The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ali Sheriff, on Thursday stormed out of stakeholders meeting summoned by former President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja to resolve the party’s long standing leadership crisis, insisting that he must be recognised as national chairman.
Jonathan had given his opening remarks before Sheriff arrived for the meeting.
Going by the programme, Sheriff’s address at the opening ceremony was supposed to follow that of Jonathan followed by that of the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi before the Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin would speak.
But Sheriff was not available to speak after Jonathan had concluded his address.
In an apparent attempt not to promote Makarfi above Sheriff, the former Kaduna State governor’s address was stepped down and the BoT chairman was requested to speak.
It was as Jibrin was delivering his address that Sheriff walked into the venue of the meeting.
At the end of the BoT chairman’s address, an announcement was made for the media to excuse the meeting but Sheriff protested, insisting that the media must stay to witness his address to the meeting as he national chairman of the party.
Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike and his Ekiti counterpart, Ayo Fayose, argued that if Sherrif must speak in the presence of the media, Makarfi must also be allowed to speak.
Jonathan intervened, saying that neither Sheriff nor Makarfi would speak as no national chairman would be recognized at the peace meeting.
Sheriff got up to leave but was prevailed upon by other party members following which they retired to a room within the venue to calm down frayed nerves.
The meeting in the room was made up of prominent party members led by Jonathan who spent nearly two hours trying to convince Sheriff to accept the arrangement in the meeting.
He refused and stormed out along with members of his National Working Committee (NWC).
On his way out, he told journalists that as things are in the party, he is the most senior figure as the national chairman and must recognized as such.
He posited that no other person has the right to preside over a meeting of the party.
He said: “The party as at today has one national chairman, which is Ali Modu Sheriff. There is no PDP meeting that will take place under any arrangement that I will not make an opening remark as a national chairman.
“I think that Governor Dickson made a proposal, and we have accepted it. Other people have a programme to bring agenda which is not part of the proposal.
“And as a national chairman of the party, what I told you people in my office is that I will not be party for anybody using me as a party to do another programme. I will not be.”
When asked if he has no respect for the former president who convened the meeting, Sheriff pointed out that he has
respect him which made him to fly down by from abroad to attend the meeting.
“We have a programme, which is initiated by Dickson, anything that is outside that I will not part of,” he added.
The meeting however went on without Sheriff at the end of which a committee with membership drawn from both Sheriff and Makarfi’s camps raised to sort out the problems that had been identified and report back within two weeks.
Jonathan heads the committee but in his absence, former Vice President Namadi Sambo or former Senate President, David Mark would chair it.
The former president regretted what he termed the “little situation that occurred in the early part of the meeting,” noting that by the time the committee submits its report, such thing would not repeat itself.
Earlier in his address, Jonathan said as the leading light of the nation’s democracy, the PDP must not be allowed to drift, noting that rather than engage in blame game, the party must be rebuilt into a formidable force.
He observed that the challenges in the PDP were not strange in a democratic society but advised that members should first rebuild the party danger noted that even though people must be encouraged to aspire for positions, they cannot achieve their ambition without a strong platform.
He said: “There is no doubt that the PDP is a leading light in constitutional democracy and this is why we cannot allow the party to continue to drift. This meeting of today is therefore designed to stem the drift.
“I have to state clearly that today is not a day to blame ourselves. We have blamed ourselves enough in the media. Today is not a day to insult ourselves, we have also done enough of that in the media. Today is the day our great party men and women will come up with suggestions and solutions to our problems. We will surely overcome the current challenge. The PDP will definitely rise again.
“The meeting of today is noticeably unique and it is aimed at achieving two key objectives:
To reassure our party members and all Nigerians that the PDP is united and still remains the largest party in Nigeria and one that has all it takes to win key elections, that without prejudice to the on going litigation over some issues, the party leaders are out to develop a mechanism towards achieving a lasting and enduring political settlement of our differences.
“Great and committed members of our great party, you will all agree with me that this house as presently constituted is too large to fine tune details of our reconciliation plans and for the intended final political settlement out of court. Permit me to therefore recommend that the meeting be conducted in two tiers viz:
“The larger body of stakeholders as we are now. This body will come up with suggestions on the way forward for resolving the differences that we currently face.
“A smaller committee of not more than 40 members will be constituted to fine tune the suggestions of the larger body, to finally resolve all the outstanding issues.
“In closing, 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 time. 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 prepared 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 realize 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.”
SOURCE: African Spotlight