The peace meeting convened by former President Goodluck Jonathan to end the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party ended in disarray in Abuja on Thursday.
The disagreement among the key actors in the party crisis also forced the National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, to walk out of the meeting.
Jonathan, who presided over the meeting, had earlier in his opening address, begged the combatants to sheathe their swords.
As of the time he spoke, Sheriff had yet to arrive the meeting, but some other guests, including the Chairman of the sacked National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, were in attendance.
As soon as he finished speaking, Sheriff walked in.
His late entrance caused a little stir as the sitting arrangement had to be hurriedly adjusted in order to find him a place close to the former President.
In the programme of events, those listed to speak after Jonathan were Sheriff, Makarfi and the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jibrin.
Instead of calling the two combatants to address the gathering, Walid was ushered into the podium, where he also appealed to the members of the party to forget their differences.
He said he would die a member of the party, just as he pleaded with those that would attend his burial to bury his party membership card with him.
Sources at the meeting said at the closed-door session, Sheriff was alleged to have insisted that as the national chairman of the party, he was going to address the audience.
It was gathered that he insisted that Makarfi would not speak since his committee had been sacked by the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division.
His proposal was said to have been rejected by the Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyesom Wike, who allegedly insisted that Makarfi should also be allowed to speak if Sheriff would speak.
A source stated, “The argument became so ferocious to the extent that Sheriff and Wike had to stand up, pointing fingers at each other while Jonathan looked with bewilderment.
“The former President tried to pacify them, but there was nothing he could do.”
He added that both the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; a former President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, and a host of others, who were at the meeting also tried in vain to calm the two combatants.
At this point, the former President was said to have asked that some selected attendees should meet inside one of the rooms within the Yar’Adua Centre, where the meeting held.
Those at the secret meeting were Jonathan, Wike, Sheriff, Ekweremadu, Jibrin, Mark and the Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.
Fayose was the first to come out of the secret meeting, the source added.
It was also gathered that Sheriff later emerged from the room and walked out of the larger meeting.
Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, later spoke with journalists outside the hall of the meeting.
He said he was standing with the report of the Peace and Reconciliation Committee of the party, which is headed by the Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Seriake Dickson.
The committee had, in its report, outlined ways to end the crisis and that a national convention should hold latest by June 30 in Abuja.
He said, “The party, as of today, has one national chairman, which is Ali Modu Sheriff. There is no PDP meeting that will take place under any arrangement that I will not make an opening remark as a national chairman.
“I think that Governor Dickson made a proposal, and we have accepted it. Other people have a programme to bring agenda which is not part of the proposal.
“And as a national chairman of the party, what I told you people in my office that I will not be a party to anybody using me for his personal agenda; I will not.”
When asked if he had respect for the former President who convened the meeting, Sheriff answered in the affirmative.
He said it was because of the respect that made him return to Nigeria for the meeting.
“But we have a programme, which is initiated by the Dickson committee. Anything outside that, I will not be part of it,” he added.
Among those who followed him were members of his National Working Committee, led by the Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh; and the National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo.
Later, Jonathan, who spoke with journalists after the exit of Sheriff and his team, described what happened as unfortunate.
He nevertheless said the meeting would go ahead with the hope of ending the crisis in the party.
He announced that he would set up of a 40-member committee, which he said he would head.
Jonathan added that in his absence, either his former Deputy, Namadi Sambo, or Mark would stand in for him to lead the meeting.
He explained that the proposed committee would have six members of the BoT, six members to be drawn from both Sheriff and Makarfi groups, all the governors, Ekweremadu and other members from the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Nigerians still believe in PDP, says Jonathan
Meanwhile, the former President, on Thursday, submitted that Nigerians still believed in the PDP.
The former President spoke at the ongoing PDP Stakeholders Meeting in Abuja.
He stated that the former ruling party remained the only hope for the country, pleading with its members to bury their differences in order to end the crisis bedevilling it.
“We shall overcome the challenges and I can assure you that the PDP will rise again,” he said.