There were strong indications on Friday that despite the peace moves of its leadership, the Peoples Democratic Party was facing an imminent break-up ahead of its national convention scheduled for May 21.
Saturday PUNCH reliably gathered on Friday that at the South-West meeting attended by some chieftains of the party in Akure on Wednesday, those who were opposed to the bid of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff to become substantive chairman gave a condition to support him.
It was learnt that although the chieftains at the meeting had agreed to cede the PDP chairmanship seat to Sheriff, he must relinquish the post in 2017. The Akure group had insisted that the PDP chairmanship should be zoned to the South-West.
It was gathered that Sheriff’s supporters in the zone, including the Senator representing Ogun East, Buruji Kashamu, had not accepted the condition.
The crisis, investigations showed, was worsened by the fight for national offices zoned to the South-West by the Akure group and party members led by Kashamu.
The South-West zonal leaders, including the Ondo State Governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and a member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Chief Bode George, had met in Akure on Wednesday.
Another faction of the party in the zone, including Kashamu and the National Vice-Chairman, Chief Makanjuola Ogundipe, met on the same day at Ijebu-Igbo, the home town of the Ogun East senator.
A member of the party, who attended the Akure meeting, said, “For peace to reign, we are going to support Sheriff on the condition that he put it down in black and white that he will leave in 2017. We do not want verbal agreement.
“We have not completely accepted Sheriff. We are looking at reaching a compromise. The arrangement now can remain till 2017 March. That is when a fresh exercise will be done. The zoning now is not the proper one.
“Already, all leaders in the South-West have agreed. The agreement will be written and stated. We will sell that idea to our colleagues and it must be written and accepted. So, we have accepted among ourselves in the South-West and we hope it will be accepted.”
Although the condition had not been tabled at the national level, feelers from Sheriff’s backers in the South-West zone indicate that they will not accept it.
A party chieftain from Oyo State, who confided in Saturday PUNCH, said, “We have heard what those who were in Akure said. We will not encourage Sheriff to abide by that condition. There will not be any written agreement. If Sheriff performs creditably, he will continue after 2017.”
It was gathered that besides the party chairmanship, another issue tearing the party apart in the South-West was fight over national offices zoned to the area.
The posts of national auditor, national publicity secretary and the national secretary have been zoned to the South-West.
Currently, most, if not all national officers from the South-West including Ogundipe, are believed to be loyal to Kashamu, who is said to be the main financier of the party in the zone.
We can only align with trustworthy leaders –Ex-Lawmaker
A chieftain of the PDP in Ogun State, Mr. Fasiu Bakene, said the Akure meeting was the authentic one because it was attended by the only two governors of the party and ex-ministers in the zone.
Bakene, who attended the meeting, stated, “For somebody to say he is not aware of the South-West elders meeting in Akure, such a person is being economical with truth.
“A meeting attended by the only two governors of the PDP in the South-West, former ministers, ex-state chairmen and a host of others cannot be pushed aside. It is advisable to stand and identify with the path of honour by aligning with the two trustworthy and reliable governors.”
Ex-ministers set to defect
It was learnt that some former ministers, who served under the PDP-led Federal Government, had vowed not to remain in the party.
They insisted that Sheriff did not have the moral right to lead the main opposition party in the country.
A minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Saturday PUNCH that all was set for their defection from the former ruling party.
They said that it was impunity like this that made the party to lose the presidential election in 2015.
I am still consulting—Deputy National Publicity Secretary
When contacted, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Ibrahim Jalo, also said that he was consulting on whether to leave the party or not.
Jalo, who spoke in an interview with our correspondent in Abuja, insisted that he had not made up his mind yet on what to do, but he said he remains not satisfied with happenings in his party.
He said, “I told you I might leave the party on moral grounds. I have yet to change my mind.”
Jalo, who claimed to be the chairman of a pressure group known as House to House in Gombe State, said if he decides to defect, he would do so with his supporters.
“I’m the chairman of the House to House in Gombe State and we did a lot in assisting the state governor to win election. In all the local governments, I have structure. If I’m leaving, I’m leaving with my supporters,” he added.
Parallel national convention looms
A group, the PDP Northern Elders’, had on Wednesday night called on Sheriff to vacate office on May 21.
The group led by a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, also urged the chairman to postpone the national convention.
It was not clear on Friday if Sheriff would heed the advice, but it was gathered that anti-Sheriff forces might boycott the May 21 convention and later hold theirs at a later date or the same day.
“Sheriff should listen to the words of wisdom. If he does not step aside and goes ahead to hold convention on May 21, we would hold another one the same day,” a party leader from the North, who confided in Saturday PUNCH, said.
My opponents left the party in limbo—Kashamu
But when contacted, Kashamu said he was not aware of any plan to hold a parallel convention.
He said any such plan was totally uncalled for and an exercise in futility, because according to him, there is only one PDP from the ward to the national level.
He said, “There is only one PDP from the ward to the national level. You should ask anyone who say I am the problem, why he said so.
“Before those who called the Akure meeting began to meet, the constitutionally recognised Zonal leadership of the party, under the leadership of the National Vice-Chairman, Chief Makanjuola Ogundipe, had called two meetings – the first was in Abuja on the 17th of March, 2016; the second was in Ibadan on the 30th of March, 2016.
“The meeting in Ijebu-Igbo was the third and it had been fixed before theirs. I did not call the meeting. I was just one of those who facilitated it alongside other well-meaning and functional leaders of the party in the South-West.
“If they could hold their meeting in Akure, why can’t the zonal exco hold theirs wherever they deemed fit?
“I think the question should be: why did they decide to hold another meeting in Akure outside the one called by the zonal leadership of the party? Could any of them have allowed such when they were in office as zonal or national officers?”
He denied imposing himself as a leader of the party in the zone, wondering where such was coming from. Rather he said he had contributed immensely to build the party.
He said, “I have only been supporting my party as much as I can. Ask our leaders what has been their contributions to the growth and sustenance of the party in the zone.
“They are the ones trying to impose all the national executive positions on us. If I am on the same side with most of the statutory and automatic delegates, that is, the zonal executive and at least four of the State Excos and majority of their members, it shows to who has been there for the party, in and out of politics.
“Most of those calling us names left the party in limbo after we lost the elections. Some people stayed back to keep the party afloat. It is true that leaders emerge. But it is also true that leadership is earned and it comes with a high sense of responsibility.
“I don’t t know what they mean by money politics because politics everywhere in the world cannot be done without money. But rather than give to the party and its members, most of those calling us names are used to taking from the party.
“That is why many of them have been indicted in the ongoing anti-corruption fight and a lot of them will still be indicted, including serving governors in the South-West.”
Kashamu was however optimistic that PDP would not break up.
He said, “The party will not break. We are members of the same family. We disagree to agree.”
culled from www.punchng.com