Home The Politico Ali Modu Sheriff: A Bull in a China Shop, By Tunde Rahman

Ali Modu Sheriff: A Bull in a China Shop, By Tunde Rahman

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Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima must be having a good laugh over recent developments in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) involving Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. Please don’t get it twisted: Shettima is an All Progressives Congress (APC) governor of the North-eastern state and he is not about to move over to PDP. He and Sheriff, his former political godfather, were once together in APC. In fact, both of them were founding leaders of the party. But around 2014, Sheriff had moved to take over the leadership of the APC in Borno from Shettima, the way and manner he seized control of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) in the same state in 2003, forcing the then sitting governor, gentleman Alhaji Mala Kachalla, to abandon the party for the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) in his re-election bid. Contesting on ANPP platform, Sheriff then defeated Kachalla to emerge the governor of the state in 2003. The APC national leadership, however, rallied round Shettima to save him from getting the Kachalla treatment from the rampaging Sheriff. The frustration arising from that failed bid led to Sheriff’s departure from APC.

Now, having moved over to PDP where he allegedly helped the then President Jonathan to get the support of Chad Republic in the battle against Boko Haram and tried to also help in the 2015 election in the North-east, Sheriff became an instant hit in that party. Today, he is not just one of the leaders of PDP; the former Borno State governor is a former (or present) National Chairman of the party, embattled chairman who is claiming that his mandate subsists till 2018. Let me state at this point that I’m often disillusioned by the penchant of our politicians to abandon their political platforms and hop on new ones as if changing baby nappies. Today’s APC chieftain was, more often than not, yesterday’s leader in PDP and could in fact return to PDP again once the power table turned. Where is the place of philosophy, where is the place of ideas and principles in these regular switches in political camps? How do we build the party as an institution with its ideals that way? Are political parties no longer organised group of people acting together with distinctive aims and opinions on the political issues in a state and who by acting together seek to obtain control of government, as A. Appadorai tells us in his book ‘The Substance of Politics’? Truth is whether in APC or PDP, politicians in our clime are birds of the same feather bound together by their disparate interests and the need to grab political power and not by some altruistic ideas or ideals.

As I pointed out earlier, Sheriff joined PDP about a year ago and the PDP Governors, particularly Nyesome Wike of Rivers State and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti, foisted him on the party as chairman. They called him the man without blemish meant for the PDP top job, while other leaders of the party saw him as a man whose hands are drenched in Boko Haram blood. But Fayose and Wike had their way. In a statement by his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, on February 17, 2016, Fayose had defended the emergence of the former governor as PDP chairman. He said Sheriff’s choice was in the best interest of the party.

Hear him: “I have always defended the party even at the risk of my position, personal security and comfort. I have always stood for the truth, and I cannot now be part of any decision that won’t represent the party well. I supported the processes that led to the emergence of Ali Modu Sheriff because I believe in him and for those who may be aggrieved for one reason or the other; I plead that they should sheath their swords in the overall interest of our party. “Most importantly, the reality that we must all face is that we are in a peculiar situation and such a situation deserves a peculiar approach. What the party leaders have done therefore is to tackle the present situation in our party with the most appropriate solution and we must all stand by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who is our present solution to our present situation.”

So what has changed their opinion about Sheriff, I mean Fayose and Wike, you may ask? The former governor was supposed to mount the saddle as chairman till May 21, 2016 and then pave the way for a new leader, they claim. They also allege that Sheriff has been planning to stay on in office as chairman. It was in fact alleged that Sheriff was trying to sketch his way to emerge as the party’s presidential candidate for the 2019 poll. So at the planned PDP National Convention on May 21, 2016 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, shortly after Sheriff claimed he had postponed the convention, allegedly in deference to a court order, stopping PDP from conducting elections into the offices of National Chairman, National Secretary and National Auditor, the party’s governors reconvened the convention, removed Sheriff as chairman and put in place a National Caretaker Committee headed by former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.

But Sheriff, a three-term Senator and two-term governor and alleged political wheeler-dealer, is not one to give up easily. True to his known rampaging nature, he is fighting desperately to hang on to the office. And he has former National Secretary, Dr Wale Oladipo, and former National Auditor, Alhaji Adewole Adeyanju, both of whom had since lost both moral and legal claims to the two offices and who had in fact overstayed their welcome as his accomplices. For the life of me, for all the years he had been working as PDP National Secretary, at what convention was Oladipo elected?

The dismaying thing, however, is former Kaduna State governor Makarfi has now been unwittingly brought into the trenches with Sheriff. There have been clashes between loyalists of both Makarfi and Sheriff at the party’s headquarters. The battle has seen both Sheriff and Markarfi lose and regain the party’s national headquarters, the Wadata Plaza, at Wuse Zone 5, Abuja at one point or another. Last Wednesday, some irate mob stormed the party’s secretariat to dislodge Sheriff and his men. A day after that, the party governors met in Abuja and again declared their support for Makarfi’s Caretaker Committee. The party’s Board of Trustees, which is the conscience of the party, also did same.

