By Chioma Gabriel, Editor, Special Features
The crises rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, appear to be taking the turn for the worse as the factional chairman of the party, Ali Modu-Sheriff recently rebuffed peace moves insisting that the party’s convention be postponed and everything be started from the scratch. In this encounter, former Minister of Transport and member, Board of Trustees the party, Ebenezer Babatope answers questions on the crises in the party and how they could affect the party’s proposed August 17 national convention in Port-Harcourt. Excerpts:
Your party, the PDP is preparing for its next national convention even while the issue of factional chairman, Modu Sheriff is causing controversy in the party and he has rejected peace moves. So, which way for the PDP under the circumstances?
PDP will continue to exist as one major party in Nigeria. The Makarfi-led faction is the authentic party that emerged from the Port Harcourt convention the last time.
The party met in Port Harcourt and decided to have a Care-Taker Committee and that was headed by Makarfi. Modu Sheriff – Sheriff joined PDP barely two years ago and now wants to be chairman. That is not possible.
He was not a PDP man. He wants to destroy the party. He saw the screening committee of the party in Port Harcourt. I know Sheriff very well; I don’t have anything against him. But the truth is that he was not a member of our party. The man just joined the party. There are rules and regulations in the party that explain whether a man can contest for any position or not. He was brought by some people to become the national chairman. It should not be Sheriff that should occupy the position. He is not qualified at all by any standard to be the chairman of the PDP.
The national chairmanship position has been zoned to the South-West and and the presidential candidate zoned to the North . Even if for the purpose of argument, we say that the North-East should provide a chairman, why should it be Sheriff? It could be any other person. There are so many people in the North East.
But the issue is that a chairman from the North cannot midwife a northern presidential candidate for the PDP in 2019. After the Ike Ekweremadu report, the PDP agreed that the candidate of our party for the presidency must come from the North. So, somebody from the region cannot say that he is going to midwife the nominations and election of candidates from the North.
If you say Sheriff’s faction is not the recognised faction, how come it was the recognised faction for Edo gubernatorial election?
It would be wrong for INEC to recognise his faction for Edo election. INEC would just be causing confusion by such an action and that is bad. Nigeria must be careful of political miscreants who are bent on destroying our democracy. All Nigerians must join in the struggle to stop miscreants who want to use frivolous suits to disturb our democracy.
If we in Nigeria are not careful, the political jobbers who currently parade the country with frivolous legal suits, may one day use these cases to run Nigeria out of existence.
But the truth is that Sheriff has no court judgment. I’m a lawyer and no high court can adjudicate over the other. If Sheriff “continues to cling to the chairmanship of the party which has already been given to Senator Ahmed Makarfi till the next national convention, we will never allow him to rest until he leaves our party for us.
I have no personal quarrel with Ali Modu Sheriff, God knows that, but his actions show the fact that he has come to carry out a mission, and that mission is to disorganise and destroy the PDP. And that is why we are going to remain united to ensure that we fight and drag out all strange elements in our party.
But he has a lot of support within the party and has been creating factions across states. The congress held by the party in Imo state recently produced two chairmen, one for Makarfi faction and the other for the Sheriff faction .
I don’t know about that. All of them supporting Sheriff are doing so because of selfish reasons; that is all. It is not because of any party interest. All we know is that our objection to Sheriff is based on principles. He was not a member of our party. He was just brought to come and be the chairman of our party and the man told us initially when there was opposition to his emergence that he was going to leave before the Port Harcourt convention.
Now his supporters are saying that he wants to go back to the position; that is very wrong. I will continue to say it is wrong. I will continue to say that he should not be there. Sheriff and I are former members of the United Nigeria Congress Party during the Sani Abacha era. At that time, we were in the same party. But what I’m saying now is that this is a different ball game. This is a new situation.
We are of the PDP; he was of the ANPP. He had never been with us and he just came from nowhere to now say he wants to dominate our affairs. We say no to that; it is wrong. The court has ruled against him parading himself as chairman and Makarfi emerged as Care-Taker Committee chairman until the August 17 national convention in Port-Harcourt where the national chairman would emerge from the South-West. He has to stop this nonsense.
So, what about the confusion in Edo guber?
There’s no confusion in Edo PDP for the guber election. We have our candidate and that is Pastor Ize Iyamu. INEC knows the right thing and should do so. There is no stake in the future of PDP and I can assure you we’ll not allow the party to go down. We will not.
Who is the ideal PDP chairman from the Owerri congress?
I’m telling you the truth. I’m an elder. The Makarfi group is the real PDP and I’m sure INEC knows that, and if it recognises Modu-Sheriff, then it simply wants to cause confusion. The judgment of the court that removed Sheriff is a high court judgment and it stands.
The national convention is approaching and recently, the state leaders met in Port Harcourt and decided to zone the national chairmanship of the party to South West. The North has national secretaryship. All the positions zoned to the north before the 2015 elections are now zoned to the South and those in the South at that time are now zoned to the North.
Under the circumstances, what is the future of PDP ?
PDP will recover. We have no problem. All those parading themselves would soon fizzle out. The constitutional truth of the matter is that Makarfi-led faction is the authentic faction because he emerged from the highest hierarchy of the party in Port Harcourt.
What do you think of the APC administration?
I don’t have anything to say about APC because I’m not their member. I don’t want to talk about that party. But like I said, PDP will bounce back. We will tackle our internal problems in the party and come back to reckoning. Forget what you are seeing and those that are parading themselves around.
INEC knows the truth and should not be used to cause confusion in the party. Makarfi is the PDP Care Taker Committee chairman. Modu Sheriff is just an agent of destruction and should not be reckoned with. I’m an elder of the party and I tell you the truth.