Dr. Cairo Ojougboh is the deputy national chairman of the Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff-led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party. In this interview with ADELEKE ADESANYA, he asks Nigerians to expect the unexpected in the forthcoming Edo State governorship election scheduled for September 28 as Pastor Ize Iyamu is about to be replaced with Mathew Iduoriyekemwen as the party’s standard bearer. The former national vicechairman, South-South also speaks on the raging crisis in the party, saying everyone in the party should accede to the peace moves by the embattled Modu-Sheriff. Excerpts:
Your faction of the Peoples Democratic Party recently rejected the latest peace arrangement put forward by the Board of Trustees of the party. Why is this so?
Our faction didn’t reject any peace move; in fact we were the proponent of the peace move. We have been calling for the move to reconcile the factions in the party and bring peace in the party. We have been calling on people to come back home to the party because the chairman of the party has been established and that is Ali Modu-Sheriff. We have told them what needs to be told and what needs to be done and we made them to realize that they should let peace reign, but they have refused. What we have also told them is that we are ready for the convention where the leadership of the party will emerge and that is what we have been telling them. The proposed convention, like we told them, must be held in Abuja and it will have nothing to do with Markarfi because we do not recognize the caretaker committee instituted by some people in the party because it is alien. Such a thing, of course, cannot stand where we have a party chairman, who is the only legal person to convey the convention. They are the ones refusing and opposing the peace moves that we initiated. We are all for peace and Alhaji Ali Modu-Sherif is always for peace and he is ready to do all that is possible to make sure peace reigns in the PDP. The Chairman of the party, Alhaji Ali Modu-Sheriff is the father to us all, he called us his children to lay down arms and come to the negotiation table so that we can move the PDP family forward in this country.
But there were conventions held in the past, are you not comfortable with those?
The two conventions they have held before are totally unacceptable and they not recognized. This is because, all what they did was without the consent of the chairman, who only has the power to call such a gathering. And whatever he says in the party is the final statement. So, the past conventions they have held were just a mere kid’s play.
You once said that the Board of Trustees, Chairman, Senator Walid Jubril’s chairmanship brought crisis to the party because where you have eminently qualified persons like Senator David Mark, Babangida Aliyu and others, the party should not be led by somebody like him. Why did you say this?
The BoT chairman, Senator Walid Jubril, now know that there is need for him to toe the line of peace, which he is currently doing. He has now seen the need for him to see things from our point of view and he is ready to toe the proper line with us now.
But you didn’t recognize him before, when you said his tenure in office has expired.
Yes that is the truth, but if he has to go, it has to be through due process. But for now, he remains the chairman of the Board of Trustees. That one is not a big deal; the important thing is that the chairman of a party is the chairman of the party. And the only chairman of this party is Alhaji Ali Modu-Sherif; nothing can change that.
Concerning the Edo State governorshp election, the invalidity of your faction in the PDP seemed to have been made clear by INEC, when your endorsed candidate was not accepted for the election. What is your take on this?
Didn’t INEC tell you that they have now accepted the candidate? The only thing INEC did is that they put Ize Iyamu’s name and put all others in bracket, which means our candidate was not disqualified. Moreover, we have resolved the court order and by next week the candidature will change. By next week, you will see that Ize Iyamu is not the true candidate of the PDP for the coming governorship election in the state. His name will be struck out and replaced by Mathew Iduoriyekemwen. The world should wait and see.
Your faction of the party recently had Jimoh Ibrahim as the standard bearer of the party in the coming governorship election in Ondo State. Don’t you think this decision will lead to another drama in the state as it happened in Edo State?
Let me tell you and the whole world the truth, whatever the Makarfi group is doing is totally illegal and they will pay for it. On the forthcoming governorship election in Ondo State, we have made the only PDP candidate known to all Nigerians and the person is Jimoh Ibrahim. If any other person later goes around to parade another person as PDP flag bearer, the person should be seen as a fraud. Two kings can never reign at the same time, and the only national chairman that PDP has is Ali Modu- Sherrif and whatever he says is final. He has given the ticket to Jimoh Ibrahim and that is final. So, Jimoh Ibrahim remains the only governorship flag bearer for PDP in the coming election, irrespective of what rebels may be saying.
Why did your faction earlier reject the vote of confidence passed on the caretaker committee of the party?
We completely rejected the vote of confidence passed on the illegal caretaker committee because a committee that has failed twice to successfully organize a convention on two occasions is a failure. Consequently, we can now confidently inform the general public that well-meaning Nigerians have been urging Senator Makarfi to resign to save democracy. What has become a source of irritation in the party is the still-born illegal caretaker committee, which the BoT should have advised that the illegality be addressed.
What is your take on the BOT meeting that was held last month?
Having deliberated on the reported outcome of the Board of Trustees meeting of 29th August, 2016 we have resolved to state as follows, that the resolutions fell short of the decision reached with the Dickson/ Mantu reconciliation committee. The agreement we had is that Sheriff should chair a National Executive Committee meeting where Makarfi will attend as a member of the BOT; at the meeting, a chairman of the Convention Committee will be agreed upon, a new Convention Committee setup, including all other sub-committees-Zoning, Finance, Accreditation etc. And the venue of the Convention will be in Abuja, where a new leadership of the party will emerge, internal democracy will be respected and confidence will return to the party. We had hoped that at the convention, opportunity will be given where everybody would meet under one umbrella and shake hands and would see the PDP re-emerge for the challenges ahead.
Are you saying Makarfi should back out as caretaker committee chairman?
We are calling on his friends and associates and family to advise him to do the needful and resign now to save multiparty Democracy in Nigeria and stop the impunity that has been the bane of internal democracy, because the source of irritation in the party is the still-born illegal caretaker committee.
There is a report that says the Ali Modu Sheriff faction is sponsored by the ruling party to disrupt PDP ahead of the 2019 elections. What is your response to this?
That must be lies of the highest order. As you can see, in the whole of this crisis that it has nothing to do with APC. It is a matter of the right leadership of the party. This is not an issue of interference from somewhere. Imagine, is it possible for you and your brother having an issue and an outsider will come and instigate you against each other? That is not possible. It is just unfortunate that they know the truth and they are running away from it. They should do the needful and let the party reign. So, if the APC was supporting Sheriff, of course, we would have got all the things we want. This is not the case as they are guessing.
Don’t you think this crisis has affected the party’s followers nationwide as no conclusion has been reached over time?
We thank the numerous PDP faithful nationwide and Nigerians for their understanding and patience. We make bold to state that until we get it right and check impunity, the Nigerian opposition party won’t perform as required. As we move towards reconciliation, PDP should prevent any person or group from hijacking the party; people should be rest assured that the PDP will emerge stronger as we note that impunity marred the party’s success in the 2015 general elections.
What is your assessment of the Buhari administration?
So far, our party has set up a committee to assess the performance of the government and I don’t want to preempt what the party will come out with. But as soon as it comes out, we will let you know because if I speak now, it will not be my personal opinion, it will be the opinion of the party.