With the fragile peace recorded a few weeks ago already threatened, a truly lasting ceasefire in the Peoples Democratic Party may be long in coming, writes Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The contentious reconciliation process had shown signs of progress penultimate week, when both sides led by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Senator Ahmed Makarfi signed a ceasefire agreement on the verbal attacks against each other. The factions not only accepted to end altercations but agreed that they would work together with the committee to engender peace and genuine reconciliation in the party.Last week was not quite heartwarming for stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The opposition party saw itself almost relapsing into turbulence after warring factions had earlier embraced a peace initiative brokered by the reconciliation committee headed by the Bayelsa State Governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson.
The agreement, to this effect, was signed by Hon. Ahmed Gulak and Hon. Bernard Mikko on behalf of the Sheriff-led leadership, while Dayo Adeyeye and Hon. Dave Iorhemba, did on behalf of the Makarfi faction. Governor Dickson and his deputy, a former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, also signed the agreement.
In the undertaking, the two factions agreed that all actors in the party crisis should desist from making derogatory, inflammatory and divisive statements against party officials, stakeholders and members and “that the party should not dissipate her energy amongst itself but focus on how to unite and be a formidable opposition capable of taking over power from the APC-led government.
It also read that all key actors in the peace process should henceforth desist from making public press statements attacking each other as well as statements insinuating negative acts capable of dragging the party to the mud. In conclusion, that all key actors in the PDP conflict agreed to work together with the National Reconciliation Committee in order to engender lasting peace and genuine reconciliation.
But barely four days after the ceasefire was signed, Senator Sheriff’s deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, made an outburst considered to be in breach of the peace agreement, in which he described the Senator Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee as an illegal body.
In a statement he issued, Ojougboh threatened to sue Makarfi for operating in contempt of the pronouncement of the Court of Appeal that gave judgment in Port Harcourt in favour of Sheriff. He also warned Makarfi and his group to stop interfering in the affairs of the party, adding that Sheriff has a right to declare job vacancies in the party, as the old staff have decided to abandon their work even when he appealed to them to come back.
He said: “Makarfi should behave himself. He should not interfere in our business, because we are not interested in his private business. Any further careless statement from him will force us to reconsider our earlier peace agreement. We have already employed members of staff that are running the bureaucracy efficiently.
“If Makarfi so desire, he should keep the old staff, just as he is doing now. We have had enough and enough is enough of this,” Ojougboh said, insisting that as chairman of the party, Sheriff has the right to employ staff. “We are preparing to complete state congresses, where necessary and working hard planning our national convention. We will not be distracted from our set objectives to return the party to the grassroots by inconsequential issues.
“We must prevent anybody with the agenda of killing the party, especially those, who were brought to the party by those, who have already decamped to other parties. We are giving seven days to these old staff, who still have the property of our party in their possession to return them immediately, or we will be left with no other option than to hand them over to the police”.
Ojougboh’s harsh words immediately provoked an equally stinging reaction from Adeyeye, who accused the Senator Sheriff leadership of violating a ceasefire agreement reached between the two warring parties. While reacting to the latest verbal assault from Sheriff’s man, Adeyeye described the action of Sheriff and his men as unbecoming of men of honour.
In his own statement, Adeyeye urged party faithful to ignore them. “We have always known that Sheriff and his co travelers especially, Cairo Ojuogbo, were never men of honour with whom one can reach any agreement. But we tagged along to avoid being accused of unnecessary intransigence. Since the leopard cannot change its spot, it is now very clear that no agreement or political solution can be reached with this bunch of people with huge integrity deficit.”
Adeyeye however added that: “Cairo is an impostor and a rabble rouser in a non-existent National Working Committee (NWC). Sheriff has no men to constitute an NWC with the required constitutional quorum,” noting that Sheriff had only surrounded himself with the likes of Cairo, who was neither elected nor appointed to the position.
“Cairo’s shameless public parade as Deputy National Chairman is the worst case of impunity in the history of our great party. His threat against our hardworking staff should therefore be ignored and treated with utmost contempt coming from a lawless impostor. For the education of Sheriff and his cohorts, our Appeal at the Supreme Court is already on.
“To that extent, the position and status of the National Caretaker Committee remains completely unaltered. Since they cannot comprehend even very simple matters, we will use a simple analogy. If a governor loses at the election petitions tribunal and at the Court of Appeal, does he cease to be a governor even when his appeal is pending before the Supreme Court? And would the civil servants then refuse to serve him?”
Adeyeye said the position of the law is that the National Caretaker Committee is still in charge of the affairs of the PDP and as well the employees until otherwise determined by the Supreme Court.
“In the light of the above, we urge our loyal party members and staff to ignore this latest ranting of the APC lackeys. We went out of our way few days ago to reach accommodation with them even when some of our top leaders had serious misgivings about any type of talk with them given their unreliability. We are happy that we have shown our goodwill and they too have demonstrated their bad faith”.
But determined not to let their efforts fail, Governor Dickson and his committee have quickly intervened and urged all the parties to stop the verbal war. Dickson’s aide, who confirmed the latest development, said the governor called the factions on telephone by himself to plead with them to stop further exchanges in the media.
He also explained that one of the new steps being considered by the peace committee is to work out measures that would see to the withdrawal of multiple court cases involving the party. By that, all the parties would submit to the conditions provided in the peace template which includes resigning their positions and signing an undertaking supporting the proposed national convention.
As good as that sounds, it may appear the PDP crisis has crossed the red line and internal interventions may not achieve much except the Supreme Court adjudicates in the matter. Already, there is problem of ego, accentuated by sheer mistrust.
Thus, moving forward, neither of the parties is ready to give up its position, since on a balance of scale, they are almost equal with the staggering uncertainty that typifies their plight. Perhaps, it would be nice that they forgo the possibilities of a political solution and focus on the outcome of the Supreme Court suit, for now.