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I never bargained for PDP Caretaker Committee Chairman, says Makarfi

By Saxone Akhaine
25 June 2016   |   3:03 am
It is not an easy assignment. I never bargained for the party’s Caretaker Committee chairmanship. I was in Port Harcourt for the party convention which we all knew was going to be a non-elective ...


Former Governor of Kaduna State and now interim Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi spoke with SAXONE AKHAINE, Northern Bureau Chief of The Guardian on the crisis in the party, the alleged plot by Senator Ali Modu Sherriff to destroy PDP and The mission of his committee to enforce party discipline and bring back the lost glory of the party

There have been tussles among the PDP leaders over the control of party machinery. How has it been affecting your position as the party’s Caretaker Committee Chairman?
It is not an easy assignment. I never bargained for the party’s Caretaker Committee chairmanship. I was in Port Harcourt for the party convention which we all knew was going to be a non-elective one because of the various courts injunctions. The Convention was not just election endorsed. It involved a lot of things-to approve the constitution, reframing, amendment, disciplinary measures, removals, approving accounts and a host of other policy issues such as the zoning of the offices. So, It is not just about election. So, we went to Port Harcourt convention to do all other things, except election.

I walked into a situation where there was crisis on hand somehow, and it was in the wisdom of overwhelming majority, they felt that I could be a rallying point. I took the responsibility of accepting to chair the Caretaker Committee that could reconcile all the warring factions and organise an inclusive convention where elections into all national offices could take place.

I was not a party to any in tricks at all. So, I wouldn’t know what transpired, other than what the two sides may tell me. But, I saw my appointment along with other committee members purely as a call to serve my party.

We all knew people that were appointed not elected. Senator Modu Sheriff was appointed not elected by the National Executive Committee to complete someone’s tenure. It was to be for three months, but before the Port Harcourt Convention, situation was clear that he was most likely going to succeed himself and get elected for, maybe a term of four years.

I was not appointed to go after him in any particular manner other than to create a level playing field where anybody interested in anything could pursue such ambition unhindered. But he felt hurt and he could have reason to feel so. But others were also hurt when he was appointed, but people prevailed on them to let bygone be bygone in the spirit of oneness in the party. None of them contemplated going to court or doing a lot of things that you are seeing now.

Even before then so many people in the PDP were asked to resign their position in order to pave way for some within the party and they did that peacefully. It is really sad that this time around it has come the way we are seeing.

I am confident that internally we have the capacity to resolve our problems. Even if we don’t succeed in resolving it, ultimately the issue is about convention and its validity and decision taken at the convention. That would be determined by the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt in two weeks time. Any other matter that is in Court, it is neither here nor there because the ultimate will be on the validity of the convention. So, we walked into a storm that we did not bargain for but people should give peace a chance.

I have no personal political agenda neither I am here to implement any individual’s personal agenda. Ours is to bring all sides together. We are quick to have brought the concerned stakeholders group together. The other remaining group with the former National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, I hope and pray that the eight-man Committee we have agreed to constitute will be able to find a political solution to the lingering problem.

Was it true that the mistake the PDP leaders made was to admit Senator Modu Sheriff into the party?
You cannot deny anybody coming into the PDP no matter his background. So that should not be an issue. For somebody you don’t know much, maybe if you give him the ultimate authority you may find it difficult to relate with such a person. Because it may take him time to know who and who are in the party and how it functions. You can say that. But, not to say that he should be denied entry into the party.

The party also has standard rules, which one of them is that you need to be in the party for two years before you get elected or you are given a waiver. I think it was part of the mistake the PDP has been making. You know, they rush into certain decisions without thinking it through and that is really the price of not following our constitution, rules and regulations to the letters. I hope we have learnt our lessons and must avoid such in future. Meanwhile, I don’t subscribe to the fact that any individual from whatever background should be denied entry into any political party.

Is it true that Sheriff is being sponsored by the ruling, APC to destabilise the PDP?
I think the problem that Sheriff encountered before the Port Harcourt Convention was promising the same thing to different people. The people understood that maybe he was playing them around. Honestly, he never did to me, but if what I have heard was true that is really the problem. But since he was removed by the convention along with other national officers, I have not seen a convincing reason to say that like the central government has an agenda to actually get involved. But we have seen traces of certain individuals in the ruling party either for political reasons or whatever reasons getting involved somehow.

Why haven’t your Committee taken over the PDP headquarters in Abuja for the day-to-day running of the party?
It was an unfortunate situation. I don’t want to start going over it. It has happened but that was why government was concerned with what was happening. They have right to be concerned. That was why there was a meeting and there was a resolution. The Inspector General of Police did not impose anything on us. We suggested a way to keep calm and peace, but as an authority he announced the resolution.

I think it was a wise decision by all of us to give peace a chance, hoping that within the one week, we would be able to resolve the problem. Even, if we fail to resolve it, as I said one week thereafter the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt will give judgment on the matter before it and that could be the end of the problem.

But the issue is that I don’t represent myself. I represent all the governors, I represent virtually 99 per cent of our party’s national assembly members, I represent virtually 99 per cent of the Board of Trustees’ members. I represent virtually 99 per cent of the state chapters of the PDP. I did not make myself an interim chairman, they all brought me without disagreement. Of course there are two governors that were mandated because they come from the Northeast to continue to liaise with Modu Sheriff. So their visit to Sherriff was approved by us.

We are looking for peace in the party. The BoT chairman was also mandated and he has been visiting him. The House Minority Leader was mandated and he has been visiting him. The Deputy Senate President was mandated and has been visiting him. That our members are visiting him to talk peace do not mean they have divided loyalty. We just want peace and I pray that he look at all these and accept peace. So, how can everybody be talking to you to make peace and you said no. Then what else do you want.

Are you aware that some of your party members have planning to register another party because of the lingering crisis?
Let me give you a scenario. Should the court say that the convention was invalid God forbid, that will be the end of PDP as you may want to guess. Will Ali Modu Sheriff and the two national officers still with him own the PDP or the rest of us? So, it is a scenario that can manifest itself. But, the courts in Nigeria are made up of people of integrity, and they are also part of the society. We have absolute faith in the judiciary such that when they look at all the issues we have no cause to be worried that justice will not be done.

Why is it always difficult for the PDP to resolve its problem politically?
Like I told you there has been more than 12 Committees that have gone to see Sherriff to make peace and there has been no headway. Please think about this.