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Senator Hope Uzodinma, representing Imo West in the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, while talking to some reporters at the weekend, urges members of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to hold on to the rule of law as the only panacea for the current challenges facing it.
Distinguished Senator Uzodinma, there is so much anxiety among Nigerians over the crisis in your party, the Peoples Democratic Party. Are you not worried?
Of course, I am worried. But what I find even more significant is that, as you rightly observed, Nigerians are anxious. They are anxious because they want the matter to be resolved for the sake of peace and stability of the polity and we have taken note of this. I can assure you we will not fail Nigerians.
But for how long?The crisis is deepening every day. How long more can it last, or how long more can those who wish the party well wait.
I believe that every crisis would always run its course and end. The current challenges in the PDP will soon be over.
Some people are wondering why you pulled all your weight behind Senator Ali-Modu Sherrif.
I am for the interest of the party as a whole. I believe we all mean well for the party. What is in contention is how to go about it.
Then why do you think anybody would accuse you, either rightly or wrongly, for not wanting peace to reign in the party.
Nothing can be more erroneous than that. I have always worked for the interest of the party. I am a pioneer member of the PDP and all my political energy and resources have been channelled towards the party and I have been a beneficiary of its awesomeness and wide acceptability. So, it is inconceivable that I could work against any moves to reposition the party. Those who point accusing fingers at me do so out of lack of proper understanding of what actually led to the current stalemate. I try not to take it personal because I believe that if they get properly informed, they will hold a different opinion.
Ok sir, can you state your own side of the story?What information do you think people out there do not have?
You will recall that following the outcome of the 2015 general election, the party set up a post-election review committee, headed by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, to review the election, the events before and during the election, with a view to finding out how the party can be repositioned for the future. The committee later came out with a report which recommended that for the next general election, the party should source its presidential candidate from the North, while the national chairman should come from the South. At that time, we had an acting chairman, Uche Secondus, from the South who took over following the resignation of the then national chairman, Adamu Mua’zu.
You would also recall that along the line, Ahmed Gulak got a court ruling to the effect that Secondus should step down for a fellow from the Northeast geopolitical zone, to complete the tenure of the zone. The party leadership decided to comply with the court’s ruling and that was how Sanator Ali-Modu Sherrif from the North-east geo-political zone came on board as chairman. But, at a point, the governors came up with the idea that the office of the national chairman can only be filled through a national convention. So, preparatory to that, the North-east zonal congress unanimously elected Sherrif as their candidate for the national chairman. And no other person from that zone or any other part of the north bought the form to run for the office. In PortHarcourt, where the convention was to hold, Sherrif was the only person screened for the election. But while we were already there, we received a letter from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) with a federal High Court judgement to the effect that the party should not conduct elections into the offices of the National Chairman and national secretary because they were not vacant and that we can only conduct election into those offices in 2018. In obedience to that judgement and coupled with the directive of INEC which was to monitor the convention, the only logical thing to do was to either do the convention without election or suspend it pending when all the issues in the court were resolved.
But since the election of officers was the main item in the agenda approved by INEC, the National Working Committee met there in Portharcourt on behalf of the national executive committee and resolved to postpone the convention and immediately addressed the press to that effect. But that did not go down well with the governors who decided to constitute a caretaker committee against the judgement of the Federal High Court.
So you think the governors did the wrong thing?
Definitely. I am a lawmaker not a law breaker. I like my party and I will support everything that will make it stronger within the purviews of the law. So, I am on the side of the law. The moment the issues at the court are resolved I will follow. There is a court ruling which upholds Sherriff as national chairman even as I am talking to you now. The ruling has not been vacated and I believe that that should be the only instrumentality with which to resolve the differences. In the past, our party was rightly or wrongly accused of promoting impunity. I believe that this time around, we should no longer give room for such insinuations. We are the only opposition party and Nigerians have a lot of expectations from us. If we made any mistakes in the past, we now have an ample opportunity to correct them, especially now that the good will of Nigerians for the party has been completely re-kindled.
In the quest to take back power, nothing can be more assuring than to let the people know that we will lead by example and in democracy, the basic thing is the rule of law. That is where I stand. As I said earlier, all the parties mean will but for me the best way to address this well-meaning is to keep to the rule of law.
Beyond the issue of rule of law, are there things that you find in Sherrif as a person that makes you believe he can carry on?
Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom but I can tell you that in the short period before the aborted convention that led to the current stalemate, Senator Sheriff piloted the affairs of the party with utmost candour and dexterity. The party headquarters at WadataPlaza in Wuse Abuja, which used to be a ghost place, began to bubble again and activities were completely restored. All the leaders of the party including the governors became excited and that was how the NEC agreed and resolved to receive the result of the North-east zonal congress and we were all in PortHarcourt to confirm Sherif as national chairman until the court judgement came which led to disagreement. Senator Sherrif as a person has a lot of charisma and I find him a trustworthy fellow. That does not mean he is the only fellow in the party that possesses those qualities but the truth is that there can be only one national chairman at a point. But going back to the issue of legality, my worry is that with the forthcoming governorship elections in Edo and Ondo States, we may be shooting ourselves in the foot because only a substantive national chairman and national secretary can forward the names of governorship candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission, as stated in our constitution, not an adhoc or caretaker committee.
You think the other groups don’t realise this?
I believe they do. That is why I am worried because it is like something is wrong somewhere.
So, what do you think is the way out?
It is not farfetched. Let’s hold steadfastly to the rule of law. First, there was a court ruling that stopped the election into the offices of the chairman and secretary. Second, the convention was postponed by the NWC on behalf of NEC in obedience to the court ruling. The two are the only scientific bases for resolving the current crisis. Any other thing is guess work or playing to the gallery. If the court stopped the election into those offices because they are vacant, which offices are the caretaker committee members occupying?
Are you not clinging too tenaciously to your position?
No, I am not. I am only trying to canvass the truth and what I believe, like many others, is the best way to go. We are not being rigid but we believe that our fellow party men and women who do not see with us today will do so soon.
Is time not running out?
No. Time is not running out. We are on course. As you know, the national chairman has already announced the date for the governorship primary in Edo State, this Saturday and that is very much within the INEC timetable.
What of the one held early by the Markarfi Committee?
If there had been any previous primary in Edo State, the chairman would not have announced a date for a governorship primary election.culled from The Authority