PDP crisis: Makarfi’s masterstroke and Modu-Sheriff’s fate

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When the expanded caucus of the crisis-ridden Peoples Democratic Party met penultimate Thursday at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, it became obvious that a former Governor of Kaduna State and Chairman of the party’s National Caretaker Committee, Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi, and his supporters, might have gained an upper hand above the embattled Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff’s faction.
An indication that Makarfi might have seized control of the PDP machinery emerged with the array of movers and shakers of the party who attended the meeting which lasted for over two and a half hours.
There was also apprehension in the political circle that, perhaps, the embattled former party chairman, Modu-Sheriff, might have become an orphan when one of his close allies and Senator representing Ogun East in the Senate, Prince Buruji Kashamu, showed up at the meeting.
Kashamu’s surprise appearance at the venue of the meeting was, of course, greeted with mixed reaction, engendering fears that the lawmaker might have eventually dumped his principal, Modu-Sheriff.
The array of PDP chieftains at the expanded caucus meeting, analysts also say, underscored the importance of the event in resolving the current logjam in the former ruling party.
Other party chieftains at the meeting were Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustee, Senator Jibrin Walid; Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus; Senator Kashamu; former Senate President Aldolphus Wabara; former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu; former PDP National Chairman, Ahmadu Ali; former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha; former Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam; former Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Alhaji Sarafa Tunji Isola; and Chief Raymond Dokpesi.
Also in attendance were Prof. ABC Nwosu, Chief Bode George, former Governor Jonah Jang; former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana; former Senate Majority Leader, Senator Abdul Ningi; Commodore Dan Suleiman (retd); former Political Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Prof. Rufai Ahmed Alkali; Chief Tom Ikimi, Senator Andy Uba, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, Mrs. Remi Adikwu, Hajia Bola Shagaya, and Amb. Aminu Wali, among others.

Uba Group

THE FEAR OF PDP GOVERNORS
The absence of no fewer than seven governors of PDP-controlled states at the party’s stakeholders meeting convened to review the situation in the party has, however, continued to raise concern amongst members. Their fears may not be misplaced, after all, given the multi-dimensional perennial crises that have been experienced by the former ruling party since it was ousted from the nation’s Presidency in 2015.
However, the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko; the governors of Ekiti, Ayodele Fayose; Rivers, Nyesome Wike; Gombe, Ibrahim Dankwambo; and Taraba, Darius Ishiaku, were in attendance at the meeting.
A source at the meeting told our correspondent that the PDP governors, who did not attend the extended caucus meeting might be sympathetic to the embattled former chairman of the party.
But the spokesman of the caretaker committee, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, dismissed such insinuation, saying, “Those governors absent at the meeting went to the Presidential Villa for a meeting which coincided with the one at the Yar’Adua centre.”Untitled

TEMPORARY CEASEFIRE, RELIEF
Watchers of political events have, however, said that, indeed, the party may have temporarily succeeded in freeing itself and ending Modu- Sheriff’s stranglehold on its jugular since his controversial appointment as chairman, but that may just be the beginning of another phase of the long leadership battle in the PDP.
The caucus meeting took farreaching decisions, among which was the zoning of its chairmanship to the Southern part of the country and rescheduling of its convention billed for August 17 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Although the party resolved to reserve its presidential ticket for the North in 2019, it abolished the former zoning arrangement for electing national officers on August 17.
Taking the national chairmanship slot away from the North, they say, will remove the basis for Sheriff and any other Northern chieftain of the party to continue to foment trouble over who should be the rightful occupant of the seat.
They further say that zoning the PDP national chairmanship position to the South, at this point in time, will enable the Northern chieftains of the party to adequately prepare for its return to governance at the centre in 2019 against the ruling All Progressives Congress, which is also likely to present President Muhammadu Buhari or any other northerner as its standard bearer.
“We are making plans to match the APC strength for strength, money for money and popularity for popularity, come 2019. That is why the PDP is working hard to retrieve its popularity and traditional support in the North to displace the APC which has disappointed all Nigerians,” a PDP stalwart said.
At the end of the expanded caucus meeting, which lasted close to four hours, Makarfi said, “We discussed some programmes leading to convention, meaning that the National Convention will hold on August 17, where we will elect new national executive officers of the party.”
He added that the party caucus also discussed and agreed on a new amendment to the party’s constitution in view of recent court judgments; in order to align the constitution to the judgments that have been delivered by courts of competent jurisdiction.
Makarfi said, “We received reports of reconciliation. You can see here by yourself, our brothers, friends and associates, including Senator Buruji Kashamu. That is evidence that the reconciliation is making progress and I can assure you that we will never foreclose full reconciliation with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and other persons who may still be associated with him.
“What we want is an all-inclusive PDP. An equitable, fair and just system in the PDP, where the right of everyone commensurate with their own level is protected and preserved.”
The former Governor of Kaduna State explained that the party had set up a special committee led by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to further cement the reconciliation within the South West and ensure that all issues that must have led to the division in the PDP in the geo-political zone were resolved accordingly.
On the zoning arrangement, Makarfi stated that within the next few days, a committee would be set up on issue.
He noted, “The convention set aside the previous zoning arrangement; so, a new zoning arrangement has to be made. We have agreed that within the next 48 hours, this committee should be put in place and given a week to come out with a new zoning arrangement.
“But taking a cue from the decision taken at the Port Harcourt convention that the President will come from the North, of course, it is incontrovertible that the chairman of the party will come from the South and it will be open to all and not consigned to any geo-political zone or state in the South.”
Speaking separately, the Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin, said the party had begun discussions on the various litigation before it, saying, “We are still negotiating.”
The PDP has been embroiled in a leadership crisis since the exit of its former National Chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, in May, 2015.
Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff, who succeeded Muazu, has also been locked in a battle that has pitched him against the other chieftains of the party.

