CHIBUZO UKAIBE, captures the new dimension in the leadership crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the shaky reconciliation process spearheaded by former president Goodluck Jonathan
The drift in the former ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continues unabated. The attempt by former President Goodluck Jonathan to arrest the leadership crisis rocking the party, seems to be failing, and fast too.
The shocking walk-out by the national chairman, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff, from the peace meeting called by Jonathan had not only forecasted the death of the reconciliation process but heightened tensions within the party.
Sheriff, a former Borno State governor, had after leaving the meeting hall, declared that as the legally recognized national chairman of the party, he is the highest ranking member of the party.
He then rubbished the meeting, adding that PDP under his watch will go ahead with the political solution as designed by the reconciliation committee led by Jonathan’s successor in office as Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson.
Interestingly, the former president and Sheriff had enjoyed a very cordial relationship up till the incident at that meeting. They had held series of meetings, including the contentious one, shortly after the Appeal Court judgement which recognized Sheriff as chairman, where the former president had referred to Sheriff as ‘my chair’, before the media, which was interpreted as an endorsement of Sheriff’s chairmanship status.
Mindful of the temperament within the party, the former president however denied endorsing Sheriff as chairman of the party on the back of that judgement.
Expectedly, most party members, like spokesman of Jonathan’s 2015 presidential campaign, Femi Fani-Kayode and some youths groups in the party didn’t take Sheriff actions at recent peace-meeting lightly. While Fani-Kayode lambasted the former Borno State governor for disrespecting the former president, the youth group named, Amalgamated PDP Youth Leaders Nationwide, gave him a seven-days ultimatum to tender an apologize.
For senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District, BurujiKashamu, Sheriff did not disrespect Jonathan in anyway.
A staunch ally of Sheriff and one who enjoyed the support of Jonathan against former president Olusegun Obasanjo, Kashamu, rather expressed disappointment that the former president didn’t handle the situation. He indeed insinuated that the meeting was hijacked by governors Ayo Fayose and NyesomWike of Ekiti and Rivers States respectively.
However, just like the Makarfi camp has since resumed its criticisms of the ruling party, APC, Sheriff, unruffled by perceptions that he had disparaged the party’s former president, embarked on visits in some states of the South-east and South-south regions.
Perhaps concerned by the new in-roads being made by his rival camp, the Makarfi-led group warned party members not to attend any meeting called by Sheriff.
Spokesman of the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee, Prince DayoAdeyeye, said “Again, regarding the purported campaign or mobilization by the non-existing National Working Committee under Senator Sheriff, we wish to further state without any ambiguity that its actions are illegal, null and void. Faithful Party men and women in the South East and any other zones in Nigeria should disregard such meetings or gathering.
“The National Caretaker Committee led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi has appealed the Judgment of the February 17, 2017 at the Supreme Court and in the eyes of the law, until the Appeal is set aside by the Supreme Court, the National Caretaker Committee remains in charge of the affairs of the PDP. So, Senator Sheriff and his co travelers have no power to call for any meeting of Party members or supervise the affairs of the PDP forthwith.
“We urge all our members and teeming supporters nationwide to stop attending any meeting organize by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff or any member of his team. They are illegal and have no place to function as such. Senator Ahmed Makarfi led National Caretaker Committee remains the only authentic National Exco of the PDP in line with the Decision of the May 21stand August 17, 2016 National Conventions of our great Party.”
Interestingly, Sheriff’s meeting with party stakeholders from the South east at the political headquarters of the region, Enugu, enjoyed the backing of the governor’s of Enugu and Ebonyi States, IfeanyiUgwuwanyi and Dave Umahi, respectively.
Largely, the South east meeting discussed the forthcoming Anambra State governorship election and how the party would strategize to win it.
Subsequently, Sheriff and his National Working Committee (NWC) were hosted, to the amazement of many party watchers, by the dodgy governor of Cross Rivers State, Prof. Ben Ayade. For a governor who had deliberated distanced himself from the party since its leadership crisis erupted, hosting Sheriff, could pass for a boost to later’s consolidation strides, analysts opine.
Acting national publicity secretary of Sheriff-led PDP, Hon. Bernard Mikko, however took a swipe at Makarfi’s camp for trying to discourage members from attending meetings called by his boss.
Mikko who added that Makarfi and his group cannot stand in the way of political development in the South-east and Nigeria, said “The party is part of our political institution. Who is Makarfi to stand in the way of the political development of the people of Nigeria and the South East in particular.
