Amidst the unresolved intra-party crisis within its fold, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have decided to chart a new course by setting in motion a process that would eventually lead to the formation of a new political alliance ahead of the 2019 general election.
In this regard, the main opposition party under the leadership of the National Caretaker Committee chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, will today inaugurate a committee known as the Strategy Review and Inter-Party Affairs Committee under the chairmanship of Professor Jerry Gana.
The new committee, which is made up of 85 prominent leaders of the PDP, also has the former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Austin Opara, as its secretary.
PDP’s move is a reflection of the new thinking among its key leaders who having been frustrated at resolving the differences with the factional national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and are now looking for an alternative platform.
According to sources at the secretariat of the Makarfi-led PDP in Abuja, the inauguration of the committee will formally open up the process of dialogue and consultations with other political parties, including former members of the PDP who left to join the All Progressives Congress (APC), with a view to building a formidable platform.
Although the terms of reference for the committee were not published along with the membership of the committee in the newspaper advertisement published last week, it was gathered that the list of prominent politicians that make up the committee was indicative that the party was looking towards a re-alignment ahead of the 2019 elections.
Some of the members of the committee include Senators Adolphus Wabara, Ibrahim Mantu, Sam Egwu, Ibrahim Kazaure, Stella Omu, Iyiola Omisore, Adamu Gumba, Emmanuel Bwacha, Saidu Kumo, Ayo Adeseun, Tunde Ogbeha, Ibrahim Ida and Hon. Emeka Ihedioha.
Others are former Governors Attahiru Bafarawa, Peter Obi, Liyel Imoke, Gbenga Daniel, Abdulkadir Kure, Sule Lamido, Idris Wada, Boni Haruna, Babangida Aliyu, Jonah David Jang and Mukhtar Yero.
Others include Mukhtar Shagari, Salimot Makanjuola Badru, Chief Tom Ikimi, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu and Chief Dubem Onyia.
The move to form a new political alliance is coming just as more facts have emerged on why the recent peace initiative in PDP collapsed.
It was gathered from reliable sources in the factions of the party led by Senators Makarfi and Sheriff that both sides disagreed on the composition of the reconciliation committee and who will chair it.
It was learnt that soon after Makarfi and Sheriff accepted to forge peace and settle their differences, the feuding sides accepted that one of the founding fathers of the party and the former National Security Adviser, Alhaji Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, should be the one to mediate on the crisis.
Both Sheriff and Makarfi attended several peace meetings in the residence of Gusau where ideas were canvassed on how to go about setting up the reconciliation committee.
The party leaders had initially settled for 12 nominees on both sides to the committee, but had to review it to 15 at the request of Makarfi.
A source said Makarfi later changed his mind and suggested that the committee be slashed to just three representatives each from both sides of the divide, which Sheriff accepted.
According to another source from the Sheriff camp, the disagreement arose when the issue of who would chair the reconciliation committee was to be decided.
He noted that while Sheriff proposed that he and Makarfi should both step down to allow members of the reconciliation committee to choose a chairman from among themselves to pilot the affairs of the party till the next convention, Makarfi was reluctant to give up his position and objected to the idea.
“It was at this stage that Sheriff then proposed that the reconciliation committee should be headed by former President Goodluck Jonathan, but Makarfi also rejected the idea, leading to a stalemate,” the source revealed.
The source, who claimed to have monitored the proceedings closely, spoke of how Makarfi kept most of the stakeholders of the party on his side in the dark about the true picture of things regarding his talks with Sheriff.
For instance, the source alleged that Makarfi failed to relay to the leaders of the National Assembly Caucus of the party the offers made by Sheriff to step down if Makarfi was ready to do likewise.
According to the source, it got to a point where the former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu arrived from his South African trip and enquired to know the progress on the peace talks, only to discover from Gusau that Sheriff had indeed been forthcoming with offers on how to end the lingering dispute in the party.
However on his part, Makarfi blamed Sheriff for reneging on the agreements they reached.
He had told journalists in an interview in Kaduna at the weekend that the key area where they had a problem was the issue of the terms of reference for the reconciliation committee.
He said: “What we agreed was that the other side (Sheriff’s faction) will join the caretaker committee (Makarfi’s committee). And that was the basic agreement that was reached.
“We should set up an equal number of party men and women that would sit down and look at the modality for integrating the two sides into a new caretaker committee and also draw the modality for the withdrawal of all court cases or consensual settlement of the cases.
“We agreed that in withdrawing all cases, let it be something that we all consent to so as to prevent future litigation.
“Later, I was the one that sent a message that we needed to expand it to 15 because instead of two governors we wanted to include three governors in order to carry everybody along.
“So, that was how we hit the figure 15 on each side. And the issue now became who will chair that committee and the terms of reference. On who to chair the committee, there were names that were mentioned.
“In my opinion, I thought of the person who was able to convene us without dispute should be able to chair the committee. In suggesting any other name you don’t know how it would be received by other people.
“On the choice of former President Goodluck Jonathan to chair the reconciliation committee, Makarfi said the advice against it was that the former president should not be dragged into the crisis at the moment but that he can continue to play an advisory role.”
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