Some ministers, who served under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, have threatened to leave the Peoples Democratic Party if Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff is not removed as the national chairman of the party.
They said “imposing” the former governor of Borno State on the party by some of its influential members was meant to portray the party as unserious.
They added that the plan to reposition the former ruling party ahead of the 2019 general elections had failed with Sheriff’s emergence.
Spokesperson for the former ministers and a former Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday.
Sheriff was selected by the members of the party’s National Executive Committee at their meeting, which was held in Abuja on Tuesday.
His selection has attracted divergent views from members of the party, including its many organs.
For example, the Board of Trustees of the party and its Senate Caucus have kicked against Sheriff’s choice.
In his reaction, Suleiman said it was obvious that the plan to rescue the party had failed.
He said, “Our rescue mission has failed; the redemption boat has capsized and our journey to recovery has come to an end.
“Whosoever partook in the decision does not mean well for the party and democracy in Nigeria.
“It is obvious that the fifth columnist has hijacked the party and they are hell-bent on sinking it deeper into irrecoverable level of the pit.
The ex-minister added, “Some of us would rather review our membership than subject ourselves to selfish interests of some cabal whose main goal is political profiteering. After all, our umbilical cord is not tied to any party.”
Asked if his group was planning to move to either the All Progressives Congress or form another political party, Suleiman said the decision would be taken soon.
“Some people will go to the APC while some will form their own political party if they so desire.
“Sheriff’s emergence is a setback for the party trying to build its image. Credible members and younger ones are going to leave the party.
“If his emergence is not reversed in the next one week, there could be massive exodus from the party.”
Suleiman said though the former governor had not been identified with Boko Haram, he argued that the perception of many people about him on the Boko Haram issue ought to have been considered.
He said, “For several times, he has been identified with the issue of Boko Haram, though he has yet to be indicted. But perception matters a lot. We can’t be defending that toga now. We don’t have such time.
“Remember also that he has problem with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Such a man shouldn’t be asked to lead a party that is trying to regain power.”
With the former governor’s emergence, he said the general notion that the party consisted of only people, who had no interest of the country at heart, would be reinforced.
The PUNCH, however, gathered that one of the reasons the former governor emerged as the party chairman was the argument that he was going to negotiate with some disgruntled elements in the APC.
One of the governors of the PDP said Sheriff had promised that he would negotiate withand bring back to the PDP his colleagues who were not happy with the way they were currently being treated in the ruling party.
He was said to have listed the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, as one of the key chieftains of the APC who were described as the angry elements within the ruling party.
He said, “We know that there are many members of the APC who are not happy like Saraki and others. You could see what is happening in the Senate.
“Our chairman has told us he would speak with them, bring them to the PDP and from there, we would know how to take back power come 2019.”
The PDP has, however, asked Nigerians not to label its chairman as a Boko Haram sponsor.
Its National Auditor, Alhaji Adewole Adeyanju, who stated this in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, challenged anybody with concrete proof on Sheriff’s culpability to speak out or shut up.
Adeyanju said the allegation against the party’s new national chairman was being raised by those he described as faceless people and part of the plot to discredit the PDP before Nigerians and the international community.
He said, “We are very much aware that some elements are jittery over the PDP’s decision to pick him as its new chairman and the only way out for them is to label him as a Boko Haram sponsor.
“They cannot succeed in their new plot because the government would have arrested and charged him to court as done to a serving Senator in the National Assembly during the President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. That trial (of a serving senator) is still in progress.”
Adeyanju wondered why Sheriff was not called a member or sponsor of Boko Haram when he was a member of the APC.
Meanwhile, the PDP Governors’ Forum has expressed confidence in the ability of Sheriff to reposition the party and make it more inclusive.
The governors of the PDP, in a statement in Abuja on Wednesday, said the emergence of the ex-governor and former member of the National Assembly was one done after a careful selection, given the battle ahead.
They said in statement by the coordinator of the forum, Mr. Osaro Onaiwu, “Sheriff is coming to the job with immense wealth of experience and will no doubt use his vast network to rebuild the party, restore members’ confidence and act as a counterfoil to the many antics of the present APC regime.”
The governors urged the new national chairman to avoid all diversionary tactics and work towards uniting all aggrieved members and fashion out modalities to woo new party faithful.
In his own reaction on Wednesday, a former National Deputy Chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George, said the emergence of Sheriff as the party’s chairman was transitory.
In a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Wednesday, George appealed to the elders and members of the party, aggrieved by Sheriff’s emergence, to maintain the peace.
He added, “Some people were happy about his emergence just as some people were unhappy about it. But what we should bear in mind is that he (Sheriff) is only a transitional chairman.
“He’s there to fill the remainder of the tenure of our former chairman, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu. He would be the chairman for three to four months.”
George said the Chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, explained to the leaders of the party how they reached the decision to pick Sheriff..
“We have the fathers of the PDP in the North-East. We can’t afford to let them go. We will appeal to them. They shouldn’t wreck the house they built. We don’t want them to leave the house they built to become tenants in another party,” he said.