As combatants return to trenches for PDP’s soul

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T he attempt by the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, to resolve the perennial crisis that has tattered its once wide umbrella backfired last week. This has left stalwarts in both camps loyal to the feuding Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee and that of the National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, as well as other leaders of the party, including former president Goodluck Jonathan, licking their wounds.

Rather than heal the wounds long inflicted on the former ruling party by this long feud, the botched stakeholders’ peace meeting not only reopened the scars, but it’s also now festering it.

Most party members had thought that the peace meeting convened by ex-president Jonathan would bring to an end the needless crisis that had bedeviled the PDP since it lost power at the centre to the All Progressives Congress in the 2015 general elections. But alas, they were wrong!

When matters got to a head at the meeting, the embattled National Chairman, Sheriff, who could no longer stand the heat inside the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua venue, stormed out with some members of his National Working Committee in tow. Said to have been angered by the refusal of those at the meeting to allow him to address the gathering shortly after Jonathan had made an opening remark as well as the stakeholders’ insistence not to accord him the privilege of presiding over the gathering, Sheriff took the unexpected decision to walk out on the former president and other party leaders.

Giving reason for his action later, Sheriff said there were plans by some members of the party, whose names he did not mention, to use him to execute their personal agenda. He insisted that the only way forward in resolving the crisis in the PDP was the implementation of the reconciliation report submitted by the Balyesa State Governor, Seriake Dickson.

Sheriff said, “We are here for the PDP stakeholders meeting and the PDP has only one national chairman, who is Ali Modu Sheriff. There is no PDP meeting that will take place under whatever arrangement that I will not open the session as national chairman; I’m the most senior member of this party.

“I think Governor Dickson made a proposal for reconciliation that we have accepted. Some people want to deviate from this programme, to bring agenda which was not part of it.

“As national chairman of the party, I will not be party to anybody using me to do another programme. I’m not going to be part of it.”

Meanwhile, in what appeared to be a fightback on behalf of former president Jonathan, a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, lambasted Sheriff for his action.

Fani-Kayode said that the PDP national chairman exhibited the attitude of a “thug and a gangster” by walking out of the reconciliation meeting convened by the former president.

The former minister stressed that the action of the party’s national chairman was an indication that he urgently needed help. He said, “What happened at the PDP meeting did not surprise me at all. I was there and witnessed the whole thing. Ali Modu Sheriff lived up to his reputation of being a disrespectful bully and thug.

“Walking out on your leader and a gentleman like President Goodluck Jonathan, despite all his appeals for restraint, calm and peace, is not the way forward. “And openly threatening and insulting the governors, members of the PDP Board of Trustees, the PDP National Assembly caucus, the PDP former Ministers Forum, the PDP former Governors forum, the PDP Womens Caucus, the PDP Youth caucus and 95 per cent of the party leadership, is not the way to prove your credentials as a leader.

“Only barbarians behave in this way. To make matters worse, after you walked out of the meeting, you told the world that you are now the leader of the party and that you will have nothing to do with Jonathan’s peace initiatives anymore.

“Sheriff is a sick man. He needs help. He is uneducated and he is primitive. He is closer to beast than man. Worse still, he is working for the APC.”

In the same vein, the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, described Sheriff as an “evil agent.” He said, “Sheriff is an impostor, an impossible character, agent of darkness sent by the APC, sent to destroy the PDP. I will not work with him. He is a betrayer of confidence and does not represent peace and hope.

I will not be part of any meeting with such a desperado. “If I may holistically respond to his statement on no reconciliation, the response is good riddance to bad rubbish.” Fayose accused Sheriff of plotting with the ruling APC to turn Nigeria into a one party state by destroying the major opposition, the PDP.

“Sheriff has said that he can no longer work with Jonathan or any of the PDP leaders. This is an indication that he prefers working with the opposition in order to destroy the PDP,” he said.

