Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party on Tuesday alleged that the sacked acting national chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, was acting a script written for him by the ruling All Progressives Congress.
The Publicity Secretary of the committee, Dayo Adeyeye, said this at a press conference addressed by five out of the seven members of the committee in Abuja.
The committee described Sheriff’s “takeover” of the party secretariat as a brazen act of lawlessness and an attempt to set the stage for a violent confrontation.
The ousted acting national chairman, Sheriff, currently leads a faction of the party, which also includes a few members of the sacked National Working Committee, while Makarfi, who enjoys the support of the PDP governors and the Board of Trustees, leads another faction.
The PDP had, until last month, split into three factions with one of the factions led by Senator Ibrahim Mantu; the second consisted of governors, while the third was headed by Sheriff.
The governors and other stakeholders had, on May 21, converged on Port Harcourt for the party’s national convention, where a caretaker committee, headed by Makarfi, was constituted.
The Mantu group, which held a separate meeting in Abuja on the day the Port Harcourt convention held, later on June 7, endorsed the Makarfi committee.
But the Sheriff faction described the caretaker committee as illegal, saying it had no place in the PDP constitution.
Adeyeye alleged that Sheriff, in company with the former National Secretary, Prof. Olawale Oladipo, and former National Auditor, Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju, invaded the secretariat with three lorry loads of thugs and bandits as early as 6am on Monday.
According to him, when rumour of the planned invasion filtered out on Sunday, members of the committee took steps to alert the police to secure the building and to protect the lives and property of members.
He added, “Up to a point, the police discharged their responsibilities satisfactorily. However, later on, without any justification whatsoever, Ali Modu Sheriff and the other renegades were allowed to gain entry into the secretariat, where they later proceeded to address a press conference.’’
He stressed that it was curious that the police claimed to be acting on “orders from above” in allowing Sheriff and his cohorts to gain entry into the secretariat.
Adeyeye said, “The All Progressives Congress has contracted Sheriff and his cohorts to scuttle the chances of the PDP in the Edo governorship election.
“We have credible intelligence that Sheriff had a meeting on Sunday night with an (unnamed) APC governor from the North-West, where it was organised that he would be given full security and financial support to exacerbate the crisis in the PDP with the objective of preventing the PDP from presenting a candidate for the Edo governorship election, or in the very least, to prevent the PDP from offering a serious challenge to the APC, whose electoral fortunes have continued to nosedive.”
In his reaction, however, Sheriff’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Inuwa Bwala, said, “Senator Ali Sheriff is too big to be used by anybody, least of all the APC, to destroy a party he is trying to and weaning from the milk of impunity and rebuilding to give Nigerians a credible alternative.
“He left the APC based on principle and has not had contact with the party ever since. The so-called caretaker committee knows that INEC will not accept any list from it; so, it is desperate to get recognition.
“We know for certain that the leader of that group has a presidential ambition and he appears to have recruited some governors, who are now backing him to use the PDP platform, knowing that Ali Sheriff is a stickler for the right things being done; he sees him as an obstacle that must be removed.”
The Makarfi-led caretaker committee, however, assured the Edo people that the party was doing everything to ensure that the PDP platform was not hijacked by political merchants.
The committee said the process for the primary of the PDP governorship candidate for the state started on Monday with ward congresses.
The committee alleged that Sheriff and his backers had continued their attempt to buy any court order at any price, adding that the embattled ex-acting party boss had not succeeded because of the vigilance and integrity of the judiciary.
Adeyeye said Sheriff was appointed, not elected by the National Executive Committee of the PDP to complete the tenure of Alhaji Adamu Ma’uzu.
He said the appointment of the caretaker committee was in line with the PDP constitution and its extant laws.
“We also wonder who he would be chairman over when he (Sheriff) has already been rejected by 99.99% of the party,” Adeyeye said.
A member of the committee, Senator Abdul Ningi, also told journalists that he suspected the involvement of the government in the crisis.
He alleged that the high level of security around Sheriff left no one in doubt on the support of the government for Sheriff.