From Judex Okoro, Calabar
Cross River PDP stakeholders have hailed the Supreme Court ruling on the authenticity of various elective congresses for wards and local government chapters held by Governor Ben Ayade and National Assembly members’ factions.
Governor Ben Ayade and the NASS members have been engaged in a battle over the control of the party’s structure, leading to the holding of parallel congresses that produced parallel wards and local government chapter executives.
As the struggle raged, Rt Hon. Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe, representing Ogoja/Yala federal constituency, and one of the senatorial aspirants, approached the federal high court, Port Harcourt division, to ask for declarations touching on the validity of which list was to be used at the party primaries.
In its ruling, the court granted Hon Jarigbe’s reliefs, finding that the lists of delegates presented by him were the ones authenticated by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and approved by the National Organising Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Dissatisfied with the judgment, the state leadership of the PDP appealed the decision, with the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt affirming the decision of the lower court.
Still not satisfied with the appeal decision, Governor Ayade’s faction of the party had gone to the Supreme Court, which on January 6 upheld the ruling of the lower court, striking out the PDP’s appeal on the ward and chapter exco list.
The Supreme Court ordered the parties to bear their respective cost in this matter. It was a unanimous decision by all the judges.
Speaking to reporters in Calabar on Wednesday shortly after the ruling, a member of the state PDP Caretaker Committee, Chief Austine Edibe, said: ‘The Supreme Court ruling shows that the people’s will shall always prevail. For us, the judiciary has once again shown that they are the last hope of the common man as they have risen to the occasion.
‘The list the Supreme Court has authenticated emanated from various wards and local governments and are all Cross Riverians. So, we have tested the validity of the process and the court said this is the valid process. This, therefore, has put paid to all doubts and controversies surrounding the congresses.
‘Now is the time for us to come together as one family and rebuild the party. We expect the governor to call for a meeting of all factions and take decisions on the way forward.’
Also reacting, the former PDP National Publicity Secretary and a former state commissioner, Venatius A Ikem, Esq, in a statement in Calabar, commended the National Assembly Caucus of Cross River State for ‘the support given to the struggle for participatory democracy to prevail in our body politic and especially in the last congresses of the party.’
Ikem, who doubles as the Director-General of Jarigbe Agom Jarigbe Campaign Council, said the task of rebuilding the party to accommodate everyone as symbolised in the party logo remains daunting.
Congratulating the wards and local government executive committees in the 196 wards and 18 Local Government Areas for the victory at the Supreme Court on the vexed issue of the authenticity of the congresses, he advised them to brace up and live up to the expectations of the people by offering credible leadership devoid of bitterness and divisiveness, despite the altercations of the last 11 months or so.
‘Remember that no meaningful development can take place in an atmosphere of chaos. You must therefore rededicate yourselves to work towards achieving a tranquil political environment within the party that is favourable to peaceful coexistence and consequential development,’ he advised.
‘You must work to embrace all shades of opinion in the party in your respective wards and chapters so that even none members will be encouraged to join us and grow the party’s strength, and remember that the challenge of making peace is more difficult than winning a “war”.’
Another stakeholder, Ntufam John Egbe, 62, said the Supreme Court has finally settled the leadership tussle at ward and local government chapters as it has validated the congresses as approved by the National Executive Committee and National Working Committee.
Egbe, from Abi chapter, said the victory at the Supreme Court is a victory for democracy, adding that it is unfortunate that a party had resorted to infighting.
Daily Sun investigations had revealed that prior to the ruling, some stakeholders had relocated to Abuja, with others going into hiding for fear of the outcome.
At the party secretariat at Murtala Mohammed Highway, Calabar, the party office was a shadow of itself as key officers were not around, with the few staff members on ground expressing worry at the outcome of the court case.
A security personnel, who spoke off the record, said: ‘Honestly, I am afraid of tomorrow’s judgement because I dont know which faction would win and what would be the fate of the party in the state after the ruling.
‘You can see this has affected us so much that the party has been neglected and no welfare even during this last Christmas season because we don’t know where to go so you wouldn’t be tagged a traitor.’
Some stakeholders, who did not want their names in print, had admitted that they were worried and were at a loss as to which direction the judgement would go, saying they would wait for to see the outcome of the ruling.
A top government official had said: ‘I would be surprised if the ruling goes in our favour [Ayade’s faction] because we had lost at both high court and appeal. So, it would be miraculous if we scale the final hurdle. To me, it means God is really in our favour.
‘But if it comes otherwise, then we should take it and move on as one family, while I expect those who took the matter in the first instance to come back home and we start building the party,’ he’d said.