The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 2016 convention failed to hold, as fresh round of intrigues broke out between some state governors and the acting national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, over the implication of a Federal High Court ruling on the meeting.
As at 3.30pm, Saturday, the situation at the Samson Siasia Stadium in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, venue of the convention, was that of suspense, following an emergency meeting called by the chairman of the convention committee at Government House.
Signs that the first post general election national convention of the PDP was headed for troubled waters emerged when a group of eminent stakeholders, led by a former Minister for Information, Professor Jerry Gana, set up a 54-man convention committee, to hold a parallel event in Abuja.
The greatest threat to the convention came when a Federal High Court in Lagos, presided by Justice Ibrahim Buba, granted an order stopping the convention.
Buba ruled in a suit FHC/L/CS/613/2016, filed by the acting national chairman of the party, Ali Modu Sheriff; the national secretary, Adewale Oladipo; and national auditor, Fatai Adeyanju, praying the court to abort the convention, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Joining PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as defendants, the plaintiffs, all national officers of the party, averred that their tenures were yet to elapse, contending that allowing the convention would amount to abridging their mandates.
Chairman of the national convention committee and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, had reacted to the ruling, saying the convention would go ahead as planned, since, according to him, the party had acted timeously against any court order challenging the event.
He said the intention of the committee was to hold the election and know the next step to take, adding that the fact that the chairman of the party, who purportedly went to court for an order against the election was participating in the same, makes the matter a ruse.
However, our correspondent gathered that after Sheriff resisted attempts to okay the Ekiti State and South West congresses that were held in contravention of subsisting court injunctions, Governor Ayo Fayose had expressed apprehensions over his loyalty and trustworthiness.
Sources within the PDP Governors’ Forum said that Sheriff was miffed that Fayose should be working at cross purposes with Senator Buruji Kashamu, who supported his (Fayose’s) election financially.
“On his part, Fayose was taken aback that Sheriff could show such impudence so early in the day, and decided to withdraw further support for the acting national chairman. It was after that decision was communicated by Fayose to Wike that efforts were made to introduce any chairmanship candidate,” the source said.
He pointed out that when attempts to get a replacement for Sheriff from the North East failed, the governors started making frantic calls to disgruntled former state governors and ministers holding their convention in Abuja.
“As I speak to you, it is like the governors want to settle for Chief Tom Ikimi, but they are wary on the implication of that about-face on the zoning earlier agreed upon,” he added, stressing that there was every likelihood the convention would not hold.
Following hours of closed-door meeting, the PDP appointed a seven-man caretaker committee to be chaired by former governor of Kaduna State, Ahmed Makarfi, even as it zoned the 2019 presidential slot to the North.
Makarfi said he accepted the offer to lead the party in the interim, in order to foster unity. He urged aggrieved members to sheathe their sword for the sake of Nigerians in need of hope, which only the PDP, as a vibrant opposition, can offer.
Sheriff had earlier told journalists that the convention had been suspended due to three separate court cases, adding that INEC has also said it would not supervise the election.
The Jerry Gana-led PDP, meanwhile, rose from its brief convention, yesterday, in Abuja declaring its willingness to reunite with the Sheriff-led faction, provided the issues of injustice, imposition of candidates and adherence to party constitution and guidelines were addressed.
The convention, which began 10am, ended abruptly at 12pm without much ceremony. In attendance were former ministers, founding members and a few former governors.
Shortly after the opening speeches by leaders of the group, a member of the steering committee, and former Ministers of State for Foreign Affairs, Dubem Onyia, moved a motion to properly ratify the steering committee, to allow it run the affairs of the group, pending the time a court order that stopped it from electing national officers is vacated.
The convention accordingly ratified a 57-member national steering committee, which is formally called Concerned PDP Stakeholders’ Forum, led by Professor Jerry Gana.
The steering committee to be co-chaired by former Deputy President of the Senate, Ibrahim Mantu, and former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, was set up to oversee the affairs of the forum, until the court order is set aside and a proper convention held.
Leaders of the splinter group said they were discussing with the other PDP leaders in Port Harcourt for another convention, with a view to resolving the differences between them.
The Concerned PDP Stakeholders said it decided to hold a non-elective convention in deference to a court order, which stopped it from electing new National Working Committee (NWC) members.Jerry Gana said: “We are driven by values of principles, integrity and honour, and respect for human rights.”
Mantu, in a speech, said the stakeholders “resolved to rebuild, renew and rebrand” the party, to sustain the dreams of its founding fathers. He reiterated the decision to choose Sheriff as chairman of the party was in gross violation of established procedure for the selection.
Special Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Communications, Dr. Doyin Okupe, in an interview said: “We are not ruling out reconciliation; we are open to setting up a caretaker committee.”
Speakers from the six geopolitical zones, who addressed the convention called for justice and level-playing ground, and kicked against imposition of candidates.
Other party leaders at the convention are: former National Chairman, Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo; former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Senator Bala Mohammed; outgoing PDP National Vice Chairman (South-South), Dr. Cairo Ojougboh; former Chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Mrs. Esther Audu; former governors of Imo, Adamawa and Taraba State, Achike Udenwa, Ahmadu Finitiri and Garba Umar.