Alhaji Ahmed Ali Gulak was at different times Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on legal matters and political affairs.
In this interview with REMI ADEFULU, the Adamawa-born politician, who is currently the Chief of Staff to the PDP National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, blames the Makarfi camp for the crisis in the party.
What is your position on the state of the PDP?
I think as a fallout of the 2015 general election which the PDP lost, all that has happened should not surprise anybody, because this is a party that I can term the only national party for all Nigerians, a party that has ruled this country for 16 years and losing election in 2015 threw the entire structure of the PDP off balance. From when the former national chairman had to resign, there has been leadership tussle. I had to go to court to challenge Uche Secondus, who said he had to remain the acting chairman and I personally felt that the position belonged to the North-East. If somebody resigns, somebody from that zone must occupy the position before election, but Secondus kept mute. He refused to budge and I had to go to court. The court gave judgment that either me or somebody from the North-East should occupy that position. The National Executive Committee of the party met in this place (Wadata Plaza) and elected Sheriff. Since then, we have been having a running battle. The Federal High Court in Lagos gave Sheriff judgment After, a national convention was held, where Makarfi was made chairman of the caretaker committee. The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt validated the Makarfi caretaker committee.
Again, the Federal High Court in Abuja validated Sheriff as the National Chairman of the party. Courts of same jurisdiction were giving conflicting judgments. All the stakeholders were embroiled in this crisis. Later, we said the crisis is tearing the party, destroying the party. Somebody later suggested that we should rally round whoever wins at the Court of Appeal and thereafter hold a national convention. Now, the Court of Appeal judgment came, declaring Sheriff as the authentic national chairman of the party. Before then, both Makarfi and Sheriff had issued press statements that we shall abide by the outcome of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. But when the judgment came, the Makarfi group said no. Meanwhile, Sheriff said let’s come together, let’s organize a national convention. I am not contesting for the position of chairman any longer.
Don’t you think that suspicion of a hidden agenda by the Makarfi camp is making them uncomfortable?
There is no reason to suspect. Even when Gov. Dickson of Bayelsa State who is the chairman of the reconciliation committee came up with a report and submitted same to Makarfi, they remain unsatisfied. What reason have they got to suspect? No reason at all. Sheriff is saying he is not contesting. Sheriff is saying he’s okay with all the proposals by Dickson. He has said let us form a convention committee cutting across the levels of the party. He has no hidden agenda.
Is it true that the Sheriff camp is working for APC?
You know it is not true. How can anybody say Sheriff is working for APC? Sheriff was in his house. He never wanted to be chairman of PDP. We that were interested from the North-East showed interest for us to lead the party up to the convention, they refused. Twelve governors of the PDP at that time went to Sheriff, not once, not twice, prevailed on him to accept the position. For anybody to say Sheriff is working for APC is just trying to give a dog a bad name. They prevailed on Sheriff to lead the party. They prevailed on Sheriff to contest. Sheriff said he was not going to contest but hold a national convention that he would not contest in. What is the problem?
Why are ex-President Jonathan’s peace efforts not yielding fruits?
The effort by Jonathan is beautiful. He has met both sides. He has said this legal tussle is enough, let us reconcile and embark on political solution to save this party. That was how the Dickson committee went to work. The committee didn’t just go to work – it was former President Jonathan that kick-started reconciliation. All the proposals in the Dickson committee have been accepted by the NWC led by Modu Sheriff, that convention be done not later than 30th of June. What other solution do you want the party to proffer? All the party organs are keying into it except Makarfi and his few people.
They have the right to go to Supreme Court. They talk as if they own the Supreme Court. They talk as if they will dictate to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court belongs to all Nigerians. The Supreme Court will look at all the facts of the case. The court will not look at your face and say oh, you are the Governor of Ekiti State. No, the Supreme Court will not say oh, Makarfi, you have Jerry Gana behind you, oh, you have the Governor of Ekiti behind you, oh, you deserve judgment. That is not what the Supreme Court will look at. The Supreme Court will look at the facts before it and come up with judgment, but they talk as if what they tell the Supreme Court is what the Supreme Court will do. It is very, very unfortunate on the part of those people.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land. That is what the ex-president is saying, that even if you win at the Supreme Court, you still need the people. That was why he suggested political solution. That was why Dickson committee went to work and they came up with a political solution on how to solve this matter once and for all. That was why the NWC accepted in its entirety the proposal of the Dickson committee. This is the way forward. You can see that people have been paying solidarity visits to Sheriff. People are keying in. Supposing they get favourable judgment, is he not going to do convention? He must. Assuming he gets judgment at the Supreme Court, is he not going to do convention? The bottom line is you need convention for the party to elect officers. All hands must be on deck to elect our officers to take this party to the next level.
Do you think Sheriff has done enough to appease the Makarfi camp?
Let me confirm to you that immediately Sherrif got the news of the Court of Appeal judgment, Makarfi was the first person Sheriff called. I was with him. He said all of us have accepted that whichever way it goes we must accept and do national convention. Let us plan this convention committee, so that we can do convention. It was in my presence Makarfi said he would hold consultation and get back to Sheriff.
The next thing we heard was that Makarfi and Fayose said they would not recognize Sheriff, despite the judgment of the Court of Appeal. It is not good to be lawless. The fact that you are a governor does not mean you need to show the world that you are lawless. It’s not good. The Court of Appeal has given judgment, you cannot say you will not recognize that judgment, and you want to go to Supreme Court.
In one breath, you say you are not recognizing the judgment of the Court of Appeal, in another breath, you are going to the Supreme Court. The Court of Appeal has delivered judgment recognizing Sheriff, we will take this judgment to the Supreme Court. It’s their right to go to Supreme Court, but to say we will not recognize the Court of Appeal judgment and in another breath want to go to the Supreme Court speaks volume of the impunity these people are perpetrating. Sheriff has been reaching out to stakeholders. He has reached out to the BoT, he is talking to the governors. Except Governors Fayose, Wike and Okowa, all other governors have recognized the judgment of the Court of Appeal. We are saying let us all come together. Let us recognize what former President Goodluck Jonathan has kick-started. We are saying let us all hold the national convention, and put this crisis behind us.
Are you not bothered that Anambra governorship election is coming soon and this crisis persists?
I am really bothered, but what can you do, if you have impossible people? People who will always change the question when you provide answers to them. That is what is happening. They will always change the situation. While they are perfecting their papers in the Supreme Court, we are moving on.
The Supreme Court is not owned by them. Let them exercise their constitutional rights, but the party should not be held down, more so, that 90 per cent of members have keyed into the political solution. The party must move forward.