“Blow by blow a giant is knocked down.”
By ONYEDIKA AGBEDO
from every indication, the recent ruling of the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, which declared former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, as the authentic National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), further deepened crisis in the party. While Sheriff welcomed the judgment, describing it as victory for all, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the party rejected it outright, vowing not to support Sheriff’s leadership and to contest the ruling in the Supreme Court.
But the former Borno State governor has forged ahead undeterred, as has been characteristic of him since the crisis started in May 2016. But he also seems to now understand like the great philosopher, Aristotle, that “we make war that we may live in peace”. As such, his utterances since the Appeal Court ruling have been statesmanlike. “The verdict of the Court of Appeal is victory for all. No loser. Sheriff is not the winner. Makarfi is not the loser. All of us are winners. I want to put the record straight. We are uniting the party. This party will come back to the position of 1999. All the leaders of the party will be consulted and we will come up with a firm roadmap that will lead to a successful convention,” Sheriff stated recently at a press briefing in Abuja where he reacted to the Appeal Court judgment. He has severally reaffirmed that position, while also urging those fanning the embers disunity in the party to be mindful of their words and actions.
Nonetheless, the Makarfi-led faction was not ready for any rapprochement with him. Many chieftains of the faction insisted that they would never recognise Sheriff as their leader. The Chairman of PDP Governors Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, recently described Sheriff as “a general without soldiers in PDP, not to talk of having a battalion”. Fayose had premised his statement on the assumption that the party’s governors, Board of Trustees (BOT) members, former governors, former National Assembly members, former ministers and other top hierarchy of the party are not with Sheriff. In essence, he has the court’s mandate and not the peoples’. Also, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State recently said that one of his worst political decisions was supporting Sheriff for the party’s national chairmanship position ab initio, while former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, dubbed him “an angel of death to PDP”. Similar political salvoes thrown at Sheriff since the Appeal Court judgment abound.
But he soaks them all and soldiers on with equanimity. Towards uniting the party and consolidating it, he has held talks with former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, former president Goodluck Jonathan, former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu and former BOT chairman of the party, Chief Tony Anenih, among others. And like a warrior eager to savour the spoils of war after winning a hard-fought battle, he took over the Wadata Plaza national headquarters of the party, which had been locked since May 2016, penultimate Thursday, to the consternation and irritation of his rival. Meanwhile, his faction has continued to receive endorsements from many state chapters of the party, especially those controlled by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), that are not yoked to any governor. Suddenly, his camp has suddenly started bubbling, and there is the evidence of swagger in his gait.
But the battle is not yet over. Nevertheless, the party’s Governors’ Forum had after a meeting with Jonathan last Tuesday announced its resolve to seek a political rather than legal solution to the crisis. With that, the protagonists of the Makarfi-led faction appears to have realised the import of the statement by the incumbent United States president, Donald Trump, that “sometimes by losing a battle, you find a new way to win the war.” However, until a deal is struck or the Appeal Court judgment is upturned, Sheriff holds the crown as far as the PDP is concerned.
Born in Ngala Town, Ngala Local Government Area, Borno State, in 1956, Sheriff attended Government Secondary School, Bama (1974–1979). He attended the London School of Business, where he studied Insurance, Banking and Finance. In 1981, he joined his father’s construction company as a Director, later becoming Managing Director. He later established his own companies, Meroil Organisation and Union Chase.
He was elected as a senator from Borno during the Third Republic under the banner of National Republican Convention (NRC). Sheriff was elected senator representing Borno Central on the platform of the United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) during General Sani Abacha’s military regime. In April 1999, he was again elected senator, on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). In 2003, he ran for Governor of Borno State on the platform of ANPP and won. He was re-elected in 2007.
Sheriff was a founding member of the APC but switched affiliation to the PDP in 2014. He was appointed to act as the National Working Committee chairman of the PDP on February 16, 2016. However, major stakeholders of the party appointed Senator Ahmed Makarfi to head a National Caretaker Committee at its botched national convention in Port Harcourt in May 2016. Following the decision, the party split into two factions, with both Sheriff and Makarfi laying claim to the leadership of the party.