• •Party sets up yet another reconciliation c’ttee
Hopes of a peaceful resolution to the drawn out leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continued to fester on Thursday, when the stakeholders’ peace parley convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan ended without a solution, with one of the parties in the dispute, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, bolting out midway during the meeting.
However, the peace meeting continued without Sheriff who left with his deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, in protest over not being allowed to address the meeting in his capacity as the national chairman of the PDP.
Sheriff said his reason for walking out on the meeting was because he was not recognised to address the gathering as the chairman of the PDP.
THISDAY gathered that as part of what transpired during the meeting, which was held in camera at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, both the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and the PDP governors present insisted that no one should be addressed as chairman of the party.
But Sheriff, who arrived for the meeting about 30 minutes after Jonathan had kick-started proceedings, insisted that he would not be part of the meeting except he was recognised as the party’s chairman and allowed to chair it.
Jonathan, a party source informed THISDAY, however told Sheriff that some of the governors had threatened to leave if he was recognised as the PDP chairman during the meeting.
At this point, THISDAY learnt that Sheriff and his loyalists protested and wanted to leave but was persuaded to stay by Jonathan and the Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu.
A heated argument later ensued with all the party leaders standing with Sheriff insisting that nothing would be discussed unless he was given the opportunity to seat as chairman of the party and meeting.
After attempts to resolve the situation failed, Sheriff finally walked out of the meeting along with his deputy and other loyalists.
A statement by Jonathan’s spokesman, Ikechukwu Eze, further clarified that Sheriff had insisted on being addressed as the PDP chairman despite an earlier consensus that none of the feuding leaders would be so addressed in the interest of peace.
“Many at the meeting interpreted his action as a sign of reluctance on his part for genuine reconciliation.
“He left the meeting after about two hours of negotiations to get things going, leaving many of the supporters behind to continue with the meeting,” Eze stated.
On his way out, Sheriff said there was no way a meeting of the party could take place without being given the opportunity to make the opening remarks.
“The party as of today has one national chairman, which is Ali Modu Sheriff. There is no PDP meeting that will take place under any arrangement that I will not make the opening remarks as the national chairman,” he said.
The former governor of Borno State, however, said that he would accept the peace template contained in the report of the Reconciliation Committee headed by the Bayelsa State governor, Hon. Seriake Dickson.
“I think that Governor Dickson made a proposal and we have accepted it. Other people have a programme to bring an agenda, which is not part of the proposal.
“And as the national chairman of the party, what I told you people in my office is that I will not be a party for anybody to use for another agenda,” he added.
When asked if he had respect for the former president who had convened the meeting, Sheriff insisted that he had shown respect for Jonathan by flying from abroad to attend the meeting.
“We have a programme which was initiated by Dickson, anything that is outside that I will not be part of it,” Sheriff said.
Earlier, while declaring the meeting open, Jonathan urged the parties in the crisis to surrender their personal ambitions in order to achieve genuine peace and reconciliation in the party.
He said the meeting had become necessary in order to galvanise the party towards playing a key role in the effort to stem the drift in the country.
As a way to ensure full reconciliation of the warring parties, Jonathan said he had proposed the establishment of a committee of 40 party members to sit and resolve the dispute.
“It is high time we buried the hatchet, suppressed our egos and must be prepared to make sacrifices in the interest of our party, and indeed 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?” he asked.
Jonathan reminded the PDP stakeholders that the prolongation of the crisis might have cost the party so much at the polls, adding that the loss of Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections was still fresh to the memory.
He informed the party faithful that they cannot afford to have a repeat of what happened in Edo and Ondo States in the forthcoming elections in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun States.
In charging the party members to be purposeful, Jonathan said: “There is no doubt that the PDP is a leading light in constitutional democracy and this is why we cannot allow the party to continue to drift. This meeting of today is therefore designed to stem the drift.”
On the details of the committee he said: “The larger body of stakeholders as we are now, this body will come up with suggestions on the way forward for resolving the differences that we currently face.
“A smaller committee of not more than 40 members will be constituted to fine tune the suggestions of the larger body, to finally resolve all the outstanding issues.”
He said further: “I have to state clearly that today is not a day to blame ourselves. We have blamed ourselves enough in the media. Today is not a day to insult ourselves, we have also done enough of that in the media.
“Today is the day our great party men and women will come up with suggestions and solutions to our problems. We will surely overcome the current challenges.”
The former president also used the opportunity to capture some of the key milestones achieved by the PDP-led government in the last 16 years.
When he briefed journalists on the outcome of the meeting, the former president said they agreed to form a 40-man committee that will come up with a political solution to the party’s crisis.
He said that the committee would either be chaired by himself, former Vice-President Namadi Sambo, or the former Senate President, Senator David Mark.
According to him, the committee would consist of six nominees of the Board of Trustees (BoT), six nominees of the Sheriff-led National Working Committee (NWC), and six nominees of the National Caretaker Committee to be drawn from the six geo-political zones.
Other members of the committee include PDP governors, Ekweremadu, Senate Minority leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, and House of Representatives Minority Leader, Hon. Leo Ogor.
Jonathan added that two former governors, two former ministers, two women and two youths would also be appointed to serve on the committee.
He assured party members that once the committee was formed, it would come up with a roadmap for peace in the party within two weeks.
Ekiti State Governor and chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Ayo Fayose, also told journalists at the end of the meeting that Sheriff’s decision to walk out of the meeting was not surprising.
Party leaders who attended the meeting were Senator Mark, two former national chairmen of the party – Okwesilieze Nwodo and Haliru Bello – and former Deputy National Chairman, Uche Secondus.
Others in attendance were Fayose, Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Darius Ishiaku of Taraba State, and members of the National Assembly, among other party bigwigs.