Governors elected on the platform of the party and members of the National Working Committee (NWC) endorsed Sheriff’s candidacy for the job, which former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman Nuhu Ribadu turned down.
The governors and NWC members okayed Sheriff, but the Board of Trustees (BoT), chairmen of state chapters, senators from the Southsouth and Southeast – where the party has most of its senators – and members of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s cabinet, rejected Sheriff’s choice.
Some members of the BoT left yesterday’s meeting in protest when they saw the direction the meeting was going.
Before the meeting ended, party spokesman Olisa Metuh told reporters that Sheriff had been endorsed. He later said that more consultations would be made.
He said all the organs of the party endorsed the former governor at separate meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday.
According to him, 29 aspirants indicated interest in the race but the Northeast zonal caucus pruned the list to five.
Among the contestants were Girgiri Lawan, Mohammed Wakil, Wilberforce Juta, Abdullahi Jalo, Ahmed Gulak, Ahmed Fufai Alkali, Saidu Kumo and Shehu Gabam.
He confirmed that Ribadu did not show interest.
The party did not state the criteria used in picking Sheriff, who is one of the closest associates of former President Jonathan.
The tenure of Adamu Mu’azu, which Sheriff is meant to complete, is expected to end next month. But Metuh could not confirm the expiry date of Sheriff’s tenure, saying the decision would be made public later.
Sheriff, who defected to the PDP from the All Progressives Congress (APC), failed to deliver Borno to the PDP in the last general election.
It was learnt that some forces in the party, led by Governors Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti) and Nyesom Wike (Rivers), coordinated the “sudden” choice of Sheriff.
It was gathered that other PDP governors later joined the fray to form a new power caucus to “hijack the party’s leadership”.
A source said: “Without expressing interest in the office, the governors conspired and suddenly opted for Sheriff. Their ultimate target is to have the party’s leadership under their firm control.
“The governors believe that the control of the structure of the party will help them to determine those to admit and how to influence the trend of internal politics towards 2019.
“They are just out to dictate the pace for strategic reasons and part of the grand plans for 2019.
“Another reason these governors, led by Wike, Fayose, Henry Seriake- Dickson (Bayelsa) and Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), opted for Sheriff because they think as a key stakeholder behind the merger of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he can help decimate the governing party.
“You know PDP governors from the South are now more in number than those from the North.
“The politics of choosing Sheriff is a stop-gap politics targeted at infiltrating APC. Sheriff boasts that he knows the secrets of APC.
“They want to use the ex-governor of Borno State as a rallying point for political realignment in 2019.”
A member of the NEC said: “Majority of the BOT members have rejected Sheriff and they have threatened to resign en masse. There is no way his choice can fly. He is actually not a democrat at all. We will go back to square one.”
All the state chapters of the PDP have also opposed the ‘imposition’ of Sheriff, it was learnt. Instead, they have asked the party to allow the Northeast zone to conduct a transparent election to choose the national chairman.
“These governors are playing with fire because once Sheriff is foisted, we will quit the PDP,” the source said, pleading not to be named.
A former Minister, who spoke in confidence, said: “With Sheriff, the PDP is dead because we cannot reshape or reform the party for 2019 as being envisaged.
“You will recall that at a stage the party was uncomfortable with Sheriff in 2015 because of the controversies surrounding him.
“Many of us loyal to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan may leave the party for a more cosmopolitan and democratic one.”
The Southeast and Southsouth caucuses of the PDP in the Senate yesterday rejected Sheriff’s choice.
Senators have decided not to have anything to do with the PDP led by Sheriff. According to a highly-placed source, the senators took the decision at an emergency consultative session in Abuja last night.
One of the senators said: “We are worried at the news of the emergence of Senator Modu Sheriff as chairman of the PDP. We are worried that some persons are not thinking of the need to move the party forward.
“We feel there is need to raise the credibility of the party after the debacle of the last general election. It is not fair that we saddle the party with the burden that the chairmanship of Senator Modu Sheriff would bring to the party at this time.”
A former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, the spokesman of the Jonathan Campaign Organisation during last year’s elections, in a statement said: “I do not often speak publicly about the internal affairs of the PDP because I have always chosen to remain well above the fray.
“This is because I have good friends in every single group and on all sides that constitute the party. However, given today’s events, there appears to be deep cause for concern.
“It is clear to me that, more than at any other time in its almost 17 years in existence, the PDP needs serious prayers. If we fail to provide the strong, united, progressive, credible and focused leadership and opposition that is needed to keep our country on course and our government on their toes, then God will never forgive us and He will surely punish us.
“If we insist on making the wrong choices about our leadership and if we keep taking people for granted not only will we be finished as a party but the entire country will suffer the consequences of our errors and inexplicable ways.
“May God help us and may He forgive us and deliver us from evil, greedy, corrupt, ignorant and bloodthirsty men.”
After he was declared the acting chairman, Sheriff announced that he will assume office today, promising to” lead the party to victory in 2019″.
He said that “there will be no witch-hunt. I’ll carry everyone along in the task of rebuilding the party.”