Last weekend’s collapse of the peace accord between the two factions in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership tussle was a prediction fulfilled. ONYEKACHI EZE chronicles several breaches of such accord in the past
The repudiation of the peace process by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) barely two days after it was reached seems to have confirmed the belief in some quarters that it is not the wish of the former Borno State governor that peace returns to the party, at least for now.
Sheriff’s representatives, including his deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, attended the peace parley brokered by Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson last Thursday, where claimants to the party’s leadership position agreed to cease fire on media attacks and abuses on each another.
The peace accord signed by Alhaji Ahmed Gulak and Bernard Mikko on behalf of the Sheriffled National Working Committee (NWC), and Prince Dayo Adeyeye and Dave Iorhemba, for the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, imposed a ban on inflammatory, derogatory and divisive statements against party officials, stakeholders and members.
The two factions also agreed to “desist from making public press statements attacking each other and statements insinuating negative acts capable of dragging the party to the mud.”
They therefore agreed to work together with the Dickson National Reconciliation Committee to engender peace and genuine reconciliation in PDP.
They also promised to unite and work towards forming a formidable opposition party capable of taking over power from the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government in 2019. But Sheriff breached the agreement on Sunday.
Despite the fact that the Supreme Court have commenced hearing on the appeal filed by Makarfi against the February 17 judgement of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt division, the Sheriff faction said the caretaker committee is “an illegal body.” Ojougboh, who signed the statement, warned Makarfi not to interfere in the running of the affairs of the party, adding that “any further careless statement from him will force us to reconsider our earlier peace agreement.”
The Sheriff faction had moved to replace staff of the PDP secretariat, who were not cooperating with them, by declaring their jobs vacant and gave them a seven-day ultimatum to return the property of the party in their possession, but Makarfi group asked them to ignore the threat. The statement by the Sheriff faction, read: “Makarfi should behave himself.
He should not interfere in our business, because we are not interested in his private business. Any further careless statement from him will force us to reconsider our earlier peace agreement. “We have already employed staff, who are running the bureaucracy efficiently.
If Makarfi so desires, he should keep the old staff, just as he is doing now. We have had enough and enough is enough of this.” The statement added that the faction is preparing to complete state congresses, where necessary, and working hard on the planned national convention. “We will not be distracted by inconsequential issues from our set objective to return the party to the grassroots.
“We must prevent anybody with the agenda of killing the party, especially those, who were brought to the party by those, who have already decamped to other parties,” it said.
The Makarfi faction, which reacted to the development through Adeyeye, urged the staff and party stakeholders to ignore Sheriff. His words: “We went out of our way few days ago to reach accommodation with them even when some of our top leaders had serious misgivings about any type of talk with them given their unreliability.
“We have always known that Sheriff and his co-travellers especially, Cairo Ojuogbo, were never men of honour with whom one can reach any agreement. But we tagged along to avoid being accused of unnecessary intransigence.
“Since the leopard cannot change its spot, it is now very clear that no agreement or political solution can be reached with these bunch of people with huge integrity deficit.”
He described Ojougboh as an impostor and a rabble-rouser in a “non-existent NWC”, saying Sheriff does not have the constitutional requirement to constitute an NWC. Since the May 21, 2016 Port Harcourt convention that divided the party, a number of peace agreements were reached to end the crisis but most (if not all) of them were breached by Sheriff.
In September last year, it was thought that an amicable settlement was about to be reached when the two factions agreed to close rank and work together towards resolving the crisis in the party.
This was announced at a joint press conference by Ojougboh and Senator Ben Obi, who is secretary to the caretaker committee.Ojougboh, who read the resolutions reached at a meeting between the two principal actors – Makarfi and Sheriff, noted that the two warring factions agreed that “it is time to heal the wounds and bring about a united, focused and constructive opposition party.”
The resolutions further read: “In reviewing the crisis that has engulfed our party since the loss of the 2015 general elections after 16 years of uninterrupted leadership at the centre, it became obvious to both of us as principal actors that it is time to heal the wounds and bring about a united, focused and constructive opposition party that can bring sanity to our democratic process, bring relief to the teeming supporters of our great party and to the benefit of our great country.
“Based on the above, we have both agreed to consult widely with all relevant organs of the party, set up a joint committee that will carry out a holistic reconciliation of all aggrieved segments of our party across the country and in Diaspora and to pursue the vision of the founding fathers of our great party.
“We therefore call on party members to remain calm and refrain from any actions and utterances that could further bring about divisions or dispute in the party.”
The peace move was adopted by PDP expanded caucus after its meeting in Abuja in Abuja. The meeting was attended by members of all organs of the party, including the PDP Governors’ Forum, Board of Trustees (BoT), National Assembly caucus, as well as PDP Former Ministers’ Forum and Forum of State chairmen.
Adeyeye who briefed the press after the meeting said the only agenda discussed was the peace moves with members of Sheriff faction, which he said was “endorsed and supported by members of caucus without any dissenting voice.” Sheriff was absent at the meeting but one of his major supporters, Senator Buruji Kashamu was present.
