- Says Fayose is rude, Oyedokun too crafty
The Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Modu Ali Sheriff has been described as a stranger in the party. Making this assertion in an interview with SATURDAY SUN, former minister for Transport, and member, PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Ebenezer Babatope stated that peace would continue to elude the party until Sheriff throws in the towel.
Berating Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Senator Buruji Kasamu for backing Sheriff’s alleged plan to become PDP substantive National Chairman, the former minister said that the ranks of the trio will soon be scattered. Babatope spoke with TUNDE THOMAS. Excerpts:
THE issue that it is the turn of the Southwest to produce the next PDP national chairman or not has become a source of disagreement among leading chieftains of the party including Governor Ayodele Fayose, Senator Buruji Kashamu, Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun Chief Bode George, Senator Ogunlewe and others, what is your own stand on the matter?
At the Akure meeting called by Governor Olusegun Mimiko and co-hosted by Governor Ayodele Fayose recently, we agreed that we would not allow the issue to cause any crisis among us so as not to allow APC to capitalise on it and destroy our party.
Then, we decided that we should accept the zoning arrangement as announced by the party’s leadership in Abuja. Under this arrangement, the position of the national chairman has been zoned to the North-east, and the positions given to us should be allotted to the states in the South-west geo-political zones. These posts are those of national auditor, national secretary and publicity secretary.
Apparently, those of us that have been advocating the zoning of the party’s national chairman office to the South-west have to back down on our stand, and abide by the party’s leadership resolution under which those three positions were given to us.
But talking as an individual, I have told the entire world, that we can never and will never accept Modu Ali Sheriff as the National Chairman of PDP.
Agreed that the position has been zoned to the North-east geo-political zone where Sheriff comes from, there are other eminent Nigerians from the zone that can be PDP national chair. We have many of them including Dr Shettima Mustapha, a very principled man, we also have Engineer Buna, Maina Waziri and a host of others.
Sheriff just came from nowhere and he wants to hijack the party. This is an insult. We won’t accept it. We don’t know where Sheriff was coming from.
Initially when opposition rose against him, we said he would only remain as Acting National Chairman of the party until May 21 when the party holds its convention in Port Harcourt.
(Cuts in … ) Were you not part of the process that threw up Sheriff as the party’s Acting National Chairman?
No. Some people brought him from nowhere. Some people said it was Governor Fayose that brought him, alongside Governor Wike of Rivers State, lwas supported by the likes of Buruji Kashamu.
You mean the elders of the party were not consulted?
No. They just brought Sheriff to us at one of our Board of Trustees meetings and told us they have brought him to us to introduce him as the man they wanted as the acting national chairman of the party. We kicked against his choice, but Sheriff quickly told us that he would leave us by May 21st. But from the look of things the man now wants to perpetuate himself in office. But we are going to resist him.
As I said earlier, there are other eminent PDP leaders from the North-east who can lead the PDP but definitely not Modu Sheriff.
But with Sheriff’s record as a former governor and ex-senator, why are you saying that he can’t lead the party?
Sheriff is not a PDP member. He is a stranger. How can they bring a stranger to lead PDP? The last time I heard about Sheriff, he was an ANPP member. He is a complete stranger to PDP. How can we put the affairs of our party in the hands of a stranger?
Some have argued that Sheriff has money and that is why they should leave him to lead PDP, but to me that is a foolish argument. You may have money but not common sense to manage the affairs of men. Do we say that because Sheriff has money, then he must lord it over the affairs of our party. We say a big NO to that. It is an insult.
By the grace of God, Insha Allah, we will take our party back from Sheriff. He met us in PDP, we are not going to leave the PDP for him. Sheriff is not a genuine member of PDP, he should go back to where he was coming from.
Are you saying that at the forthcoming PDP convention on May 21st in Port Harcourt, Sheriff will not be allowed to become the party’s substantive national chairman?
No. We can’t stop him there because he is the one that is organizing that convention. He will manipulate his way to come back as PDP national chairman. That’s why I have told myself that I will be nowhere near that convention. What am I going to be doing there? To go and attend a convention that will be manipulated by his henchmen like Fayose and Buruji Kashamu and co? I will not be there.
Some people are saying that this crisis, if not well managed can lead to break up of PDP, do you agree?
