By Ben Agande
Abuja —A meeting called by former President Goodluck Jonathan to find lasting solution to the leadership crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday, ended in a stalemate as Senator Ali Modu Sheriff maintained his ground that he must continue as the chairman of the party while Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Ayo Fayose (Ekiti) and the National Assembly caucus insisted that he must step down to allow for a neutral person to lead the party to the convention.
Senator Sheriff, subsequently, stormed out of the meeting along with his deputy, Cairo Ojougboh, insisting that for the meeting to progress, he must be recognised and addressed as chairman.
But despite the failure of President Jonathan to achieve meaningful progress, he announced the setting up of a committee to be chaired by either him, former Vice President Namadi Sambo or former President of the Senate, David Mark, to find a lasting solution to the crisis in the party.
Jonathan called on the contending forces in the PDP to “ make personal and general sacrifices to ensure the quick resolution of the problems in our party.”
According to him, “there is no doubt that the PDP is a leading light in constitutional democracy and this is why we cannot allow the party to continue to drift. This meeting of today is, therefore, designed to stem the drift.”
Yesterday’s meeting also had in attendance Governor Dairus Ishaku of Taraba State and the Deputy President of the Senate, former governors, senators, members of the National Assembly as well as former national chairmen of the party.
There was an indication earlier that all was not well at the beginning of the meeting when it was noticed that while Senator Makarfi had a seat at the high table where former President Jonathan and other dignitaries were seated, there was no seat for Senator Sheriff until former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Apkabio, vacated his seat to allow Sheriff to sit on the left hand of President Jonathan while Makarfi occupied the seat at Jonathan’s right.
Vanguard gathered that at the closed door meeting which was presided over by former President Jonathan, Governors Wike and Fayose made it clear that the solution to the crisis in the party can only be solved if Senator Sheriff vacates his position and allow for a neutral person to conduct a national convention of the party, a position that Senator Sheriff outrightly rejected.
The governors position was supported by the National Assembly caucus as well as majority of the stakeholders that were in attendance at yesterday’s meeting.
With the hardline position of both sides, President Jonathan, Senators Sheriff, David Mark, Ike Ekweremadu, Godswill Akpabio, Makarfi and governors Wike and Fayose retired to an ante room at the Yar’Adua Centre, venue of the meeting to hammer out a compromise.
The meeting ended in a deadlock and when they returned to the main hall, Senator Sheriff stormed out, insisting that there was no need to continue if he was not recognised as the chairman of the party.
Addressing journalists later, President Jonathan said despite the setback, he will constitute a committee with members drawn from the National Assembly, PDP governors forum, former governors of the party, Board of Trustees, National Assembly caucus, youths and women wing of the party to work out a solution.
He said that some of the issues that led to Sheriff storming out of the meeting would be addressed before the next meeting.