Amidst recent compromised reportedly reached to resolve the lingering differences, which led to Governor Dickson's committee submission of it report to the legally recognised Chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, the protracted Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership crisis escalated yesterday as Caretaker Committee Chairman Ahmed Makarfi vowed to flush out court-backed party chair Ali Modu Sheriff.
But Sheriff insists that he means well for the PDP. He has accepted the recommendations of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led Reconciliation Committee for a national convention tentatively fixed for June 30.
The two factions made their positions known at separate media briefings in Abuja.
Fayose is angry with Dickson for his role as the chairman of the party’s Reconciliation Committee which has submitted a report to National Chairman Ali Modu Sheriff.
The PDP Governors’ Forum chairman, who is a supporter of National Caretaker Committee Chair Ahmed Makarfi, maintained that there cannot be any meaningful reconciliation with Sheriff as the party boss.
Fayose alleged that “well over $1 million had been provided by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to fund the convention being planned by the Sheriff-led National Working Committee (NWC).
In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Fayose who said he was reacting in his capacity as Ekiti State governor, faulted the submission of the report without recourse to appropriate organs of the party.
Fayose said: “All constitutionally-recognised organs of the party, including staff of the national secretariat, are with the Markafi-led Caretaker Committee and since political party is about membership, Sheriff will continue to carry with himself the burden of lack of legitimacy.”
“I respect Governor Dickson, he is my brother and he is entitled to his own personal opinion just as I am entitled to mine.”
Also, Makarfi camp spokesman Dayo Adeyeye said it would be a disaster for the party to allow Sheriff preside over the planned convention.
Describing Sheriff as “a snake under the party’s roof”, Adeyeye said the Caretaker Committee, in agreement with all organs and stakeholders in the PDP, would deploy all legal means to ensure that Sheriff is chased out of the party.
Asking Sheriff to stop parading himself as the chairman of the PDP, the Makarfi camp pointed out that the spirit and letter of the February 17 judgment of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal did not confer the chairmanship on the ex-Borno State Governor.
Said Adeyeye: “To buttress this, the general public will also recall that the judgment of the Appeal Court, Port Harcourt Division of Friday, February 17, 2017 that nullified the national convention of May 21, 2016 limited itself solely to the legality or otherwise of the National Convention of May 21st, 2016 and not on the legality or otherwise of the appointment of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the Acting National Chairman of the PDP.
“Firstly, let us remind the public of our earlier calls on Senator Ali Modu Sheriff to stop parading himself as Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) following the judgement of an Abuja High Court delivered by Justice Valentine Ashi on June 29, 2016 in which the court nullified the 2014 Amendment to the PDP Constitution that produced Senator Sheriff as Acting National Chairman of the PDP.
“This judgment was never appealed by Senator Sheriff and the time frame stipulated by law for the appeal has elapsed and, as such, the judgment subsists.
“Another judgment delivered on August 17, 2016 by Justice Nwamaka Ogbonnaya of the FCT High Court in Abuja reaffirmed the ‘sack’ of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the chairman of the PDP on the ground that the judgment of Justice Valentine Ashi, which nullified his appointment, has not been set aside or vacated and therefore it’s subsisting.
“Justice Ogbonnaya further held that all actions taken by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff are null, void and of no effect; and the Order further restrained him from parading himself as the Acting National Chairman of the party.
“Once again, he is currently an illegal Acting National Chairman, given the decisions of the courts, the constitution of the PDP, decision of the National Convention coupled with his act of breaking and entering into the national secretariat of our great party.
“It is interesting to note that Senator Sheriff is very much aware of the binding implication of the subsisting judgments on his ‘status’ as national chairman because we have been reliably informed that he is now seeking the leave of court to appeal the judgment. But, unfortunately, time is against this latter move. So, he is an illegal national chairman”.
Ruling out any possibility of reconciliation with Sheriff, the Makarfi camp said there are more disturbing issues that could ultimately forestall efforts by stakeholders to unite Sheriff with the party.
But Sheriff has continued to restate his pledge to rebuild and unite the party, saying that in line with the recommendations of the Dickson Committee, he would be convening the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in the days ahead.
According to him, it is only NEC that can approve preparation for the national convention after deliberations.
Sheriff said: “From today, I am going to meet with all the organs of the party and collect their list of membership with a view to picking their members to be part of the convention committee.
“We are going to contact the National Assembly caucus, the Board of Trustees and other stakeholders. We are writing them formally on that, so that we can collect the specific number of nominees that are required.”