Well, let’s see what will happen, but I don’t believe PDP will break, rather it is these elements that will leave the party, and the party will become stronger.
Governor Ayo Fayose is somebody I like very well, his uncle before he died was my good friend, I’ve always liked Fayose but he didn’t tell us at the Akure meeting which he co-hosted that he was supporting Sheriff’s ambition.
Let me emphasise here again, talking about my humble self, I can never accept Modu Ali Sheriff as my chairman. Anybody can come from the north-east, that is acceptable but Sheriff is not acceptable to me. For those of us who have been insisting that south-west should produce the national chairman have been saying so because southwest is the only geo-political zone that has not produced PDP national chairman.
But since we believe in the party supremacy, we have agreed to abide by the party’s decision to give other positions now, but that not withstanding, Sheriff’s choice as national chairman is not acceptable to many of us.
Some people are backing Sheriff because they want to use him to achieve their selfish purposes. Those who think Sheriff can bail them out from the ugly criminal matters facing them, we will expose them.
Is the mounting opposition against Sheriff as a result of some people being jealous of his rising political profile as some people have claimed?
Jealousy of what? Jealousy of who?
That’s far from it. Sheriff has never been a member of our party and that’s why I opposed him, and that’s what is funny to me concerning those people supporting Sheriff blindly.
Our constitution, that’s talking about the one we are implementing now, before you can join a party, or aspire for a position in the party or contest for an election, you must at least have been a member for some time. But in his own case, Sheriff wants us to abandon our constitution in order to achieve his selfish goal.
We even want to amend PDP constitution now. I’m even surprised that he is saying that before the party’s Board of Trustees meet, they must inform him as the party’s chairman, that he must give his consent before the BOT can meet, what an insult. You can see the direction Sheriff is following and we are saying no.
Can’t there be a way the issue can be resolved since both sides are sticking to their positions with younger elements in the party like Kashamu and Fayose kicking against the elders opposition against Sheriff?
It is funny and strange that some of these younger elements in PDP are saying that elders should be relegated to the background. It is very strange. I have not seen an organization or a town where extinction of the elders will be advocated by a group, it’s never done. If these younger elements insisted on we elders being relegated to the background they will also suffer the same fate when they grow old. Whatever they sow, they will reap it.
They are saying that they don’t want to see the faces of the founding fathers of PDP, this is abnormal and we will never allow it to happen.
Many of us elders in the party including Professor Jerry Gana and Senator Ibrahim Mantu have nothing personal against Sheriff but we are opposed to the manipulation that threw him up as the party’s Acting National Chairman. Due process was not followed.
As a result of this crisis over Sheriff, some party members are already calling for the suspension of the party’s coming convention in Port Harcourt and I agree with them. We can’t have a genuine and successful convention under this cloudy atmosphere.
But by the grace of God, we will not surrender PDP to these terrible elements. We will take our party back from them and hand it over to those who own it.
At a point some people that tried to say similar things were the ones that became extinct even before Awolowo’s death. Those people became history. You don’t insult elders, if you do so, you have committed abomination, and you pay dearly for it one way or the other.
Have you elders tried to reach out to these younger elements?
How do you preach to or advise young men who believe that they have money and that they roll in dollars? How can we talk to these young elements, and they will listen to us when we are penniless elders? But what these young men don’t know is that we have goodwill and the grace of God in our lives.
Money or no money, I will never compromise my principle. I’m 73 years old, and I’ve got 11 grandchildren, nobody can buy me or influence me with money. I will always stand for the truth. But mark my word, these young elements that believe that they are Alpha and Omega today, they are going to roast themselves.
But even at that, it appears as if you elders are not on the same page over Sheriff’s issue, you are on one side, with Chief Bode George and your own supporters in opposing Sheriff, while Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun, another elder and PDP BOT member like you with their own supporters like Kashamu and Fayose are supporting Sheriff …?
(Cuts in) Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun is a man I like, but on this issue, I disagree with him. I’m very close to Chief Oyedokun, and he is my leader in Osun State and I attend meetings in his house, and he knows that I like him, but on this issue of Sheriff, when he called me, I told him that he is highly respected but that he should not flirt with Kashamu and others, that an alliance or romance with Fayose and Kashamu will do him a lot of damage. It is a pity that Oyedokun ignored my advice.
