Fresh facts emerged yesterday on why the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors had to dump Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff as National Chairman at the May 21 convention ground in Port Harcourt.
A high-ranking chieftain who gave an insight into why the governors fell out with Sheriff, revealed that the governors had settled for Sheriff as chairman based on promises he made to finance the party’s 2019 presidential campaign with N40 billion.
He was also said to have promised the governors that he would deploy five private jets for the party’s electioneering campaign in 2019.
The PDP chieftain, who is a key stakeholder in the North East zone, however said the governors started to suspect Sheriff’s motives a few days to the May 21 convention.
The party chief said yesterday on condition of anonymity that the governors later found that Sheriff had sold them a dummy. Said the source: “Contrary to his promise to fund the party, they discovered that the ex-PDP chair was spending the party’s lean resources on the few party activities he held during his tenure.
“Sheriff also exploited the ambition of some of the party’s sitting governors, particularly the governors in the southern states, to become the party’s vice presidential candidate in 2019.
“The ex-party chairman had approached five of the governors in separate secret meetings with promises of the party’s 2019 vice presidential ticket, with him as presidential candidate.
“The truth is that some of the governors actually fell for it and they were already scheming along with him without knowing there were five of them fighting for the same ticket.”
The party chieftain said it was then that the governors realised that the N40 billion and five campaign jets promised by Sheriff were a bait to become chairman and presidential candidate.
But in a swift reaction, Sheriff said the allegations against him were far fetched and that the governors themselves know the truth.
His Media Adviser, Mr. Inuwa Bwala, who spoke yesterday, said the governors were only being clever by half. According to him, virtually all the PDP governors from the south were scheming to become vice presidential candidate in the 2019 election, and it was the scrabble for the ticket that tore them apart.
He refuted the claim that Sheriff did not spend his personal resources on the party, insisting that all the governors, except the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, who also has a plane at his disposal, made use of Sheriff’s private jets on one occasion or the other.
Bwala said: “Almost all the governors from the South want to be Vice President in 2019, and that was the source of the conflict. It was this bitter struggle that brought the party to its present situation.
“And if they were expecting to get N40 billion from Sheriff just to make him chairman, then they have lost the moral ground to complain for not getting the money as easily as they had wished. They should wait until Sheriff himself is ready to tell the entire story exactly the way it is.”
Commenting on the lingering crisis, another party source said that it was a court case filed against the party with Sheriff as one of the plaintiffs that finally broke the camel’s back.
A few days to the botched Port Harcourt convention, Sheriff and two members of the party’s sacked National Working Committee (NWC) had approached a court in Lagos to halt the convention.
Plaintiffs in the suit were the ex-National Secretary, Prof. Adewale Oladipo; ex National Auditor, Adewole Adeyanju and Sheriff. The suit specifically sought to stop election into the offices of National Secretary, National Auditor and National Chairman.
The plaintiffs had averred that their tenure would not be expiring until 2018 and that their positions were not vacant.
But when the governors and other party stakeholders confronted Sheriff on the suit, he claimed that his name was included as one of the plaintiffs without his consent, a claim that the party chiefs took with a pinch of salt.
“That showed the governors the red light. They discovered at the last minute that they were dealing with a man that was ready to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds at the same time”, the party source said.