MAKARFI’S MASTERSTROKE 
One thing is, however, clear about how the battle was temporarily fought and won by the Makarfi-led committee and that is, the committee had earnestly waited for this opportune period to pull the rug from under Sheriff’s feet.
A Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had, penultimate Monday, upheld the removal of Modu-Sheriff and the dissolution of the PDP National Working Committee by the Port Harcourt convention.
Also, the Independent National Electoral Commission, last Tuesday, accepted the nomination of the candidate of the Makarfi-led PDP caretaker committee for the September 10 governorship election in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Our correspondent learnt that prior to the caucus meeting, the Sheriff group had allegedly been deceived into believing a truce was being sought between them and the Makarfi-led caretaker committee, to end the crisis.
National Vice Chairman, PDP South-South, in the Sheriff-led exco, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, had flown the kite indicating that a reconciliation was in the offing.

Ojougboh had revealed that a peaceful resolution between the two warring groups had been initiated.
The former national vice chairman who was recently elevated by Sheriff as deputy national chairman, to fill the vacuum created by the exit of Prince Uche Secondus, was, however, silent on members of the reconciliation team.
According to him, the Sheriff’s group had submitted its terms for peace to “the intermediary”. But with last Thursday’s master stroke by the Makarfi committee, the hope of the Sheriff’s group for a reconciliation that would see him return to the coveted seat of the PDP national chairman seems to have been dashed, at least for now. Analysts are of the view that Sheriff himself may now have been left at the mercy of the party caucus.Untitled

SHERIF FIGHTSBACK
But in less than a week, Modu- Sheriff has proved the bookmakers wrong. He has launched a fight-back, insisting that he remains the PDP national chairman and stressing that the Makarfi-led caretaker committee must resign in order for peace to return to the crisis-ridden party.
On Monday, he used a solidarity visit paid him by the Abia State chapter of the PDP as his launch pad, insisting that his condition for ending the ongoing crisis in the party remained the dissolution of the national caretaker committee, which he described as illegal and unknown to the PDP constitution.
Sheriff also stated that a fresh national convention must be held in Abuja with a convention committee formed by 20 members drawn from his group and the Makarfi committee.
The embattled former chairman added that his conditions for a unified party were based on the agreement reached at the reconciliation meeting held at the Taraba State Government House under the chairmanship of the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson and Senator Ibrahim Mantu.
Sheriff, noted that unless those conditions reached by about 30 party stakeholders were implemented, he would remain the national chairman of the party till 2018.
The disputed national chairman agreed with the Abia delegation that it was widespread impunity that landed the party in its current predicament.
He, therefore, stressed that any national convention held in Port Harcourt would be illegal, describing the PDP as the party for all Nigerians, vowing that a few individuals would not be allowed to pocket it.

NEED FOR CAUTION
Although a school of thought on the PDP crisis maintains that Makarfi may have coasted home to victory, others say it is not yet uhuru for the caretaker committee.
Proponents of this cautionary posture have pointed at the absence of a former National Secretary of the party, Prof. Wale Oladipo; Ojougboh; former National Auditor, Alhaji Adewole Adeyanju and the embattled Modu-Sheriff at the expanded caucus meeting as a dangerous signal that hostilities had yet to cease in the PDP.
For example, the impression created by Kashamu at the meeting was that he attended the meeting in his personal capacity but analysts say that the Ogun East senator may have finally dumped Modu-Sheriff, following the zoning of the national chairmanship to the South.
According to them, Kashamu must have been apprehensive that his continuous stay in the Sheriff camp may give ample opportunity to Governors Fayose and Mimiko to seize the control of the party machinery in the South West zone and play the role of kingmakers in deciding who becomes the next PDP national chairman. The South West zone is being tipped to produce the next PDP national chairman. This, it is believed, is a game the wily politician, Kashamu, would not want to be left out of.
“Don’t forget that Kashamu is very slippery and will not go against his interest. He would rather do everything to protect it,” a source close to the PDP said.

TESTING GROUND 
For now, the battle, according to watchers of the PDP, might have, therefore, shifted to the South, particularly the South West, ahead of the August 17 national convention. But whether Fayose, Mimiko and Kashamu will close rank and present a consensus candidate, is what cannot immediately be deciphered.
Names of prominent party chieftains being touted for the national chairmanship slot of the PDP from the South West are those of former education minister, Prof. Tunde Adeniran; Chief Olabode George, Chief Bode Olajumoke and Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun.