Tuesday, June 14, 2016 8:45 am
Just as its members thought its troubles were over, the crisis rocking Nigeria biggest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party worsened on Monday with the hijack of the National Secretariat of the party by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, the chairman of the party who was removed at a convention of the party held in Port Harcourt last month.
The takeover itself was a well scripted plot by Sheriff who stormed the Wuse, Abuja Zone 5 secretariat very early in the morning with his loyalists demanding entrance into the nearly deserted sprawling edifice.
He was armed with a copy of a ruling by a Federal High Court, Lagos which affirmed the legality of his position as chairman of PDP despite his removal at the Port Harcourt convention.
Accompanying Sheriff were former National Secretary of the party, Prof. Wale Oladipo, ousted National Auditor, Alhaji Adewole Adeyanju and a former presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak, among others.
But the Policemen keeping watch at the secretariat were not convinced; they stood their ground, insisting that Sheriff and his supporters will not be allowed into the building.
Sheriff told journalists who were around then that he will not leave until he was allowed access into the secretariat and he eventually achieved his aim.
It was gathered that Sheriff then began to make frantic calls to Solomon Arase, the Inspector General of Police.
The former governor of Borno State told reporters that he remained the chairman of the party until 2018.
He added that the court did not recognize Ahmed Markafi led caretaker committee constituted to lead the party after his purported removal at the National Convention held in Port Harcourt.
“As you may be aware, that we have been facing some challenges since we put off the national convention in Port Harcourt last month.
“We, therefore, consider it the height of self-deceit for anyone to pretend that the PDP is not in crisis.
“But I want to assure you that we have been working round the clock to see how we can resolve the matter without being on the wrong side of the law.
“All the judgments that are available today recognise us as the sole chairman of this party.
“We have a court order in our hand to allow us to go into our office but the Inspector General of police, after having a truce with him that nobody should be allowed until we have decided, he decided to take the law into his hands and allow the wrong people,” he told a gathering of supporters at the secretariat.
“We will be law abiding, but Nigeria Police is made for Nigerian people to observe the rule of law.
“The law clearly stated that the Inspector General of Police, IGP should give us police to go into the office, but he brought platoon of police to block the office.
“We will go back because we do not want some miscreants to take the law into their hands.
“We will wait and take the mater beyond Nigeria Police Force,” he said,
Sheriff continued his calls to the IGP. It was gathered that he later left to hold a meeting with Solomon Arase, the IGP at Garki, Area11 Headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force.
He was eventually allowed into the premises after he returned from the meeting with Arase some minutes after 1 pm as the policemen drafted to the secretariat were withdrawn.
This time, he was reportedly accompanied into the premises by Senator Buruji Kashamu and controversial Anambra politician, Chief Chris Uba among others.
Inside the office of the National Chairman, Sheriff reiterated again to reporters that his tenure will last till December 2018.
He again also dismissed the Markafi led caretaker committee as an illegal body.
“After due consultations with serious minded stakeholders of the party and my lawyers, against the background that I have remained committed to lawful procedures, I have come, fully armed with all the necessary court orders to resume as national chairman, as directed by a court of competent jurisdiction.
“As we settle down to move the party forward, we wish to call on all party members within and outside the country to come around so that we can together re-position the PDP for future challenges.
“We have to this served the necessary court orders on the Independent National Electoral Commission which is the impartial arbiter in matters like this, the police as custodians of the law and we will make same available to you gentlemen of the press, so that you can make informed analysis of the issues involved. We hereby seek your own cooperation as we continue the task of re-engineering the PDP.
“I wish to use this opportunity to thank all those who stood on the side of the truth and the law, and wish to place on record that never again shall the PDP return to wallow in lawlessness and impunity.”
“Against this backdrop, I hereby declare as null, void and of no consequence whatsoever, any action taken by any person or group of persons, except by my leadership which is recognised by law,” said Sheriff.
Sheriff also indicated that he was ready for the job of the PDP National Chairman. He told journalists for instance that he had set up a committee headed by Senator Hope Uzodinma to oversee the Edo State governorship primary and congress for the forthcoming election.
