The peace meeting convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan to end the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party ended in disarray in Abuja on Thursday.
The disagreement among the key actors in the party crisis also forced the National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, to walk out of the meeting.
Jonathan, who presided over the meeting, had earlier in his opening address, begged the combatants to sheathe their swords.
As of the time he spoke, Sheriff had yet to arrive the meeting, but some other guests, including the Chairman of the sacked National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, were in attendance.
As soon as he finished speaking, Sheriff walked in.
His late entrance caused a little stir as the sitting arrangement had to be hurriedly adjusted in order to find him a place close to the former President.
In the programme of events, those listed to speak after Jonathan were Sheriff, Makarfi and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin.
Instead of calling the two combatants to address the gathering, Walid was ushered into the podium, where he also appealed to the members of the party to forget their differences.
He said he would die a member of the party, just as he pleaded with those that would attend his burial to bury his party membership card with him.
Sources at the meeting said at the closed-door session, Sheriff was alleged to have insisted that as the national chairman of the party, he was going to address the audience.
It was gathered that he insisted that Makarfi would not speak since his committee had been sacked by the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division.
His proposal was said to have been rejected by the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, who allegedly insisted that Makarfi should also be allowed to speak if Sheriff would speak.
A source stated, “The argument became so ferocious to the extent that Sheriff and Wike had to stand up, pointing fingers at each other while Jonathan looked with bewilderment.
“The former President tried to pacify them, but there was nothing he could do.”
He added that both the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; a former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, and a host of others, who were at the meeting also tried in vain to calm the two combatants.
At this point, the former President was said to have asked that some selected attendees should meet inside one of the rooms within the Yar’Adua Centre, where the meeting held.
Those at the secret meeting were Jonathan, Wike, Sheriff, Ekweremadu, Jibrin, Mark and the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.
Fayose was the first to come out of the secret meeting, the source added.
It was also gathered that Sheriff later emerged from the room and walked out of the larger meeting.
Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, later spoke with journalists outside the hall of the meeting.
He said he was standing with the report of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee of the party, which is headed by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Seriake Dickson.
The committee had, in its report, outlined ways to end the crisis and that a national convention should hold latest by June 30 in Abuja.
He said, “The party, as of today, has one national chairman, which is Ali Modu Sheriff. There is no PDP meeting that will take place under any arrangement that I will not make an opening remark as a national chairman.
“I think that Governor Dickson made a proposal, and we have accepted it. Other people have a programme to bring agenda which is not part of the proposal.
“And as a national chairman of the party, what I told you people in my office that I will not be a party to anybody using me for his personal agenda; I will not.”
When asked if he had respect for the former President who convened the meeting, Sheriff answered in the affirmative.
He said it was because of the respect that made him return to Nigeria for the meeting.
“But we have a programme, which is initiated by the Dickson committee. Anything outside that, I will not be part of it,” he added.
Among those who followed him were members of his National Working Committee, led by the Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh; and the National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo.
Later, Jonathan, who spoke with journalists after the exit of Sheriff and his team, described what happened as unfortunate.
He nevertheless said the meeting would go ahead with the hope of ending the crisis in the party.
He announced that he would set up of a 40-member committee, which he said he would head.
Jonathan added that in his absence, either his former Deputy, Namadi Sambo, or Mark would stand in for him to lead the meeting.
He explained that the proposed committee would have six members of the BoT, six members to be drawn from both Sheriff and Makarfi groups, all the governors, Ekweremadu and other members from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Nigerians still believe in PDP, says Jonathan
Meanwhile, the former President, on Thursday, submitted that Nigerians still believed in the PDP.
The former President spoke at the ongoing PDP Stakeholders Meeting in Abuja.
He stated that the former ruling party remained the only hope for the country, pleading with its members to bury their differences in order to end the crisis bedevilling it.
“We shall overcome the challenges and I can assure you that the PDP will rise again,” he said.
He added that all over the world, political parties lost elections, not because they had entirely failed, “but because in most cases, the people who gave them power in the first place, have decided to hand it over to another party in order to experience a different kind of leadership.”
He stated, “The fact that we allowed this process to take place peacefully and freely handed over power to the opposition did not only lift the profile of our party, but also elevated our country to the status of one of the world’s stable and reliable democracies.”
He listed the achievements of his party in power for 16 years.
The former President stated, “We were able to achieve this because our government really reformed the electoral and political process by giving the electoral bodies their true independence which subsequently opened up the political space for free and fair elections.
“We may have had shortcomings while in power, but we also recorded significant achievements and great milestones.
“Through purposeful leadership, we reformed our institutions, rebuilt the nation’s confidence, regained international goodwill and rekindled hope in our people.
“This is not a forum for chest-thumping but it is important we highlight some relevant initiatives of past PDP administrations.”
Jonathan added, “We transformed the entertainment industry, especially Nollywood, by not only boosting its capacities and international prominence, but also turning it into an attractive and viable sector that became an important contributor to the growth of our economy.
“We built the Kaduna-Abuja rail, the first modern rail in the country. We also pursued a successful automotive policy and established a promising industrial revolution plan.
“We equally enacted the Freedom of Information Act in order to give the people unfettered access to information on the activities of government.”
He appealed to the members of the party to work together and rebuild the PDP and strengthen it in line with the vision of its founding fathers.
He said, “We have to remind ourselves that the prolongation of the crisis in our party may have cost us so much in election fortunes in recent times.
“The loss of Edo and Ondo governorship elections is still fresh in our memory. It goes without saying that we cannot afford to have a repeat of that in the forthcoming elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states.”