He has right to take a shot –Metuh
From Taiwo Amodu, Abuja
A proposal by the South-west leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to cede the position of national chairman to the North is already creating ripples within the main opposition party.
Last Thursday, National vice chairman of PDP (South West), Makanjuola Ogundipe, led a delegation of party chieftains on a courtesy visit to the National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff, where he presented a position paper of the zone on the party’s forthcoming national convention.
In the position paper, the South-West zone made a dramatic U-turn when it said it supported retention of the position in the North.
In the paper, the zone said taking the office away from the North would further alienate the zone from the erstwhile ruling party, which only managed to win two states in the North in the last governorship elections.
“In the whole of the North, we have only two governors. We need to strengthen the North, if not, the PDP will be branded as a regional party if we go ahead to pick the national chairman from the South,” the paper said.
Daily Sun investigation at the weekend, however, indicated that the South-West’s position was an orchestrated plot by some governors of the party to accommodate Sheriff in the forthcoming national convention or seek tenure extension for him.
A PDP source said the governors, who ensured that the former Borno governor emerged chairman, despite the initial opposition of PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) “are the same forces pushing for the retention of the chairmanship in the North.”
The source also claimed that Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, who played a prominent role in Sheriff’s emergence, was the brain behind the position paper presented by the zone to the National Working Committee (NWC) of PDP. Incidentally, Ogundipe, the South-West zonal chairman, is from Ekiti State.
Speaking on the development, another party chieftain, who pleaded not to be named, however, expressed doubt on the claim that the motive of the South-west zone was to seek tenure extension for Sheriff or allow him participate in the forthcoming convention.
“I don’t think any of the governors wants tenure extension for Senator Modu Sheriff because they know that such a plot won’t work. What the South-west is saying is, giving the national chairman to the South now would alienate a lot of Northern leaders from the party .
“So, the proposal, which makes sense, is to leave the national chairman position in the North ahead of 2019. We can then do a midterm convention, probably in 2018, and take the position to the South.
“Leaving it in the North doesn’t mean Sheriff will take it. No one has narrowed it to him. The convention committee, which is yet to be unveiled, may even zone the office out of the North-East, the zone of the incumbent chairman.”
The source, however, expressed fear over the delay in the composition of the party’s convention planning committee and the zoning committee.
“The delay in composition of these committees gives cause for concern and can fuel speculation that the NWC under Senator Sheriff has something up its sleeves.
“The party elders have been left in the cold over composition of the zoning committee and guidelines for convention and congresses. A meeting of the NEC, which should ratify the guidelines for congresses and convention, has not been convened.”
Sheriff’s media aide, Inua Bwala, however, said the tenure elongation claim was merespeculation.
He told Daily Sun on phone: “This is mere speculation. I don’t want to respond to speculation. That’s all I have to say.”
But PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, justified the stance of the South West.
He said: “Well, the truth is that if the party zones the chairmanship to the North, or re-zones it to North-East, of course, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has every right to take a shot. It depends on the delegates to vote for him. You have seen in the last few weeks that he has capacity for the office and everybody is proud of him.
“But for now, the party hasn’t taken a position on zoning. What the South-West is doing is their right. If any other zone has any other position, they should bring it to the public view and we can then debate it.”
Metuh also confirmed that the convention might be shifted beyond the May 21 date approved by the NEC of the party at its last meeting held on March 7.
“Let me also tell you that some people believe that the convention is coming very soon and may endanger reconciliation. These are issues that we can’t overlook,” said Metuh.