In what could be described as a last-ditch effort to save the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), President Goodluck Jonathan met Sunday with the seven aggrieved governors of the party who broke away two weeks ago to form a splinter group of the PDP, with both sides resolving to reconcile their differences.
Making this known last night, the Niger State Governor, Dr. Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu, who spoke after the meeting, said discussions were cordial and fruitful, with a commitment by both sides to resolve all the issues that had led to the break up of the party.
Mu'azu, who was surrounded by the president, Vice-President Namadi Sambo and other governors of the party, said: "Sequel to the number of meetings convened by leaders and stakeholders and the governors of Adamawa, Niger, Rivers, Kwara, Sokoto, Jigawa, Akwa Ibom, Kogi, Kano and Cross Rivers States met with the president, vice-president and chairman of the Board of Trustees and extensively deliberated on various issues.
"The meetings were cordial and deliberations fruitful with a clear commitment on all sides to resolve all issues raised at the meetings. The meetings also called on all parties to shield their swords and avoid further inflammatory comments on issues particularly during the course of our deliberations as we have all agreed to resolve all the differences.
"In the interim, all parties have accepted to commence immediate action and agreed towards the complete resolution of all matters and will continue to meet until all processes toward reconciliation are totally complete.
"The meetings will continue on Monday, 7th October, 2013. We use this opportunity therefore to thank all members of our party and supporters for their patience and understanding as we will ensure that there is progress in resolving the crisis."
The meeting, which started at about 5 pm, had Governors Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), AbdulFatah Ahmed (Kwara) and Babangida Aliyu, representing the G7 governors. Only the Sokoto State Governor, Aliyu Wamakko, who is a member of the group, was absent.
Others in attendance included the vice-president, Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Tony Anenih, Governors Liyel Imoke (Cross River), Ibrahim Shema (Katsina), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe) and Idris Wada (Kogi).
But before the meeting with the president, the G7 governors had held a closed-door meeting at the residence of the National Chairman of the New PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje, in Asokoro, Abuja yesterday.
Other than the G7 governors, some senators and members of the House of Representatives were also in attendance at the meeting in Baraje's residence.
A source told THISDAY that the objective of the meeting was to articulate their position on the peace talks with the president, select the governors to represent them at the meeting and agree on a common front on the pertinent issues to be addressed.
According to the source, "We want to be treated as a team and our position would be treated as a team and not on an individual basis. We want an all-inclusive party where all of us shall be equal partakers and not a party that is exclusive. We want a party devoid of harassments of members."
Also ahead of the meeting with the president, the PDP yesterday urged all its estranged members to fully utilise the window of dialogue and reconciliation offered it and avoid playing into the hands of those who do not wish the country or her democracy well.
The party's plea coincided with that of Baraje who called on the Nigeria Police to unseal the offices of the New PDP on the grounds that Justice E.S. Chukwu had refused to grant PDP's request for the continued closure of the splinter group.
The Baraje faction also called on its members to embark on seven days of prayer and fasting over the continued strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), since all means to resolve the ASUU strike had failed.
The mainstream PDP, however, stated that the on-going crisis and skirmishes are aimed at portraying the president in a bad light, but noted that it is needless, because as members of one big family, no challenge is insurmountable.
In a statement signed by the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Olisa Metuh, the party said: "These tactics are antithetical to democracy but not unfamiliar rules of engagement. However, it is important that we avoid over-stretching it and shutting out glaring overtures, so as not to play into the waiting hands of the desperate (who are) wishing to incite the people and destroy our common destiny."
PDP expressed regrets that the problem in the party was a challenge that could be resolved within the ambit of the crisis resolution mechanism of the party but was being exaggerated by some politicians desperately looking for quick photo-ops through sensationalism in the media.
Metuh said: "We wish to assure our members therefore that we are still capable of resolving our challenges and urge them to be more committed to our progress. We shall emerge stronger."
It added that the nation would benefit the more should detractors of the president pick him or the party on issues of development so as to enrich our practice of democracy."
"But unfortunately, the easiest way to gain prominence today is to attack the president and the leadership of his party, not on issues of governance or on alternative directions of governance but on pedestrian issues that border on sheer mudslinging," Metuh said.
In a reference to the media coverage of the crisis, he added: "While the inconsequential makes the banners, the essential and the substantial in the consistent, though quiet transformation of the nation are tucked away in obscure riders.
"The media is a critical building block of democracy and the Nigerian media has stood firm across the decades. It must not relent."
The party further said in all this, "our firm support for the president as the leader and symbol of our party in government remains total. We shall neither waver nor allow narrow sentiments stand in the way of the absolute resolve of our great party to better the lot of all Nigerians."
On its part, the Baraje faction of the PDP called on the police to unseal all its offices on the grounds that the request by the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, before a Federal High Court in Abuja on September 13, was turned down.
