he Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party on Tuesday alleged that the sacked acting national chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, was acting a script written for him by the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The Publicity Secretary of the committee, Dayo Adeyeye, said this at a press conference addressed by five out of the seven members of the committee in Abuja.
The committee described Sheriff’s “takeover” of the party secretariat as a brazen act of lawlessness and an attempt to set the stage for a violent confrontation.
The ousted acting national chairman, Sheriff, currently leads a faction of the party, which also includes a few members of the sacked National Working Committee, while Makarfi, who enjoys the support of the PDP governors and the Board of Trustees, leads another faction.
The PDP had, until last month, split into three factions with one of the factions led by Senator Ibrahim Mantu; the second consisted of governors, while the third was headed by Sheriff.
The governors and other stakeholders had, on May 21, converged on Port Harcourt for the party’s national convention, where a caretaker committee, headed by Makarfi, was constituted.
The Mantu group, which held a separate meeting in Abuja on the day the Port Harcourt convention held, later on June 7, endorsed the Makarfi committee.
But the Sheriff faction described the caretaker committee as illegal, saying it had no place in the PDP constitution.
Adeyeye alleged that Sheriff, in company with the former National Secretary, Prof. Olawale Oladipo, and former National Auditor, Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju, invaded the secretariat with three lorry loads of thugs and bandits as early as 6am on Monday.
According to him, when rumour of the planned invasion filtered out on Sunday, members of the committee took steps to alert the police to secure the building and to protect the lives and property of members.
He added, “Up to a point, the police discharged their responsibilities satisfactorily. However, later on, without any justification whatsoever, Ali Modu Sheriff and the other renegades were allowed to gain entry into the secretariat, where they later proceeded to address a press conference.’’
He stressed that it was curious that the police claimed to be acting on “orders from above” in allowing Sheriff and his cohorts to gain entry into the secretariat.
Adeyeye said, “The All Progressives Congress has contracted Sheriff and his cohorts to scuttle the chances of the PDP in the Edo governorship election.
“We have credible intelligence that Sheriff had a meeting on Sunday night with an (unnamed) APC governor from the North-West, where it was organised that he would be given full security and financial support to exacerbate the crisis in the PDP with the objective of preventing the PDP from presenting a candidate for the Edo governorship election, or in the very least, to prevent the PDP from offering a serious challenge to the APC, whose electoral fortunes have continued to nosedive.”
In his reaction, however, Sheriff’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Inuwa Bwala, said, “Senator Ali Sheriff is too big to be used by anybody, least of all the APC, to destroy a party he is trying to and weaning from the milk of impunity and rebuilding to give Nigerians a credible alternative.
“He left the APC based on principle and has not had contact with the party ever since. The so-called caretaker committee knows that INEC will not accept any list from it; so, it is desperate to get recognition.
“We know for certain that the leader of that group has a presidential ambition and he appears to have recruited some governors, who are now backing him to use the PDP platform, knowing that Ali Sheriff is a stickler for the right things being done; he sees him as an obstacle that must be removed.”
The Makarfi-led caretaker committee, however, assured the Edo people that the party was doing everything to ensure that the PDP platform was not hijacked by political merchants.
The committee said the process for the primary of the PDP governorship candidate for the state started on Monday with ward congresses.
The committee alleged that Sheriff and his backers had continued their attempt to buy any court order at any price, adding that the embattled ex-acting party boss had not succeeded because of the vigilance and integrity of the judiciary.
Adeyeye said Sheriff was appointed, not elected by the National Executive Committee of the PDP to complete the tenure of Alhaji Adamu Ma’uzu.
He said the appointment of the caretaker committee was in line with the PDP constitution and its extant laws.
“We also wonder who he would be chairman over when he (Sheriff) has already been rejected by 99.99% of the party,” Adeyeye said.
A member of the committee, Senator Abdul Ningi, also told journalists that he suspected the involvement of the government in the crisis.
He alleged that the high level of security around Sheriff left no one in doubt on the support of the government for Sheriff.
