•Party meets at secretariat, extends tenure of Makarfi-led caretaker committee by one year
•Aggrieved members think of ‘third force’
A pall of uncertainty seems to be hanging on the future of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as its critical stakeholders engaged in a blame game over its botched rescheduled national convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on Wednesday.
Feelers within the party, however, indicated that some of the stalwarts were already tinkering with the idea of forming a new party that would comprise the PDP, aggrieved members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and other existing political parties.
Already, the arrowheads of the “third force” have been holding consultations across the country, with some of them said to have maintained a “siddon look” since the party failed to hold its convention last May, also in Port Harcourt.
According to the sources, the consultations would be widened and stepped up more vigorously in the coming weeks, following the futile attempt to hold an elective national convention on Wednesday.
One of those leaders behind the “third force” was said to be a former chairmanship aspirant of the party from the North (name withheld), as well as some PDP top shots in the southern part of the country, who had, for some time now, held series of meetings in the South-West.
We can form a new party and leave PDP for Sheriff –Fani-Kayode
Former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said forming another party may be the best solution to the lingering crisis in the PDP if Alhaji Modu Sheriff continues to cause ripples in the party.
Chief Fani-Kayode was reacting to Doyin Okupe’s position that the PDP should dialogue with its estranged chairman, Sheriff, to settle the current crisis rocking the party.
Okupe, on his Facebook page, lauded the Wednesday’s decision to extend the tenure of the Markafi-led caretaker committee by one year, while adding more members to the committee to work towards the resolution of the crisis.
“By allowing for new inclusions into the members of the caretaker committee, the leadership obviously has made room for possible reasonable negotiation with the Senator Sheriff’s group, which is inevitable and a political imperative, if the party must remain united,” Okupe wrote.
Okupe also absolved the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari, who had been accused of using Sheriff and the Justice Abang Okon-led Federal Hight Court in Abuja to destroy the PDP.
Okupe blamed the crisis on “the failure of internal conflict resolution machinery of the PDP, the surprising naivety and desperation of many to seize power and control the party and the gullibility of majority of the followership.”
But Fani-Kayode disagreed with Okupe, saying “…Sheriff is working for Buhari to destroy the PDP and he has almost succeeded.
“The only answer is to continue to fight him in the courts and elsewhere and, if push comes to shove, form another party, get our members and supporters to join that party and leave …with the carcass of the old PDP. Very few people will stay with him because carcasses tend to stink.”
Another member reacting to Fani-Kayode’s statement, said “I suggested forming another party long ago. That, to me, is the only option for a strong opposition party come 2019. I will also suggest that the youth should form the leadership of the new party. We want something that will attract youth across Nigeria.”
Notwithstanding the seeming bleak future of the PDP, a number of its leading lights expressed confidence that the party would still regain its unity and influence before the 2019 general election.
But the failure of the party to rediscover itself through the re-scheduled convention in Port Harcourt, on Wednesday, is coming amid preparations for the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states on September 9 and November 26, 2016.
While some PDP leaders alleged that external forces instigated the unending destabilisation within the party, others accused some influential caucuses within the PDP of a calculated attempt to foist a selfish agenda on the party.
The chain of litigations by the two factions laying claims to the soul of the party, has, in the last six months, exacerbated the power tussle among the key blocs of powerbrokers in the party.
Nigerian Tribune gathered that apart from the conflicting rulings by Federal High Courts on the cases instituted by the factions, delivered on the eve of the ill-fated convention, concerned party elders still made frantic moves to salvage the situation in Port Harcourt.
The elders, chairmanship contestants and governors elected on PDP platform reportedly embarked on the last-minute effort to strike possible compromise among the major stakeholders till about 4.00 a.m. on Wednesday, but the moves reportedly hit a dead end, particularly because of suspicion that the governors were bent on hijacking the PDP machinery.
