Ac­cept me as PDP leader, Makarfi tells Sher­iff

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Muideen Olaniyi

In the last two months, con­flict­ing judg­ments by courts of co­or­di­nate ju­ris­dic­tion have be­come the norm in the lead­ing op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP), which was once an in­flu­en­tial po­lit­i­cal party in Nige­ria.

The party has con­tin­ued to search for sta­bil­ity since May 21 when its spine was torn apart dur­ing a na­tional con­ven­tion of the op­po­si­tion party in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

It was a day the PDP gov­er­nors parted ways with the em­bat­tled chair­man, Sen Ali Modu Sher­iff, and en­dorsed Sen­a­tor Ahmed Makarfi-led care­taker com­mit­tee to steer the man­tle of lead­er­ship for three months, with a man­date to or­ga­nize a fresh na­tional con­ven­tion to pro­duce new set of lead­ers for the once pow­er­ful PDP.

Since then, PDP stal­warts have trans­formed court rooms into a bee­hive of ac­tiv­i­ties, show­cas­ing var­i­ous claims in search of le­git­i­macy.

Sher­iff, who was brought in to com­plete the ten­ure of Adamu Mua’zu which ex­pired in May this year, had re­fused to stop his quest to lead the PDP, in­sist­ing that the con­sti­tu­tion of the PDP must be re­spected.

A Lagos court rul­ing, which de­clared him as the au­then­tic chair­man of the party, em­bold­ened his quest as he con­tin­ued to pa­rade him­self as the real “Sher­iff” of Wa­data House.

In fact, Sher­iff de­clared the gov­er­nor­ship pri­mary elec­tion in Edo State that pro­duced Pas­tor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as il­le­gal and sub­se­quently con­sti­tuted an ad hoc del­e­gates com­mit­tee led by a for­mer deputy gov­er­nor of Oyo State, Al­haji Hazeem Gbo­larumi, to con­duct a fresh one.

Po­lice, how­ever, sealed the venue of his pri­mary elec­tion.

Else­where, a Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory (FCT) High Court sit­ting in Apo, how­ever, was re­ported to have set aside the amend­ment of the PDP Con­sti­tu­tion.

The pre­sid­ing judge, Jus­tice Valen­tine Ashi, in his rul­ing, de­clared all ac­tions car­ried out with the said con­sti­tu­tion as il­le­gal.

The fol­low­ing day, an­other FCT High Court presided over by Jus­tice Hus­seini Baba dis­missed a suit filed by Sher­iff seek­ing to be de­clared PDP chair­man, de­scrib­ing him as a busy body.

The judge struck out the case af­ter ma­jor­ity of the for­mer Na­tional Work­ing Com­mit­tee (NWC) mem­bers who Sher­iff joined as coplain­tiff de­nied him in court, stat­ing that they were not party to his bid to re­in­state him­self into of­fice.

But about the same time, Jus­tice Okon Abang of the Fed­eral High Court, Abuja or­dered the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) to recog­nise the gov­er­nor­ship can­di­dates from the Ali Modu Sher­iff’s fac­tion.

The court also or­dered INEC not to re­ceive any list from any other per­son re­gard­ing the Edo and Ondo gov­er­nor­ship pri­maries, ex­cept Sher­iff’s.

Jus­tice Abang also said “re­ject and ig­nore any ac­tiv­ity in­clud­ing pri­mary elec­tions/ con­gresses for the nom­i­na­tion of can­di­dates for the gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tions in Edo and Ondo states, pur­port­edly con­ducted on be­half of the 2nd de­fen­dant (PDP) by any other per­sons or group of per­sons other than the Sher­iff group.”

Just as the dust from the two courts in Abuja was set­tling down, a Fed­eral High Court in Port Harcourt, presided over by Jus­tice Ab­dul­lahi Li­man, on Mon­day, up­held the re­moval of Sen­a­tor Sher­iff as the PDP na­tional chair­man.

