From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
As the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership crisis lingers, former Political Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak has asked the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jubrin to quit. Gulak, in this interview with a select group of journalists in Abuja, said Jubrin has not been firm in addressing issues pertaining to the leadership crisis in the party.
There are insinuations that the Sheriff-led faction is doing the bidding of the ruling party, the APC. How true is this?
I don’t believe so. It is totally false. In the first place, how did Sheriff come in? Sheriff did not apply to be the chairman of this party. Sheriff did not go out to campaign that he wanted to be chairman of this party. It is on record that having come from the North-east geo-political zone, I wanted to assume the leadership of this party to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Adamu Mu’azu, when he resigned on the 20th day of May, 2015. About five of us from that zone wanted to assume that position. We mobilized people both from within the North-east geo-political zone and the other zones to tell the then Secondus-led NWC that we must do the right thing and follow the path of constitutionality. We met over 10 times, they were adamant and that was what made me to file a suit in the FCT High Court against Secondus; the then acting national chairman. And on the 16th day of December, the court gave me judgement that either me or any other person from the North-east geo-political zone should be made chairman in accordance with the constitution of the party. They refused, they continued in their flagrant abuse of the court order until I physically with my supporters took over the mantle of leadership at the PDP secretariat. That was when the stakeholders now woke up from their slumber and started meeting. And in their bid to comply with the court judgement and the constitution of the party, they called for a NEC meeting, the second highest decision-making body and presented five candidates for the election. That is how Sheriff emerged. So, if they say Sheriff is working for the APC-led government, it is them who went and begged Sheriff to come and lead this party and elected Sheriff constitutionally. I have been a very active player in the politics of PDP. If by any imagination, if I see any reason to believe that Sheriff is not committed and sincere in the leadership of this party, I will be the first person to say so, take it from me.
But how did you feel when the party failed to nominate you as the next national chairman after defeating Secondus in the court?
Well, I am not supposed to elect myself. So, in their wisdom, the stakeholders selected some people and sent to the NEC of the party. Senator Jirgiri Lawal was there, Saidu Kumo was there, Juta was there, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was there; all from the North-east and that was how the NEC elected Sheriff from the people that were paraded. For the fact that my name did not feature did not bother me. In as much as I knew they were following the path of constitutionality and to agree with the court judgement. As far as I was concerned, my struggle had ended because somebody from the North-east by virtue of the provisions of our constitution was put in place to replace Mu’azu.
To what extent has the leadership crisis affected the PDP?
I must be very truthful to you. The leadership tussle has affected the fortunes of the party negatively. A house divided against itself cannot stand. That is why this issue must be resolved politically. Look at the Edo election, everybody was so sure that the PDP would win but because the house was divided, the party could not perform. Look at the Ondo election, the PDP lost even before going into the elections because the governor forcefully made the party to adopt a candidate that was not popular within the state. More so, the governor having served eight years, he wanted to force another person from his local government to be governor and the people of Ondo rejected it. That is why the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff group said look, we cannot win the election with this candidate. We called the governor, Governor Mimiko, please, realize that the people of Ondo are not woods, they are not stones, they are not idiots; they are not fools. You have served as elected governor of Ondo for eight years, you cannot now bring somebody from your own local government and you expect the people of Ondo to elect him to succeed you. That is why Ali Modu Sheriff produced Jimoh Ibrahim among other five aspirants. Jimoh Ibrahim was the authentic candidate of the PDP and we were coasting home to victory for PDP until at the eleventh hour, by misrepresentation, the Court of Appeal said that Jegede should be the candidate and that was a slap on the face of the people of Ondo and who went to the polls and spoke and when they spoke, they spoke vehemently and that is how PDP lost. So, to this end I will say the crisis within the PDP has really affected the party’s fortunes negatively.
But are you still confident that the PDP will bounce back in 2019?
Definitely, once we get over this crisis which I hope will be over very soon, we will begin to pick the pieces and we will begin to rebuild. Even the ruling APC is not crisis-free. They too have the fair share of their crisis. I am happy that our crisis started earlier and we are pulling through. But Makarfi is a very slippery character, very untruthful character, very deceitful character. I will call on PDP stakeholders to sheathe their swords, let us bring this party back to the people; the party does not belong to an individual. PDP is the only party that can give this country a sense of direction; it is the only party that can pull this country out of economic doldrums that we are facing today.
What are the factors that make you confident that PDP will bounce back in 2019?
The facts are on ground. Two years into the APC-led federal government, are Nigerians better for it? The answer is no. Nigerians did not bargain for this change. The change Nigerians bargained for is not the one we are witnessing. Go to town, you know what taxi drivers say, you know what market women say, you know what farmers say. The aggregate opinion is that Nigerians did not bargain for this change. And if things should continue the way they are up to the end of next year, you know what it means.
If the leadership tussle gets to Supreme Court and the court makes pronouncement in favour of Makarfi, what will your group do?
If the highest court delivers judgement that Makarfi is authentic, no matter how bad the decision is, we will come back and call all the stakeholders and put the crisis behind us just like I expect that if the court pronounces Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the authentic chairman, Makarfi group too should follow suit in rebuilding the party.
What role is the PDP BoT playing at the moment in order to resolve the crisis?
The BoT has gone comatose. The BoT chairman, it is unfortunate, he will tell you one thing this moment, in five minutes time he will tell you another thing. He will dance with Makarfi in the morning and in the evening, he is in Sheriff’s house begging Sheriff to forgive him. In one breath, he will say nobody is bigger than the party. In another breath, he will say he is the chairman of the PDP and the party is supposed to be administered by him. I don’t want to be rude to our elders but these are the type of people that should step aside. They have over-stayed. They have nothing positive to contribute anymore in this party. More so, his tenure has expired and we need a new BoT leadership because immediately Bello Halliru was away and Senator Walid Jubrin was the secretary of the PDP, he manouvred his way to become chairman of the BoT. So, this is a man for some reasons I will seriously plead with to step aside.
But there is rumour that the Makarfi group is likely to form a new party if the courts do not favour it…..
Yes, I have heard on good authority that Makarfi and Co, are planning to move out of the PDP to form another party, that is anti-party, I don’t expect them to do that. The PDP has given them a lot. Senator Makarfi was governor on PDP platform for eight years and he was senator on the same platform for another eight years and to see him trying to move people out of PDP to another party no matter how small the number is, it will be unfortunate. History will judge him on the negative side.
But Makarfi seems to have the support of PDP organs…..
No, I don’t believe so. I know as at today, only four governors out of the 12 governors are still with him.
Who are those governors?
Mimiko, Fayose, Wike and to some extent, Governor Okowa. These are the four governors that are still with Makarfi. All the other eight governors have seen that it is Sheriff that has the key to unlock the logjam and take this party to the next level of development. In the National Assembly, the majority of members are with Sheriff. You see, some governors when they brought Sheriff, they expected him to do their biddings; to play to their games but later, they found out that this is a man who will not tolerate impunity.