After three failed attempts, the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ali Sheriff, at 1:01pm on Monday gained entry into the national secretariat of the party.
The ex-chairman had early in the morning made spirited attempts to go into the party premises to resume work as chairman
He was, however, restrained from doing so by a detachment of regular and riot policemen as well as officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
In response to the new development, it was learnt that the Ahmed Markarfi-led caretaker committee hurriedly convened a meeting to discuss its next move.
The Publicity Secretary of the committee, Dayo Adeyeye, confirmed this in a telephone interview with our correspondent.
He said, “We have been meeting since morning. In fact, I am just coming out from one. We will make our position known tomorrow.”
Sheriff, after gaining entry into the premises in the afternoon, told journalists he had resumed as the “authentic chairman” of the party armed with valid court orders.
He explained that the ex parte order issued by a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, which earlier barred him from acting as the national chairman, lapsed on June 9 which was exactly 14 days after it was issued and since it had not been renewed or extended, he remained the party’s chairman.
The former Borno State governor dismissed the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee as alien to the PDP constitution and, as such, all of its actions and pronouncements remained null, void and of no effect.
As one of his first acts “on resumption,” Sheriff announced that the party under his leadership had appointed Senator Hope Uzodinma as chairman of the committee saddled with the responsibility of organising a governorship primary for Edo State PDP.
He also announced a reduction in the price for nomination forms from N16m to N10m which he said was payable only to the party’s national account.
Sheriff said, “There is only one PDP. If anybody goes to buy forms from any body called caretaker committee they are on their own.
“The PDP has spoken. The PDP is only one party and we say our form is N10m and we say they should go and pay the amount into the party’s account. If anybody goes and buys from some other body, he is on his own.”
He also said, “The only people that would be screened are those who show evidence of payment of N10m and this should be showed to the chairman of the screening committee. People have the right to do whatever they want. I am not forcing anybody. As a party, we have agreed that our form is N10m and payment should be made to the party’s account.”
He, however, assured those who may have paid N16m “in error,” saying they would be given a refund if they show evidence of payment.
On the fate of the former NWC members, who pledged allegiance to the Makarfi-led committee, Sheriff said the party’s laws were clear.
He said those who failed to resume would be replaced by their deputies. who would by law become substantive holders of the positions in the absence of their direct bosses.
Sheriff said, “The party constitution is very clear; you have the right to resign your appointments, there is a deputy to take over automatically.
“All the deputies are waiting, if by tomorrow, anybody that did not come, we ask the deputy to apply for that office and takeover. We will remain in office until 2018 unless the court says otherwise.”
As early as 7:45am on Monday, Sheriff and a handful of his aides and supporters attempted to enter the building but were politely turned back by the policemen on duty.
He, in company with the party’s immediate past National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, and ex-National Auditor, Adeyanju Adewole, said they were at the national secretariat to resume work in compliance with a court order.
Trucks and minivans belonging to the police had barricaded all roads leading to the secretariat.
Sheriff and his convoy however manoeuvred their way to reach the main gate before they were stopped.
The former Borno State governor and his supporters, who converged outside the party headquarters when they were not allowed to enter, later returned to make a second attempt at 8:30pm.
Sheriff was thereafter seen making frantic telephone calls in his bid to gain entry into the building.
Deputy Police Commissioner, Chiroma Bala, who was the police officer in charge of the PDP secretariat, informed Sheriff that he did not have authorisation to allow him into the building.
In response, Sheriff said the Inspector-General of Police did not oppose his entry into the secretariat because he was the substantive chairman of the party.
After attempting to physically gain entry into the building the third time at 9:15am, Sheriff left the secretariat at 9.35 am.
But before leaving the secretariat, Sheriff, in an interview with journalists, expressed surprise that policemen would act the way they did when the court order specifically ordered the Inspector-General of Police to provide him and the members of his team adequate security.
The PUNCH could not reach the police for comment on the reason for the withdrawal of the policemen that were deployed in the PDP headquarters.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Bisi Kolawole, did not respond to calls to her telephone. She had yet to reply an SMS that was also sent to her line as of the time of filing this report.
When contacted for an official response to the latest development, Senator Ahmed Makarfi asked reporters to await the committee’s robust “response tomorrow” (Tuesday).