It was tension as well as drama yesterday as opposing groups of protesting youths struggled to retain control of the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Abuja.
The first group opposed to Ali Modu Sheriff’s chairmanship of the party had besieged the secretariat in the morning, trapping former national secretary, Wale Oladipo, and the national auditor, Adewole Adeyanju, who had entered a few minutes before.
The youths physically took control of the secretariat and secured the gates with new keys which they handed over to the Chairman Board of Trustees of the party Senator Walid Jibrin.
But the pendulum was later to swing the other way later in the evening after Jibrin and the youths had gone when another group of youths who support Sheriff came to the secretariat with hammers and other tools, broke the secretariat gate sealed by Makarfi’s supporters and gained entry.
It took them about five minutes to force the gate open.
Chanting songs in favour of Sheriff, the crowd of fierce-looking youths celebrated their access into the premises with shouts of “PDP, Ali Modu Sheriff ” on about every lip.
One of the anti-Sheriff groups , the PDP National Rebirth Group led by Edede Franklyne had alleged that Sheriff was an agent hired to destroy the PDP.
After handing over the new keys with which they had locked the doors and gate of the secretariat to Jibrin, the youths warned that no other persons should be given the key except a proper person recognised by the party constitution.
In a brief remark, Jibril promised that the entire BoT would review the situation and take an appropriate decision.
The youths had arrived at the secretariat as early as 10:00 a.m. yesterday carrying different placards with inscriptions such as: “Sheriff is not a PDP member”; “Sheriff Must Go, Enough is Enough: Makarfi is real”
As the youths numbering over 200 got to the gate, there was no resistance from the policemen so they gained easy entry.
They took some hours searching for Sheriff around the premises but apparently, he kept away from the secretariat throughout yesterday.
Some of the youths who beat drums and danced around the secretariat suggested that the two former members of the party’s National Working Committee, Wale Oladipo and Adewole Adeyanju should be dealt with for collaborating with Sheriff to destroy the party.
Others however, pleaded that they should be allowed to go on condition that Sheriff would not come close to the PDP secretariat in future.
At a point, some security men formerly attached to the secretariat resorted to begging the youths to allow Oladipo and Adeyanju to leave peacefully.
At 1:40 p.m., one of those begging for the two former PDP officers managed to sneak out Oladipo’s vehicle through the back enterance.
Within two minutes, a terrified Oladipo and Adeyanju were smuggled out of the tension-laden premises into a nearby business centre from where they were eventually whisked away.
Adeyanju was, however, not able to take out his vehicle from the national secretariat. His blue Toyota Camry with registration number Lagos APP 767CK was abandoned at the sealed national secretariat of the party.
Before the pro-Makarfi group arrived, another group of protesters called Guardians of Democracy, had staged a solidarity protest to the secretariat insisting that Sheriff was the authentic leader of the PDP.This group did not however stay long before leaving the secretariat.
Also yesterday, leader of another group called PDP Youths Rescue Group, one Aderemi Olusegun, declared himself as the new acting national chairman of the PDP. Olusegun, at a press conference, had also demanded the immediate withdrawal of all pending litigations in courts.
Party members, he said, are “seriously disillusioned and unhappy” over the leadership crisis rocking the party, adding that if not resolved, this would affect the party’s fortunes in the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states respectively. He therefore called on party gladiators to put national interest above personal interest.
“We are giving the leadership of the party, which includes the Board of Trustees, Governors’ Forum, warring groups and other stakeholders, a seven-day ultimatum to resolve this intractable but avoidable rancour.
“However, if this is not resolved, we shall be compelled to mobilise all concerned youths nationwide to take over the affairs of the party, as we have started putting in place an effective structure to take over the party secretariat.
“We have therefore constituted an 11-man committee to liaise with all the parties concerned and stakeholders so as a matter of urgency to resolve all disagreements in our party,” the statement reads in part.
But as the pro-Sherif group took control, security operatives attached to the secretariat who were visibly present in their numbers , watched the development helplessly as the protesters broke the gate. At the time of filing this report, the boys were still awaiting the arrival of Sheriff to address them.
Meanwhile, Sheriff said yesterday that the sacking of the secretariat of the party by persons he described as “hoodlums under the directive of the so-called Caretaker Committee” was a sad reminder of the days of lawlessness, impunity and brigandage.
A statement issued by sheriff’s media assistant Inwa Bwala, late yesterday said that “While calling on his supporters to remain calm and law-abiding in the face of the various provocations, by allowing the law to take its course, Senator Sheriff implored security agencies to stop taking sides in political matters, as demonstrated by some policemen deployed to secure the PDP Secretariat. ”
Sheriff denied the allegation that he was being sponsored by the Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) and that there was no court order granting him leave to operate his office.
“We wish to challenge Ahmed Makarfi to name the date, venue and names of those in attendance at the so-called meeting sheriff allegedly had with some Governors from the APC”, the statement added.
Source: The Guardian