The long drawn controversy over the authentic leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has taken another dramatic twist, as the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt Friday, February 17, 2015, confirmed former Borno State governor Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the national chairman of the PDP.
The three Justices of the Port Harcourt Court Appeal in a split decision of Two to One, gave Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff the judgment affirming him as the substantive Chairman of the PDP and his faction, the authentic group mandated to represent the party and in so doing, the appellate Court set aside a Federal High Court judgment delivered Justice Mohammed Liman which recognized Senator Ahmed Makarfi as the chairman of the party in 2016.
Mr. Sheriff had gone to the Appeal Court to challenge the judgment of Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, delivered on July 4, 2016, which upheld the appointment of Ahmed Makarfi as the Chairman, PDP National Caretaker Committee.
The Port Harcourt Appeal Court, in a split decision, ruled that it was illegal to replace the Sheriff-led National Working Committee with the Makarfi-led caretaker committee. Two out of the three-member panel of justices sided with the pro-Sheriff judgment, while the other ruled in favour of Mr. Makarfi’s faction.
Justice B.G. Sanga, who delivered the lead judgment, said that the PDP failed to follow the provisions of its constitution when it opted to remove Mr. Sheriff and the national working committee.
The judge said the party didn’t pass a vote of no confidence on Mr. Sheriff and his committee as provided by the Article 47(3) of the party constitution, and that the national working committee was not put on notice. Justice Sanga held that it was an “error” for the lower court presided over by Justice Liman to rule that the appellant, Mr. Sheriff, abused the court process when he postponed the PDP National Convention that was scheduled to take place on May 21, 2016, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Another of the Appeal Court judges, Justice A. A. Gumel, dismissed as being incompetent, the preliminary objection filed by the PDP against the suit. Justice Gumel held that Mr. Sheriff and his executive cannot be removed until August 2017, except the party holds an election.
However, Justice T.S. Orji-Abadua, who gave a dissenting judgment, held that Mr. Sherriff was only appointed in an acting capacity, pending election.
Justice Orji-Abadua noted that the PDP national convention was in violation of any court order since it was in line with the 2012 amended constitution of the party.
She said, “Going by Article 33(3) of the PDP Constitution, Sheriff does not possess overriding powers over the PDP National Executive Council and therefore, had no right to unilaterally cancel the May 21, 2016, convention.
She further said that Sheriff erroneously and unwittingly absented himself from the May 21 convention after being screened, which prompted the party to invoke Article 31(1) of its Constitution and set up a caretaker committee.
She also held that Article 47 did not make it mandatory for the PDP to pass a vote of confidence before removing its officers and therefore, upheld the outcome of the convention and the caretaker committee, adding that Sheriff had no powers to cancel PDP national convention.
She had then awarded a cost of N100, 000 against Sheriff.
The court in its majority ruling however awarded N100, 000 to Sheriff, to be borne by the nullified national caretaker committee’s Chairman, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, the PDP, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Inspector-General of Police and Department of State Service (DSS).
Mr. Sheriff and Mr. Makarfi, former governors of Borno and Kaduna states respectively, have been engaged in a prolonged leadership tussle which has factionalised the party and caused many of its leaders to decamp to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
DELTA BOILS OVER AS FACTIONS CLASH
Meanwhile, the prolonged leadership crisis in the PDP appears to have boiled over in Delta State, where the S/South Deputy National Chairman loyal to the victorious Ali Modu Sheriff faction, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh is presently embroiled in simmering power tussle with the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa led PDP under the state Chairmanship of Barrister Kingsley Esiso, which is loyal to the Senator Ahmed Markafi faction.
A meeting scheduled by the Ali Modu Sheriff faction in Asaba, Delta State in Grand Hotel, Asaba, a couple of days to the Port Harcourt Appeal Court judgment, almost resulted in a bloody clash in Asaba when thugs allegedly hired by Delta state government invaded the Grand Hotel in Asaba, ostensibly to disrupt the meeting by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and his factional members and supporters that was scheduled to hold in the hotel.
