By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Ben Agande, Gbenga Olarinoye, Rotimi Ojomoyela & Daud Olatunji
Ahead of today’s meeting of governors, senators and other top stakeholders of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led mainstream of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the contending Ali Modu Sheriff’s faction yesterday launched a charm offensive to ward off further judicial acrimony.
In the most pointed effort at winning support, Sheriff’s deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh, yesterday made profuse apologies to Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State over past brushes he had with them over the crisis.
Fayose, Fani-Kayode and Ihedioha
Besides the entreaty for peace, Sheriff’s supporters in Ogun State aligned to Senator Buruji Kashamu yesterday claimed that eight of the 12 governors in the party were secretly backing Sheriff.
Further, calls on the Makarfi’s faction not to appeal the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port-Harcourt that vested legitimacy on Sheriff, also came from the Sheriff inclined faction in Osun State and the faction’s national secretary, Professor Adewale Oladipo, and the factional National Youth Leader, Demis Alonge-Niyi
The charm offensive nonetheless, strong resentment to the recognition of Sheriff continued unabated yesterday.
Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State in a strong rebuttal of the judgment, affirmed that it could not stand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, saying all the governors and major stakeholders remained united in support of the Makarfi executive.
Spokesman of the 2015 Goodluck Jonathan campaign, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, also in a strong denunciation of the judgment, rallied the party mainstream to appeal against the judgment, warning that Sheriff was an angel of death to the PDP.
He was supported by the immediate past Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha, who warned that the party must not be given to Sheriff who he described as a dictator with an inherent deficit in democratic credentials.
The Makarfi led national caretaker committee has scheduled a meeting of stakeholders of the party in Abuja today to discuss the latest developments in the party with the majority of party stakeholders supporting an appeal against the judgment.
Leading the charm offensive yesterday was the Deputy National Chairman of the Sheriff- led faction of the party, Dr. Ojuogboh, who apologised to Governors Wike and Fayose and other members of the party that he might have offended in the past, urging them to bury the hatchet and join hands with Sheriff to move the party forward.
Dr. Ojuogboh, in an interview with Vanhguard, urged party members to call off the threat to go to the Supreme Court.
“I want to state that I, Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh in my personal capacity tender apology on behalf of the National working Committee to everybody in the party who is offended, including Governors Ayo Fayose, Nyesom Wike and members of the Board of Trustees who may have been offended in one way or the other.
“This is the time for us to put our house in order. What we are going to look for at the Supreme Court is the national convention which the chairman and the NWC will organise within the shortest possible period depending on the agreement with the major stakeholders. Anybody who is offended should find a place in his mind to forgive and forget so that we can come together under one umbrella. As the national chairman said, there is no winner; there is no loser in this matter,” he told Vanguard yesterday.
His call was also echoed by leading associates of Sheriff including factional national secretary, Prof. Oladipo and Youth Leader, Alonge-Niyi.
“I think the time has come for our members to put this leadership tussle behind us and move forward in the overall interest of our Party. 2019 is around the corner and time is not on our side. We need to put the matter behind us and embrace peace. In 2018, we have governorship elections in Osun and Anambra States. We must work hard to reclaim the presidency, to win more states as well as more seats in both Chambers of the National Assembly and State Assemblies
“To me going to the Supreme Court will further escalate it and drag the matter more than expected,” he said.
Prof. Oladipo, however, hinted that the Sheriff faction would this week approach the Police to handover the Wadata National Secretariat to it. The secretariat was sealed off last year as the crisis worsened.
Also speaking in the same vein, the National Youth Leader of the Group, Longe-Niyi stated that “all aggrieved party members should put the matter behind them with the pronouncement of the Appeal Court and embrace peace in the interest of the Party.”
Factional National Auditor aligned to Sheriff Chief Adewole Adeyanju, in his reaction, said the judgment said many members of the party were working towards proffering an out of court settlement. Adewole disclosed that part of the options to resolve the crisis in the party was to advise Sheriff and Makarfi to step down for the sake of the party.