Behind Sheriff’s continued claim to the chairmanship is his argument that there is no place for caretaker committees in the party’s constitution. He is also brandishing a court order, which allegedly declared his removal illegal. Yes, the PDP Constitution does not provide for a caretaker committee to run the affairs of the party. But I like the argument by former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Bode George, on Channels Television during the week, that the national convention, which is empowered by the PDP constitution to elect national officers of the party, had in its wisdom appointed a caretaker committee to prepare grounds for the emergence of a new leadership at a new convention, which he said would hold soon.

The Makarfi group, which enjoys the support of virtually all the organs of the party, insists Sheriff has been removed as chairman. The group also claims external forces are behind Sheriff’s seeming intransigence. The group is free to blame external forces, but truth is from after the tenure of late Chief Solomon Lar, the first National Chairman of the party, to former Bauchi State governor Ahmadu Mua’zu, who resigned from office after he supervised the party’s first defeat in a presidential election, the 2015 presidential poll, and now to Sheriff, leadership succession has always occasioned crisis in PDP. Crisis has always been in the party’s DNA.

Recall how former President Olusegun Obasanjo stopped his erstwhile friend, late Chief Sunday Awoniyi, from being Lar’s successor, preferring Chief Barnabbas Gemade, now an APC Senator, at an allegedly rigged election at the Eagle Square, Abuja or how the same Obasanjo wilfully demanded Chief Audu Ogbeh’s resignation (the same Ogbeh that is Minister of Agriculture in the APC-led government today) as chairman after he ate a delicacy of pounded yam and egusi soup at Ogbeh’s residence in Abuja or how Dr. Okweziliese Nwodo was stopped in his malicious moves as PDP chairman at Eagle Square during a convention in 2011 to elect a presidential candidate during Jonathan’s time as president. At Eagle Square, PDP had suddenly given effect to a court order obtained in Enugu barring Nwodo from parading himself as chairman when Jonathan’s men saw that he was allegedly working to create room for the emergence of former Vice President Abubakar Atiku as PDP presidential candidate.

But the extant leadership crisis rocking PDP is a peculiar one. The same set of people who brought Sheriff and superimposed him on the party while others shouted blue murder now want Sheriff’s out at all cost. The issue seems to be about 2019 poll. Rather than blame external forces, please blame Fayose and Wike for foisting Sheriff on the party. Sheriff is a rampaging bull in a China shop. What is the way out for the opposition but rudderless PDP? In my view, Sheriff has to be guided out, if those who truly cherish PDP still want to have anything called PDP. The crisis calls for serious dialogue and negotiation, where there would be give and take, if you like, a middle-of-the-road position that would factor in how to assuage Sheriff’s bruised ego, for the former governor has a fat ego that has been battered.

Osun Hijab Crisis

A motley crowd of people gathered at the gate of the school. As I drove by Adeke on a visit to my hometown Iwo in Osun State last Tuesday, I was forced to stop as well. Then, I glimpsed the grotesque spectacle of some students of Baptist High School, Iwo going into their school in various choir and church apparels. And for a moment I wondered why the divisive issues of ethnicity and religion, which have stunted the nation’s’ growth and development, were allowed to creep even into our secondary schools. Several years ago when I was given admission into Baptist High School Iwo, Adeke Heights, as we called it then, my names with which I sat for and passed the entrance examination were Sarafadeen Omotunde Rahman. The Vice Principal of the school who was at the time acting as principal (I can’t remember the name of the gentleman now) simply yanked off Sarafadeen, my Musllim name, from the log, because, according to him, the three names were just too long for the school’s register. Neither me nor my dad, a very good Muslim, felt offended about that because as far as my father was concerned all he wanted me to obtain from the Baptist school he sent me to was secondary school education.

Baptist schools have a dress code, which anyone who elects to attend or finds himself or herself enrolled into, must adhere to. It’s like you are a lawyer and in court you want to put on your religious veil and not the wig. It’s simply unthinkable. For me, Justice Jide Falola of Osun State High Court, who gave the controversial judgement on Hijab, may be right under the law to say it’s the right of Muslim female students to wear Hijab in school. But the law is made for people and not the other way round and those from the temple also sometime weigh the implications of a strict interpretation of the law on the society and peaceful co-existence. By ruling that Muslim female students are free to wear Hijab in schools in this period of female Boko Haram suicide bombers all decked up complete with Hijab, isn’t our learned judge also saying, by extension, that Christian students can also wear their church garments and robes to school? After all, what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. Now, CAN leaders are free to vent their anger at the verdict, but they must do this within the ambit of the law, without recourse to violence. Also, Governor Rauf Aregbesola must move in to douse the tension created by the judgment in a dispassionate manner, without allowing the problem to further escalate, as this moment calls for the statesman in him.

*Please let’s continue the conversation on twitter @tunderahmanu

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