“All those who are interested in the future of our party in Anambra attended. The party has nothing to do with any self aggrandized personality.”
He added “We had stakeholders meeting in respect of the forthcoming Anambra election in the South East Zonal Headquarters in Enugu and on our way now to hold a town hall meeting in Calabar. It is going well.”
However, just when many thought that the rough brush between Jonathan and Sheriff was over, the national chairman, took another dig at the former president.
Sheriff stirred the hornet’s nest again when he, on Thursday, declared that the governor of Rivers State, NyesomWike, and his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayo Fayose, recruited former President Goodluck Jonathan to hold the failed reconciliation meeting.
He further alleged that Wike spent a whooping N50million to host the failed meeting.
Sheriff, who spoke through his deputy, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, at a press conference yesterday, dismissed the peace meeting, noting that they will go ahead with plans for national convention.
He disclosed that the party will hold it’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on May 3, at the Wadata plaza national Secretariat of the party, and directed all state party chairmen to send the names of statutory delegates for the national convention or before April 27.
But while lambasting Jonathan over the last peace meeting, Ojougboh said “Governor Wike and Governor Fayose recruited the Former President Goodluck Jonathan into a ”Fake” peace effort predetermined to scuttle Governor Dickson’s efforts.
“The result is that President Jonathan was lured into committing a serious breach of protocol that led to the failure of the exercise which was the intended outcome. The Party therefore has decided that Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff should exercise the utmost power of Chairman of the Party and announce a schedule for the Convention.”
He continued “The allegation that Gov. Wike spent a whooping N50million to host the last failed meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan is neither palatable nor is it acceptable.
He further alleged that the Rivers State governor “paid USD1million for legal fees to Markarfi’s Attorneys in the ongoing Supreme Court matter and has disbursed USD 5million to unknown persons in relation to the Supreme Court.
Sheriff’s deputy further alleged that media mogul Chief Raymond Dopkesi and Gov. Wike “have established their own Party and are acting in their fiendish interest. Their actions to tie the PDP down with controversies is only man’s inhumanity to man and utter wickedness.”
Jonathan, in a measured in response, dismissed Sheriff’s claim. He noted that he hosted the meeting out of genuine concern for the party, adding that he does not think anybody will believe that he collected money from anybody to organize the meeting.
Jonathan’s media aide, IkechukwuEze, who reacting on behalf of the former president said the allegations by Sheriff are not true.
He said “The former president intervened in the crisis because of his genuine commitment to bring about peace in the party that made him president. I don’t think anybody will believe that he collected money from anybody to organize the meeting.
“It is out of his genuine concern to bring peace in the party. He has been meeting with members of the party; he met with Sheriff severally, he also met with Makarfi severally. He met with the governors. I don’t see any reason for anybody to say that Jonathan collected money from anybody to organise the stakeholders conference.”
The Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, was not so charitable in his response. He said Sheriff’s was driven by a desperate attempt to serve his pay masters in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Speaking through his media aide LereOlayinka, Fayose said, “If Ali Modu Sheriff has taken his desperation to serve his pay masters in the APC to the level of accusing former president Jonathan of being bribed to organize a peace meeting for the PDP, there is no reason for any sane mind to continue to respond to the continuous advertisement of his political insanity.”
Similarly, the Rivers State Governor, Chief NyesomWike, outrightly described Sheriff as a stooge of the ruling party.
The governor, who coincidentally was receiving over 7,500 members of the APC in the state who defected to the PDP, added, “Let me tell you because I don’t want anybody to tell you stories. There is no crisis in the PDP.
“What the Federal Government is doing; because they have seen that the APC is fumbling, they want to cause crisis in the PDP by using a stooge; they say his name is Sheriff, I don’t know.
“So, we will continue with what we are doing in the state. We will not be distracted; nobody will distract us. They thought they could distract us, but they are shocked that we are not even bothered by what they are doing.”
However, as Sheriff continues to take a dig at the former president, some analyst believe that it might not just further alienate him from party stakeholders but could spark a rethink among some of his supporters.
Others, believe that the fact that Sheriff still enjoys the support of some PDP Governors even after the incident at the awkward peace parley, mean that the support Sheriff enjoys might not wane anytime soon.
For the warring factions, led by Sheriff and Makarfi, it’s now a fight to the finish. Evidently, only the Supreme Court will bring some measure of relief to the crisis rocking the party