He said “We are thinking about the party. We are not thinking about any individual. It is only God that crowns anybody. I want to be this; I want to be that if God says no, there is nothing anybody can do. So, let us think about the party, let us think about the suffering of our people so that we take over the government and everything would be fine again.
“Out of the 12 PDP governors, about eight of them are already talking with us. So what are we talking about? Where is the Governors’ Forum? But they are an organ of our party that we cannot wish away.
The factional executive of the party aligned to Sheriff in Osun State also yesterday said that with the judgment that all contentions should cease. The factional executive in a statement signed by its chairman, Soji Adagunodo said that It had been a long battle, “and we are glad it has now been put to rest.”
However, suggestions of appeasement with Sheriff were being strongly rebuffed by strong partisans of the party including Governor Fayose, former aviation minister, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, immediate past deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha among others.
Governor Fayose, who is also the Chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum, described Sheriff’s Friday’s victory as momentary, saying whoever celebrated it only celebrated nonsense.
Speaking in a state-wide radio/television interview on state-owned television, he said:
“Sheriff and his gang are only day dreaming. On our side are the governors, members of the Board of Trustees, the National Assembly caucus, former public office holders, party supporters in the grassroots. If they think they can inherit the party illegally, that is a pipe dream. Those planning to invade the PDP secretariat here should be warned. They must not toy with fire.”
He said the crisis in the party would not affect the party’s chance in the 2018 governorship election.
“When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. When your wife is pregnant, you wait until the baby is born to know the name to give it. The essential thing is that we are not ruffled and we have the people on our side, and we are also giving them our best by our service to them,” he noted.
Fani-Kayode in his reaction described Sheriff as a traitor who should not be embraced.
He said in a statement:
“I read his insulting comments about Fayose and Wike, and I laughed. Are these not the very same people that brought him in the first place and convinced others in the PDP Governor’s Forum to support him?
“Now he has finished using them to get what he wanted he is insulting them and saying that they must be kicked out of the party and dealt with.
“I say shame on him because that will never happen. Fayose particularly has proved his worth to Nigeria and Wike has stood firm and strong in defence of his people and state. They are both lions, and I am proud to stand with them and Makarfi.
“Sheriff is nothing but a traitor who is biting the fingers that fed him. Fayose is one million times the man he is. As a matter of fact so are almost all the governors and other party leaders. Sheriff comes nowhere near any of us in any shape or form.
“This is a man whose fundamental purpose and ambition in life is to sell the PDP down the river and to help the ruling APC and the Buhari government to destroy us and win the presidential election in 2019.
“Sheriff is the Angel of Death to the PDP. He is worse than the bubonic plague: not only is he a curse to our party but he is also an affliction to our nation.”
Ihedioha on his part said Sheriff cannot be trusted with leading the party to a transparent convention because his short stint as chairman of the party has been a disaster.
“Is Sheriff a democrat? What are his antecedents and pedigree? His antecedents and pedigree have left so much to be desired as a man who can offer any leadership to any political party. His words are not words that you can take to the bank,” he told Vanguard.
In his reaction, former Minister of Information and former Publicity Secretary of the PDP, John Odey said as a party that prides itself as the biggest in Africa; it should uphold the rule of law.
“Sheriff is part of the PDP. Makarfi and his group are all part of PDP. There are rules for negotiations and considerations. As far as I am concerned, there is the need for us to sit on the table, even if we are going to the Supreme Court, to continue to negotiate till the last day. Party politics is give and take.”
Also reacting, the former political Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Ahmed Gulak said those angling to go to the Supreme Court on appeal do not love the party.
“if they are committed and sincere about their support for the PDP, we had already agreed that no matter the outcome of the Appeal court, nobody should go on appeal. But if they are insisting on going to the Supreme Court, it means that all along they have not been sincere, and Nigerians are seeing them for what they are. You cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay.
“Sheriff has said that he is willing to step aside after conducting a convention to elect national officers. The man is saying that he will go, but he will organise a national convention that will elect national officers of the party and everybody who is interested should go and start campaigning. I don’t think any person who is intending to go to the Supreme Court has a real reason to do so” he said.