Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who last year lost the post of the National Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a long battle that was finally settled at the Supreme Court, will rejoin the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) this afternoon.
Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State and three term senator, will return along with PDP’s 2015 gubernatorial candidate in Borno State, Alhaji Gambo Lawan.
“The information I heard is that it will be tomorrow (today) at 12(pm),” he said.
That the event will take place in Abuja and with no officials of the party or government in Borno state is indicative of the problem that lies ahead.
Already, a source close to Shettima said the governor is also strategizing and has his plan B.
Sheriff’s defection was to take place yesterday but for the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting which lasted till evening.
Again, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie Oyegun, who was billed to receive Sheriff, was also engaged in a meeting with APC governors over congresses and national convention of the party.
It was reliably gathered that Sheriff and Lawan recently met President Muhammadu Buhari after which he directed the leadership of the APC to accord special recognition to Sheriff and accept him into the party.
Sources said President Buhari discussed many issues with the former Borno governor and at the end gave his nod for the defection.
He then directed Chief Odigie-Oyegun and other leaders, including the National Secretary of the party, Maimala Buni to personally receive Sheriff and his fellow defectors.
“The president had also directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr Boss Mustapha who is also from the North East to be part of the event,” one of the sources said.
“But because of the two important meetings yesterday, the reception for Sheriff and others could not hold but it would definitely take place tomorrow (today),” he said.
Another source said after the national secretariat of the APC received Sheriff and others today, “the celebration would move at a later day to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital where thousands of PDP supporters would be received into the APC.
“What would happen tomorrow in Abuja is a mark of respect for Sheriff but I want to assure you that he had done all the processes of defection from his ward in Ngala town in Central Borno. The Borno APC is fully aware that he is coming,” he said.
Speaking to Daily Trust yesterday, Alhaji Gambo Lawan confirmed that they would be received by the APC leadership in Abuja today.
“Yes, we have moved to the APC; I and former Governor Sheriff have left the PDP for the APC and there are reasons.
“Sheriff for instance is only going back home; he is the father of APC in Borno, he is a founding member of the party because he partook in taking the ANPP as one of the legacy parties that formed the APC.
“He only left the APC in 2015 when he was unfairly treated during the sharing of leadership positions when his candidate for the national secretary, Matawalli Kashim Imam was short-changed.
“So there is nothing new; Sheriff is the face of APC in Borno and the North East; he is the one who enthroned the incumbent governor and is behind the success story of many politicians.
“For me, I am not use to defection but was compelled to leave the PDP because it has been hijacked by some few people; the party has not reformed.
“And most importantly, politics is local; Borno is APC and it is for President Buhari. Our joining the party with millions of our supporters will strengthen it in Borno and environs,” he said.
There was no immediate response from the Borno State chapter of the APC. The state chairman of the party, Ali Bukar Dalori could not be reached at press time.
Sheriff and Governor Kashim Shettima, who is the APC leader in Borno State, had parted ways for long. Efforts to reach the spokesman of the governor, Isa Umar Gusau were not successful as his telephone line was switched off. The state Commissioner for Information, Dr. Mohammed Bulama could not also be reached.
But a member of the Borno State Executive Council who spoke in confidence said they were aware Sheriff would join the party.
“Yes, the governor is aware but you should know that membership of political party is a personal thing. The governor will not stop Sheriff from joining APC. You are all aware that the governor did not stop him when he wanted to leave the party after the 2015 general elections,” he said.
Another source said Shettima is also strategizing on the way forward. “He is a politician and he is not sleeping; in fact he has his plan B but he will definitely not leave APC for Sheriff.
“You should know that Sheriff does not have any electoral value; he could not secure a senate seat for himself and with all the support he had from Jonathan, he could not secure any seat for any politician either at the state or national assembly in 2015. It was Shettima that delivered everything,” he said.
There were insinuations that a key figure in the Presidency who had issues with Governor Shettima was instrumental to Sheriff’s defection. Sheriff who was a three term senator joined the PDP after the 2011 elections and got close to ex- President Goodluck Jonathan.
In the build up to the 2015 elections, he wielded enormous influence to the extent that at the height of the Boko Haram crisis, the Maiduguri International Airport, which was closed for months, was opened to allow Sheriff land with his personal jet for campaigns.
A PDP youth leader in Maiduguri, Umar Sanda, who spoke with our correspondent on phone, said they were aware of Sheriff’s defection.
“Yes, he has gone but we are not perturbed; many of us would not follow him; we would remain in PDP,” he said.