By Ben Agande,
The panel, set up by the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to meet with Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who is laying claim to the office of the National Chairman of the party, to resolve the leadership crisis in the PDP, met a brick wall when a defiant Sheriff stuck to his guns last Tuesday. For many optimists in the party, especially Senator Walid Jibrin, the Chairman of the BoT, who had high hopes that the meeting with Sheriff would offer a window for peace, his unbending stance was thoroughly deflating.
Jibrin had set up the 18-member reconciliation committee, headed by a former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana, to meet with Sheriff to find a way out of the PDP crisis.
Members of the committee include a former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, a former National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, Senate Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi , a former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Stella Omu, a former Minister of Aviation, Ambassador Fidelia Njeze, a former Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Inna Ciroma, and AVM Dan Suleiman (retd).
Though many stakeholders in the party believe that Sheriff’s continuous claim to the leadership of the party is, at best, an irritation that would fizzle out with time, they are also not oblivious of the fact that with the many court cases instituted by him and his allies, the party could be distracted from repositioning itself to be acceptable to Nigerians. It is because they cannot afford such distraction that stakeholders in the party have resorted to appealing to Sheriff, whose support base is porous, to seek political solution to his anger over developments in the party.
While inaugurating the truce committee, Jibrin had noted: “With the calibre of the people we have chosen to represent the BoT, I am very optimistic that the end of this conflict has come and that we shall all come out smiling very soon, before our convention”.
But at the end of the over four-hour meeting between the committee and Sheriff and his supporters, not many members of the committee or even watchers of events in the PDP could exude optimism that the crisis will be resolved soon.
Though Sheriff extended the best Kanuri hospitality to Gana and members of the committee when they arrived his Maitama office, Tuesday night, he did not leave any one in doubt about his angst when he was invited to give his welcome remarks before the committee went behind closed doors.
Looking serious in his long Borno cap, he pointedly told the BoT members that “some of you are part of the problems.”
According to him, the crisis would not have escalated if some of the leaders in the party were alive to their responsibilities.
“If our leaders had taken to their responsibilities, we would never have had most of the problems we are facing today. When a leader refuses to stand up to his responsibilities, there will be a problem”, Sheriff stated.
“Why am I saying this? Some of our leaders are party to our problems. The moment we want to use one impunity to address another, it will not work”.
From the tone of his speech at the beginning of the meeting, it was obvious that the former governor of Borno State was set to deal with the committee on his own terms and not on the terms as dictated by others to him.
“It was obvious that he had rehearsed his positions carefully and was at home with them. He was polite but defiant. He did not give any indication that he was ready to let go so easily”, a source at the meeting said.
Another source at the meeting told Sunday Vanguard that Sheriff gave four conditions that must be met for him to let go of his claim to the leadership of the party. These conditions are: postponement of the Port Harcourt Convention scheduled for Wednesday, the restriction of Nyesom Wike, the governor of Rivers State from being Chairman of any convention that would be held; the dissolution of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee and finally that any convention should be held in Abuja and no other place.
But while Sheriff remains recalcitrant and continues to lay claim to being the Chairman of the party, Makarfi and members of his Caretaker Committee have continued their preparation to hold the party’s convention.
With the National Caretaker Committee receiving support from all the organs of the party, the hope is that Sheriff will mellow after the convention and come back to the mainstream.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the stalemate of last Tuesday has, however, not deflated all as it has rather moved many stakeholders to enter into trouble shooting. Gana and some members of the reconciliation committee, it was learnt, for most of Thursday and Friday were involved in shuttle diplomacy between Sheriff and the Caretaker Committee. It was gathered that Sheriff was already becoming more conciliatory and had softened his terms.
The talks were ongoing as at press time.