By Uchechukwu Ugboaja
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has continued to be in the news recently for the wrong reasons. Since the party which continuously prides itself as Africa’s largest party lost its grip at the federal level of government to the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the 2015 general elections, the former ruling party had struggled to put its house in order as Nigerians expected them to step up to the responsibility of being a virile opposition party that the country’s democracy desperately needs.
However, developments within the party continue to expose the absence of stable leadership since the resignation of the former Chairman Adamu Muazu almost immediately after the party’s loss at the presidential polls. The vacuum created by the once charismatic former governor of Bauchi State had since left the party in a state of dilemma over the choice of who will lead the party to the next general elections in 2019.
In view of this development the governors elected under the platform of the PDP led by the governor of Ondo State therefore took up the responsibility of steering the party forward by mobilizing the other organs of the party to electing a temporary chairman from the North who will serve out the term of Adamu Muazu.
It would be recalled that Chief Uche Secondus who is from the South could not step into the shoes of his former principal, so the party was therefore left with no other choice but to consider a political figure who could rally and mobilize massive support and followership in the core North – precisely the North-East where it was zoned – where it massively lost to the then opposition party APC.
Perhaps in a desperate move to save the lost glory of the PDP in the Northern region, the Governor’s Forum and the Board of Trustees (BOT) appeared to have taken Nigerians by surprise when it seemed to favor a former governor of Borno state Sen. Alimodu Sheriff who had only joined the PDP during the build up to the 2015 general elections. Having being sidelined by the APC for obvious publicity reasons, former President Goodluck Jonathan had basically set the tone for Sheriff’s return to the PDP when he was seen in public glare with the former governor who was alleged to have bred the dreaded Boko Haram sect that have been ravaging the North East since his departure from the seat of power in Borno state.
This move didn’t go down well with several interest groups within and outside the PDP, but the then ruling party went ahead to endorse Sen. Sheriff as the party’s ambassador in the North-east. Incidentally that event failed to impact on the fortunes of the party at the polls as they lost in a shambolic manner to the APC in the zone. Politics watchers in the north still hold the view that the Senator probably didn’t do enough to aid the fortunes of the PDP as it was rumored that he tacitly worked for the then opposition party due to the overwhelming popularity of the APC presidential candidate General Muhamadu Buhari in the region.
Battle for the soul of the PDP
Since the PDP lost its grip of the federal government in the 2015 general elections the party had been enmeshed in one controversy or the other. The ongoing investigations into the arms procurement by the office of the immediate past National Security Adviser (NSA) seem to be the biggest undoing of the PDP as many of its key political actors have been dragged into the scandal hence, leaving the former ruling party in six and seven.
Without a doubt the PDP was desperately in need of leadership as the various organs of the party including the Board of Trustees (BoT) and the Governors Forum frantically considered various options for the leadership of the party during this difficult period of the party’s history.
At one point it seemed that argument for and against the traditional zoning principle of the PDP would be subtly ignored to make way for the emergence of a chairmanship candidate from the North which is aimed at quickly mobilizing support for the party from the North, and the sense of urgency to have a party leadership in place in readiness for the upcoming elections in Edo and Ondo states respectively. The man Alimodu Sheriff was again brought into the picture by some governors who believed that he had the right credentials as a former governor and senator to steer the PDP from the current unpopularity crisis it is currently facing.
Senator Alimodu Sheriff aka SAS also saw this as a good opportunity not only to launder his badly tainted name but also a chance to become ambitious again as the party had since resolved to zone its 2019 presidential ticket back to the north.
Majority of the governors had seemingly endorsed SAS against the wish of some of the other concerned interest groups within the party who remained vehemently opposed to his emergence, but the Governors Forum remained the dominant voice within the PDP and therefore Senator Alimodu Sheriff was given the mandate to steer the party for a short term which a proper congress will be held to officially elect new National Working Committee executives. This offer was accepted by SAS and everyone within the party had to live with it regardless of their opinions.
Wadata Plaza soon came back to life as political activities returned back to the PDP national secretariat. Staff of the party resumed their posts with new vigor and enthusiasm as the new Sheriff in the block brought back some sense of hope and belief into the once deserted party secretariat. Even journalists were not left out of the new mood as political actors, visitors and their activities didn’t go unnoticed by story hungry reporters and correspondents. But all these didn’t signal uhuru as the marriage between Senator Alimodu Sheriff and the PDP would be short-lived just immediately after the scheduled PDP convention in Portharcout, Rivers state.
