A former Special Adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on Political Matters, Alhaji Ahmed Gulak, on Wednesday declared himself as the substantive chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party.
Gulak made the declaration inside the National Working Committee Hall at the PDP’s national secretariat in Abuja.
He spoke in company with his loyalists, which included former Senior Special Assistant to Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, and a former Commissioner in Bayelsa State, Chief Ayakeme Whisky.
Gulak said he decided to take over the leadership of the party following the court order of December 16, 2015, which asked the party to name a party member from the North-East to replace former chairman of the party, Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu.
Gulak told the cheering crowd, which included workers at the secretariat, that the NWC must work with him in order to move the party forward.
He berated the acting national chairman Uche Secondus-led NWC for its refusal to obey the court ruling, which ordered that a new chairman be appointed from the North-East.
The ex-presidential adviser said the NWC also lost in its bid to suspend the judgment, pointing out that the court refused to grant its request for a stay of execution.
He said, “We are here today in accordance with the court judgment of December 16, 2015 and the court ruling of today (Wednesday), striking out the motion for a stay of execution, filed by the defendants/applicants.
“The court order of December 16, 2015 was that within 14 days, my humble self or any other person from the North-East Zone be appointed to replace Mu’azu, who resigned his position as the National Chairman of our party on May 20, 2015.
“By the operation of the law and the court order, I now assume duty as the national chairman of our great party, especially as the court has today struck out the motion for a stay of execution.”
Gulak added that based on his and his supporters’ commitment and loyalty to the party, they could not continue to leave it without a head.
The former Jonathan’s aide said the failure to assume duty as the national chairman would leave the party organs, especially the NWC, the National Executive Committee and National Caucus, improperly constituted.
While saying the struggle wasn’t about himself, he said his assumption of office was aimed at preparing the ground for the NEC to meet and take appropriate decisions for the party.
“It should not be seen as a contention against anybody or group of persons. I crave the indulgence of the other NWC members to partner positively with me in our efforts to pick up the pieces and rebuild our party,” he added.
Gulak said he had set up an 11-man committee, headed by Mr. Abdullahi Ohioma from Kogi State, to look into the affairs of the party.
Other members of the committee are Dr. Sylvanus Opusunji, Chuma Nnaji, Mohammed Kachalla, Jonathan Asake, Udo Ekpeyong and Moshood Salvador.
The rest are Ilya Yunana, Ahmed Gusau and Denis Alonge while the National Auditor, Mr. Abdulfatah Adeyanju, will serve as the secretary.
He gave the committee 14 days within which to submit its report.
Ekpeyong has, however, disassociated himself from the committee, saying the members of the party from the North-East would settle their grievances with the party.
It was gathered that most of the deputies of the NWC members had backed Gulak, especially on his decision to probe the finances of the party.
The Gulak team later visited the Legacy House, to inspect the facilities in the building.
Members of the NWC were meeting at the Legacy House when the Gulak team visited.
In its reaction, the NWC, which spoke through the National Legal Adviser, Mr. Victor Kwon, said the court didn’t pronounce Gulak as the substantive chairman of the party.
He described Gulak as a fifth columnist, who, he said, was being used by some people to destabilise the party.
Kwon said, “It (court) said a person from the North-East be made to complete the tenure of the former chairman.
“We have filed an appeal, which is pending at the Court of Appeal and until the appeal is heard, the acting chairman stays in office.”
The legal adviser stated that the party hadn’t received any notice that its application, seeking a stay of execution, had been dismissed.
He said the party was already consulting on who to be made its chairman, stressing that the meetings of the National Caucus, BoT and the NEC, would be called soon to pick a substantive chairman for the party.
Asked why it was difficult for the party to obey its own constitution, he said the section of the constitution that mandated the party to act didn’t give a time lag.
Section 47(6) of the party constitution says, “Where a vacancy occurs in any of the offices of the party, the executive committee at the appropriate level shall appoint another person from the area or the zone where the officer originates from, pending the conduct of the election to fill the vacancy.”
The party had fixed March 19 for its national convention, when its national officers are expected to be elected.
Also speaking, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Alhaji Abdulahi Jalo, said anyone aspiring to lead the party must have the support of the party from the zone.
He said Gulak was not supported by the party from the zone.