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PDP sets August 17 for fresh national convention •South to get national chairman slot •Ekweremadu heads S/West peace committee

A ray of hope has appeared in the horizon for the embattled Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it has agreed on a date for a new national convention to resolve all lingering leadership problems.

The party has chosen August 17, 2016 to conduct a new national convention in Port Harcourt, barely three months after the controversial May 21 convention, which was also held in the Rivers State capital.

A meeting of stakeholders of the party was presided over by the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, held in Abuja, on Thursday, where certain agreements were reached, including the jettisoning of the previous zoning formula which had ceded the post of the national chairman to the North-East.

Claimant to the office of the national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, was conspicuously absent.

But Senator Buruji Kashamu, who was seen as his major backer in the effort to remain the national chairman of the party, was present at the stakeholders meeting to the delight of Makarfi.

The meeting agreed that since the 2019 presidential candidate of the PDP will be chosen from the North, the party boss must emerge from any part of the south.

Makarfi briefed journalists on the outcome at the end of the about four hours meeting at Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.

He said nobody would be alienated from the party, including Sheriff and his supporters, as effort will continue to achieve peaceful resolution of all the contentious issues.

He similarly announced the setting up a reconciliation committee for the South-West headed by Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu.

He said: “We discussed some programmes leading to the convention, meaning that the national convention will hold on August 17 where we will elect new national executive officers of the party.

“We have also discussed and agreed on a new amendment to the constitution in view of recent court judgments, in order to align the constitution to the judgments that have been delivered by court of competent jurisdiction.

“Equally, we received reports of reconciliation. You can see by yourself our brothers, friends and associates, Senator Buruji Kashamu.

“That is evidence of the reconciliation making progress and I can assure you that we will never foreclose full reconciliation with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and another person that may still be associated with him.

“What we want is an all inclusive PDP, an equitable, fair and just system in the PDP, where the right of everyone commensurate  with their own level is protected and preserved.

“We equally have set up a special committee led by the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, to further cement the reconciliation within the South-West so that all issues that must have led to the division in the South-West would be resolved accordingly.”

On zoning, Makarfi said: “We also discussed about zoning. Within the next few days, a committee will be set up on zoning.

“The convention set aside the previous zoning arrangement. So, a new zoning arrangement has to be made.

“We have agreed that within the next 48 hours, this committee should be put in place and given a week to come out with a new zoning arrangement.

“But of course, taking a cue from the decision taken at the Port Harcourt convention that the president will come from the North, of course, it is incontrovertible that the chairman of the party will come from the South and it will be open to all and not consigned to any geopolitical zone or state in the South.”

Also addressing journalists, chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Walid Jibrin, said the stakeholders were working to ensure that all court cases by aggrieved persons were withdrawn.

He was confident that members of the Sheriff faction would eventually be integrated into the mainstream.

Jibrin stated: “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 time with him until 4.00a.m. And there is progress with Sheriff. He is human being and I am sure he will follow suit.

“We have been meeting with Sheriff up till this morning. At the appropriate time, Sheriff himself will be with us,” he added.

 

Sheriff kicks against Wike on new convention

Fresh move to reconcile the two factions of the PDP to give room for its new national convention hit the rock again in Abuja, in the wee hours of Thursday.

The Nigerian Tribune learnt that this followed the rejection by  the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction of  the party of the offer of the Rivers State governor,  Nyesom  Wike, to host the forthcoming new national convention of the party in Port-Hacourt.

According to an insider, through the efforts of the duo of Chief Edwin Clark, the foremost Ijaw leader and Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, the two factions, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee and Senator Sheriff group met at Taraba Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro District of Abuja, at a meeting which started on Wednesday night till the wee hours of Thursday, when it became

deadlocked.

It was gathered that the meeting attended by stakeholders from the two factions, including PDP state governors PDP caucus in the National Assembly, members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) members of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party and others.

However, our source revealed that trouble started  when Governor Wike allegedly offered to host the proposed  convention of the party in Port-Harcourt, in order to resolve the lingering crisis  in the party.

According to our source, “the offer easily raised suspicion among Senator Sheriff’s group which rejected the proposal outrightly.

“Sheriff’s group wondered why it must be Governor Wike, who hosted the last controversial convention, would again host the fresh convention.

“The group sensed that if not for personal interest, why should Wike be insisting on hosting the new convention barely few weeks after a similar gesture,” he added.

Our source continued: “Sheriff himself saw the offer as a Greek gift which should be turned down and allowed all the stakeholders to mobilise funds for the successful hosting of the convention rather than allowing an individual or group to do it.”

 

We’ll quit if asked  —Makarfi

The chairman of the PDP national caretaker committee, Senator Makarfi, has expressed the readiness of the committee members to vacate their positions if asked by the party.

Receiving the leadership of a faction of the party from Kwara State, who had paid him a solidarity visit in Abuja, Makarfi assured the party faithful that his committee could not be a sit-tight leadership as it was only interested in accomplishing the mandate it had been given.

He said: “We are not a sit-tight caretaker committee. We are given a mandate and we are determined to deliver that mandate within the time given to us.

“We don’t belong to sit-tight leaders. We have been saying that even if by today our services are no longer required, we will quit. Others left before us and others will leave after us.”

Makarfi said the committee would work towards reconciling all factions of the party to put it in a position not just to recapture power at the centre, but also to clinch more states around the country.

While assuring the delegation of his determination to reposition the party, Makarfi stated: “We want, not just in Kwara, but in Nigeria, to reconcile party men and women. In that way, we have the chance not only to regain many more states, but we will also regain power at the centre.”

He expressed delight over the willingness of the factions in Kwara State to reconcile and praised the leader of the delegation for not castigating his rivals, but recognising that all hands were required on deck to give the PDP the advantage.

In his  earlier address, factional chairman of Kwara State PDP,  Prince Sunday Fagbemi, said they were in Abuja on a solidarity visit to the caretaker committee and commended them for the work they had done so far.

He appealed to the committee to intervene in the crisis in Kwara chapter to bring a lasting solution, as he accused the former state exective committee of the party of trying to perpetuate themselves in office.

 

He said peace was necessary in Kwara PDP, as according to him, there was discontent against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state which had provided an opportunity for the PDP to recapture it.

 

Fagbemi said: “The development in the state, now characterised by the uprising by the masses against the APC-led government, is a testimony to the overwhelming discontentment of  the people which is an added advantage to our party.”