The court also de­clared that the May 21, 2016 na­tional con­ven­tion of the PDP was duly con­sti­tuted and the de­ci­sions taken were valid.

Jus­tice Li­man af­firmed that the dis­so­lu­tion of the Na­tional Work­ing Com­mit­tee (NWC) and the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (NEC) by the con­ven­tion were valid.

In his judg­ment on the suit filed by the PDP against Sen Sher­iff and oth­ers, Jus­tice Li­man de­clared that the ap­point­ment of the care­taker com­mit­tee of the PDP, headed by a for­mer gov­er­nor of Kaduna State, Sen­a­tor Makarfi, to over­see the af­fairs of the party was le­gal and in line with the pro­vi­sions of the PDP Con­sti­tu­tion, say­ing that Ar­ti­cle 31 (1) of the PDP Con­sti­tu­tion vested the pow­ers to con­vene a na­tional con­ven­tion on the NEC of the party.

The court held that pur­suant to the con­sti­tu­tion of the party, the for­mer na­tional chair­man (Sher­iff) had no pow­ers to uni­lat­er­ally post­pone the prop­erly con­sti­tuted na­tional con­ven­tion on a day all del­e­gates had con­verged on Port Harcourt, the host city.

But in a swift re­ac­tion, the em­bat­tled Sher­iff de­scribed the Port Harcourt judg­ment as “Ju­di­cial coup d’état” in­sist­ing that as a law abid­ing politi­cian, he will pro­ceed to the Ap­peal Court for clear in­ter­pre­ta­tion.

Sher­iff, who ad­dressed a press con­fer­ence in Abuja af­ter the ver­dict, said that the or­der of the Fed­eral High Court, sit­ting in Abuja, which au­then­ti­cated his po­si­tion as chair­man sub­sisted, point­ing out that the court’s or­der can­not be set aside by a court of equal ju­ris­dic­tion.

He said that only the Court of Ap­peal can up­turn the rul­ing of a high court, adding: “We dis­agree with that judg­ment com­pletely. We’ve asked our lawyers to im­me­di­ately file an ap­peal and also ask the same Fed­eral High Court for stay of ex­e­cu­tion be­cause there are three or­ders be­fore his (judge’s) own, which are of the same co­or­di­nate ju­ris­dic­tion.

“Un­less and un­til the Court of Ap­peal, which is a higher court, makes a pro­nounce­ment con­trary to what we have, I still re­main the chair­man.

“The court that gave judg­ment in Abuja, last week, and the Fed­eral High Court in Lagos and the Port Harcourt court have same com­pe­tent ju­ris­dic­tion,” said Sher­iff.

Ahead of the Port Harcourt con­ven­tion, a Fed­eral High Court in Lagos, presided over by Jus­tice I.N. Buba, had on May 20, a day to the con­ven­tion that pro­duced the Makarfi-led care­taker com­mit­tee, re­strained the PDP from con­duct­ing elec­tions into the of­fices of na­tional chair­man, na­tional sec­re­tary and na­tional au­di­tor of the party.

Be­fore then, an Abuja High Court, had on May 19, di­rected that there should be no elec­tion for 18 of­fices, in­clud­ing that of the deputy na­tional chair­man, na­tional trea­surer, le­gal ad­viser, deputy le­gal ad­viser, deputy na­tional trea­surer, deputy na­tional au­di­tor, youth leader, deputy youth leader, na­tional or­gan­is­ing sec­re­tary, deputy na­tional or­gan­is­ing sec­re­tary, na­tional women leader, deputy na­tional women leader, deputy fi­nan­cial sec­re­tary and deputy na­tional sec­re­tary.

But re­act­ing to Mon­day’s judg­ment, Makarfi, who voiced de­light, ap­pealed to Sher­iff and his fol­low­ers to join him with a view to mov­ing the party for­ward.

Now that the cen­tre can no longer hold in the PDP, an­a­lysts be­lieve that the party will re­main in co­matose un­less the courts and the po­lit­i­cal class re­trace their steps.

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