The BoT Chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin, told journalists at the meeting venue: “If you see Kashamu coming to our side fully, embracing our national caretaker committee, whatever this group says will be acceptable to him. “We have been meeting with Sheriff. Even yesterday we spent until 4.am this morning. And there is progress with Sherrif.
He is a human being and I am sure he will follow suit.” Before the expanded caucus meeting, the two factional chairmen were brought to a roundtable at the Taraba Sate Governor’s Lodge, Abuja.
The peace meeting was initiated by Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and former Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko. Taraba State governor, Darius Ishaku hosted the parley.
At the meeting, Sheriff was said to have been prevailed upon to work with Makarfi and help rebuild the party. The meeting also agreed to accommodate members of his faction into the convention planning committee for the aborted August 17, 2016 second Port Harcourt National Convention.
Both factions, at the end agreed to inaugurate a 28-member Peace and Reconciliation Committee to come up with a harmonised position to resolve the crisis. But, Sheriff backed out of the peace process.
He refused to send the list of his nominees who would serve in the committee. He also did not show up at the committee’s inauguration venue. The former Borno State governor had demanded that the inauguration should hold at a neutral venue as well as rejected the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre proposed by the Makarfi faction. He was supposed to book a hall at Transcorp Hilton, but he failed to do so.
His media adviser, Inuwa Bwala, later said his principal was studying the terms of reference drawn as template for the reconciliation. The party’s BoT, had also on two occasions, set up committees to reconcile with Sheriff, and on both occasions, he rejected the move.
The first committee was set up immediately after the May 21 National Convention. Former secretary of the board, late Chief Ojo Maduekwe, on May 26 last year, said the board’s expanded meeting with various organs and groups in the PDP, agreed to work with the caretaker committee.
Consequently, Maduekwe disclosed that a committee to meet with Sheriff has been set up for him to join hands with the Makarfi leadership in the interest of the party.
He said: “The BoT at the expanded meeting decided to immediately engage all groups, party leaders and members involved in whatever disputes towards a just, lasting and amicable resolutions.
“The BoT will therefore preside over the processes of major reconciliations in our party as part of its leadership responsibility. “A committee has also been set up to meet with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff in the spirit of working together and resolving outstanding issues.”
After the move failed, the board again, before the August 17 convention, set up an 18-member panel headed by Prof. Jerry Gana, to dialogue with Sheriff so as to resolve the crisis before the convention.
At its first meeting held at Sheriff ’s office at Maitama, Abuja, Gana told the former Borno State governor that the panel was neither a court nor an appeal committee. “We have come to listen. We want to assure you that we are here to listen. Fortunately, we are here as politicians as solution providers. Anyone who is a man of God can be a solution provider.
“We have a burden of historic responsibility. As founding members of the party, only three of us are still alive, and we feel a sense of responsibility that what our founding fathers started will not be laid to waste. We feel there should be a feeling of understanding. We are here because we mean well,” Gana told Sheriff, but he failed to reciprocate and the crisis continued to fester.
There have been suggested reasons why Sheriff has continued to spurn every peace overtures made to him by PDP leaders to reconcile with him. The first, some analysts say, may be the people around him, who are benefiting from the crisis. It is common knowledge that people like Ojougboh and Kashamu are desirous of controlling PDP structure in their respective states.
Ojougboh is insisting that some positions in Delta PDP are ceded to him despite the fact that the state congress was conducted before the May convention. Kashamu on his part, wants to retain his position as South-West PDP leader.
He joined the fight after he realised that former Governor Mimiko and Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State had taken the structure from him after the state congresses and were planning to take control of the zonal structure.
It would be also recalled that on the eve of the December 10 parliamentary rerun elections in River State, Sheriff inaugurated a factional state executive for the state.
This, according to observers, was to accommodate the interest of the people around him. Many PDP leaders believe that APC has a hand in the crisis in their party. They believe that Sheriff is being sponsored by APC to destabilise the PDP.
According Adeyeye,Sheriff and his supporters were “planted to destabilise the vibrant party that provided good leadership for the country for 16 years.”
He added: “We can say without fear of contradiction and as well challenge Nigerians to point out where, even, for once, those parading themselves as PDP members, have dared to issue a statement condemning any of the several gaffes of the APC government. “We say clearly that not for once has Sheriff and his team of confused travellers said a word against the misgovernance of the APC.
We are not surprised because we know it’s suicidal for a servant to criticise his master.” Sheriff was asked, on two occasions why he has not been speaking against APC.
His answer was: “I have been speaking against APC; it is not my fault that the media have not reported it!” Ojougboh has equally been accused of issuing several statements against the Makarfi caretaker committee but none against APC.
With no end in sight to the back and forth movement of the Sheriff faction of the PDP, there is no doubt that the much desired turn-around in the fortune of the former ruling party, which dominated Nigeria’s political landscape from 1999 until its defeat in the 2015 general elections will remain a mirage.