- Says Fayose is rude, Oyedokun too crafty
The Acting National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Modu Ali Sheriff has been described as a stranger in the party. Making this assertion in an interview with SATURDAY SUN, former minister for Transport, and member, PDP Board of Trustees, Chief Ebenezer Babatope stated that peace would continue to elude the party until Sheriff throws in the towel.
Berating Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Senator Buruji Kasamu for backing Sheriff’s alleged plan to become PDP substantive National Chairman, the former minister said that the ranks of the trio will soon be scattered. Babatope spoke with TUNDE THOMAS. Excerpts:
THE issue that it is the turn of the Southwest to produce the next PDP national chairman or not has become a source of disagreement among leading chieftains of the party including Governor Ayodele Fayose, Senator Buruji Kashamu, Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun Chief Bode George, Senator Ogunlewe and others, what is your own stand on the matter?
At the Akure meeting called by Governor Olusegun Mimiko and co-hosted by Governor Ayodele Fayose recently, we agreed that we would not allow the issue to cause any crisis among us so as not to allow APC to capitalise on it and destroy our party.
Then, we decided that we should accept the zoning arrangement as announced by the party’s leadership in Abuja. Under this arrangement, the position of the national chairman has been zoned to the North-east, and the positions given to us should be allotted to the states in the South-west geo-political zones. These posts are those of national auditor, national secretary and publicity secretary.
Apparently, those of us that have been advocating the zoning of the party’s national chairman office to the South-west have to back down on our stand, and abide by the party’s leadership resolution under which those three positions were given to us.
But talking as an individual, I have told the entire world, that we can never and will never accept Modu Ali Sheriff as the National Chairman of PDP.
Agreed that the position has been zoned to the North-east geo-political zone where Sheriff comes from, there are other eminent Nigerians from the zone that can be PDP national chair. We have many of them including Dr Shettima Mustapha, a very principled man, we also have Engineer Buna, Maina Waziri and a host of others.
Sheriff just came from nowhere and he wants to hijack the party. This is an insult. We won’t accept it. We don’t know where Sheriff was coming from.
Initially when opposition rose against him, we said he would only remain as Acting National Chairman of the party until May 21 when the party holds its convention in Port Harcourt.
(Cuts in … ) Were you not part of the process that threw up Sheriff as the party’s Acting National Chairman?
No. Some people brought him from nowhere. Some people said it was Governor Fayose that brought him, alongside Governor Wike of Rivers State, lwas supported by the likes of Buruji Kashamu.
You mean the elders of the party were not consulted?
No. They just brought Sheriff to us at one of our Board of Trustees meetings and told us they have brought him to us to introduce him as the man they wanted as the acting national chairman of the party. We kicked against his choice, but Sheriff quickly told us that he would leave us by May 21st. But from the look of things the man now wants to perpetuate himself in office. But we are going to resist him.
As I said earlier, there are other eminent PDP leaders from the North-east who can lead the PDP but definitely not Modu Sheriff.
But with Sheriff’s record as a former governor and ex-senator, why are you saying that he can’t lead the party?
Sheriff is not a PDP member. He is a stranger. How can they bring a stranger to lead PDP? The last time I heard about Sheriff, he was an ANPP member. He is a complete stranger to PDP. How can we put the affairs of our party in the hands of a stranger?
Some have argued that Sheriff has money and that is why they should leave him to lead PDP, but to me that is a foolish argument. You may have money but not common sense to manage the affairs of men. Do we say that because Sheriff has money, then he must lord it over the affairs of our party. We say a big NO to that. It is an insult.
By the grace of God, Insha Allah, we will take our party back from Sheriff. He met us in PDP, we are not going to leave the PDP for him. Sheriff is not a genuine member of PDP, he should go back to where he was coming from.
Are you saying that at the forthcoming PDP convention on May 21st in Port Harcourt, Sheriff will not be allowed to become the party’s substantive national chairman?
No. We can’t stop him there because he is the one that is organizing that convention. He will manipulate his way to come back as PDP national chairman. That’s why I have told myself that I will be nowhere near that convention. What am I going to be doing there? To go and attend a convention that will be manipulated by his henchmen like Fayose and Buruji Kashamu and co? I will not be there.
Some people are saying that this crisis, if not well managed can lead to break up of PDP, do you agree?
Well, let’s see what will happen, but I don’t believe PDP will break, rather it is these elements that will leave the party, and the party will become stronger.
Governor Ayo Fayose is somebody I like very well, his uncle before he died was my good friend, I’ve always liked Fayose but he didn’t tell us at the Akure meeting which he co-hosted that he was supporting Sheriff’s ambition.
Let me emphasise here again, talking about my humble self, I can never accept Modu Ali Sheriff as my chairman. Anybody can come from the north-east, that is acceptable but Sheriff is not acceptable to me. For those of us who have been insisting that south-west should produce the national chairman have been saying so because southwest is the only geo-political zone that has not produced PDP national chairman.
But since we believe in the party supremacy, we have agreed to abide by the party’s decision to give other positions now, but that not withstanding, Sheriff’s choice as national chairman is not acceptable to many of us.
Some people are backing Sheriff because they want to use him to achieve their selfish purposes. Those who think Sheriff can bail them out from the ugly criminal matters facing them, we will expose them.
Is the mounting opposition against Sheriff as a result of some people being jealous of his rising political profile as some people have claimed?
Jealousy of what? Jealousy of who?
That’s far from it. Sheriff has never been a member of our party and that’s why I opposed him, and that’s what is funny to me concerning those people supporting Sheriff blindly.
Our constitution, that’s talking about the one we are implementing now, before you can join a party, or aspire for a position in the party or contest for an election, you must at least have been a member for some time. But in his own case, Sheriff wants us to abandon our constitution in order to achieve his selfish goal.
We even want to amend PDP constitution now. I’m even surprised that he is saying that before the party’s Board of Trustees meet, they must inform him as the party’s chairman, that he must give his consent before the BOT can meet, what an insult. You can see the direction Sheriff is following and we are saying no.
Can’t there be a way the issue can be resolved since both sides are sticking to their positions with younger elements in the party like Kashamu and Fayose kicking against the elders opposition against Sheriff?
It is funny and strange that some of these younger elements in PDP are saying that elders should be relegated to the background. It is very strange. I have not seen an organization or a town where extinction of the elders will be advocated by a group, it’s never done. If these younger elements insisted on we elders being relegated to the background they will also suffer the same fate when they grow old. Whatever they sow, they will reap it.
They are saying that they don’t want to see the faces of the founding fathers of PDP, this is abnormal and we will never allow it to happen.
Many of us elders in the party including Professor Jerry Gana and Senator Ibrahim Mantu have nothing personal against Sheriff but we are opposed to the manipulation that threw him up as the party’s Acting National Chairman. Due process was not followed. The Sun