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Ali Modu Sherrif and call to patriotic duty

By Law Mefor
16 June 2016   |   3:15 am
There comes a time in a politician’s life when his claim to statesmanship is tested. Such a time now beckons on Senator Ali Modu Sherrif, the immediate past chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Ali Modu Sheriff

Ali Modu Sheriff

“A politician thinks of the next election. A statesman, of the next generation.” – James Freeman Clarke

There comes a time in a politician’s life when his claim to statesmanship is tested. Such a time now beckons on Senator Ali Modu Sherrif, the immediate past chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Senator Sherrif, perhaps for good reason, still sees himself as the bonafide chairman of the PDP, insisting that the Port Harcourt Convention of the Party, which produced the Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi and Senator Ben Ndi Obi-led Caretaker Committee was illegal. To give vent to his position, he procured a court order pending determination of the case.

But it is obvious that Sherrif’s impassioned stand is an afterthought.
After all, he attended the Port Harcourt Convention. Sherrif was brought in four months ago or so, to steer the ship of the party on interim basis. His coming was greeted by hues and cries from all the segments of the party except the PDP Governors’ Forum. The party came quite close to disintegration when he  took over, but the elders of the party rose to the occasion and quickly brokered peace and reached the understanding that Sherrif and his team would stay for three months within which to call a National Convention –  in May – to elect another party executive.

Yet, soon after, the body language of Sherrif showed he was not prepared to go any time soon. Some members of the former National Working Committee equally plotted tenure elongation. They tried amending the Party’s Constitution and skewed the zoning arrangement to give them the leeway. Sherrif, who confessed he was only prevailed upon by Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, to become the interim chairman, was to be railroaded back as chairman by such tenuous arrangements.

It is true that politics is all about self-interest and concentric circles of conspiracies. So, there is nothing wrong with Sherrif’s ambition.  He is a juggernaut by every stretch of imagination and imminently qualified to be Nigeria’s President. His tenure as a two-time Governor of Borno State bears eloquent testimony as to his capacity to govern well. To say nothing of his stint at the nation’s Senate too. Nonetheless, true patriots never lose sight of the bigger picture and national goals. Sherrif himself confessed that his interest is to rebuild and reposition the Peoples Democratic Party. What this presupposes is that he would not be a party to any ploy to hamper the party’s progress. What then could be more harmful than his court processes and actions derailing the party?

There is also a moral burden in this. Sherrif stands to gain little or nothing from destroying a party he would not consider himself a founding member, for he jumped the APC ship only in the wee hours of the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency. It was one of the axes some party stalwarts had to grind with him. One of the splinter groups had argued that Sherrif is in no position to rebuild and reposition the party, given what they say is his variegated antecedents and checkered history.

To be fair to such stalwarts who never saw Sherrif as suitable, at times like this, the arrowheads the PDP needs should be stablising personae, who can strike a reconciliatory balance. Indeed, in times of crisis such as the PDP is going through, the leadership needed is the type that can bring all sides together and not the type to exacerbate or precipitate fresh crisis or be seen to be taking sides. If truth be told, Sherrif does not easily inspire such confidence across party lines. And as if determined to prove his critics right, by the time he was voted out at Port Harcourt, PDP had broken into three factions, with himself leading one. This is unprecedented in the annals of the party’s history.

Whoever watched the Port Harcourt Convention where Ahmed Makarfi and Ben Obi emerged as PDP Caretaker Chairman and Secretary respectively, would attest to the fact that all the party Stakeholders were there – Board of Trustees, all the PDP Governors, National Working Committee and everybody else who mattered in the party. It was there that the National Working Committee of the party led by Ali Modu Sherrif was dissolved. Since it was a duly convened National Convention, and the Party’s Constitution vests in its National Convention its supreme powers, such a decision is validly in order, at least to a lay mind. Sherrif’s argument that he called off the convention before its commencement, even without a resolution of the National Working Committee, members of which participated actively in the convection, is a bit out of place. What is more, the National Chairman of the party does not enjoy any absolute or arbitrary powers and therefore couldn’t have validly called off the convention arbitrarily and unilaterally.

This is not to say that Sherrif and one or two members of the disbanded National Working Committee still supporting him cannot find some technicalities to hold unto to render the party ineffectual. But unless their goal is really to destroy the party as some allege, their continued fight is pointless and capable of inspiring exodus from the party since the owners of the party who made him National Chairman in the first place were the same people who said his time was up.

Penultimate week, two members of the PDP in the House of Representatives defected to the APC, cashing in on the crisis even though no court has declared that there exist factions or crisis in the PDP to warrant such defection or make it proper and legal. Some members have also openly asserted that nobody should rule out an entirely brand new political party emerging from the simmering confusion and conflicts in the PDP. The Caretaker Committee of the Party, therefore, needs to be supported to halt the drift in order to forestall a greater damage.

Some of us who are apostles of two party system as a panacea for our nation’s unity and true democracy are appalled by these sad commentaries. When the legacy parties that formed the APC pulled off a merger and consummated their historic and epochal union, many celebrated the arrival of two party system. When the APC emerged the winner of the 2015 Presidential Election, even some who were sympathetic to the PDP but believe in two party system had hoped that the strongest opposition party in the nation’s history had emerged in the PDP. This hope is what is being dashed by the impasse in the party.

Without a shred of doubt, the key to peace and full resolution of the conflict in the PDP is held by no other than Ali Modu Sherrif. From all indications, the Jerry Gana/Ibrahim Mantu faction has sheathed their swords, leaving Modu Sherrif to do the same. Commendably, the Ahmed Makarfi Caretaker Committee has held out the olive branch to Sherrif and other aggrieved members. The erstwhile chairman should take the olive branch and by so doing, give the PDP the much needed respite to reorganize itself and give the nation a virile opposition and prove itself a credible alternative to the APC in 2019 Presidential Election. Sherrif is much better off joining the ranks of party elders and guardians. Such is his duty as a patriot and statesman who should worry more about the next generation than for next election. Posterity beckons on him.

• Law Mefor, forensic psychologist and journalist, is based in Abuja