Although some elder statesmen who came together to form a group called Concerned PDP Stakeholders had organized a parallel convention in an attempt to stop the emergence of Alimodu Sheriff as the National Chairman of the PDP which was holding in Portharcourt at the same time. This group being led by Prof. Jerry Gana and former Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu had vowed never to sit and watch a political character like SAS take over the helms of the party in full capacity despite steering its affairs as Acting Chairman of the party at a time the party desperately needed a strong personality to stabilize the “political Armageddon” that was rocking the PDP immediately after it lost in 2015.
Portharcourt Convention and political backstabbers
The Portharcourt convention had held a lot of promise for Alimodu Sheriff’s political future at least in the PDP but all of it would soon turn to a nightmare as the same set of governors who had endorsed him as the only person capable of steering the party through its political turmoil as chairman suddenly turned against him and endorsed another former governor of Kaduna State and also a former Senator Ahmed Makarfi as the caretaker chairman who will pilot the affairs of the party moving forward.
This singular move didn’t go down well with SAS even though the governors attempted to give him a soft landing by appreciating him for his efforts during the short period of his tenure as acting chairman which brought some stability to the party. However, SAS tagged it a political cue and insisted that he remained the undisputed chairman of the PDP.
The various groups within the PDP were apparently satisfied with the choice of Sen. Ahmed Makarfi as the party’s helmsman and this new development had infuriated SAS who had vowed not to give up his position without a fight. Obviously the courts seemed to be the next battleground as various injunctions, exparte orders, motions and counter motions were sought for and against each other in a bid to lay hold of the soul of the PDP.
SAS refuses to be used and dumped
After the disappointment and embarrassment Senator Alimodu Sheriff suffered at the Portharcourt convention where he was unceremoniously ousted as acting chairman of the PDP, SAS was forced into a brief political oblivion leaving political observers in dilemma over his stand on the new order established by cynics within the political party he once held sway. However, it was just a time for SAS to ‘hibernate’ and the outcome certainly did take his detractors unaware.
The return of SAS to public glare did bring back some spark to the PDP as usual, but this time it was a different spark which could ignite an inferno capable of consuming the fortunes of the party if not on the long run with regards to 2019 general elections, but at least considering the state elections in Edo and Ondo states. Without a doubt SAS wasn’t planning to go down without a fight as he turned up with an order from a Federal High Court in Lagos declaring him as the authentic national chairman of the PDP.
Senator Alimodu Sheriff released this press statement on his return to WADATA Plaza, “As you may be aware, we have been facing some challenges, since we put off the national convention, planned for Portharcourt last month. I will therefore consider it the height of deceit for anyone to pretend that the PDP is not in crisis, but I also wish to assure you that we have been working round the clock to see how we can resolve the matter without being on the wrong side of the law.”
“It is public knowledge that there was an order by the Federal High Court in Lagos, declaring me the authentic National Chairman of the PDP, I have kept away from steps that could jeopardize the law following an exparte order from the Federal High Court in Portharcourt which had given a contradictory order restraining me from operating as the chairman of our party notwithstanding some further orders from the Federal High Court Lagos specifically directing the Inspector General of Police to provide me with adequate security to enable me carry out my duties. Now that the exparte order given in Portharcourt has since lapsed on the 9th of June and has not been renewed or extended, it is now my pleasure and privilege to inform you that I have fully resumed as the one and only National Chairman of our great party, the PDP.
“I have all the while kept away from the office in strict compliance with the exparte order of the Portharcourt Federal High Court which lapsed on the 9th of June and not because I sanctioned the illegalities by some few members of our party.
“You are witnesses to the fact that, while the court procedures are still going on, a lot of illegalities; in clear defiance of the law have been taking place in the party, under the guise of a contraption called ‘Caretaker Committee’. I had hoped that for one the PDP, which have been accused of promoting impunity and declining lawful orders, will purge itself which informed my decision to obey the courts.