When you gave Chief Oyedokun your piece of mind or advice on the issue, what was his reply?
Chief Oyedokun is a very crafty politician. He heard me very well and even allowed me to finish what I was saying, but he didn’t give me any reply. But Chief Oyedokun knows very well that my 47 years of friendship with Chief Bode George can’t be broken or severed by any individual.
Even on this issue of chairmanship being zoned to the south-west, I was even the one that said George, Chief Oyedokun and Alhaji Yekeen Adeojo are all qualified to contest for the position if it was zoned to the south-west, Bode George didn’t initiate the idea. The three of them I mentioned had at one time or the other been deputy national chairman of PDP therefore making them eminently qualified to contest for the position.
Like I said earlier, I made it boldly clear during our meetings that I would vote for Bode George if eventually the party zoned the post to the south-west because Bode George has been my friend over 47 years ago.
My position is that Chief Oyedokun should reconsider his support for Fayose, Kashamu and Sheriff – I don’t see them taking over PDP. We will not allow them to hijack the party.
Why are you speaking with such optimism considering the fact that Fayose, Sheriff and Kashamu have been described as great strategists and mobilisers? They have also been described as men of immense wealth …?
(Cuts in …) The three of them and their supporters will scatter – I mean Fayose, Kashamu and Sheriff, their rank will be split. I thank God late Papa Obafemi Awolowo trained me as an organizer, and I served as the Director of Organisation of the defunct UPN for many years, go and mark my word, within the next two months: Sheriff, Kashamu and Fayose’s ranks will be broken, and the three of them will regret for ever their action.
Do you agree with the claim that PDP the South-west zonal executive has become a mere rubber stamp for Senator Kashamu to achieve his political objectives?
That’s very correct. From the beginning, PDP South-west zonal executive has been manipulated to work for Kashamu’s interests.
Kasamu does anything he likes with the PDP South-west zonal executive. He has pocketed the members, but we are determined to take back our party from these elements. Fayose, Kashamu and Sheriff are going to be irrelevant in a matter of months.
How can we leave the affairs of our party in the hands of a complete stranger being supported by some young elements in our party who feel they have money, therefore, they can do and undo?
They can deceive some elders but not somebody like me, and I will never be part of their evil plans for PDP.
But on your part as an elder, what advice do you have for Chief Oyedokun, a fellow elder and BOT member on this issue?
Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun is about eight years older than myself. So the advice I will give is that he should be careful. He has seen things even better than me in life but I will tell him the truth in confidence.
I will not like to speak as if I’m out to humiliate him, but I will speak to him in confidence. But I think he should tread carefully. All these young elements including Kashamu and Fayose that are humiliating elders now should remember that they will reap whatever they sow. Let them spend all their euros and dollars but by the grace of God, very soon their dollars will become irrelevant in their pockets.
But those people supporting younger elements in your party are saying that it is these young elements like Kashamu, and Fayose that have the energy and the drive to give President Muhammadu Buhari, and his party, APC, a strong challenge …?
(Cuts in …) Haba! What a big mistake. Can Fayose and Kashamu give Buhari any challenge the way I will give him in my position as somebody of Buhari’s generation? Buhari is a year older than me, and not only that, Buhari put me in jail for 21 months, when he was military Head of State.
Buhari knows me very well, and he knew that when I talk, he doesn’t ignore my comments and I respect him for that. Buhari listens very well. He is a good listener and he’s never ruffled. Who is Buruji Kashumu to pose any challenge to Buhari? Buruji Kashamu, who is he to Buhari? What are you talking about?
But people described Kashamu as a great mobiliser?
No. It is dollars and euros they are collecting from him that is making some people to dress Kashamu in borrowed robes. Although we don’t have money, but we have God and our common sense, and we can’t be bought. If Oyedokun agrees that people like Fayose and Kashamu should lead him, good luck to them, but I’m very optimistic that very soon, we will separate the whiff from the chaff. Soon, the boys will be separated from the men, and everybody will know his mate and where he belongs. Sheriff, Fayose and Kashamu are day-dreaming. We will not allow them to hijack the party. You can’t destroy age, maturity and experience.
Sheriff wants us to destroy PDP, but we elders and other stakeholders are now joined together by one common objective and that is to rescue PDP from interlopers, and strangers.