By Ayo Fadimu
Last week’s ruling by the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt which recognized Senator Ali-Modu Sheriff as the authentic National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has divided the ranks of the party’s governors and senators Nigerian NewsDirect has learnt
In the judgement, Justices B.G Sanga and A.B Gumel held that the convention of the party in Port Harcourt disobeyed the court order and as such, was illegal. But Justice T. S. Orji-Abadua while delivering a minority ruling 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.
The court 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).
Justice Orji-Abadua 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.
Orji-Abadua stated that Sheriff had no powers to cancel PDP national convention. She awarded a cost of N100, 000 against Sheriff.
Minutes after the judgement was delivered, the PDPs governors’ forum, led by Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose rejected the judgement and described it as “miscarriage of justice” and vowed that the judgement would be contested at the Supreme Court.
However, sources close to Nigerian NewsDirect revealed that some senators majorly from North-East part of the country where Sheriff hails from have been mobilising others to support Sheriff and dump Makarfi, who is from North-West.
The only PDP governor is Gombe state governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo who is from North-East
One of the earliest converts is Senator Ben Murray-Bruce who hails from Bayelsa state, where the former President, Goodluck Jonathan also hails from.
Ben Bruce, is a close ally of Bayelsa state governor, Seriake Dickson and a source said that the open support of Ben Bruce is like proverbial hand of Esau but voice of Jacob.
Senator Ben Murray-Bruce has disclosed that he was in support of Ali Modu Sheriff as the National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Ben Bruce said” Concerning the PDP, the current bickering is childish and irrelevant. I am not in support of anymore litigation.
“We will work with Ali Modu Sheriff and go to a convention. Right now, PDP is on a course towards destruction and abiding by the judgment of the court is the only thing that can save us. In the first place, it is never the job of the judiciary to choose the leader of a party.
“I therefore call for an end to the fighting. And I am supporting Ali Modu Sheriff because it is the only way to preserve the party. Right now, what Nigeria has is a one-party state – there is no opposition. Enough is enough. The is the time for PDP to unite, we are a formidable force!”
However, Fayose disagreed with Bruce and described Sheriff’s Friday’s victory as one that would not last, saying whoever celebrated it only celebrated nonsense.
“Sheriff and his gang are only day-dreaming. On our side are the governors, members of the Board of Trustees, the National Assembly caucus, former public office holders, party supporters in the grassroots. If they think they can inherit the party illegally, that is a pipe dream.ý Those planning to invade the PDP secretariat here should be warned. They must not toy with fire.
“Iý received a lot of calls from people over Friday’s judgment and the possibility of the development affecting our candidate here in 2018 poll. I want to assure you all that what they did in Edo and Ondo states cannot happen here. We are still under the leadership of the Senator Ahmed Markafi-led National Caretaker Committee and we are taking the matter to the Supreme Court.
“Remember that when we got a judgment from the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt declaring Sheriff’s claim to the leadership of the party illegal, null and void, Sheriff and his group were still going about parading themselves as leaders of the party. This is because they know that the judgment of the high court is not the last on the matter. So also the appellate court judgment of Friday is not the final on the issue. The Supreme Court is there and it is the apex court in the country and we are taking the matter there.
“ýAs for the chances of our candidate in next year’s poll. God is giving us an expected end and that is victory over the All Progressives Congress and their cohorts. Three things are critical to winning election namely, the people, the party and the candidate. Of these three, the people are the most important and those that are with us are more than those that are with our opponents.
“Already, our opponents are afraid and that is why they wanted to set Ekiti workers against me by having our allocation seized some weeks ago. We thank God that it has been released now. As for the candidate we will pick, it is going to be a credible person, a winner and our political base is as solid as ever,” he said.
On what would be his next line of action if the Supreme Court’s decision does not favour his group or is delayed in a way that itý could affect preparations for 2018 governorship poll, Fayose said people should wait until then.
“When we get to the bridge, we will cross it. When your wife is pregnant, you wait until the baby is born to know the name to give it. The essential thing is that we are not ruffled and we have the people on our side and we are also giving them our best by our service to them,” he noted.ý
Also, Chairman South South PDP Forum Lagos State. Engr Sunday Ekanem noted that the decision of the Court of Appeal was a split decision.
“ I will go with the minority judgment The moment Modu Sheriff started talking that he will not appeal the Judgement of the Court of Appeal and the long adjournment for Judgment I knew that Markafi caretaker will lose the case. The case was a travesty and miscarriage of justice” Ekanem told Nigerian NewsDirect
Ekanem said further, “from the actions of Modu Sheriff, it seems he is out to destroy the PDP, look at his role in Ondo State governorship election, he presented an underdog and made sure that the PDP lost that state.
Modu Sheriff is working for the APC; he is a commander without soldiers”.
“The Judgement of the Court of Appeal was more political The National Caretaker should appeal the Judgement of the Court of Appeal. I want to appeal to PDP members to remain calm. The Party should set in motion plan B” Ekanem advised.