AFTER the hullabaloo that attended the selection of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the new national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party has manifested its power to astound and confound. Most of those who followed the outpouring of emotions on the personality and process that threw up the new chairman, must have felt that the end has finally come for the erstwhile ‘largest political platform in black Africa’.
Feeling sidetracked and isolated, the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the party raised its voice in objection and thereby sided with the naysayers against Sheriff. Characteristic of good conflict management strategy, the BoT set up a small committee headed by Deputy President of Fifth Senate, Senator Ibrahim Mantu.
The Mantu committee went into business and by the morning of last Monday, all the sides to the division in the party about the propriety of having a Sheriff as PDP national chairman, including an x-ray of the process that led to his emergence had been distilled.
The Guardian gathered from sources within the PDP BoT that the Mantu committee actually blamed the Northeast caucus for not being able to come up with a consensus candidate or a shortlist of at least two or three aspirants for the position.
Having found the zone culpable in the prevailing Babel over who was best qualified and suitable to occupy the position left by Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, the committee decided on various ways to come out of the quagmire.
However, it is obvious that PDP has scaled the initial friction and fire over the selection for a new national chairman. But the challenges before the party include; overseeing a rancour free national convention, that is, if one holds after all. Additionally, the party is still watching some of its elected officers, suspected of planning to defect to APC
“The committee noted that the Northeast should have resorted to balloting among the 26 aspirants, whereby the aspirants should have been made to vote for themselves and one other and after, the person with the highest vote is selected. Or, where the word ‘Yes’ is put among many lots in a basket, so that whoever picks the yes ends up as the nominee.
“But after noting that those approaches were not tried by Northeast zonal leaders of the party, the committee stated that the way forward would be either to ask Sheriff to resign and the process started all over again; or in the alternative ratify his selection with certain conditions,” the source disclosed.
It was further gathered that after the Mantu committee handed in its findings and recommendations, the BoT set up an enlarged forum to study it and come up with what should be the stand of the board.
In the course of series of meetings by the enlarged committee and wider consultations with the club of former ministers, it was gathered that some chieftains of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), were reaching out to some of the ministers by proxy with information against Sheriff.
Not that alone, sources said the fear among some of the ministers had to do with the perceived ambition of Senator Sheriff and plans by some members of the National Working Committee of the party to use Sheriff as a bargaining chip to sneak their way back into the NWC.
With the commendable and patriotic work done by the Mantu committee, the BoT was said to have got a clearer picture to the various interests and concerns threatening the party’s cohesion and therefore settled to douse the flame of destructive passions building up.
THE sudden about-face by the BoT, was due in part to the recommendations of its committees which held that stopping Sheriff, shortly after his unveiling would damage the party further. The BoT therefore found it imperative that it should back Sheriff’s selection “so as not to further destroy the unity, cohesion and future successes of the party.” And in a bid to excise the subtle by the NWC to do a deal with Sheriff, the BoT directed that “all current members of the National Working Committee (NWC) must vacate their positions to give way to a new leadership within three-months.”
Between Rescue And Restart
BUT shortly after the BoT withdrew its opposition to SAS, a group within the party known as Restart PDP Project, alleged that members of the BoT had been induced to recant their moral opposition to the enthronement of SAS as national chairman of the PDP. Maintaining that the sudden about face by the BoT “smacks of corruption and impunity, which has been the bane of the party”, the Restart group said the BoT had traded the overall interest of the party for their own selfish interest.
Restart PDP Project had in a statement released by Chief Jackson Ude mandated Sheriff to vacate the office of national chairman of the party, adding that the failure to heed the ultimatum would attract severe consequences.
However, the PDP Rescue Group, which has in its fold such stakeholders as former Senate President, Adolpus Wabara, former Deputy Governor of Sokoto State, Murktar Shagari, as well as some former ministers; noted that Sheriff deserves the support of all genuine members of PDP. Towards that end, the PDP Rescue Group disclosed that its support for Sheriff is predicated on the condition that the national chairman and NWC members would keep to the March end date for its tenure. It declared that no organ of the party has the power to extend their tenure.
But noticing the shaky variations in support by some structures, the BoT declared that it was united in the endorsement of Sheriff. That was why the board released a communiqué signed by Mantu, in which they reaffirmed full confidence in its acting chairman, Senator Walid Jibrin.
The communiqué read in part: “The BoT, which is the conscience of the party, has the moral capital to reinvent the party due to its unity of purpose and internal-cohesion. In this connection, in spite of the initial position taken by the BoT, its desire to ensure the unity, cohesion and future successes of the party has necessitated a review of its earlier position.
“Consequently, it resolved to adopt the decisions taken at the stakeholders’ meeting. It however, urges the full and sincere implementation of all the decisions /programmes agreed upon at the stakeholders’ meeting of Wednesday February 23, 2016.
“We appeal to our teeming members and supporters worldwide to remain steadfast as our capacity to reposition the party positively is unquestionable. We thereby reaffirm our full confidence in our acting Chairman Jubrin.”
Behind The Scene Power Play
SOME of the power play that saw to the endorsement of SAS as national chairman of the PDP includes; the desire of some former ministers to contest the presidential election and election into NWC during the national convention.
Some of these aspirants saw the emergence of Sheriff as an opportunity to make themselves noticed and position strategically for concessions. The Guardian gathered that former ministers like the former minister of FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed, Femi Fani-Kayode and Saminu Turaki SAN; are interested in the 2019 presidential election and inclusion in the NWC.
The PDP had zoned its presidential ticket to the north for the 2019 election. As such there is apprehension from political actors from the zone that Sheriff, with his deep purse may end up contesting the position, taking advantage of being national chairman.
Though it was not clear whether the Southwest has settled on who should succeed Sheriff as national chairman, some stakeholders from the zone are wary of allowing certain characters from the zone to mount the saddle so as not to scuttle the plan to have a strong candidate emerge as presidential candidate from the north.
There were also some small talks about the zonal arrangement to adopt in fielding candidates for the next general election, whether the northern presidential flag bearer should pair with a candidate from Southeast or Southwest.
However, it is obvious that PDP has scaled the initial friction and fire over the selection for a new national chairman. But the challenges before the party include; overseeing a rancour free national convention, that is, if one holds after all. Additionally, the party is still watching some of its elected officers, suspected of planning to defect to APC.