Fears of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, formally splitting were assuaged, yesterday, after warring party leaders, meeting in factional conventions in Abuja and Port-Harcourt, made common ground with the sacking of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff executive of the party.
Following the surprising sack of Sheriff by his one-time supporters in Port-Harcourt, a caretaker committee with Ahmed Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna State, appointed to superintend over the affairs of the party.
Sheriff, however, was unyielding as he had earlier in the day, in an attempt to stave-off the pressure on him to step aside, canceled the convention.
This was after a stormy meeting with the governors who had backed him.
Sheriff cited court orders restraining election into the offices of chairman, secretary, and auditor, as his reason for canceling the convention. Earlier in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, Concerned Stakeholders led by Prof. Jerry Gana, meeting in Abuja, failed to appoint a factional caretaker committee as they had vowed but, rather, appointed the duo of Senator Ibrahim Mantu and Prof Tunde Adeniran as co-chairmen.
The move, flowed from discussions between the Gana group in Abuja and concerned party stakeholders in Port-Harcourt who had reached a quiet understanding not to elect officials in either of the two venues to allow for peace.
The convention in Abuja was largely boycotted by serving National Assembly members and governors, and members of the outgoing National Executive but was populated by former governors, former ministers, and former senior officials of the party. The major surprise was the presence of the outgoing National Vice-Chairman, South-South, Dr. Cairo Ojugboh.
The convention in Abuja, which held at the M and M Event Centre, started at about 10 am and ended within two hours after representatives of the party from the six geo-political zones gave speeches.
Among the former governors present were Achike Udenwa of Imo, Garba Umar of Taraba and Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa. Professor Jerry Gana, who set the ball rolling in his welcome address, said the PDP was formed on the principles of human rights, human values, and human dignity.
“We are driven by values of principles, integrity, and honour, respect for human rights, and we will not tolerate any thing that takes away human values,” he said. In his remarks, Senator Ibrahim Mantu, a former deputy president of the Senate, said recent events in the party indicated that “the culture of impunity, disdain for democratic norms and utter disregard of our party constitution, behaviours that brought us to the 2015 loss, are rearing their ugly heads again”.
He noted that “the action of the National Executive Committee of the party in selecting Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as Chairman, was in gross violation of the established procedure for the selection. Senator Sheriff was not nominated by any caucus and hence not qualified to be selected”. Goodwill messages were also delivered by Aisha Maina, Senator Grace Bent, Bala Mohammed, Ahmadu Fintiri, Remi Adiukwu, John Odey and Tanimu Turaki.
Signs of untoward times ahead for Sheriff emerged when, at the scheduled time for the commencement of the convention, most of the major actors including governors, and senior party officials were nowhere to be seen. By 10 a.m., the appointed time for the convention, it did not start.
It was learnt that the decision to sack Sheriff had been taken the night before upon submissions by some of the governors, but the move was said to have been resisted by the host governor, Nyesom Wike.
Wike, however, caved in upon overwhelming pressure from his colleagues. Getting Sheriff to step aside gently was, nevertheless, an issue. At about 11.00 a.m., Sheriff had summoned a press conference at his Le Meriden Hotel base but just as newsmen arrived, he stormed out of the hotel to join the party’s governors at the Government House.
Information suggests that it was at that meeting that he got the message to step down in favour of a caretaker committee. But Sheriff, apparently, did not buy the idea as he quickly returned to his hotel to announce the postponement of the convention.
Addressing the media, he said:
“We are confronted with a lot of challenges, (and) the challenges are mostly court cases to stop our convention from taking place. After seeing the challenges confronting our party, taking into account the decision of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, not to supervise the elections to the office of chairman, secretary, and other offices, based on the order of the court… On account of the fact that our party is responsible, law abiding, with high respect for the judiciary and courts, we do hereby state and put off the national convention of our party from taking place. “We have suspended it until when all the court cases are resolved.
The issues are so many. We have about three different court cases. From Abuja, where it says that the tenure of the 17 members of the National Working Committee has not expired, it will be expiring on the 17 of June 2017; and another one in Lagos which says that the tenure of the chairman, secretary and auditor will expire in 2018.
INEC also wrote that it will not supervise the election in Port-Harcourt. “Taking into consideration all these, if we go out and conduct elections in Port-Harcourt, the NEC of the party will be charged for contempt of court. We have asked for stay of proceedings in Lagos yesterday (Friday), and the court denied that also. “Therefore, the best and safest way is to put off the convention. Therefore, we have suspended the convention until all the court cases are resolved. We will then announce another date for the convention.”
He then advised the delegates to return to their states. His stance was, however, quickly renounced as party chiefs summoned delegates to the convention ground where the deputy national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, presided and formally opened the convention.
As the convention opened, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, moved a motion for the dissolution of the NEC and the appointment of a National Caretaker Committee to run the affairs of the party and conduct elections into all offices within a period of 90 days. His motion was seconded by Governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State. The committee is also to reconcile all factions of the party under one umbrella. The Senator Makarfi-led national caretaker committee has Senator Ben Obi as secretary and Senator Odion Ugbesia, Senator Abdul Ningi, Bar Kare Usman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye and Mrs. Aisha Aliyu as members.
The new leaders of the party are not to contest any of the elective offices of the party in the elections they are to conduct. Governor Wike called for a voice vote in support of the nominees for the national caretaker committee and the vote was unanimously carried. Following that, a chieftain of the party in Rivers State and Commissioner for Housing, Barrister Emma Okah, administered the oath of office on the members of the caretaker committee. The new National Chairman, Senator Markafi, promised to work for the growth of the party.
The convention was brought to a close upon a motion moved by Senator Sam Egwu and seconded by Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State. Prof. Gana, who championed the move to oust Sheriff and led those who convened the Abuja parallel convention, welcomed the moves against Sheriff.
He said it had opened the way for reconciliation in the party. “Yes, they told us, that is fine with us. We hope they will dissolve the NWC and then put in a caretaker committee to reconcile all of us and then have a proper convention. “Definitely, we do not want to break the party; we only wanted to draw attention to something that was wrong, and they have now seen that it was wrong, and they now are taking a decision.
A convention is the highest body that can take that next decision and we are hoping that they will put in a very balanced, very trustworthy, very good caretaker committee to reconcile all the forces within the party and prepare for a unified convention at which a new leadership will emerge -Nigerianeye