Factions bicker over ex-gov’s take-over of party secretariat
From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The leadership crisis between National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, has split the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives down the middle.
While some PDP members recognise Sheriff as the national chairman, others have pitched their tent with chairman Makarfi.
The division within the PDP Reps caucus came to the fore, yesterday, following a statement by the Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, who expressed support for Makarfi, on Wednesday.
Ogor said that the “PDP caucus of the House of Representatives wishes to state, categorically, that it finds the Court of Appeal verdict, which nullified the decision of the national convention of the PDP on May 21 , 2016, and reinstated the Modu Sheriff leadership very discomforting.”
The caucus said it supports Makarfi’s committee’s decision to seek redress at the Supreme Court and appealed to all leaders and members of the PDP to “remain calm, focused and stand firmly on the position that there is no way the party will accept the Sheriff contraption which is yet to demonstrate any genuine iota of love for the party.”
But, another caucus member from Imo State, Goodluck Opia told Daily Sun, yesterday, that Ogor’s statement is not a true reflection of things with the party caucus.
“What is obvious is that there are quite a number of PDP members in the House who are in full support Sheriff leadership of the party,” the lawmaker said.
Regardless, another PDP House member, Joe Edionwele from Edo, who aligns with the position of the minority leader said the House caucus recognises Makarfi as the leader of the party.
He said it may just be one or two House of Representatives members, who are with Sheriff. “When they (Sheriff group) call a meeting, how many persons attend from Senate and the House? But, when Makarfi calls any meeting, more than 70 attend. If you look at it objectively, it is Makarfi that is the national chairman because it was done through a convention. Now that the court is saying Sherrif is the chairman, we have to test it out at the Supreme Court,” Edionwele said.
A senator, who declined to be named said the PDP caucus in the Senate is still consulting on the issue.
Meanwhile, Sheriff has taken control of the party’s National Secretariat, Wadata House.
He is also expected to meet with former chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, as part of his ongoing consultation with party leaders .
Sheriff drove into the secretariat, in a convoy of three cars, at about 6:00pm, yesterday, accompanied by Senator Kashamu Buruji and other supporters.
Before Sheriff’s arrival, his supporters, led by his deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, the National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, former political adviser to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Ahmed Gulak, amongst others, arrived Wadata House at about 5.40pm.
At about 5.52pm, the locks on the main gate into the National Secretariat and the one on the gate leading into the offices were broken to enable Sheriff drive into the complex. The PDP leader, who moved straight to his office, accompanied by supporters, told newsmen he came to inspect the secretariat, preparatory to his formal resumption of work next Monday or Tuesday.
“Nobody will be victimised for the position he took during the crisis. By (next) Monday or Tuesday, I will unfold a roadmap for the party. From today onwards, the party will begin to move forward,” said Sheriff. He drove out of the secretariat at about 6.19pm.
The party secretariat was sealed up by the police in June last year, after crisis which trailed the sack of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) by the party’s convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State and the subsequent appointment of a National Caretaker Committee.
Sheriff, former governor of Borno State, was declared national chairman by the Port Harcourt Division of the Appeal Court, last Friday. Following the judgment, Sheriff announced intent to access the secretariat, after an enrolment order from the court.
A source told Daily Sun that Sheriff had wanted to move into the office on Monday, but, Inspector General of Police (IGP), Ibrahim Idris insisted on getting a copy of the Appeal Court judgment before the secretariat could be reopened.
The source added that after his victory, Sheriff approached chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees(BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin for the keys of the secretariat.
Jibrin refused to handover the keys to him.
In his reaction, Makarfi urged Sheriff to vacate the party secretariat immediately.
In a statement by its spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, yesterday night, said Sheriff’s entry into the secretariat is illegal and added that he should have waited for the pronouncement of the Supreme Court on the party’s leadership tussle before forcing his way into the national secretariat.