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PDP Crisis: Sheriff Disagrees with Jonathan, Walks out of Stakeholders’ Meeting

Photo Caption: Immediate past president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Efforts to find a political solution to the festering leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday suffered a major setback.

Court-backed National Chairman  Ali Modu Sheriff stormed out of a peace meeting convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

At the meeting, which was chaired by Dr. Jonathan, were four of the party’s governors.

Also there were the chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin and other notable chieftains.

Sheriff, who came into the Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja venue of the meeting long after Jonathan, the governors and other party chiefs had taken their seats, stormed out of the meeting at 4:25 pm.

He disagreed with Jonathan on the meeting, saying he (Sheriff) remained the most senior member of the PDP and, as such, a meeting of that nature ought to have been convened by him.

Visibly agitated Sheriff was more piqued by Jonathan’s refusal to allow him address the meeting in his capacity as the National Chairman.

According to him, the meeting was at variance with the recommendations made by a reconciliation committee headed by Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson.

Speaking with reporters shortly after he quit the meeting with his team, Sheriff said he would not be party to any arrangement that seemed to deviate from the recommendation of the Dickson committee.

His words: “We were 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 am 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 agenda which was not part of it.

“And as national chairman of the party, what I 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.”

Asked if he had not disrespected Jonathan by storming out of the meeting, Sheriff said he respected the former president but that respect  must be reciprocal. According to him, Jonathan should not have called the meeting without consulting him.

Said he: “Well, I respect him but calling for the meeting. He is a former president. But as of today, I am 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.”

Asked on the way forward, Sheriff said he was sticking with the Dickson recommendation, which proposed a national convention under his watch.

“As the National Chairman, we move on.  We have a programme initiated by Dickson. And we are continuing with that. Anything outside that, I am not a party to it,” he said.

In his opening address, Jonathan said he had been working with key party stakeholders back stage and that the meeting was his first major political outing since he left office about two years ago.

He acknowledged the crisis that has plagued the party for almost two years, saying the development was not new in democracies the world over, including the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (U.S.).

Jonathan said: “I will like to point out that every election cycle throws up a challenge as well as opportunities for a political party; a test to re-evaluate its performance, and an opportunity to reform its processes and programmes towards rediscovering itself to become even more appealing to the electorate in its next outing.

“It is obvious that some of our people see this development as not only disappointing but discouraging for our great party. Although I can understand this sense of loss, I always prefer to align myself with those who choose to see it differently, given the positive impact our conduct and disposition has had in deepening our democracy.

“All over the world, political parties lose elections, not because they have entirely failed, but because, in most cases, the people who gave them power in the first place, have decided to hand it over to another party, in order to experience a different kind of leadership.

“In Africa and other emerging democracies, the challenge has always been with the disposition of the party in power to allow the people the opportunity to freely exercise this right.

“This obviously is the area where we have excelled. The fact that we allowed this process to take place peacefully, and freely handed over power to the opposition did not only lift the profile of our party, but also elevated our country to the status of one of the world’s stable and reliable democracies.

“For this gesture alone, the whole world has continued to applaud our party and its leaders as icons of democracy on the continent.

“We were able to achieve this because our government really reformed the electoral and political process, by giving the electoral bodies their true independence which subsequently opened up the political space for free and fair elections.

“We may have had shortcomings while in power, but we also recorded significant achievements and great milestones. Through purposeful leadership, we reformed our institutions, rebuilt the nation’s confidence, regained international goodwill and rekindled hope in our people.”

The former president encouraged the gathering not to despair over loss of power and enjoined them to make sacrifices by putting the interest of the PDP above their personal interests.

Describing the PDP as a leading light in constitutional democracy, Jonathan said the party cannot be allowed to continue to drift, adding that the gathering was designed to stem the drift.

He urged the stakeholders to bury their differences, to ensure a quick resolution of the leadership problems in the party, stressing that there is no sacrifice too big to make.

Jonathan said a 40-member committee would be set up to finetune decisions taken at the meeting with a view to resolving all outstanding issues.

He continued: “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, in deed 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.”

At the meeting were Governors Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Darius Ishaku (Taraba). Deputy Governors of Gombe and Ebonyi states were also there.

Others at the meeting were the chairman of the party’s Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Prince Uche Secondus, Olisa Metuh, among others.

Dickson was among the party’s governors who did not attend the meeting and were not represented by their deputies./The Nation


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