The emergence of former chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, as national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has caused a further rift in the party.
Members of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) stormed out of a meeting which was supposed to deliberate on Sheriff’s nomination, contending that his negative image would not bode well for the party.
It was also gathered that the state chairmen of the party were split over the choice of the former Borno State governor.
This, however, did not stop his ratification as PDP national chairman by National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, the second highest decision making body of the party after the national convention.
He was expected to complete the tenure of the North-east, which was vacated by Dr Adamu Mu’azu in May 2015.
The deputy national chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, had presided over the party as acting national chairman since the resignation of Mu’azu.
Sheriff was acting chairman of the defunct ANPP and was instrumental to the merger process that produced the ruling APC. He joined the PDP in 2014 after he fell out with the leadership of the newly formed APC.
In the drama that attended the whole exercise, Sheriff had arrived at the PDP premises at 7:44pm as the NEC meeting was going on and moved straight to the office of the national chairman and was later ushered into the NEC hall where he was sworn in at about 8:13 pm.
He acknowledged the dissenting voices over his emergence and pleaded for cooperation, promising that he would not “witch-hunt anybody or leave anyone alone.”
He also admitted that the task ahead of the party is very challenging and vowed to rebuild “this party and carry everybody along and make sure PDP gets to victory in 2019.”
The former Borno governor noted that while there might be differing opinions – which is allowed in party politics, he was assuring them that the party would not regret the choice they made yesterday – to install him as chairman.
While he boasted that PDP still had the structure and remains focused to regain power in 2019, he said that by “2019 PDP will return to power and keep it forever. We will come here to celebrate by 2019; we will rule from federal centre.
“I ask everybody for prayers. Whatever your feelings, let’s work together. I will carry everybody along.”
Indications that the party was in chaos over Sheriff emerged after the national publicity secretary of PDP, Olisa Metuh, had indicated earlier that most of the party organs were backing Sheriff’s choice pending ratification of NEC.
But he returned two hours later to clarify that the BoT was still deliberating over the choice of Sheriff, explaining that the NEC had to be stalled because the BoT had different views over the choice of Sheriff.
He disagreed that the party was trying to impose a chairman on its members and said the overall interest of the party would be considered.
According to him, the 11 governors present at the meeting, the leadership of National Assembly and the NWC would sit and come out with a position.
He said it was “improper for any member to threaten to walk out. Decisions will be collective. There will be a consensus at the end of the day after the consultations.”
LEADERSHIP gathered that some BoT members had stormed out of the meeting in protest against Sheriff’s nomination, saying they could not be railroaded into accepting the man.
Some BoT members who spoke in confidence lamented the image challenge the former Borno governor will cause the party.
Shortly after, the Secondus-led NWC and the 11 governors who had arrived for the NEC meeting left the BoT meeting and entered into another meeting, which dragged for over three hours, in a bid to resolve the logjam caused by Sheriff’s nomination.
Metuh had earlier explained that the list of candidates for the position was pruned from an initial 29 candidates to five by Monday. He said besides Sheriff, other candidates screened by the national caucus include Ambassador Wilberforce Juta, Senator Saidu Kumo, Senator Girgiri Lawan, Shehu Gabam and Hon Muhammed Wakil.
He added that the governorship candidate of PDP in Adamawa State, Nuhu Ribadu, declined to face the panel, and, as such, his wishes were respected.
Speaking earlier, Metuh had tried to explain how the party executives arrived at the choice of Sheriff. He stated that the North East Caucus of the party, which had been mandated to produce a candidate to replace Mu’azu, was initially unable to agree on a candidate.
“So, what they did was to send to us five people; one from each state of the North East. They sent Girigiri from Yobe State, Ambassador Wilberforce Juta from Adamawa State, Abba Gana from Borno State, Shehu Gabam from Bauchi State, and Senator Kumo from Gombe State. Taraba did not have any other person.
“So, these five people were invited to come and see the National Caucus on Monday to take a decision. In the meeting that we had with them, we decided that it was important that we enlarge the scope and the number of people that will come. So, we extended and invited some other people to come and show why they want to be chairman.
“One or two governors confirmed that Ribadu had shown interest in becoming chairman, so we extended invitation to him to come. We were told that Modu Sheriff over the weekend expressed an interest. We invited him to come and tell us. And because Hon. Wakil had come down from the United Kingdom to participate in the process, we invited him as well.
“On Monday, apart from those five people, we interviewed Ali Modu Sheriff and Mohammed Wakil. But we were told that Ribadu was not comfortable with an interview.
“After the interview process, they were narrowed down to two persons. And a little over an hour ago, the National Caucus discussed. The governors first of all discussed and brought a candidate, the National Assembly discussed and brought a candidate, the BoT discussed and came up with a candidate, the National Working Committee discussed and came with a candidate. So, we brought the candidate at the National Caucus. And one interesting thing was that, unanimously, it was the same candidate that every single organ of the party brought to the National Caucus.
“So, the National Caucus endorsed that they will bring to the Board of Trustees the choice of the National Caucus, after which both organs will bring the nomination to the National Executive Committee.
“So, there is no approval of the National Executive Committee but, for now, I can confirm to you that the National Caucus has chosen Senator Ali Modu Sheriff to be the national chairman of the party. But we are awaiting Board of Trustees’ approval and the NEC to appoint, this afternoon. So, this is exactly where we are.
“So, immediately after the NEC, if it is the same person that is approved, we will call you and inform you.”
However former aviation minister and stakeholder in the PDP, Femi Fani-Kayode, has kicked against the nomination of Ali Modu Sheriff as the party’s national chairman.
“I do not often speak publicly about the internal affairs of the PDP because I have always chosen to remain well above the fray. This is because I have good friends in every single group and on all sides that constitute the party.
“However, given today’s events, there appears to be deep cause for concern. It is clear to me that, more than at any other time in its almost 17 years in existence, the PDP needs serious prayers.
“If we fail to provide the strong, united, progressive, credible and focused leadership and opposition that are needed to keep our country on course and our government on their toes, then God will never forgive us and He will surely punish us,” he said.
Fani-Kayode further said, “If we insist on making the wrong choices about our leadership, and if we keep taking people for granted, not only will we be finished as a party but the entire country will suffer the consequences of our errors and inexplicable ways.”