Eye witness reports claim that trouble started around 10am Tuesday, February 14, when PDP members, party elders, women, youths, leaders and supporters from S/South loyal to Ali Modu Sheriff and led by the party’s Deputy National chairman, Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh, who had gathered at the popular Grand Hotels, Asaba waiting for the arrival of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff and his entourage to kick off a town hall meeting, were allegedly attacked by suspected political thugs allegedly working under the instructions of governor Okowa and who were led by two aides to the governor, on security and on youths, who had stormed the venue with dangerous weapons and caused fracas in the environment.
The suspected thugs were said to have insisted that the meeting must not hold in the hotel or anywhere in the state capital and had threatened to cause maximum mayhem, until Dr. Cairo Ojuogboh had reportedly appeared and openly challenged the mob, but opted to let peace reign by tactfully refraining from engaging the invaders with commensurate force, even as the security agents had promptly intervened to save the situation, thus prompting the town hall meeting to be immediately relocated to Agbor.
Addressing PDP leaders, elders, women, men, youths and supporters at the Royal Courtyard Hotels, Agbor, Ika south local government area of the state, a facility belonging to Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, where the meeting was relocated to, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, thanked all members of the party for not taking laws into their hands by responding to what he called a provocative attack on the party by the suspected hired thugs. adding that he never bargained to lead the party because he was begged to served based on his pedigree.
According to the party national chairman, he agreed to serve the party after much persuasion by some PDP Governors, Senators and other leaders of the party saying that, “I am out to reposition the PDP, I am out to return the party to the grassroots, who are the original owners because the era of impunity in the party is over. I have the mandate of the people to lead the party. I am not the kind of person that could be pushed around by those who think they own the party. I want to assure you all PDP will form national government in 2019, the people will be made to pick those that will fly the party’s flag at general elections.”
Expressing hope that the PDP would form national government in 2019, he held that the people would be made to pick those that would fly the party’s flag at general elections. He decried that the PDP had 29 governors at a time but now has 16 governors due to impunity, insisting that he would preside over national convention of the party whenever it is held.
While noting that PDP had suffered many defeats due to impunity, Sheriff insisted that he would preside over national convention of the party whenever it is held and encouraged party members to remain committed and steadfast.
In his remarks, the party’s Deputy National chairman, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, who is also Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s kinsman from Ika South, while Okowa hials from Ika Noth East in the same Ika Federal Constituency, described the factional PDP national chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff as a tested and trusted party man that can lead the party to victory.
Ojougboh, who later, in an interview with an online portal, accused Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of sponsoring thugs to disrupt the party town hall meeting schedule at Grand Hotel Asaba, Delta State, because of what the outcome of the town hall meeting will do to his dwindling hold on some of the members of the party in Delta, assured that Senator Modu Sheriff was the authentic leader of the PDP and there was no faction in the Party.
In his word: “Without mincing words I can tell you that it was Governor Ifeanyi Okowa that sent thugs to disrupt our meetings at Asaba, but we left the venue for him quietly because we don’t want to fight with him, which could have led to the breakdown of law and order but we want our people to judge him by his actions,.
“We are not diplomatic about it; it was Governor Ifeanyi Okowa that sent his thugs to disrupt the meeting of PDP party faithful, which is a very sad commentary. He is afraid, so we took it to Agbor. And I can tell you that the meeting is the most successful political party meeting ever held in Delta State. We had over 5000 PDP faithful who came to the meeting in Agbor.It was very successful”, he affirmed.
He thanked members for the support and their trust in the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff led PDP national executive adding that despite the attacks by the hired thugs the party was still able to mobilize to Agbor for the meeting.
Also speaking at the meeting, the factional Delta state chairman of the party, Austin Ogbaburhon said the hosting of the town hall meeting in the state would raise the hope of members of the party in the state and pledged the loyalty of the party in the state, adding that they were resolute in their support for the leadership of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
On her part, Mrs. Marian Ali who is a member of Board of Trustee, (BoT) of the party and wife of former national chairman of the party, Alhaji Ahmadu Ali, said the gathering was the celebration of love, adding that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has displayed great love for the party saying nothing would make them go back on their support for Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
The meeting was attended by E.J. Agbonayima, member, House of Representatives from Edo; PDP guber candidate in last Edo election and former Majority Leader in the Edo State House of Assembly, Mr. Mathew Iduoriyekemwen, who later emerged victorious at the Ali Modu Sheriff organized PDP Primaries for the September 2016, Edo state governorship election, among other loyalists.