“I respect Dr. Jonathan. He is a former President but as of today, I’m the most senior member of this 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. We are 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’m the most senior member of this party.
“I think Governor Seriake 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 have 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 for another programme. I’m not going to be part of it.”
With those words from the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, on Thursday, the crisis in the party has deepened.
Sheriff walked out on former President Goodluck Jonathan at a stakeholders’ meeting held at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja because he was not properly recognised as the national chairman.
At the meeting were Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, Chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibrin, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers); Ayo Fayose (Ekiti) ; Darius Ishaku (Taraba); deputy governors of Gombe and Ebonyi states, former members of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), including Uche Secondus; Olisa Metuh; Abubakar Mustapha; Abdullahi Maibasira, and other party leaders.
The meeting was convened by Jonathan.
Sheriff’s action came as a rude shock to National Executive Committee members present.
Some of them followed him to pacify him but he refused to return to the meeting.
However, Jonathan eventually succeeded in setting up a 40 -man committee comprising governors and other party leaders to find a lasting solution to the crisis.
Jonathan volunteered to be the chairman of the committee. In his absence, he said former Vice President Namadi Sambo or former Senate President, David Mark, would preside at meetings of the committee.
The committee is expected to submit its report in two weeks.
After the stakeholders’ meeting went into a closed door session, Sheriff and his loyalists stormed out of the meeting in protest against the refusal of party members to allow him address the gathering solely as chairman.
When asked by reporters on the way out of the crisis, Sheriff said: “As the National Chairman, we move on. We have a programme initiated by Dickson. And we are continuing with that. Anything outside that, I’m not a party to it.”
But Jonathan described Sheriff’s action as a minor setback which will be resolved after the committee submits it report in two weeks.
He said: “The committee will be chaired by any of us but we will consult widely. I may chair the committee or if I’m not there, former Vice President Namadi Sambo or Senator David Mark may chair that committee. But if I’m around, I will chair the committee.
“The BoT will select six people, one per geo-political zone. Each of the blocks will bring six persons, one per geo-political zone. All our governors will be members; Deputy Senate President, Senate Minority Leader; Minority Leader, House of Representatives and Minority Whip; two former governors from both groups, one from the North, one from South; two former ministers, one from the North, one from South; two women, one from the North, one from the South and two youths.
“Within two weeks, they will come up with strong recommendations. And a smaller group larger than that committee will meet.
“By the time we come back, those minor areas that caused what we saw in the earlier part of the meeting will not be there again because all those issues must have been smoothen out. We regret that little situation we encountered”.
Jonathan warned that if the crisis persists, the party might lose the forthcoming governorship elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states.
He also asked party members to shelve person ambition and make sacrifices for the party, adding that if the PDP is weakened, it will become difficult to win elections on its platform.
He said: “I charge our great party leaders to make personal and general sacrifices to ensure the quick resolution of the problems in our party. The PDP is a symbol of democracy. If you believe in PDP, there is no sacrifice too big for you to make.
“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”, he stressed.
Earlier at the opening of the meeting, Jonathan had urged PDP leaders to make personal and general sacrifices to ensure quick resolution of the party’s problems.
He described PDP as a symbol of democracy and said that there was no sacrifice too big for anybody who believed in the party to make.
“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.’’
Jubrin urged the party leaders to embrace strategies that would regain the party’s lost glory.
“We must be able to bring ourselves together and forget our differences for the sake of the party. We must be ready to do away with selfish interests and ambitions.
“We must also forego blame game and be involved in forecast and formation and never abandoned PDP,” Jubrin said.