By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
The process to restore peace to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP continues with twisting turns for the trouble shooters. The Forum of State chairmen which had until recently been removed from the crisis that has bestirred the national leadership has now been drawn into the milieu.
It was an unusual follow-up to a meeting of state chairmen of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP last Wednesday. The venue of the meeting was Valencia Hotel, which is remarkably, a stone throw from the national secretariat of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC in the Wuse 2 Area of Abuja.
Perhaps out of concern from previous allegations of the involvement of the APC in the crisis playing out in its leadership, the PDP state chairmen perhaps took the extraordinary step of issuing the signatures of the attendees to circumvent any plot by nearby officials of the APC in rubbishing the event.
Just days earlier, the court imposed national chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff had summoned a meeting of state chairmen where 22 “state chairmen” present reportedly pledged loyalty to Sheriff.
Authentic state chairmen
However, even before the ink dried on the communiqué by those “state chairmen,” allegations that nearly all of those who passed confidence on Sheriff were either impostors or had forged the signatures of some of the authentic state chairmen.
Among those who disowned the meeting were at least five chairmen including those of Niger and Kogi States who claimed that their signatures were forged in the communiqué issued at the end of the pro-Sheriff meeting.
Alhaji Tanko Beji, the Niger State chairman, had in a press statement last Sunday disowned his signature as circulated.
“I wish to state that I am not aware of the said meeting and was not in attendance at same. The signature against my name is equally not mine.
“For the avoidance of doubt, I remain committed to the National Caretaker Committee of the party and I am in support of the appeal at the Supreme Court.”
So when the genuine chairmen met last Wednesday, the chairmen were quick to cause a list to be published of those who were present.
Their aim in circulating the list of those they claimed to be genuine chairmen also followed concerns in certain quarters that Sheriff could go ahead to in his position as national chairman appoint replacements for state executives he perceived were not loyal to his leadership.
The chairman of the Akwa Ibom State chapter of the party, Paul Ebong Ekpo who chaired the meeting of the 26 chairmen while addressing newsmen, said the meeting would consider the recommendations of the Governor Seriake Dickson led committee.
“We note that the purported appointment of individuals into elective positions in the National Working Committee (NWC) of PDP is not in line with the provisions of the PDP constitution and constitutes a departure from the judgment of the Court of Appeal being challenged at the Supreme Court.
Whether Sheriff knew of the planned meeting of the 26 state chairmen or not, he also summoned a meeting of the 22 ‘state chairmen’ who last week endorsed him.
In his meeting with the 22, Sheriff sought to debunk insinuations that they were fakes as he told them: “these are the authentic chairmen of the party. So if anyone says you are fake, it is not you that is fake; it is the person that is fake.”
Sheriff explained that he summoned the state chairmen to brief them on the developments within the party and especially to seek their input on the recommendations of the Governor Dickson-led Reconciliation Committee.
But how that will stem the crisis in the party was another matter. If anything, the move by the state chairmen who are mostly loyal to the Senator Ahmed Makarfi led National Caretaker Committee further painted the picture of division within the party.
Further anxiety for the Sheriff faction came after Governor Serikae Dickson who had in the recent past seemed to give legitimacy to his leadership after the Appeal Court judgment that confirmed him, seemed to make a rethink.
Elected party executives
Dickson, the chairman of the PDP Reconciliation Committee had engaged in a public spat with Makarfi after he submitted the report of his committee to Sheriff and called on the two contending chairmen to step down in the interest of peace.
Submitting the report to Makarfi, Dickson warned against the alleged moves to tamper the list of elected party executives at ward to state levels where congresses were held before the botched May 21, 2016, national convention in Port Harcourt.
His warning flowed from the apparent moves by Sheriff to recognise the “22 state chairmen” that he had recently recognised.
Apparently jerked by the Sheriff move, Dickson said, “we want to make it clear that for us unless anybody has a hidden agenda, any officer of our party must be the officers elected before the May 21 Port Harcourt national convention.
“So we condemn attempts made by anybody for whatever purpose to tinker with the list of elected officials of the party.
“That is an attempt to cripple and destroy the unity we have managed to establish at the lowest levels of the party because our understanding is that the challenge we have is only at the national level and not at any state or zonal level,” the governor added.
Also the same day, the House of Representatives caucus of the party while receiving Dickson and his panel also unbent from their previous position of pure hostility to the Sheriff faction as they pledged to go along with the recommendations of the Dickson Committee so long as according to them, Sheriff agreed to abide with same.
Rep. Leo Ogor who led the House caucus to the meeting with Dickson said that they were ready to accept any peace initiative, but was, however, quick to add that all the organs of the party must agree on the peace template and must be willing to abide by every agreement reached.
“I am happy that this initiative is yielding the desired results. We are not opposed to peace in the party. Nigerians are yearning for a change and only the PDP can guarantee that. We are willing to sacrifice our personal interest in the overall interest of the party.”
For PDP, this is, of course, no easy time.