By Ben Agande
Ahmed Gulak, a former speaker of the Adamawa State House of Assembly, served as Political Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan and is one of the staunch supporters of the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Ali Modu Sheriff. In this interview he speaks on how the party can climb out of the crisis it has found itself in. Excerpts:
WHAT is your reaction to the fact that the Caretaker committee has decided to appeal the judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal affirming Sheriff as the chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party?
I read with dismay an interview granted by Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, former governor of Kaduna State and a former senator that totally stood the truth on the head and I feel it is my obligation as a stakeholder in this party to clarify issues. You know as a fact that the then Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, with the consent and agreement of both factions closed the National Secretariat of the PDP and all parties agreed because there were conflicting court orders from federal high courts of equal or coordinate jurisdiction.
The Federal High Court in Port Harcourt gave judgment in favour of Makarfi caretaker committee that the committee was valid and leadership of the party belongs to them while the Federal High Court in Abuja said no and said Ali Modu Sheriff was the valid chairman. Because of these conflicting judgments, there was seeming crisis and in order to avert breakdown of law and order, the police in their wisdom called all the parties concerned and they all agreed that the party office should be closed until we have a superior court judgment.
Superior court judgment
After the court judgment from Port Harcourt, all Nigerians that are genuinely in love with PDP expected this party to come together and chart the way forward. But you know as a fact that some of our stakeholders encouraged Makarfi who went on National TV to say that they are appealing to the Supreme Court.
But some say that Sheriff cannot be relied upon to conduct an acceptable convention given that at the last convention only one form for national chairman was made available?
No, it is wrong. During our zonal congress; governor of Gombe moved a motion that in the northeast, Ali Modu Sheriff remains our only candidate for chairmanship. And the governor of Taraba State seconded his motion and all the delegates carried the day that Sheriff remains our only chairman from the north east. Where did Sheriff falter? When we went to Port Harcourt a different ball game played out and it is said, the rest is history. But as it is today, Sheriff said he is not going to contest the chairmanship of this party again. He is going to conduct a free and fair congress within the shortest time possible for officers to be elected and anybody who wants to be anything in the NWC is free to go and contest, let him subject himself to the delegates of the party, let the party elect their leaders.
The Ekweremadu Committee had proposed zoning the presidency in 2019 to the north and by implication the chairmanship of the party to the south. Will that hold in the new arrangement?
Well if that recommendation has been adopted by NEC, we go by it. But you would agree with me that Sheriff did not set out to contest the chairmanship of the party, you would agree with me that Governors Ayo Fayose and Segun Mimiko were the ones who said they don’t want to get the national chairmanship to the south west. But be that as it may, we have crossed that bridge; we are where we are today.
The zoning committee will still be formed and if the zoning committee adopts that the south gets the chairmanship, fine and good. In the south, which zone? Is it south west, south east or south-south? But be that as it may, the committee report of Ekweremadu to me is a valid and good document, the NEC has adopted it and we should go by that. If the presidency is going to the north, naturally the chairmanship will come from the south. But the issue is that people must come together, the party must be strong, and it is not the zoning.
You can zone offices the way you like but if you don’t build the party, how can you win an election?
Has Sheriff tried to reach out to Makarfi since the last Court of Appeal judgment?
The first person Sheriff called when he received the news of this judgment was Sen. Ahmed Makarfi and he said as per our agreement this court has given judgment, what we do now is that we come together, we break all stakeholders, let us prepare for national convention to elect our national officers. Like I said it is not Sheriff that is going to be the national convention committee, he is the party chairman, he will only preside over the national convention as a party chairman, give his address and watch as the party elects his officers and he will step aside and hand over the mantle of leadership to the duly elected NWC.
Sheriff has gone for robust consultations. He has gone to the former BoT chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, he has gone to former President, Goodluck Jonathan, he has gone to IBB, he is a member of our party, he is embarking on a robust consultation to make sure that all hands are on deck to begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild this party towards 2019. And more than 80 per cent have agreed with him because after all what do they want?
Sheriff said he is conducting national convention to elect officers and even if Makarfi had won the court of appeal judgment was he supposed to perpetuate himself as national chairman or care taker committee? No! His is to conduct convention for party to elect national officers.
You would agree with me that the only election we had in this party was between Late Sunday Awoniyi and Chief Barnabas Gemedi. Other elections people would be prevailed on not to stand election, governors will write names, stakeholders will write names, we are saying please let the people elect their leaders and that is what we are trying to do for this party.
But the major organs of the party are not in support of Sheriff, are you not bothered?
Well, I agree because in the first place we have constitutional organs of this party namely NWC, NEC, BoT, these are the major organs of this party. There is no organ of the party like Governors Forum, Former Ministers Forum.
But I guarantee you that the owners of this party, those who produce the governors, that is the electorate are on the path of the law, let us do the right thing.
They are yearning for their power to come to them when they will elect those who will represent them. They are yearning for this party to come back to them and this is what Sheriff has given back to them.