The court, according to Baraje, had ruled that his faction of PDP "should be allowed to operate without any harassment or inhibition as it was not breaking any known law".
In a statement by the faction's National Publicity Secretary, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, making reference to Justice Chukwu's ruling, said there was no evidence before the court to show any tardiness on the part of PDP under Baraje as claimed by the Tukur-led faction, which had requested it to stop the Baraje-led PDP from operating.
Eze said: "In view of this ruling, the police no longer have any valid reason (it never did, anyway) to continue to seal our secretariats. We therefore wish to appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan to save the police from the plot to ridicule the government by using it to perpetrate illegalities such as sealing the lawfully acquired national secretariat of PDP and our secretariats in states like Rivers, Bayelsa, Kaduna and Kwara.
"The powers that be should as a matter of urgency stop projecting and portraying the police as a tool of injustice and attack on the perceived political opponents of Mr. President." On the ASUU strike, Baraje's PDP called on members to commence seven days of fasting and prayers to seek the face of God to end the continued strike by university lectures.
The splinter PDP said it had become imperative to seek the face of God over this matter considering that all efforts to resolve the unwarranted strike had failed woefully and considering the socio-economic damage the strike was causing both parents and their wards.
In furtherance of its objective to end the strike, Baraje set up a four-man committee with Babangida Aliyu as its chairman to advise the party on the best way to get the federal government's negotiating committee and the leadership of ASUU to reach an agreement on the issues at stake.
Other members of the committee are Nyako; President of UNIPORT Alumni, Hon. Chinwo Ike; and the faction's National Youth Leader, Mr. Timi Frank. Meanwhile, Tukur's removal as the chairman of the PDP has been identified as capable of heralding the "healing process" in the crisis-ridden party.
This was part of views expressed by the Jigawa State governor while fielding questions from journalists at the Government House, Dutse, at the weekend.
The governor said if the party's chairman was shown the way out, "then we would begin to address the wrongs of the party."
According to him, "The demands are many and there has to be a collective way for all of us that are prepared to do the right thing for the party and for Nigeria. And by the time we agree to do the right thing, of course there will be healing and continuity."
On the resolution of the crisis in the party, he said there was a way out but it would come with "some spill-over effects and some collateral damage", adding: "If what we had been saying in the last two to three months, was accepted and done, may be we wouldn't be here today."
He however said while the G7 governors were aggrieved, they on their part are conscious of the need to avoid acts that might make the party's crisis escalate.
"I have been saying no to them. For the love of Nigeria, we would not do anything to cause any unnecessary turmoil in this country. For the love of those people who believe in us, we will do anything to ensure that this party does not crash," he said. Lamido implored the president to accept the recommendations of former President Olusegun Obasanjo Elders' Committee, so as to find a lasting solution to the impasse that has destabilised the party.
In addition, a chieftain of the party in Ogun State, Buruji Kashamu, has taken a swipe at Baraje for having the effrontery to give the president an ultimatum on the ongoing peace talks.
Baraje had on Saturday said his group would stop further negotiations with the president if all their requests were not met yesterday (Sunday). In a statement he issued on Sunday, Kashamu considered it insulting and ridiculous that Baraje, a former teacher who should be the epitome of morality and good behaviour, had the audacity to give an ultimatum to the embodiment of our sovereignty and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria over some contrived party issues.
"His tenor and language on a day the peace talks are meant to resume show that these people are not ready for peace. They have some hidden agenda. And it is high time they were told the truth. Nigerians are wiser.
"They can see through all their theatrics and attempts to stop the president from exercising his fundamental right to vote and be voted for. They are only hiding behind some smokescreen," he said.
Kashamu noted that from Baraje's outbursts, it was obvious that "these people are frustrated and desperate for power, no more, no less," adding, "They should come out of their cloaks and tell Nigerians their real intentions instead of masquerading as champions of democratic ideals when they are the exact opposite."
In the meantime, the National Treasurer of the New PDP, Alhaji Tanko Gwamma, yesterday announced his resignation from the post that he held for less than a week. He announced his resignation at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, following a meeting with some party officials.
He said he had resigned to enable PDP present a coordinated front for the 2015 presidential election.
"This decision was arrived at after a careful study of the unfolding events in the polity and a deep sober reflection of the consequences of the outcome of such impasse on our party," Gwamma further stated. According to him, as a lover of democracy, he was of the view that the impasse would not augur well for the unity, peace, progress and prosperity of the party in particular and the nation in general.
Gwamma, who pledged his loyalty to the Tukur-led PDP, called on all party faithful to unite and ensure the amicable resolution of the current impasse in the party.
"Our desire is for the PDP to continue to lead while others follow, as such, we must eschew all vices capable of unnecessarily heating up the polity.
"I pledge my loyalty to the Bamanga Tukur leadership while calling on all party faithful to do same," he said.