He also hinted of plans to organise congresses in Oyo, Kwara, Sokoto, Lagos and Anambra states where attempts to conduct the exercise in 2016 collapsed.
But the Makarfi camp dismissed the Sheriff camp’s plan with a wave of the hand, saying that none of the stakeholders would respond to its overtures. It called on party members in those states to boycott the congresses in case Sheriff decides to conduct same.
Adeyeye said: “All the party organs and stakeholders are with us and none of them will respond to this deception. There is no way Sheriff would be allowed to conduct a convention for the PDP. It is at the convention that everybody would see his true self. He is an agent of the ruling party.
“We wish to use this opportunity to inform and clarify to our members and teeming supporters nationwide that the PDP has no standing ‘Reconciliation Committee’ chaired by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Rt. Hon. Seriake Dickson.
“However, we respect our Governor, Seriake Dickson and acknowledge his effort towards holding the next national convention. But he acted hastily and presented the proposal in error to Senator Sheriff.”
According Adeyeye, the four ad-hoc committees set up by the party for the botched May 21, 2016 Port Harcourt convention ceased to exist. The ad hoc committees were inaugurated by Sheriff.
Adeyeye listed the committees to include the National Convention Planning Committee, chaired by the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, with Governor Darius Ishaku of Taraba State as Deputy Chairman and Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State as Secretary; the Reconciliation Committee is chaired by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Henry Seriake Dickson, with Senator Ibrahim Mantu as the Deputy Chairman; and Finance Committee, chaired by the Governor of Gombe State, Dr. Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, with Senator Godswill Akpabio as the Deputy Chairman.
The Zoning Committee is chaired by the Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State. Deputy Governor of Ebonyi State Mr. Kelechi Igwe is the Secretary.
“These committees were inaugurated by Senator Sheriff as the Acting National Chairman on April 5, 2016 to carry out their specific roles in line with the directives of the 69th NEC for a hitch-free national convention in May 2016.
“That Reconciliation Committee was constituted to reconcile aggrieved party members before the National Convention in Port Harcourt”, he added.
The Caretaker Committee said it would continue to work with all the organs of the party to for reconciliation efforts that will bring lasting peace to the PDP, to the exclusion of Sheriff.
Listing conditions for a way forward, the Caretaker Committee called on Sheriff to vacate the party secretariat immediately or risked being forced out by security agencies.
“Given the lawless and untoward behavior of Senator Sheriff so far, it appears that there will be no meeting point in this matter. However, without prejudice to the appeal suit before the Supreme Court challenging the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal, the National Caretaker Committee working for the organs of the party and the people is not averse to reconciliation processes that may result in a workable ‘political solution’ as proposed by the Governors’ Forum with the former President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
“The present illegally constituted NWC, led by Senator Sheriff, must stop operations on behalf of the party immediately. We want to state unequivocally that the party will not hold any national convention under the leadership of Senator Sheriff.
“We are determined to pursue the matter before the Supreme Court conclusively in the interest of justice, equity, fair play and democracy in general.
“Finally, we call on all our members, teeming supporters and all lovers of democracy to be calm and continue to support the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee in its quest to return our great party to the people in line with the ideals of our founding fathers.
“It is indeed our desire to rebuild, revive and revitalise the PDP in collaboration with all the organs and structures of the party that will culminate in a well-deserving, all-inclusive and participatory national convention very soon.
“We enjoin you all to not despair because surely, justice shall be served; and we will reposition our party to reclaim government in 2019,” Adeyeye stated.
But Sheriff said he would not join issues with his traducers, particularly Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State who has been his most virulent critic.
Said he: “Let me make it clear to some of the party members, particularly, Gov. Ayo Fayose that I will not condescend to his level. It must be very clear to him that the party has rules, and we will look at the constitution, at the appropriate time to do the right time.
“He has made it a point of duty to be insulting Ali Sheriff everyday. I want to tell him that enough is enough. Belonging to a political party is by choice. Yes, you may have a right, but your right should not trample on another person’s right. Political party is a voluntary association.
“If you are a leader of a political party, we have to allow people to have their choice of leadership. In all these things we are doing, we believe that PDP belongs to all Nigerians. We believe that PDP must be handed over to the owners.
“The owners of the party must be allowed to do the right thing. That does not mean a sign of weakness. PDP that has produced 28 governors, today has 12. If we allow impunity to continue, Nigerians have the right to reject our party. You can take a horse to the river but you cannot force it to drink water.
“We can make this party attractive to everybody. We want to reposition the party so that it can win elections. Nobody hasý the monopoly to do what they are doing, as if we don’t have the rule of law”