As Sheriff, Makarfi’s Rift Tears PDP Reps Caucus Apart

There appears to be no end in sight to the crisis bedeviling the PDP as it deepens and trickles down to the legislature leading to the birth of a faction in its Reps caucus. KAUTHAR ANUMBA-KHALEEL writes
The lingering power tussle in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) continues to tear whatever remains of the party apart even as its members are left with the choice of either remaining with what has been likened to a sinking ship or finding their way out.
Those willing to stay put have had to deal with the unenviable task of having to choose which of the factions to pitch their tents with vis á viz the Ahmed Makarfi camp or Ali Modu Sheriff’s and this has proven difficult for members who belong to the party caucuses in the federal legislature as was recently made apparent in the House of Representatives.
Having lost the 2015 elections, and trying to adjust to its new role, the party continued to suffer more losses as its members left it in droves and while those who remained loyal stayed on to rebuild what was left of the once largest party in Africa, it was yet hit by a leadership tussle between the chairman caretaker committee, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi and the chairman of the party, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff . Since then, the party has been polarized into factions with each staking claim to legitimacy. This has trickled down to its once robust caucus in the House of Representatives and threatening to rip it apart.
The party caucus has continually declared its unwavering support for Ahmed Makarfi. However, some of its members have also come forward to dissociate themselves from its endorsement and aligned with the Ali Modu-Sheriff’s leadership.
It would be recalled that following the ruling of the court of appeal sitting in Port-Harcourt, the minority leader of the house, Leo Ogor, in a statement, disowned Modu Sheriff as the national chairman of the party declaring that the House’ caucus was solidly behind Makarfi.
“The PDP caucus of the House of Representatives wishes to state categorically that it finds the court of appeal verdict that nullified the decision of the national convention of the PDP on May 21, 2016 and reinstated the Modu Sherrif leadership very discomforting. The caucus supports the decision of the Ahmed Makarfi caretaker committee to seek redress at the Supreme Court”, he said.
He continued: “The caucus appeals to all leaders and members of the People’s Democratic Party to please remain calm and focused, standing firmly on the position that there is no way the party will accept the Ali Modu Sheriff contraption which is yet to demonstrate any genuine iota of love for the party.
“In this vein, the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives has resolved that we shall not, under any condition, consider or approve any agenda aimed at foisting Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff or any of his scanty co-travelers on the PDP.
“The only leadership known to the PDP Caucus of the House of Representatives is, and shall remain the one led by His Excellency, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
“Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff should please take his hands off our party; we unequivocally endorse the leadership of Senator Ahmed Makarfi”, the caucus leader asserted.
However, some members who felt that Ogor was not portraying the true position of the caucus swiftly distanced themselves from that endorsement stating that it was fallacious. One of such members, Hon. Adekoya Adesegun Abdulmajid who described Ogor’s claim as laughable and false, stressed that majority of the members in the both chambers of the National Assembly were in full support of the reinstated National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
“Majority of us in the House of Representatives, are very surprised to read that we endorsed Senator Ahmed Makarfi as the National Chairman of our great party. To put the record straight, no such endorsement took place, we were never consulted, and such an endorsement must be personal opinion to the author of that statement.
“The truth of the matter is that majority of us are for Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and if you want to prove me wrong, let us do a head count and the result will be overwhelming. Majority of our colleagues will stand for Sheriff anywhere anytime. So, for anybody to come out to say that we endorsed Senator Makarfi, it is not only false but embarrassing”, Abdulmajid explained.
Similarly, Hon. Goodluck Opia stated that the minority leader’s statement is not a true reflection of things with the party caucus noting that the caucus was made up of sheriff’s supporters just as well.
“What is obvious is that there are quite a number of PDP members in the House who are in full support Sheriff’s leadership of the party”.
Then again, another lawmaker, Hon. Joe Edionwele, who re-echoed the minority leader’s position, stressed that for the Reps caucus, Makarfi remains the leader of the party but acknowledged that a few others stand with Sheriff.
According to him, “it may just be one or two members, who are with Sheriff. “When a meeting of the Sheriff group is called in the National Assembly, how many persons attend both from the House and the Senate? But, when Makarfi calls for a meeting, over seventy legislators attend.
“If you look at it objectively, Makarfi is the national chairman because it was done through a convention. Now that the court is saying Sherrif is the chairman, we have to test it out at the Supreme Court,” Edionwele said.
Predictably, the crack within the party’ caucus deepened further last week Thursday, when it rejected the report by the party’s National Reconciliation Committee irking some members into revealing that all is really not well in the 140 member caucus. The leaders’ position on the report was once again, countered publicly by a faction as they adopted the report.
Led by Hon. Johnson Agbonayinma, the group who goes by the name, “Concerned PDP House of representatives” endorsed the report adding that it was fully disposed to the reconciliatory efforts of the Dickson-led committee.
“We endorse Sheriff the national chairman of our great party and commend Dickson and members of the reconciliation committee for their bold initiative in resolving the long-lasting crisis in the party, Agbonayinma who was in the company of Hon. Oni Olamide said”.
The Seriaki Dickson-led reconciliation committee in its report had proposed that the party chairman, Sheriff should organize the party’s national convention as soon as possible, precisely not later than June 30, 2017.
Leo Ogor, who informed journalists that the reconciliation committee which submitted its report to the Chairman of the party, Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, did not consult PDP lawmakers in the National Assembly, also dismissed the statement signed by the other faction, describing it as “unknown quantity” and “a storm in a tea cup”. He insisted that the caucus and that of the senate spoke with one voice in their support for Ahmed Makarfi.
“We are very important stakeholders and Dickson has not consulted us. We have not taken any position on the convention. Dickson has not met with us and no convention will take place without our input,” Ogor added.
While Ogor is dismissive in his approach towards the other faction, a member of the caucus who pleaded anonymity, however cautioned that the ‘Concerned PDP HOR’ not be taken for granted because of their number. He recalled how the action of a few individuals brought a ruling party to its knees.
“It is only natural that some members of the caucus will not agree with the position of the caucus. That is obtainable anywhere you find group of persons but that does not mean you take them for granted or think their number is inconsequential. Don’t forget that PDP is where it is today because five governors and another big shot of the party walked out of the party. Is that not how it started losing its members and by extension power. We need to be careful and find a way out of this”, he said.
While the crisis in the party lingers and those trying to proffer solutions are at it, observers are left to watch as events play out in the party. They are also mindful of the role the Reps caucus plays either in reviving it and uniting its members or further shatter the already divided party. However it goes, the question remains, will PDP be able to weather the storm, reposition itself and bounce back into power in 2019? Much of this will however depend on how it resolves its internal wrangling, rids itself of the sectional disposition it has come to be known for.

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