Former national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff perfectly fits my idea of a fighter; a fighter with a cause. And right from the second he mounted the centre stage commanding the affairs of the main opposition party, he never let anyone around and afar in doubt that he was the numero uno member and leader of the party.
No doubt, he is a fighter who knows his onions; one who works his way to his target destination; manoeuvring and out-manoeuvring every other stakeholder in the group until he achieved his desired objective. Yes; only recently, watchers of happenings in Nigeria’s political arena read with mouths agape of how Sheriff like the legendary King Pele of Brazil or maverick Maradona of Argentina, sold varying degrees of dummies to greedy party members from whom he extracted informal endorsements for his ambition to remain national chairman of the PDP.
Alas, like every cookie, the scheme crumbled; and pronto, Sheriff was back to the reality that dreams too can easily vapourise.
But he is not giving up. Only yesterday afternoon, he caused his media aide, Inuwa Bwala to issue a statement condemning the handover of leadership of the party to the chairman of the Caretaker Committee chairman, Ahmed Markarfi; and that was even when he learnt that PDP former National Working Committee, NWC, led by the former deputy national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus and the Board of Trustees had formally handed over the leadership of the party to the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee, in line with the resolution of the May 21 national convention.
Hear Sheriff: “Our attention has been drawn to the activities at the National Secretariat of the PDP to the effect that some individuals masquerading as leaders have handed over to Ahmed Mohammed Makarki under a contraption called caretaker committee.
“We state as a matter of fact that going by proceedings still pending in the courts to the effect that Senator Ali Sheriff remains the National Chairman, whatever transpired was null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
“Sheriff has not mandated anybody, nor was his authority obtained by Uche Secondus, who has been parading himself as acting on behalf of the National Chairman.
“While we await the verdicts of the courts, we wish to state that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff is and remains the National Chairman of the party, until otherwise declared by the courts.
“We allowed the charade to go on at the secretariat without any form of challenge in strict obedience to careful pronouncement on the matter, but we must also state that there is no gathering of groups or individuals, however powerful, such groups or individuals may be, that can be said to take precedence over the law.
“For the avoidance of doubts, we state categorically that what took place at the PDP secretariat on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 was a total disregard to court orders. And an extension of the impunity for which the party has been accused of and which has taken the party to where it is today.”
Enter Prince Buruji
I have never met Prince Buruji Kashamu. Not even at a far distance. But often times, a cousin of mine discusses him with me in some of our usual “gists” on national issues. At the end of all the sessions, I get to appreciate the Senator representing Ogun East in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly. He should be in the same boat like Sheriff in fighting for what they believe in.
His fights at the courts to restrain persons, groups and institutions determined to distract him from his schedule at the federal legislature for reasons the courts may not have been able to fathom; his principled stand on matters affecting his party, the PDP in spite of all odds strike me commendably.
And like Sheriff, he is obviously a man of very few words, but with loads of strategies at his finger tips, ready to be deployed at needed times for specific goals, Kashamu is bold, courageous and tactical. Like a colleague once stated, he hardly would suffer the fool for any reason whatsoever.
Not too long ago, Buruji whose representation at the Senate, observers say, has been target of some who do not want him around the National Assembly, spoke on the lingering leadership crisis in the PDP which he alluded to some party leaders who “have all along been acting as a law unto themselves and carrying on with impunity irrespective of whether their actions are in the interest of the Party.”
Like Sheriff, he said the party’s recent national convention in Port Harcourt was invalid, pointedly accusing “powerful forces” for the constitutional breach.
And then the Senator went for Governor Ayodele Fayose’s jugular, saying that, from all intents and purposes, the Ekiti politician wanted to take over the structure of the Party in the South West as a means to execute his plan to bid for the position of vice-presidential candidate in 2019. When his suggestions to the contrary failed, Kashamu said Fayose, who had approached him earlier on the matter handpicked those he wants to use to fill party positions in the region.
Kashamu also flays the approach used in removing the former National Chairman, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff as embarrassing and disgracing, averring that “If they want the progress of the Party, and are not mere serving their personal interests, they should give him a soft-landing and allowed him leave the leadership of the Party in a more dignified and matured way.”
Ever humane, Buruji added that despite that every action he (Sheriff) took while in office, which was at the behest of the governors who dragged him to become the Chairman of the party when he had no such intention, Sheriff has been hurt and shortchanged by the betrayal, open shame and ridicule meted to him (Sheriff) even when he had spent enormous resources in rejuvenating the party; suggesting that the leadership of the party pleads with him and seeks his forgiveness for peace.
He advised the leadership of the party “to call for a NEC meeting to pass a resolution to make Senator Makarfi the acting National Chairman because of the circumstances that gave birth to the National Caretaker Committee”, stressing that the party cannot use illegality to solve its problems.
“The cloud of illegality that is hovering in our party began in the South West. As stated earlier, it has its roots in Governor Fayose’s attempt to remove and replace members of the zonal exco, whose four-year tenure has not expired because they came into office in 2014 and there is no evidence of misconduct or anti-party activities against them,” Buruji argued.
Before the umbrella is shredded
The foregoing underscores the threats that the big umbrella that once upon a time, sheltered every politician worth his onion, is currently under. Can the party war against the principled stand of Sheriff and Buruji on the myriads of problems it currently faces? If the several gladiators including former and serving governors of the PDP fold, as well as former ministers, other leaders and oppressed members of the party remain rigidly fixated in their viewpoints as to how the party should go under the current circumstances, is there really any hope for PDP in the fast-approaching governorship polls in Edo and Ondo states? And how well can the party prepare for the 2019 general elections?
I ask because for fighters like Sheriff and Buruji who have demonstrably and repeatedly manifested their individual and collective abilities to ride political storms with peculiar equanimity, their common foe would be running an uphill race if the individual and collective resolve of the two fighters are underrated.
Methinks this is the time for elders of the Party, including the warring parties, must sit together at the table of real men, to tell themselves the home truth, before their big umbrella is shredded beyond repairs.