From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
What does the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP),Senator Ali Modu Sheriff have up his sleeves?
That is the one question begging for answer, as Sheriff, a former Borno State governor continues to absent himself from party functions in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment that affirmed his sack as leader of the party.
The former governor had fought a bitter legal battle with the PDP National Caretaker Committee over the control of the opposition party, after his removal as chairman at the party’s National Convention in Port Harcourt on May 21 last year.
However, the 14 months leadership crisis was resolved on July 12 by the Supreme Court in favour of the caretaker committee led by former Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
In the aftermath of the apex court judgment on the PDP crisis, Sheriff expressed shock on the outcome. Speaking through the spokesman of his sacked National Working Committee (NWC), Bernard Mikko, the former Borno governor said his group will react extensively to the judgement after receiving briefs from its lawyers.
One month after the judgement, the former National Chairman is still mute. He has equally boycotted the series of meetings held by the various organs of the PDP to chart a new course for the opposition party and other party activities.
Sheriff was also conspicuously absent from the PDP Special non elective convention held in Abuja last week. Apart from the former Borno governor, some of his supporters absent from the convention included his former deputy, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, and former National Secretary of the party, Professor Wale Oladipo.
This is regardless of his pledge prior to the apex court judgment to accept the adjudication in good faith.
Sheriff, who is by virtue of his status as a former national chairman of the PDP, a member of the National Caucus, Board of Trustees (BoT), National Executive Committee (NEC), of the party, had said he did not attend the first set of meetings of the party organs held after the Supreme Court judgment because he was not invited.
But the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prince Dayo Adeyeye said no special invitation was extended to party leaders, who attended the meetings, including former President Goodluck Jonathan. According to him, all the party leaders went to the meetings through public announcements in the media.
Sheriff’s silence and absence from party activities has no doubt given room to a lot of speculations, as pundits wonder about his next political moves.
But a leader of the party in Nasarawa State and former deputy governor of the state, Senator Solomon Ewuga had told Sunday Sun that there is need for the party to lose sleep over the former Borno State governor and his supporters.
According to him, it is left for Sheriff and his group to either ship in or ship out of the party.
He noted that the former Borno State governor is technically not a member of the party at the moment, going by the apex court declaration that he does not even have the PDP membership card.
“They (Sheriff’s loyalists) are either In PDP or they are not. For Sheriff, let him be a member of the party first. He is not even a member of the party at the moment. Didn’t hear, when the Supreme Court said he does not even have a membership card. You cannot be a party member, when you do not have a membership card”, Ewuga stated.
However, amidst fear that Sheriff might use members loyal to him to trigger off another round of crisis, former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe says the focus of the PDP reconciliation moves should be his supporters.
Ogunlewe told Sunday Sun in a recent telephone interview that the former Borno governor should never be allowed to go away with any party member in the event that he chooses to leave the PDP, as he did not bring any member when he was coming into the party.
“Sheriff did not bring any member into the party. It is the members we should be appealing to. They are the most important people in reconciliation moves. They must be brought back into the fold,” the former minister stated.
In a twist, a member of his sacked NWC who pleaded anonymity told Sunday Sun that the former PDP chairman and his key allies have decided to stay back in the PDP and continue the struggle.
According to him, “We are not going anywhere. We are staying.This is a party that we have committed so much time, energy and resources to build.We can not now abandon it for impostors. We will stay back and fight it out. You have seen nothing. The real fight has just began.”
In the same vein, spokesman of the sacked Sheriff led PDP NWC, Bernard Mikko, who confirmed to Sunday Sun that the group met in Abuja on Wednesday to evaluate the turn of events in the party, said they won’t leave the opposition party.
Mikko had in a recent statement said:”No one owns the party and those making unguarded and reckless statements in the public domain should realise that the solution to the problem of Nigeria is beyond any political association. Unacceptable and unjustifiable means cannot lead to a justifiable and acceptable end.”
Inside sources said the former Borno governor is still dazed by the Supreme Court judgment that pulled the rug off his seat.
It was gathered that after securing victory in the party’s leadership in the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, Sheriff had planned to conduct a convention, where he would install one of his supporters as national chairman and thereafter concentrate on his much speculated presidential ambition.
Those in the know, said Sheriff eye has all along been on the presidential ticket of the PDP. It was this presidential ambition that allegedly led to a rift between him and PDP, as he was said to have promised several of them that they would be his vice presidential candidate in the 2019 polls.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court judgment did not go in his favour as he had anticipated. Consequently, all his 2019 plans has seemingly come to naught.
Although one of his close allies, who spoke on anonymity, said the former Borno State governor has never nursed the ambition to be PDP Presidential candidate in 2019, noting that the presidential project was contrived by his opponents in the party in a bid to remove him as party leader.
However, analysts say nothing prevents Sheriff from contesting the 2019 polls on the platform of the PDP if he so decides, and he is able to muster enough support to get the party ticket.
Observers say Sheriff never actually had supporters in the real sense of it. Majority of those who tagged along with him while the crisis lasted did so because they lost out in the mainstream.
Now, with the leadership crisis resolved in favour of the Makarfi led caretaker committee, most of the Sheriff supposed supporters are either retracing their steps back to the mainstream of the party or taking decision that will best serve their political interest.
Already, many members of the Sheriff camp had retraced their steps back into mainstream. Among the earliest is Okechukwu Nnadozie, who served as National Organising Secretary of the Sheriff NWC.
One of the loyalists of the former PDP chairman in Imo State, Chief Regis Uwakwe said majority of Sheriff’s supporters in the State are still disposed to remaining in the PDP.
He, however, said they will be guided in their next political moves by the political dynamics in the South East state.
“More than 90 per cent of the people with Sheriff in Imo PDP are willing to remain in the party.
“ Most of our leaders are still shocked by the Supreme Court judgment, but I believe that in the days ahead they will come to terms with the reality,” Uwakwe stated.
However, in the South West, some Sheriff’s supporters are still in the trenches. Same with some of his supporters in Anambra.
Last week , the group filed a suit before a Federal High Court in Abuja seeking an order for the nullification of the 75th National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting of the PDP and the resolution of the PDP Special Non-Elective Convention.
Similarly, a former chairman of the Ogun State chapter, Adebayo Dayo is also praying the same court to set aside the dissolution of his exco by the NEC. The suits from Sheriff’s men in the South West are an indication.
The convention had ratified the dissolution of parallel state executive committee of the party in Anambra State by the caretaker committee last month and the subsequent setting up of a caretaker committee to manage the affairs of the PDP in the state.
The PDP convention had also dissolved the party the executive committees in Adamawa, Kebbi, Borno, Kwara, Lagos, Osun and Ogun states and recognised the South West zonal executive committee led by Eddy Olafeso, leaving the erstwhile zonal executive loyal to former Borno governor in the cold.
Apparently in reaction to the turn of events in the party, one of the loyalists of the former PDP leader in Edo State, Matthew Iduoriyekemwen announced his resignation from the party. Iduoriyekemwen, a two -time PDP governorship aspirant in Edo State, crossed over to the Sheriff side, two days after he lost the party’s governorship primary suprintended over by the caretaker committee.
Many former PDP leader’s supporters are still torn between opinion on whether to leave or stay in the opposition party. However, going by comments by Sheriff’s henchmen, there is no doubt the former Borno governor may be warming up for another fight. The only thing that is not clear is when he will launch the onslaught and the shape it will take.