upporters of the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee and their counterparts from the Ali Modu Sheriff’s group on Thursday clashed at the party headquarters.
Trouble began when the supporters of Sheriff, who was sacked as the party’s national chairman in Port Harcourt three weeks ago, attempted to dislodge the pro-Makarfi protesters from the main gate of the Wadata Plaza national secretariat of the PDP.
The governors on the platform of the main opposition party and other stakeholders had converged on Port Harcourt on May 21 for the PDP national convention, where a caretaker committee, headed by Makarfi, a former governor of Kaduna State, was constituted.
But the Sheriff faction had described the caretaker committee as illegal, saying it had no place in the PDP constitution.
It also claimed that a court had ordered that the national convention, which gave birth to the caretaker committee, should not hold in the first instance.
A protester believed to be a member of the pro-Makarfi group brandished a cutlass, causing the pro-Sheriff demonstrators to flee the scene.
Armed with sticks and clubs and other dangerous weapons, the rival groups defied the rains to continue their supremacy battle.
Verbal tirade between the two groups soon degenerated into fisticuffs while various forms of missiles flew in different directions.
When the dust settled, one person was left with a deep cut in his forehead as the pro-Makarfi protesters held their ground.
The supporters of the caretaker committee were the first set to arrive at the secretariat at about 6.30am, singing and drumming before Sheriff’s supporters reached the headquarters complex around 7.12am.
Thursday’s occupation of the party secretariat came hours after a meeting of the party’s Board of Trustees, the PDP governors and the Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee.
The meeting, which ended at about 1.10am on Thursday, resolved, among other things, to continue with ongoing litigation, which members hoped would end Sheriff’s claim to the chairmanship of the party.
Shortly after the meeting, the Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, said the party was disturbed by undue interference in its internal affairs by the government and security agents.
Fayose, who admitted that he was among the governors, who convinced Sheriff to take the job of the acting national chairman of the party, said he had to bow to superior arguments when he discovered that Sheriff had a different agenda.
He stated, “Rising from the meeting, we must put it in the public domain that the PDP, whatever we are going through today, is a phase and very soon, the whole issue will be over.
“But we need to put it very clearly that Nigeria, as a country, needs an opposition party to make the average Nigerian gets the value for his or her votes. Any attempt to destroy opposition in Nigeria is not going to be in the interest of democracy.
“We stand as a party to condemn interference, subtle and strategic effort to destroy PDP in Nigeria.”
Fayose added, “Without doubt, I did not beg him but I supported his coming.
“And when you act within the ambits of time, the information you have at a given time, I am not someone that will say I did not support Sheriff. But when you want to marry a woman, and on the wedding day, they tell you that the woman has HIV, will you still remain in the marriage? I am out of it.”
Also speaking to journalists after the meeting, Makarfi said, “Actually, those who remember how Boko Haram was born; that is how it started. How thugs were brought into Abuja and some people forced themselves into the secretariat. In the process, documents and some property belonging to the party cannot be accounted for. This cannot be without some support from some quarters, definitely not from the PDP.
“Therefore, we deliberated on this and we have taken a position to stand by democracy, to stand by our right and to stand by our party.”
Makarfi also urged security agencies not to allow themselves to be used by unauthorised persons against the legally constituted organs of the party.
He said, “We have it on record that the former Chairman – Sheriff – a day or two before he forced himself into the secretariat, had a meeting with one of the governors of the party in power and then the next day, this event took place; this therefore creates suspicion.
The Publicity Secretary of the caretaker committee, Dayo Adeyeye, appealed for calm.
He said no member of the committee had a track record of violence, arguing that no genuine member of the party court resort to violence.
Adeyeye added, “We appeal to all genuine party supporters to, even in the midst of this provocation, restrain themselves and conduct themselves peacefully as we try to rebuild our party.”
However, spokesman for the Sheriff’s group, Mr. Inuwa Bwala, said what transpired at the party’s National Secretariat was a manifestation of the level of desperation of members of the “so-called caretaker committee.”
He stated, “Party supporters, who know the truth, and are loyal to the authentic national chairman were today attacked with knives, about six of them were injured.
“Go there now; you will see thugs imported from Kaduna and elsewhere armed to the teeth with dangerous weapons, waiting for the national chairman to harm him. We will take this matter up with the appropriate authorities.”
When the view of a former National Chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, was sought on Thursday, his media aide, Chief Oliva Okpalla, said Tukur had retired from active politics.
He said, “As you will recall, at his 80th birthday, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur announced his retirement from partisan politics.
“He, however, advised those still in active politics; to eschew all acts of violence and brigandage and ensure a level playing field for all to participate in the democratic process.”