From Taiwo Amodu, Abuja
Anxious staff of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP’s) national secretariat heaved a sigh of relief on Tuesday, when former Kaduna State governor and chairman of the party’s interim caretaker committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi formally assumed office.
Before the handover ceremony conducted by the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees, Senator Walid Jubrin, policemen who had laid siege to the gate of its national secretariat had, a week preceding Senator Makarfi’s assumption of office, reopened it to enable the workers gain entry to their various offices. The police had cordoned off Wadata Plaza on May 22, following the leadership tussle, arising from its national convention in Port Harcourt.
Two events happened, simultaneously on May 22. Chieftains of the party who had assembled in Abuja under the aegis of Concerned PDP stakeholders conducted what they called a non-elective convention and had pronounced former deputy senate president, Ibrahim Mantu and former Education Minister, Tunde Adeniran as co-chairman of the Forum.
Mantu in his inaugural remarks made it clear that his forum would not foreclose discussion with those that assembled in Port Harcourt. “This becomes a non-elective convention in respect of court order, and also to enable us have a tete- a- tete with our brothers in Port Harcourt.” In Port-Harcourt, the gathering of governors and top chieftains dissolved the national working committee, led by former Borno State governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and created a caretaker committee with former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Senator Ben Obi as chairman and secretary, respectively.
But the convention did not enjoy the blessing of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff who had earlier at a media briefing announced postponement of the convention. Sheriff premised his action on court orders, asking the party to shelve the convention. He said:
“This is to inform our supporters nationwide, all the delegates to the National Convention in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State that the National
Convention has been suspended.
“This is due to the numerous court cases and the directives from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) not to supervise elections into some offices.
“The 2016 National Convention is suspended to allow time for the cases in court to be resolved. The Party regrets any inconveniences arising from this suspension.”
Justice Hussein Buba of a Federal High court in Lagos had in a restraining order asked the party not to conduct elections into the office of national chairman, national auditor and secretary. The court also restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from monitoring the conduct of any election into the affected offices.
Listed as plaintiffs were incumbent chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, National Secretary, Professor Olawale Oladipo and the National Auditor, Alhaji Fatai Adewale Adeyanju. In the case with suit number FHC/L/CS/61 3/2016, dated May 6, 2016, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the PDP were listed as the 1st and 2nd defendants.
The plaintiffs in their prayers asked for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 2nd defendant from conducting any election into the offices of the National Chairman, National Secretary and National Auditor listed as the 1st, 2nd and 3rd plaintiffs, respectively pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
They also prayed for an order of interlocutory injunction restraining the 1st Defendant/Respondent from monitoring and or recognizing the conduct of any election by the 2nd Defendant/Respondent into the offices of the National Chairman, National Secretary and National Auditor occupied by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Plaintiffs, respectively pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit.
Conflicting court orders
Having lost out in the game of wits between him and the governors in Port Harcourt, Sheriff who was one of the plaintiffs in the suit before Justice Buba, returned to court where he secured a declaratory judgment proclaiming him as the authentic chairman of the party and further restraining the Ahmed Makarfi committee from parading itself as the leadership of the party.
Another court of coordinate jurisdiction, a federal High Court in Port Harcourt equally restrained Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and his dissolved national working committee from laying claim to the leadership of the erstwhile ruling party.
BoT steps in
Towards finding an amicable resolution to the leadership tussle, a statutory organ of the party, the Board of Trustees brokered a peace meeting between the Concerned PDP Stakeholders-led by former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu and former Education Minister, Tunde Adeniran, the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee and the chairman of the dissolved NWC, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. At the expanded caucus meeting of the BoT, where Senator Sheriff was absent, the Concerned PDP Stakeholders agreed to submit itself to the decision of the national convention held in Port-Harcourt which created the caretaker committee.
In the resolutions read by Secretary of the BoT, Chief Ojo Madueke, the meeting urged the Senator Makarfi Committee to expand the scope of its work to accommodate members of the Concerned PDP Stakeholders led by Senator Mantu.
The meeting also resolved to set up a high- powered committee for speedy resolutions of all contending issues. It further resolved that all the groups which had initiated litigations, be directed to withdraw such from the respective courts.
Sheriff had since rejected the resolutions of the party’s expanded caucus. The former Borno governor who spoke to Daily Sun through his media aide, Inua Bwala insisted that by the declaratory judgment of Justice Hussein Buba of the Federal high court in Lagos of Tuesday, he remains the authentic chairman of the party.
“The matter is already in court. So, whatever any step taken is an affront on court pronouncement. “By the party’s constitution, he is the chairman and he hasn’t called a meeting. He has made up his mind to explore the court process. So, whatever decision they take is a nullity.”
The final peace deal
Before Senator Makarfi’s assumption of office on Tuesday, Daily Sun gathered that a peace meeting was held at the instance of the governors and the Board of Trustees, where the Senator Ibrahim Mantu- led PDP Stakeholders’ Forum, restated its stance to work with the Makarfi team, leaving Senator Ali Modu Sheriff in the cold. Daily Sun further gathered that all entreaties made to him have been rebuffed, as he continues to flaunt a court order, and proclaims himself as the authentic chairman of the PDP.
But the embattled former Borno State governor had since been abandoned by majority of the dissolved national working committee.
At the Tuesday handover ceremony held within the precinct of the national secretariat, Uche Secondus who was deputy national chairman in the dissolved national working committee led other members to witness the event. In attendance were Kema Chikwe, Abubakar Mustapha and Victor Kwom, Woman Leader, National Organising Secretary and National Legal Adviser, respectively. The former national youth leader in the dissolved National Working Committee, Abdulahi Maibasira also graced the occasion. Absent along with Senator Sheriff were Professor Wale Oladipo and Wale Adeyanju, former national secretary and national auditor respectively. Checks revealed that the trio were the plaintiffs in the suit that aborted the Port Harcourt convention.
Addressing the workers, the former Kaduna state governor promised to deliver on the assignment his committee has been saddled with and further pleaded for understanding of aggrieved members.
He said: “In the process of doing this, if we have hurt anybody, I as chairman of the caretaker publicly apologize on behalf of everybody.
“Let them in the spirit of democracy also embrace dialogue and accommodate each other and move the party forward.”
Adamant Sheriff belches smoke
Sheriff who has remained intransigent has since turned the joy of helpless PDP workers and its ordinary faithful into ashes in their mouths. The former Borno governor who spoke through his media aide, Inua Bwala claimed that by virtue of the pronouncement of Justice Hussein Buba, he remains the authentic chairman of the erstwhile ruling party. He further dismissed the caretaker committee put in place by the highest organ of his party, the national convention, as a mere contraption.
He said: ‘’ “While we await the verdicts of the courts, we wish to state that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff is and remains the NationalChairman of the party, until otherwise declared by the courts.
“We allowed the charade to go on at the secretariat without any form of challenge in strict obedience to careful pronouncement on the matter, but we must also state that there is no gathering of groups or individuals, however powerful, such groups or individuals may be, that can be said to take precedence over the law.
“For the avoidance of doubts, we state categorically that what took place at the PDP secretariat on Tuesday June 7, 2016 was a total disregard to court orders and an extension of the impunity for which the party has been accused of and which has taken the party to where it is today. “The public should disregard all the actions and pronouncements.”