“Be that as it may, let me state for the avoidance of doubt, that beyond the court orders, the PDP operates with set of laws which guide the conduct of its affairs. I therefore call on everyone to shun all acts that will tend to portray the party as being lawless. We must learn to obey our own laws first before we can hope to provide the desired leadership. Against this background, I hereby declare as null and void and of no consequence whatsoever, any action taken by any person or group of persons, except by my leadership which is recognized by the law.
“After due consideration with serious minded stakeholders of the party and my lawyers, against this background that I have remained committed to lawful procedures, I have come fully armed with all the necessary court orders to resume as the national chairman, as directed by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“As we settle down to move the party forward, we wish to call on all party members within and outside the country to come around so that we can together reposition the PDP for future challenges.
“We have to this effect served the necessary court orders on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which is the impartial arbiter in matters like this; the police as custodians of the law, and we will make the same available to you gentlemen of the press, so that you can make informed analysis of the issues involved. We hereby seek your own cooperation as we continue to task of re-engineering the PDP.
“I wish to use this opportunity to thank all those who stood on the side of the truth and the law, and wish to place that never again shall the PDP return to wallow in lawlessness and impunity,” he concludes.
PDP Governors, Makarfi and others react
Following developments from the SAS camp the PDP Governors Forum, the PDP BoT, concerned stakeholders groups and the newly appointed acting National Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi all had one or two things to say about Senator Sheriff’s stand.
The PDP Governors Forum vehemently condemned the action taken by SAS. This view was expressed after they rose from a meeting with members of the BoT at the residence of the Ondo state governor in Abuja. The response of the governors to Sen. Sheriff’s stand was made known to pressmen by the Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose where he expressed shock at the Borno state born politician’s attitude. For Fayose he wondered how a man of his stature would continue to lay hold to a position where he is not wanted anymore by all members of the party.
According to the vocal governor when asked by journalists if he actually begged Sen. Alimodu Sheriff to accept the position of Acting National Chairman, he responded by saying, “If Sheriff said I begged him to become the National Chairman, he may be right but it was only based on the level of information available to us then. But with what we have learned about him as at today, it is not healthy for our great party the PDP to have such a person as the National Chairman.
He further added using an analogy, “If a man proposes marriage to a woman and after the marriage he discovers that the woman is HIV positive are you saying that he has no right to terminate that marriage?
“With the way things are going it is getting clearer that Sheriff is working for the APC against the interest of our party and we are calling on him to desist from parading himself as the National Chairman of the PDP because the new Caretaker Chairman Sen. Ahmed Makarfi is fully in charge of affairs of the party, in fact he has the mandate of organizing a proper National Convention.” But when the governor was asked the new date of the convention, he replied “Ask the Chairman”.
Furthermore, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that former Chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff is its enemy.
The party made the comment via a statement released by Prince Dayo Adeyeye, a member of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, on Thursday, June 23, 2016.
It is now clear that Sen. Alimodu Sheriff is working very hard for the enemies of our great political party the PDP.
First the Edo primary elections and all the processes leading to it thereof were properly conducted, monitored and observed by INEC. Edo PDP chairman had warned Sheriff to stay clear of their affairs as the party in the state is resolutely united behind Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the candidate of the PDP.
We have concluded our investigations and concluded that there is no court order obtained by Senator Sheriff or any of his cohorts either at FCT High Courts or The Federal High Court in Abuja or any other High Court in Nigeria.
Similarly the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caretaker committee, Ahmed Makarfi also accuses the embattled former party chairman, Alimodu Sheriff of creating Boko Haram.
Makarfi said Sheriff is known everywhere as a violent person, that is why the police withdrew his orderlies.
This is coming after Sheriff had accused the caretaker chairman of hiring Fulani herdsmen to prevent him (Sheriff) from entering into the PDP secretariat.
Makarfi said, “Sheriff is the one known to have created Boko Haram, therefore he is continuing in the same direction.
“I’m never known to be associated with violence; he made the same malicious allegations before the former IGP and DG DSS, which was disregarded as baseless. On the contrary, I was there and then given additional security.”
He also added that the police had withdrawn all his security in Maiduguri and Abuja, because of his actions. He had to beg before all after agreeing to take the path of peaceful resolution before they agreed to return some to him.