The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, in this interview, speaks on the crisis in the party, his alleged link with Boko Haram and how he would like to be remembered when the story of the PDP is written.
We are aware there are meetings going on to find lasting solution to the internal crisis in the PDP. One of such meetings was the one held between the PDP Governors’ Forum and former President Goodluck Jonathan which came up with the suggestion that there should be political solution to this crisis. What is your position on this?
I don’t have any problem with it. I am not against it. I am not opposed to it. Party politics is about people and nobody does it alone. President Jonathan has spoken to me and I told him that I am not opposed to the suggestion. But he said he would get back to all the people that were talking to him, he said he wanted to find out my own thinking about it and that he would get back to me. So I am not opposed to that initiative.
So you would be glad if the Ahmed Makarfi committee withdraws its case from Supreme Court?
This party is not about Ali Modu Sheriff or Ahmed Makarfi. It is about the Nigerian people and what they want to have in their party. We had misunderstanding in the party. After the botched convention in Port Harcourt, we went to various courts. Makaffi went to the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt where he got a favourable judgment and we went to the Federal High Court in Abuja, and we got a judgment. We decided at that time that since we had two judgments from courts of coordinate jurisdiction, ‘let’s stay away from the secretariat until the Court of Appeal makes a pronouncement’.
And we also agreed that the decision of the Court of Appeal would be the end of the matter and we would all come together. So if today Makarfi is talking about going to the Supreme Court, he can go to court but the issue is how do we bring this party back? Nigerian people want a strong opposition party that would be ready to take over government any day there is election. That is what I am thinking about, I am not thinking about myself.
I have told Nigerians that I did not want to be the National Chairman in the first place and I am not going to run. But it doesn’t stop me from going ahead to bring everybody together to have a credible convention so that we can have one united, strong party.
How soon will this political solution be achieved?
If convention is possible within the next one month, we are ready but what is important to us is that everybody should come together and have a united party.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, during his 80th thanksgiving, described PDP as a dead party. As party Chairman, what is your reaction?
Obasanjo is a leader; he is African leader, Nigerian leader. His reactions are borne by the fact that he was hurt by certain things that happened in the past in the party. But as of today I don’t look at it that way. I was not there when he made that statement. I was in Otta for two days but I did not hear him make such a statement. But if he did, I will tell him that Baba this statement is not right. PDP is not a dying baby, it will not die, PDP will come back, PDP will be united and PDP will be strongest party in Africa very soon as it used to be.
One of the issues we have had is the issue of trust. Now that former President Jonathan has intervened, he has got the governors to speak. Do you have confidence that this governors will not renege?
You see confidence is something that is earned; confidence is something that people give based on history and records. I don’t have ill feelings for anybody or thinking about anybody. I was a governor for eight years and the governor of a state is an important person. He is the head of that state. I have no reason to doubt that they were saying what they do not mean. Of course, people are created differently, even the governors are created differently. Temperaments of people are not the same, peoples values are not the same. But it is not good to generalize just because you have reservations about one or two people in a group. And in any case, they have the right to their opinion. But what is important is that if the generality of people believe that certain things should be done, we will do the right thing.
Some people have argued that in view of the issues that have arisen recently that the best way to build trust is for you and Makarfi to come together and nominate somebody who will organize a convention.
You people are making a complete mistake. You cannot have a convention without a Chairman and that is the mistake that you people are making. The Chairman of the convention is the National Chairman of the party; he opens that convention before it becomes valid. So whatever suggestions you are making must be within the frame work of the law and the Constitution of the party. It doesn’t make sense for you to suggest something that does not work.
So when people talk like this, they are talking out of ignorance because you cannot hold a convention without a National Chairman. The Constitution of the party says the National Chairman is the Chairman of the convention committee; it is there in the Constitution. So, whatever arrangements you put in place, there must be a Chairman that will pronounce that ‘this convention is hereby declared open’.
Looking at some of the events that happened recently, especially if you look at the issue of Edo and Ondo states where many people thought that PDP was rightly placed to win elections, do you regret that PDP lost those states?
Of course I do regret that we lost Ondo and Edo states. We had no reason to lose those elections whatsoever but it happened, so what can you do? It happened because some people believe that they have power of god. Whenever you feel you can arrogate the power of God to yourself, you are getting it wrong. God is only God and He alone can say ‘be’ and it shall be, not a human being. And when human beings begin to think that way then there is something wrong. Yes, every meaningful person must regret that we lost Edo and Ondo State elections.
The forces arrayed against you while this crisis lasted seem very formidable. In all these you have remained very stoic and determined. What gives Senator Ali Modu Sheriff strength?
The strength is that I believe I am doing the right thing. What are we quarrelling about? We are quarrelling that we must move this party back to the owners; get it right so that we can win elections again.
And as long as you do not deviate from the truth, you know whatever religion we belong to, we serve God and God is a living God. What you and I are hiding in our inner hearts, God knows it and God makes his decision based on what He believes is fair. I was never worried because I know that I am doing the right thing.
You have maintained that you are a victim of Boko Haram, yet people keep accusing you of being a sponsor of Boko Haram. When you look back, why do you think that people want to rope you into a crisis that you said you are a victim of?
Thank God that today the truth is coming out. In this country we have the best security apparatus if they want to work. They know what I stand for and they know what I suffered. You run government with security everywhere. The only time you don’t have security is, maybe, when you are in your bedroom with your wife. But as a governor, as a senator, you are surrounded by security.
My conduct, my associations are open to everybody and the reason today I am seated here not killed by Boko Haram is because I believe in God. I believe that life is given by God and it is only God that can take life. You are aware that I lost three of my sibling, my brother, same father, same mother. Boko Haram went to the mosque to look for me; they killed him because he looked like me.
Those trying to implicate me are scared of my profile. They are scared that they could not destroy me politically, ‘so let’s find another reason to destroy Ali Modu Sheriff’.
What is your ideal quality of a candidate to be Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party?
The ideal candidate must be a candidate that is detribalised, a candidate that can look at you in the eyes and tell you the truth when you are wrong, a candidate that will always work for the will of the people and not his own view. Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. You must allow the people to decide what they want because once you interfere you will lose it.
How do you want to be remembered when the story of PDP is written?
When the story of PDP is written, I want everybody in Nigeria to remember that there is one Kanuri man from Borno that kept the party right and made sure that the rights of other people are not trampled upon. I want to be remembered as somebody that put the party back to its vantage position. I want me to be remembered as somebody who repositioned the PDP to its glorious period like in 1999.
Do you have a candidate in mind?
I don’t have any candidate. If you are interested and people of Nigeria want you, I will support you.