Attempts to get an official reaction from the APC were futile.
Repeated telephone calls to the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, were not returned.
A response to a text message, sent to him for the party’s reaction to the PDP’s allegations, was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, Sheriff was sighted going into the Chairman’s office at the party’s national secretariat on Tuesday.
He arrived at the secretariat at about 10am.
In the meantime, Makarfi has described claims that he has pledged allegiance to Sheriff as fraudulent.
Makarfi was reacting to news reports in which he was quoted as having told Sheriff that he(Makarfi) accepted the position of the caretaker committee chairman of the party in error.
The former Kaduna State governor while speaking with newsmen in Abuja, expressed disappointment with the various court orders being displayed by some party members, adding that no court stopped the party’s national convention held in Port Harcourt.
Makarfi said, “That’s very fraudulent. I saw him (Sheriff) at the (Port Harcourt) convention of course, but I haven’t sat privately with Modu Sheriff in the last three months, or anybody representing him, not to talk of me making such a statement.
“I haven’t granted any press statement. If that is the case, how can it be that the only statement I would make is to apologise to him and express support for him?
“There is no basis for that, absolutely no basis for that.
“The court never stopped any convention. Of course, it said ‘do not elect’ and we didn’t elect.
“And the order, which was said to have been vacated and that’s the Port Harcourt court order, hasn’t been vacated and the Inspector-General Police and Independent National Electoral Commission till today said it is an existing order.”
Also, for the second time in two weeks, the Caretaker Committee of the PDP is to meet with governors on the party platform, members of the BoT and the National Assembly caucus today (Wednesday).
The decision follows Monday’s takeover of the party’s national secretariat by Sheriff, and his supporters.
It was learnt that the stakeholders decided to hold the meeting to take a firm decision on Sheriff’s fate in the face of his latest action.
Other party chiefs expected to attend the expanded meeting, scheduled to hold at the Ondo Governor’s Lodge, Abuja, include the party’s former governors as well as the former principal officers of the National Assembly.
This was contained in a statement by the PDP Governors’ Forum, signed by the Director-General of the Forum, Osaro Onaiwu.
“The purpose of the meeting is to find a lasting solution to the crisis bedevilling the party.”
He, however, stated that the party might seek legal redress if current efforts to resolve the crisis did not yield the desired results.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission on Tuesday said it had yet to recognise any of the two factions, currently at loggerheads over the leadership of the PDP.
The Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, who stated this in an interview with one of our correspondents, also disclosed that the commission rejected a request by the Makarfi caretaker committee to visit the electoral agency.
Oyekanmi, in the interview with The PUNCH, said, “INEC has not recognised any of the PDP factions.”
He stated that all issues relating to the PDP crisis would be addressed in a statement that the commission would issue in due course.
“INEC has yet to recognise any faction as of today. Don’t forget that the issue at hand is the PDP’s internal matter and our hope is that the party will eventually be able to reconcile the different factions. However, INEC has not yet recognised any of the two contending factions,” Oyekanmi said.
The INEC chairman’s spokesman explained that the commission rejected a request by the Makarfi committee to visit the INEC headquarters because it didn’t want its action to be misconstrued to mean that it was supporting any of the two factions.
He added, “We are trying to avoid a situation where they will visit and people will read meanings to it. So, they (Markafi group) wanted to visit in that regard and we said ‘no’; we declined.
“Like I said, we are preparing a statement and I am very sure that probably within the next couple of days, that our position will be made known.
‘‘We are waiting for clarification and want to be sure of what to present and that will come directly from the chairman’s office.”
The Ahmad Makarfi caretaker committee had written INEC, demanding that the commission should recognise it, urging INEC to relate with it on matters relating to the party.
The crisis in the former ruling party took another dimension on Monday when the embattled Sheriff gained entry into the PDP national secretariat and took over the affairs of the party.
Sheriff, who entered the secretariat on his third attempt, explained that the exparte order issued by a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, which earlier barred him from acting as national chairman, lapsed on June 9.