Attempts by former President Goodluck Jonathan to end the leadership crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hit rock bottom yesterday as the national chairman of the Party, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff, stormed out of a stakeholders’ meeting convened by the former Nigerian leader.
This is even as the former president setup a 40-man committee comprising state governors and other party leaders to find lasting solution to the PDP crisis.
Jonathan said he will be chairman of the committee whenever he is available, while in his absence, former Vice President Namadi Sambo or former Senate President, David Mark, will lead the committee which is expected to submit its report in two weeks.
The former president yesterday summoned a meeting of party stakeholders at Shehu Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja in a bid to find lasting solution to the lingering crisis in the party, but trouble, however, started when the meeting went into a closed door session.
Accompanied by his loyalists, the national chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, stormed out of the meeting in protest against the refusal of party members to allow him address the gathering solely as chairman of the party.
The national chairman who arrived some minutes after the former president had at the close door meeting insisted that as the legally recognised chairman of the party, he should be the only person to address the meeting.
Sheriff and chairman of the party’s caretaker committee, Sen Ahmed Makarfi, were listed to give good will messages alongside chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Sen Walid Jibrin.
Addressing journalists immediately after storming out of the hall, Sheriff vowed that he will abide by the recommendations of the Governor Seriake Dickson-led reconciliation committee which had proposed a national convention.
Explaining why he walked out of the meeting, Sheriff said, “We are here for PDP stakeholders meeting and the PDP has only one national chairman, which is Ali Modu-Sheriff. There is no PDP meeting that will take place under whatever arrangement that I will not open the session as national chairman. Today, I’m the most senior member of this party.
“I think Governor Dickson made a proposal for reconciliation and we have accepted. Some people want to deviate from this programme, to bring an agenda which was not part of it. And as national chairman of the party, what I have told you people in my office when Dickson brought the report is the only thing that we have agreed at this moment. And I will not be party for anybody using me to do another programme. I’m not going to be part of it”.
When asked whether staging a walk-out did not smack of disrespect for the former President, he said, “Well, I respect him. He was a former President but as of today I’m the most senior member of the party. Therefore if I respect him, the respect must be reciprocated. You can’t call me for a meeting of PDP and say I cannot address the meeting as national chairman of the party”.
On the way forward, he said, “As the National Chairman, we move on. We have a programme initiated by Dickson and we are continuing with that. Anything outside that, I’m not a party to it”.
Speaking to journalists after the closed door session, Jonathan described sheriff’s walk out as a minor setback which will be resolved after the committee submits it report in two weeks time.
In his breakdown of the committee, he said, “The committee will be chaired by any of us but we will consult widely. I may chair the committee or if I am not there former Vice President Namadi Sambo or Senator David Mark may chair that committee, but if I am around I will chair the committee.
“The BoT will select six people, one per geopolitical zone; each of the blocks will bring six persons, one per geopolitical zone; all our governors will be members; deputy senate president, Senate minority leader; minority leader, House of Representatives and minority whip; two former governors from both groups, one from the North, one from South; two former ministers, one from the North one from South; two women, one from the North, one from the South and two young youths.
“Within two weeks, they will come up with strong recommendations and a smaller group larger than that committee will meet”.
By the time we came back, those minor areas that caused what we saw in the earlier part of the meeting will not be there again because all those issues must have been smoothened out. We regret that little situation we encountered”.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Jonathan warned that should the crisis persist the party might lose the forthcoming governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States.
He also asked party members to shelve personal ambition and make sacrifices for the party, adding that if the PDP is weakened it will become difficult to win elections on its platform.
He said, “I charge our great party leaders to make personal and general sacrifices to ensure the quick resolution of the problems in our party. The PDP is a symbol of democracy. If you believe in the PDP, there is no sacrifice too big for you to make.
“As politicians, with the zeal to lead our people, we must aspire to higher offices or identify the people we believe have leadership qualities and encourage them to aspire to those positions. But one thing is very clear: you cannot, as the polity is configured today, be elected into a higher office on the platform of a weak party.
“We must all, therefore, work to rebuild the PDP and strengthen the party in line with the vision of our founding fathers and the mission to continue to provide, for the good of the people of our great country, valuable leadership in a stable democracy rooted in the rule of law.
“We have to remind ourselves that the prolongation of the crisis in our party may have cost us so much in election fortunes, in recent times. The loss of Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections is still fresh in our memory. It goes without saying that we cannot afford to have a repeat of that in the forthcoming elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States.
“It is high time we buried the hatchet, suppressed our ego and prepare to make sacrifices in the interest of our party and, indeed, the country. Our ambitions therefore must come second; otherwise we will only be building castles on quick sand. We must realise that as they say, everybody is nobody without a platform. So, why destroy the platform?
“I urge our teeming members to remain steadfast and continue to believe in the PDP. As I said earlier, it is true that we suffered a setback in 2015, but the fact remains that the PDP is still the largest party in our dear country. There is no doubt that the PDP will emerge from this moment of trial to regain its position as the greatest party on our continent”.
On his part, chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Sen Walid Jibrin, said party members must be ready to do away with selfish ambition and forgive and forget the grievances of the past.
Jibrin who expressed hope that the meeting will bring lasting solution to the crisis, however, charged members not to abandon PDP.
Giving a vote of thanks, Deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, stated that he was happy that Jonathan was trying to help resolve the crisis rocking the party.
He noted that, while the party is strong at the grassroots level, it is unfortunate that they have not been able to fix their problems at the national level.
At the meeting were Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ayo Fayose (Ekiti); Darius Ishaku (Taraba); deputy governors of Gombe and Ebonyi.
Others include former members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), including Uche Secondus, Olisa Metuh, Abubakar Mustapha, Abdullahi Maibasira, among other party leaders.