The embattled former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, has finally surrendered his struggle for the leadership of the party, even as the PDP has slated October to hold its National Convention for the election of new executives.
In Sheriff’s reaction Thursday, 24 hours after the Supreme Court judgment that nullified his chairmanship, he congratulated the lawfully recognised Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the party, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, for his victory.
Sheriff’s surrender came just as Makarfi said that the party would leave its doors open to all aggrieved members, including Sheriff and his group, for reconciliation.
In a short statement posted on Sheriff’s twitter handle, the former Borno State governor said: “The Supreme Court has spoken. I congratulate Senator Makarfi. We must all put our hands together to channel a new course for the PDP.
“Moving forward, we must embrace true reconciliation, so as to be united as a formidable option to send the APC packing in 2019. This is the time to build the PDP and to focus on the future, which includes reclaiming power from the APC.”
Sheriff also vacated the national secretariat of the party, which he had occupied since February after the Appeal Court judgment that recognised him as chairman.
One of his aides was sighted at the PDP secretariat at 1.30 p.m. Thursday after he had gone to Sheriff’s former office on the second floor to remove his personal belongings.
Makarfi responded by assuring Senator Sheriff and his loyalists that they would be given amnesty, and also declared that the 2019 general election will be a walkover for the PDP.
He added that Nigerians had completely lost hope when the opposition party was in crisis.
Also speaking when he met with former ministers at the party’s temporary office in Abuja, Makarfi said that some committees would be set up to resolve some outstanding issues in the South-west.
He added: “We will interact with Sheriff and some of his people. We will leave the door open. Sheriff has accepted the judgment going by what I read in the media.”
Reiterating Makarfi’s position after the meeting of the caretaker committee, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, also urged party members who had defected to the APC and those in the newly formed political parties to return to the fold.
He said: “Our hands are extended to all those on the other side. We will grant general amnesty to everybody. We have declared no victor, no vanquished. We want to give them full embrace, co-operate with them. We will extend our hand of fellowship to them.”
Adeyeye, however, warned that the olive branch to Sheriff and his followers would be predicated on their abstinence from anti-party activities.
He described Sheriff as a monumental distraction who created a painful and agonising period for the party, observing that he must desist from committing further offences.
Speaking on the way forward for the party, Adeyeye said that the PDP would use the model for the Osun West Senatorial election, noting that the collaboration adopted by both sides of the divide led to PDP’s victory in the poll at the weekend.
“If we had done that in Edo and Ondo States, we would have won. Going forward, we appeal that those who have cases in courts in the states should withdraw their cases,” he said.
On PDP’s come back plan for 2019, he said: “Everybody is happy. People are happy because there is a ray of hope for them, because APC has been a disaster. When PDP had its crisis, Nigerians lost hope completely.
“Now that PDP has overcome its leadership crisis, the election in 2019 will be a walkover for PDP. The arrogance of the APC is just too much.
“We want to send a signal to APC that PDP has come together and they will see a virile opposition. We have given them a two-year holiday and they have run roughshod over Nigerians.
“We will provide a very strong opposition to APC and make Nigerians see the evils of this government.”
The party spokesman went on to appeal to those who have defected from the party to return and build the party.
“We also appeal to our members who defected to APC and also our members who moved to the new parties to return. We will do justice to all,” he said.
But irrespective of Sheriff’s mea culpa, the spokesman of his group, Hon. Bernard Mikko, had earlier said in a statement Thursday that they were shocked by the Supreme Court verdict, which sacked them from office on Wednesday.
Mikko said: “We received with shock the 12th July judgment of the Supreme Court on the leadership of Peoples Democratic Party.
“Though we still await the full written judgment of the highest court from our lawyers who will fully brief us on the details of the judgment, in the interim, we ask all members and supporters to remain steadfast in prayers for Nigeria.
“Meanwhile, we continue with our avowed demands that the party must be given back to the owners at the grassroots to always elect their party officials and those to contest elections for them at all levels. Internal democracy must be institutionalised in the party.”
Meanwhile, the National Convention of the PDP has been slated to hold in October, the national leadership of the party has announced.
Towards achieving a seamless convention, each state branch of the party has been directed to submit the names of 30 members that would serve on the convention planning committee.
The Niger State chairman of the party, Alhaji Tanko Beji, disclosed this in Minna Thursday while addressing a stakeholders’ meeting where the implication of the Supreme Court verdict was also explained.
Beji said the leadership of the party, which met at the national secretariat in Abuja on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court ruling, also took a decision on the zoning of the presidency of the country in 2019 to the Northern part of the country, while the vice-presidency would go to the south.
Beji advised all those with ambitions to seek the mandate of the people to do so, stating that the era of “no vacancy” had come to an end.
“Anyone with ambition to seek political office should go to the people, the leadership will not allow imposition of candidates,” he said.
According to Beji, each zone in the state would present 10 of the delegates allocated to Niger State and advised that each of the zones should ensure that the local government areas are represented.
He said the major focus of the party was how to hold a successful national convention and win the national elections in 2019.
“Our common enemy is the APC; we should all join hands to chase out the APC in 2019,” he said.
Referring to the arrest and arraignment of some of the leaders of the party in the state, including himself, Beji added: “We should not be afraid of arrests, we cannot all be arrested, we cannot all die one day.”
Prominent members of the PDP, among them those in the Sheriff group, attended the stakeholders’ meeting.