Three of the chairmanship aspirants, Chief Olabode George, Professor Tunde Adeniran and Chief Raymond Dokpesi, spoke against alleged plot by at least two of the governors to impose their anointed candidate as substantive chairman of the party.
But, their position was a sharp contrast to the views expressed by the national publicity secretary of the Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee, Mr Dayo Adeyeye, shortly after the Port Harcourt fiasco.
He accused the federal authorities of using state apparatuses to destabilise the PDP, because it was averse to a virile opposition, a position corroborated by a chairmanship contestant, Mr Jimi Agbaje and the Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose.
Nigerian Tribune, in Port Harcourt to cover the event, noted that the situation at the planned venue of the convention had all the trappings of a movie as the party buffs engaged hordes of law enforcement agents in a hide and seek amidst tension.
The main gate leading to the Government House, on the Azikwe Road axis, was relatively free as at 8.30 a.m., as there was no heavy security presence, though an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) was seen packed close to the gate.
The same cannot, however, be said of Moscow Road/state secretariat junction, leading to the venue of the convention, as there was heavy security presence at the axis.
The heavily armed combined team of MOPOL and regular police was seen conducting stop-and-search on motorists, even as they were prevented from accessing the road leading to the convention ground.
A source had told the Nigerian Tribune that the various caucuses of the party met at the state Government House, where a decision was taken on the new venue for the convention.
There was also tension among delegates as news filtered through that three of the PDP national chairmanship contestants, Professor Adeniran, Chief George and Dr Dokpesi, were to address a press conference on developments in the country.
There were indications that the trio were unhappy with moves within the party that appeared to favour Mr Jimi Agbaje for the chairmanship slot.
A source disclosed that the trio alleged plans by Governor Nyesom Wike and his Ekiti State counterpart, Ayo Fayose, to skew the outcome of the convention in favour of Agbaje.
“The planned press conference was to let the world know that there appeared a grand scheme to rig the chairmanship election in the convention in favour of Agbaje,” the source said.
However, Governors Wike and Fayose had denied the allegation, on Tuesday, saying they would not be a party to any attempt to thwart the democratic process.
The convention, which was scheduled for Sharks Stadium, Port Harcourt, could not hold at the original venue, as the
police cordoned off the venue early in the day.
The police said it took the decision in order to protect lives and property, following the conflicting orders from the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt and that of Abuja ahead of the convention.
Members of the party were forced to relocate to the premises of the state secretariat of the PDP, where critical decisions, including the extension of the tenure of the party’s national caretaker committee led by Makarfi, were taken.
The members, who had thronged the venue of the convention, were thrown into confusion as security operatives prevented any of the delegates from gaining entry.
The party chiefs first relocated to the Government House, where a statutory meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) was held and the meeting resolved to expand the NEC and inaugurated the new executive committee.
Following the inauguration of the NEC, the PDP chiefs moved to the state secretariat of the PDP, where the convention held.
After overcoming the initial hiccup occasioned by the sealing off of the national convention venue, the party resolved to suspend the conduct of election into all national offices, pending the determination of all outstanding court cases.
They also resolved to bar all members of the national caretaker committee from contesting elections into any of the elective offices in the next convention.
The motion for the suspension of election into all the national offices was moved by the minority leader in the House of Representatives, Honourable Leo Ogor, while the deputy Senate president, Ike Ekweremadu, moved the motion for the extension of the tenure of the caretaker committee. The motion was seconded by the former Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Zainab Maina.
Chairman of the PDP national convention planning committee, Governor Wike, had put the question for the extension of the lifespan of the caretaker committee to vote and it was unanimously approved.
The convention also decided to expand the membership of the caretaker committee to 13 members from the initial seven.
In his acceptance speech, Senator Makarfi promised to sustain all efforts aimed at rebuilding, uniting and restoring the party, while the closing prayer was offered by a PDP founding father, Professor Jerry Gana.
Makarfi inaugurates new PDP NEC
Caretaker chairman of PDP, Senator Makarfi, on Wednesday, inaugurated the new NEC of the party in Port Harcourt.
