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Doubts over Sheriff’s exit as PDP chief in May

Analysts say he is seen as one that would shape and define the party’s fortunes, having served as a senator of the Federal Republic of…

Analysts say he is seen as one that would shape and define the party’s fortunes, having served as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for three terms and governor of Borno State for two. This, observers say, is in addition to his “proven capacity to lead the PDP” within the short time he has been in office.
  Daily Trust gathered that there is fear among some party members over the tenure of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff considering what they consider are his strong political influence, financial clout, and national and international connections, and he might lobby his way to either continue in office beyond May 2016, or lobby to retain the seat at the May 21 national convention slated to be held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
 Sheriff and other members of the National Working Committee (NWC) are expected to step aside for a new crop of national officers who will be elected by delegates at the convention to fill the offices.
 The present set of NWC members was supposed to have vacated office in March 2016, having been elected in 2012, but Sheriff’s emergence changed the equation as the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) gave him three months during which he is expected to organise the national convention.
 Sheriff’s name was not even on the list of ýthose nominated by the Northeast caucus to be screened by the party’s National Caucus for the national chairmanship post. It was during the screening that party leaders dumped the list and asked the former Borno State governor to appear for screening and interview. He was selected and subsequently approved by the the party’s NEC as chairman.
 With the former lawmaker now on top of the PDP hierarchy, some party leaders and stakeholders have expressed ýsatisfaction with the job he has done so far, saying he is capable of repositioning the party. Some have even called for the elongation of his tenure.
PDP leaders from the Southwest recently asked the national leadership of the party to allow Sheriff to remain in the saddle beyond May.
 The PDP has already zoned its presidential ticket to the North and is supposed to zone the position of the national chairman to the South, ahead of the May 21 national convention, in line with its constitution.
 But a speech signed by Senator Buruji Kashamu, who led over 100 members and leaders of the PDP in the six states of the Southwest to Sheriff, said the zoning of the chairmanship to the south would portray the PDP as a regional party.
 The leaders, including governors Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and Oluseýgun Mimiko of Ondo State, Chief Olabode George and Chief Kola Balogun asserted that they had witnessed how activities have picked up at the PDP national secretariat since Sheriff emerged as national chairman, adding that the PDP chief ýwas “a man of blessings” as the party has won recent rerun elections under his watch.
“After consulting with our leaders and elders who control 70 per cent of PDP members and structures in the Southwest, our position is that the position of the national chairman should not be zoned to the South.
“We say this because out of the five states in the Southeast, the PDP has three governors. We have five governors out of the six states in the Southsouth; in the Southwest, we have two governors. In the whole of the North, we have only two governors. We need to strengthen the North. If not, the PDP will be branded as a regional party if we go ahead to pick the national chairman from the South,” they said.
The PDP National Vice-Chairman (Southsouth) Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, told Daily Trust that ýthe party’s national leadership was still undecided on zoning of the party’s chairmanship position ahead of its national convention.
  The NEC, at its last meeting early this month, asked the Sheriff-led NWC to raise committees for national convention, reconciliation, zoning and finance ahead of the convention, but since then none of the committees has been set up.
 Analysts see the NWC as ambivalent about raising the committee, saying the support the NWC members are receiving from the governors and other top stakeholders of the party seems to have planted in them the need for tenure elongation.
 Sheriff had recently visited some states in the Southwest, including Ekiti State, on a “reconciliation tour”, a visit observers see as part of the move to convince some stakeholders like Fayose, who was reported to be one of the governors that aided Sheriff’s emergence as chairman, on the need for tenure elongation. If that rings true, it would be a back-pedal by Sheriff, who had earlier assured that he wouldn’t stay in office later than the time-frame allowed by the party.
Former Senate president Adolphus Wabara, former governor of the defunct Gongola State Ambassador Wilberforce Juta and former deputy governor of Sokoto State Mukhtari Shagari were opposed, under the umbrella of the PDP Rescue Group, to Sheriff’s emergence as PDP boss.
 While the Restartý PDP Group has filed a suit asking a court to give an order asking Sheriff to vacate office on May 31, a top party official told Daily Trust that the PDP, “no matter what”, has its internal mechanism of resolving such issues.
The PDP has degenerated into a bedlam since the party lost the general elections to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 elections. It didn’t take long after its defeat that the PDP crisis began to fester. On May 20, 2015, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu resigned his position as the party’s chairman after he had been under pressure from some members who accused him of treachery and held him responsible for the party’s defeat.
Mu’azu wrote a letter to his deputy, Prince Uche Secondus, saying that due to the abysmal performance of the party in the elections, it had become necessary for him to throw in the towel “for peace to reign”. Secondus swiftly stepped in as acting national chairman in line with the party’s constitution.
Secondus’ assumption of the acting chairmanship office, however, left the PDP without a principal officer from the Northeast zone in its top hierarchy.
Secondus’ reign as acting national chairman has been bedevilled with centrifugal developments, which culminated in a faction led by Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, a former Political Adviser to former president, Goodluck Jonathan, storming the PDP headquarters to oust Secondus and claim leadership.
 Gulak, from the Northeast, had gone to court last year to challenge Secondus’ leadership and successfully gained victory on December 15, when an Abuja High Court declared Secondus’ acting leadership illegal and ordered him to vacate the office within 14 days, a judgment that later paved way for the emergence of Sheriff as PDP boss.
 With the convention date approved by NEC and roles assigned the Sheriff-led NWC, it is not clear who is cooking what, as nothing has been put in place as part of preparations for the convention.
 It is believed that further events in the build-up to May 21 would tell whether Sheriff would go or remain.

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