The embattled PDP national chairman on his part vowed that the he party was ready to call the bluff of its governors who are not ready to accept him. He also said the party would no longer wait for the governors to fund its activities, stressing that the former ruling party would reject “stolen money from the governors.”

The Deputy National Chairman of the party Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, who belongs to the Sheriff camp, said that both the governors of Rivers and Ekiti states, Nyesom Wike and Ayodele Fayose, were free to leave the party if they so desired.

“We are moving on with the determination to reposition the party. We are not interested in the funding of the party from the governors. They are free to leave if they want to, especially Wike and Fayose,” Ojuogboh said. In a swift reaction, Senator Makarfi and his team insisted that Sheriff and his deputy, Ojugboh, were not leaders of the party.

Markarfi, in a statement released by his faction, said, “For the umpteenth time, we want to reiterate that Mr. Ojugboh, the former national vice chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party has no locus to speak in the capacity of Deputy National Chairman of the PDP. He is an interloper and an impostor; and as such, any action or statement made by Cairo Ojugboh and other selfappointed members of the Sheriff renegade group is illegal, null and void and should be disregarded by all loyal supporters and members of the PDP.

“Let these irritants take note that Governors Fayose and Wike and indeed all Governors elected on the Platform of our great Party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are men of integrity. Our Governors are responsible and trusted Party men that are working tirelessly in their various states to deliver the needed dividends of democracy. The people of Rivers State and Ekiti State can testify to the wonderful achievements of our governors in their states and other states governed by the PDP”.

This new brouhaha over the botched peace meeting has once again set tongue wagging about the future of the PDP.

Party members are worried that the latest happenings within the troubled party may be sounding its death knell before the 2019 general elections.

Edo State PDP Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih, is banking on the Supreme Court to bring the matters troubling the party to an end.

“Well I think every issue concerning national chairman will be sorted out by the Supreme Court since the matter is still very much alive in the court, it is better for people to restrain themselves on the issue to allow the judicial process take the matter to rest. Whatever is the pronouncement by the Supreme Court will be final.

“At this time, prolonged fighting will only do us more havoc. What we need is solution. Don’t forget that 2019 is very close, and we have the mandate to claim our position back. We need to forgive ourselves and move forward in this party. Our leaders should consider the followers and embrace peace,” Orbih said.

But the former national vice chairman (South West) of the party, Engr. Deji Doherty, does not share Orbih’s optimism. For Doherty, any judgement by the Supreme Court without recourse to the report of the peace committee headed by Governor Dickson would only further destroy the party.

Every issue concerning national chairmanship will be sorted out by the Supreme Court since the matter is still very much alive in the court, it is better for people to restrain themselves on the issue to allow the judicial process take the matter to rest. Whatever is the pronouncement by the Supreme Court will be final

“Solution to the problems in this party will not and cannot be determined in a peaceful manner by Supreme Court judgment. The Supreme Court judgement can only divide the party and it is a very dangerous antidote to this crisis. We should not allow this crisis to go on before the result of the judgement of Supreme Court. I will say that the committee headed by the Bayelsa State Governor, Dr. Seriake Dickson, should be taken seriously. Its recommendations should be followed to the letter,” he said.

Another stalwart of the party from Kogi State, Danladi Usman, said, “There is a quick need for our party to resolve the on-going crisis, if we want to see the party coming back in 2019. Already, we have lost more states, but I believe if we can put our house in order on time, and do the needful, we will bounce back.

Many watchers are, however, of the opinion that it would require some miracle for the rudderless PDP ship being incessantly rocked by raging storm to regain stability before the next round of elections, which is just less than two years away.

Party members and other Nigerians believe that the crux of the matter within the PDP is ego on the part of all the combatants, and until the two feuding sides come down from their high horses, the problem would remain intractable and even persist.

Political analysts are also of the view that as the feuding party leaders continue to dig in, maintaining their opposing positions, the PDP may be singing its nunc dimittis.