This was as he said, in the absence of the elected national officers, the national caretaker committee members would be part of the NEC, adding that the members would cease to be NEC members once national officers were elected.
Performing the inauguration ceremony during a meeting held at the Government House, Senator Makarfi said the new PDP NEC included the PDP governors, National Assembly caucus, members of the PDP Board of Trustees, national caucus, the 36 state PDP chairmen and national officers of the party.
The meeting immediately went into a closed session as the PDP leaders said newsmen would subsequently be briefed about the development.
We didn’t seal off convention ground –Rivers CP
Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr Francis Odesanya, however said the police did not seal off the Sharks Stadium, venue of the national convention.
Odesanya, who said this while speaking with newsmen in his office, on Tuesday, said the police was only acting in compliance with a court order to provide security for the safety of lives and property.
The police was apparently acting in compliance with the court injunction by Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja Federal High Court which, on Tuesday, gave a contrary ruling stopping the conduct of the national convention.
When asked which of the court orders he was complying with, he simply said: “we are only obeying a court order. It is not my duty to interpret court orders. You people are journalists and you got the court orders too. You are in a position to interpret the orders.”
He also refused to reveal when the police got the order to seal off the venue of the convention, as the police authority had disclosed earlier that it was yet to get the order, as at 11.00 p.m. on Tuesday night.
The police high command also confirmed this, saying the venue was sealed off to maintain law and order and protect lives and property of innocent citizens.
The Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Donald Awunah, stated this while speaking on a live programme on the Channels Television, monitored in Abuja, on the presence of massive armed police personnel at the venue.
The police spokesman disclosed that officers and men of the Force had to be moved to the venue promptly to maintain law and order, following the conflicting court orders emanating from Abuja and Port Harcourt Federal High Courts on the convention.
He confirmed that the police had been duly served two conflicting orders and that as proactive and responsible organisation, the police had to move ahead to secure the venue in order to prevent the two factions from clashing, which might lead to total breakdown of law and order in the state.
I was under ‘house arrest’ in P/Harcourt –Fayose
- Says APC wants PDP dead
Governor Fayose of Ekiti State lamented that he was not at the national convention of the PDP because he was placed under ‘house arrest’ at the Old Presidential Lodge, Rivers State Government House where he lodged.
The governor, who was conspicuously absent at the convention which was eventually held at the state secretariat of the party, said he was prevented from moving out, as the gate to the Old Presidential Lodge was blocked by an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC).
Special Adviser to the Governor on Social Media, Lere Olayinka, disclosed that all entreaties to allow Fayose to step out to attend the convention were rebuffed by the security personnel on ground.
Reacting to his claim, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police, Mr Odesanya, denied the knowledge of such incident.
“That can’t be true. It is not to my knowledge. How did the other governors go out of their lodge to attend the programme?” he asked.
The governor, however, said the ruling APC wanted the PDP dead because it did not want a virile opposition to challenge its policies.
Fayose said such a development would not, however, be in the interest of the country and Nigerians at large.
In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr Idowu Adelusi, the governor was quoted as saying that a virile opposition was a vital ingredient for democracy and necessary to make democracy thrive.
He said the cordoning off of the Sharks Stadium by the police, on the orders of the Inspector-General of Police, had the input of the APC-led Federal Government, saying the police only acted the script written by the government.
“I witnessed what the police did early today in Port Harcourt, it is most unfortunate. It has shown that we are indeed in a perilous time in the country. The APC is desperate to kill opposition and silence others because it is afraid of its inability to properly govern the country and tackle the challenges facing us as a nation,” he said.
The governor wondered what would have happened if the PDP acted like the APC and refused to hand over to the APC last year.
Fayose also said it was unfortunate that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff had turned himself to an instrument in the hands of APC leaders to destablise the PDP.
He appealed to PDP members from across the country who came to the convention not to feel discouraged, saying the truth would prevail in the long run.
