the basic agreement that was reached.

“We should set up an equal number of party men and women that would sit down and look at the modality for integrating the two sides into a new caretaker committee and also draw the modality for the withdrawal of all court cases or consensual settlement of the cases.

“We agreed that in withdrawing all cases, let it be something that we all consent to so as to prevent future litigation.

“Later, I was the one that sent a message that we needed to expand it to 15 because instead of two governors we wanted to include three governors in order to carry everybody along.

“So, that was how we hit the figure 15 on each side. And the issue now became who will chair that committee and the terms of reference. On who to chair the committee, there were names that were mentioned.

“In my opinion, I thought of the person who was able to convene us without dispute should be able to chair the committee. In suggesting any other name you don’t know how it would be received by other people.

“On the choice of former President Goodluck Jonathan to chair the reconciliation committee, Makarfi said the advice against it was that the former president should not be dragged into the crisis at the moment but that he can continue to play an advisory role.”

A’Court in Marathon Hearing

Also, one of the issues that has torn the main opposition apart is its governorship candidate in the November 26 Ondo election, which has been marred by law suits and counter-suits by the warring factions of PDP in the state over who should be the standard bearer of the party in poll.
A Federal High Court ruling last month saw the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) substituting the name of Eyitayo Jegede, who emerged the candidate of the PDP faction led by Markafi, for Jimoh Ibrahim who contested for the ticket of the party under the Sheriff faction of the party.

Following the plethora of appeals against the judgment, the Court of Appeal sitting in Abuja monday adjourned further hearing of appeals relating to the nomination of candidate for the Ondo State governorship election to tuesday.

At a marathon hearing that lasted till 8 p.m., the court heard six out of the seven appeals on the dispute.
The factional chairman of PDP in Ondo, Biyi Poroye, who is loyal to the Sheriff-led group, argued his application calling for the disbandment of the newly constituted panel headed by Justice Ibrahim Salauwa.

The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, had set up a new panel after the previous panel headed by Justice Jummai Sankey disqualified itself over bribery allegations made by the Sheriff faction.

At the resumed proceedings monday, the lead counsel to Poroye, Chief Beluolisa Nwofor (SAN), drew the attention of the court to a motion he filed challenging the jurisdiction of the court.
Nwofor said the application was based on Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution and Order 7, Rule 1 of the Court of Appeal, which guaranteed fair hearing.

He told the court that the decision to set up a special panel to hear the motion was against the rules of the court.

He said: “The decision to set up a special panel was made by the Court of Appeal president on administrative grounds.

“She ought to have asked for our response upon getting the request for the constitution of the new panel.”

Opposing the application, the counsel representing Jegede, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), prayed the court to dismiss the motion seeking to disband the new panel.

He said the applicant did not place any material reason before the court upon which the court would base its decision to disband the panel. He submitted that the court could not act on speculation.

Olanipekun also stated that the president of the court who constituted the new panel was also not a party in the appeals.

According to him, the decision to set up a new panel could not be set aside or form a basis for an appeal.

He also urged the court to refuse the application on the grounds that it was a deliberate attempt to truncate justice and subvert the judicial process.

Also, the appeal filed by Jegede seeking the leave of court to appeal the judgment of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court was heard. Jegede in the motion sought to be joined as an interested party.

Olanipekun, who moved the motion, said his client had a vested interest in the outcome of the case and must therefore be made a party.

He also argued that the respondents did not have anything to lose if Jegede was made a party. He urged the court to grant the application as prayed.

Opposing the application, the respondents said that the court lacked the jurisdiction to make Jegede a party. They asked the court to dismiss the motion for being incompetent.

According to them, the applicant did not properly identify the appeal he wanted to join.

The counsel to the respondents also said that the case was not before the Court of Appeal. He therefore argued that the appeal was incompetent.
The panel has adjourned till today for continuation.

Ibrahim: I Don’t Need to Campaign Aggressively

Meanwhile, as the legal battle over the standard-bearer of the PDP ahead of the Ondo governorship State continued, with the court-ordered candidate, Ibrahim, monday declaring that he did not need to campaign aggressively to win the forthcoming election in the state.

Ibrahim, who spoke during a parley with journalists in Akure, the state capital, noted that he was on familiar terrain, and that he did not need much introduction to the electorate in the state, as he had paid his dues.

“This is not my first time of running for the governorship of the state. In 2003 I ran for the governorship of the state under the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

“So politics is not new and I’m not like those people who are running for the first time. I need not do all the work by moving to all the nooks and crannies of Ondo State.

“I am not new to the people of Ondo State, I ran before and I had a very impressive result at the last engagement when I ran for the governorship of this state. It’s my ambition to become the governor of this state and I’m back to realise that ambition,” he said.

Speaking on the choice of Jegede by the Markafi faction of the party in the state, he said: “Jegede is brand new in the system. He’s new, so let him take his time.

“It took me from 2008 to the present date to attain this political legitimacy. You cannot come just in one day and begin to think you can win an election like that in Ondo State. Nobody can just come and enter like that. Take your time and queue behind,” he added.

Ibrahim debunked the general perception that he has no political structures in the state and that he was in the race as a spoiler to ensure that Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s choice for governor, Jegede, does not emerge the candidate of the PDP or wins the election.

Ibrahim said: “Even a blind man knows that we are running for the governorship of the state. I don’t need to pay back Mimiko at this time and if I have anything against Mimiko I can sue him at the end of his tenure and who told you that the fight ends when he finishes office. If I have any petition against him I can write it after he leaves office.”

If elected, Ibrahim said priority would be given to the prompt payment of workers’ salaries in the state while workers would be exposed to training and retraining to ensure they are the best in the country.

“I need to take the state from the hopeless situation in which it is, to a very hopeful situation. I need to take away injustice, we cannot afford to have a senatorial district producing governors for 16 years.

“That is complete injustice, that is hopelessness and we will not allow that, and that will not happen in Ondo State.

“My priority is the payment of outstanding salaries of the workforce because it is the workforce that can deliver the dividends of democracy or deliver efficiency and effectiveness.

“The public service is really my own major focus. I want them to be trained and retrained and I want them to be first among equals in the public service spectrum in Nigeria.

“I’m not coming to close people’s businesses down, I’m going to encourage entrepreneurs to ensure efficiency and capacity development, a strategy for innovation in the work force,” he said.

The PDP candidate, who expressed confidence in winning the governorship election, assured the people of the state of a massive industrial revolution and utilisation of natural resources for seaports, adding that his government would provide a conducive atmosphere through a tax integration system to attract more investors in the state.