“We have also asked all interested PDP members to come and purchase nomination forms for the Edo State governorship primary. The cost of the form for the primary election is N10 million and not N16 million as was announced by the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee,” he said.
It was gathered that the Makarfi led caretaker committee, some governors elected on the platform of the party were meeting on Monday evening to fashion out how to appropriately respond to the Sheriff challenge.
The former governor of Borno State was appointed in controversial circumstances as the chairman of PDP following protests over the continuation in office of the Uche Secondus led National Working Committee by some members of the party.
Secondus had replaced Adamu Muazu, former Governor of Bauchi State who resigned as the chairman following PDP’s loss of power at the centre and many states to the All Progressives Congress, APC in the 2015 general elections.
Some members of the party from the North East led by Ahmed Gulak, a former adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan had put pressure on the party to appoint a substantive chairman from the North East in replacement of Muazu in accordance with the zoning formular of PDP.
Indeed, Gulak went to court late last year and successfully obtained a declaration that the only zone with legal right to produce the chairman of PDP was the North East zone.
Armed with the judgment, Gulak, had late last year invaded Wadata Plaza and declared himself the Chairman of PDP.
Embarrassed by the audacious move of the presidential aide, stake holders of the party, notably governors elected on the platform of the party hurriedly met and disowned Gulak while they began the search for a candidate from the North East zone for appointment as the chairman of the party in accordance with the ruling of the court.
They eventually zeroed in on Sheriff.
But Sheriff was a controversial choice from the word go as he was opposed by some key stake holders in the party, especially former ministers of President Jonathan and the members of the Board of Trustees.
His alleged link to the emergence of Boko Haram insurgency as governor of Borno State certainly did not endear him to many in the party.
But the governors persisted in the support, with Ayodele Fayose of State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers being the main backers of the former Borno State governor.
But despite the opposition and with the help of the two governors, Sheriff was appointed by the National Executive Committee, NEC, the highest organ of the party as the National Chairman of PDP to replace Mu’azu.
To emerge Acting PDP Chairman, the former Borno State governor was endorsed by the National Caucus, a body with membership drawn from the forum of PDP governors, members of the National Assembly, Board of Trustees and National Working Committee of the party.
Sheriff emerged PDP Chairman with 60 out of 71 voting NEC members present voting in his favour.
His appointment, the party said, was in keeping with section 47 (6) of the PDP Constitution, which empowers the NEC to fill a vacant position with a person from the zone where the officer originated from.
The two governors had also perfected move to install Sheriff as the substantive chairman of the party during the convention of the party later held in Port Harcourt.
But following continuous opposition to his candidacy from other party members and indications that even the governors supporting him may have dumped him, the former Borno State governor had at the eve of the Convention approached a Lagos Federal High Court, asking for an injunction to stop the election of a substantive chairman for the party at the event.
The court granted him the injunction which created confusion at the venue of the convention.
Sheriff told journalists after some hours that the convention has been cancelled as a result of the court order and hurriedly left Port Harcourt in company of his supporters.
But PDP governors refused to toe his path.
Led by Wike who was the host, they appointed Markafi, a former governor of Kaduna State as the chairman of Caretaker Committee for the party.
The Caretaker Committee headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi was mandated to elect a new National Working Committee for the party within three months.
Fayose later told journalists at the Convention ground that the NWC of PDP, which Senator Sheriff led, was dissolved to save the party.
Not one to give up, Sheriff approached a court in Lagos which again declared him as the authentic chairman of the party the first working day after the convention.
But another court in Port Harcourt also declared the Markari led Caretaker Committee as legally constituted to lead the party the same day.
The Police had sealed the PDP National Secretariat in reaction to the two contradictory rulings.
However, PDP BOT members who claimed to have taken charge of the affairs of the party following the contradictory court rulings into the building were later allowed into the building.
Members of the BOT handed over to the Markafi Committee about a week ago and members of the party thought their problems are over until Sheriff’s invasion of the party secretariat yesterday.
With yesterday’s event, the problems of PDP which is still struggling to remain relevant after it lost power to the APC in the 2015 presidential election may have just been compounded.