Agbaje, Adedoja, others react
Mr Agbaje, governorship candidate of the PDP in Lagos for the 2015 election, said the party would remain alive in spite of internal problems.
Agbaje, in a statement by his director of media and publicity, Felix Oboagwina, in Port Harcourt that members would keep the party alive, being the main platform for the opposition in the country.
He said the decision of delegates to extend the tenure of the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee was a good option aimed at keeping the party stronger.
“It is obvious that from the situation we found ourselves, we must keep the PDP alive. It is the still the veritable platform for the opposition.
“So, the best option is what we have taken, which is to extend the life of the caretaker committee, to expand it as we have decided and to give room for whatever litigation,” he said.
Agbaje also said he was optimistic that before the end of the year, the party would bounce back stronger and more united.
“I’m sure that within the year, we will be very much stronger,” he said, while he blamed the crisis on shenanigans by the ruling APC.
Reacting to his claim, a chieftain of APC and member of its Board of Trustees (BoT), Mr Olisaemeka Akamukale, said the party did not need crisis in PDP to win election in 2019.
He, however, said the party was not behind the woes of the PDP as being alleged in some quarters.
According to him, “it is better we have a strong opposition. We don’t need a crisis in the PDP to win landslide again in 2019.”
A former chairman of the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), one of the five parties that merged to form the APC, also told newsmen in Abuja that “the only problem with PDP is that they always want to go to where they did not sow.”
On his part, Professor Adedoja urged all committed PDP members to see the current development as a veritable opportunity to allow sufficient time to resolve all the challenges confronting the party.
The contestant, who said he would have won if the convention held, said the party should take concrete steps to reposition itself, based on the rule of law, equity and justice, while urging the party members across the country to be patient with the founding fathers, who were still around to offer their elderly advice on the way forward.
Extension of PDP national caretaker committee’s tenure illegal –Sheriff
Factional national chairman of PDP, Senator Sheriff, described as illegal, the extension of the tenure of the party’s national caretaker committee.
In a statement signed by his special adviser on media, Mr Inua Bwala, on Wednesday, he also said the Wednesday meeting in Port Harcourt, where some decisions were made, was illegal, null and void.
He stressed that whatever decision taken at the NEC meeting could not stand, as it contravened the party’s constitution.
“The said meeting breaches Section 31, sub-section 4 of the PDP Constitution. The section provides that it is only the national chairman who can convene a NEC, after giving two weeks’ notice to INEC.
“Even in an emergency situation, one week notice must be given to the national chairman, who has the sole responsibility to convene the NEC,’’ the statement said.
It said it was sad that in the face of obvious disregard to court orders, which halted the convention, some individuals were bent on perpetrating impunity by taking steps to install another contraption on the party.
“The rule of law and constitutionality must prevail in all circumstances; as such, whatever decisions arrived at, is not binding and cannot stand in law,” he said.
You are acting illegally as PDP chairman, court tells Sheriff
Justice Nwamaka Ogbonna of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, on Wednesday, told the factional chairman of the PDP, Senator Sheriff, that he was illegally parading himself as chairman of the party.
The court told Sherrif to cease from parading himself and acting on behalf of the party as chairman.
The suit was filed by a contestant to the position of the youth leader in Wednesday’s planned national convention, Danladi Ayuba, with Senator Sheriff as the sole defendant.
When the case was mentioned, no counsel appeared for Sheriff and the plaintiff presented to court the proof of service of the court process on Sheriff.
In her judgement, Justice Ogbonna said, based on the judgement of Justice Valentine Ashi of the same court, which sacked Sherrif on June 26, 2016, and which had not been appealed against at the Court of Appeal, all the action taken so far since June 26 became a nullity.
“There is no evidence that the judgement of Ashi has been appealed against, therefore, the judgment, which is a declarative one, must be obeyed.
“Anything done contrary to the judgement of Ashi delivered on June 26 is null and void and of no effect. The judgment of Ashi, having not been appealed against, subsists and is binding,” the judge held.