Immediate past Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Emeka Ihedioha, speaks with newsmen in Port Harcourt on the convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), describes Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as an interloper sent to destroy party. DEPUTY EDITOR, DAPO FALADE brings excerpts:
The Professor Jerry Gana-led reconciliation committee of your party held a meeting with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. Is there any sign of positive development from the meeting?
I am not a member of the committee. We just concluded a very successful state congress of our party in Imo State. We are happy that the party is getting ready to begin the processes to deliver governance in Imo State for 2019. That has kept me in the state for a while.
But like you said, the task, apparently, is to get aggrieved members of the party to see reasons to help the party to begin its role as opposition in the present time and to begin to build towards the next general election. We are facing a governorship election in Edo State and we believe that all well-meaning members of PDP should be interested in how the party will win that election and not in how to distract the party from victory.
Senator Sheriff is still insisting on having his candidate for the Edo election…
Can we stop all this emphasis on Senator Ali Modu Sheriff? He was the chairman of our party and his tenure is over. The convention in Port Harcourt, which I guess you witnessed, took judicious note of it and took an action to terminate the life of that executive. By the votes of the delegates at the convention, all national officers, which included Sheriff, were removed from office. When you are removed from office, do you still remain in office? These are mere distractions. Please, let us be positive about the future of our party. That is the challenge we are facing now.
Are you aware of the Justice Muhammad Liman judgment on the issues in Port Harcourt? Has there been anything to the contrary? Is there any superior judgment in that regard? Has any court of higher jurisdiction made a pronouncement? The constitution of our party is supreme and the constitution of our land is also supreme. Let us not get distracted; let us be focused.
The dust was also raised on the zoning of the chairmanship position of the party to the South-West, ahead the convention. Don’t you think that aspirants from the other zones have been effectively shut out by the zoning arrangement?
I think in 2002, when the party zoned the presidency to the South, we had an incumbent president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, but Dr Alex Ekwueme contested the primary with him. The late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi from the northern part of the country also contested. We didn’t stop them from running. Am I right? I just gave you an analogy. I am not a member of the screening committee and I have not seen the publication. But I am sure the screening committee will do justice to all those issues. But what I am saying is that the party has pronounced zoning. You may choose to respect it and you may choose not to respect it. It is not for me, as a party member, to tell you want will happen; it is a free contest. Zoning is supposed to be a guide.
You just said Ali Modu is a distraction…
What does he represent? Can you tell me one ideal of PDP that he represents? You, as a reporter who has been covering the activities of PDP, can you tell me one ideal of the party that Ali Modu Sheriff represents? What is he preaching? What is his message? I will only refer you to the PDP Constitution, pertaining to the powers and functions of the party. The questions you people should ask is: was there a national convention? Has there been any other convention apart from the one held in Port Harcourt? What did we do in Port Harcourt?
But the man went to court to challenge his removal…
We had elected the national executive members before and we removed them, through a due motion; I was the seconder of that motion, moved by former Deputy Speaker Austin Opara. A motion was moved in line and in conformity with the PDP Constitution and it was supported overwhelmingly by the ayes and so we removed all the national officers. So, when you say the man was challenging his removal, did the party’s constitution give him room to be jumping up and down as he is doing? We told him come to the national convention. The PDP Constitution says only a national convention can annul the action of a convention and we are yet to have another one after the one we had in Port Harcourt on May 21, 2016.
But if the distraction continues, what is the party going to do?
The party is a deliberate party, just like this ward congress is a deliberate action. Congresses are taking place across the country, ward-by-ward and which you too noticed. I am here now; it is not like somebody will say, ‘Emeka Iheodia is not here and that what we are doing is just a ‘wayo.’ I am here live and also members of my committee. It is taking place but some people will sit somewhere and say, ‘don’t mind them, there is no convention.’ Sheriff will tell you no congress is taking place but is he participating in the congress? Is he doing a congress?
There is a process that leads to a convention. We had a convention and that convention was convened by the PDP National Executive Committee (NEC), as provided for in our constitution. No one man has the authority to say he has cancelled and suspended the convention. He is ignorant of the provisions of our constitution. That was why I asked: does he represent our ideals? The ideals of the founding fathers of our party are very clear. Sheriff is an interloper; he jumped into the party.
With the spate of court injunctions, the fear is that another injunction may spring up a day to the convention stopping its conduct. Are you prepared for this?
Just be focused and be confident. We have gotten this far because we remained focused. We will not be distracted and we shall not be distracted. If we had been distracted, we shall not be planning for the convention. You can see that everything and everybody is on, speed gear. I am sure you know that we have inaugurated a high-powered National Convention Committee of which, incidentally by the grace of the party, I am a member. On Friday [last week], we also are going for meeting of various sub-committees of the convention. I am heading the Committee on Constitution Amendment.
So, we are working because we believe that we must move our party forward. We know there are agents sent to destabilise our party and it is very easy for them to offer themselves to be agents. I will leave you to fill the blank spaces. But we cannot be distracted every day, bothering ourselves about those who have decided to be agents; you cannot stop a man from an agent, agent of whatever, agent of parties and interests opposed to our party. That is why I asked: what ideals Sheriff represents? Does he represent any of the positive ideals of PDP? He does not and so? You should be able to fill the blank spaces.
But you people brought him into the party in the first instance…
He came in and if indeed he is a man of honour, he told us he would spend only three months. He told us at the party caucus and I was there. He pledged to spend three months, which was to terminate in May. That was why we fixed the national convention for May 21, 2016. He presided over that national caucus meeting and caused every member of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) to pledge to leave before May 21.
Even, if we had said we wanted him, don’t we have the right to change our mind? So, to say that we brought him, what does that mean? We brought a man and we now saw his true colour and we said, ‘man, please go and sit down; we want to build our party.’ That is what we are doing. By the way, you have to be the chairman of a people because the party is about people and the same people said they don’t want you as the chairman. Is it by force? So, I don’t understand what you people are saying about court. The court is not the people. PDP is on course to electing a new national chairman come August 17, 2016.
What does PDP stand for in the current dispensation?
What we are doing and we should be very conscious of this is to try to build and sustain our democracy. It is not about outsmarting each other. Whatever we do today counts. I say this to everybody who cares to listen and this is obvious. I am sure you have an idea of my national trajectories. When I was the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, we had a situation where some persons wanted to do things that were wrong and I said to them, ‘be very mindful’; I was presiding that day. I said then that the problem some people are creating today at the national scene was never part of the processes that led us to where we are. What do I mean?
When the late General Sani Abacha was the Head of State, people never knew that there could be any day Nigerians could go and freely vote because he had been endorsed by all the five political parties then and was waiting for coronation. But God intervened and we began again when a new Head of State came in. By circumstances of the time, an agenda was set for a quick transition and we got to where we are.
I was privileged to be the Director of Publicity of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) that time and we were one movement in the country that was fighting the military. Clearly, we never compromised; we didn’t believe in the Abacha transition and so, we were vindicated. PDM quickly formed amalgamation with other political associations to form the PDP. So, I was a foundation member of PDP from inception. I followed all the processes, having served in the publicity committee to put together our publicity blueprint. I was relatively young then. We began the process of saying the presidency must go back to the South and in the South, the preference was the South-West. We got Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to become the president and the rest is now history.
What am I saying? A lot of persons jump into issues and they don’t know where we are. People who believe that you will provoke the people and revoke people’s mandate blatantly because you never suffer to get to where you are or because you deceived people to get to power. If PDP had behaved like this, of course, we would have been in power up till now. I am very convinced that all these shall come to nothing eventually. I can tell you, from what I know and from what history will tell you, all these actions that are meant to mitigate the growth of the party shall fail. They will fail; they cannot be sustained because the people will obviously speak. You can see now that there is a graveyard silence in Nigeria. There is abject poverty and pervading hunger across the land. It is not about PDP; it is not about inciting the people. The people will speak and ask appropriately. And so, if there are desires to truncate the will of the people, for how long will it be sustained?