PDP’s Power Game

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Sheriff

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It is now apparent that the gladiators in the leadership tussle rocking the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party are not willing to shift from their positions as the fight for the soul of the party intensifies in court and political arena

By Olu Ojewale  |  Dec 12, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is not about to be settled soon. The two rival groups fighting for the soul of the party seem to have declared a fight-to-the-finish war against each other. Apart from being in court over the conflict, they are also threatening each other with jail sentence.

Both parties to the conflict were at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, on Thursday, December 1.

However, the Appeal Court adjourned its hearing in the leadership tussle within the party to December 15. A three member panel of justices led by Ibrahim Salauwa gave the ruling following an application by Akin Olujimi, counsel to Sheriff faction of the party.

Olujimi had requested an adjournment by the court to allow the Port Harcourt division of the appellate court conclude on a similar application. He argued that the adjournment would prevent the emergence of contrasting judgments in the matter.

But Emmanuel Ukala, counsel representing the Makarfi faction, opposed the application. Therefore, the appellate court sought a few hours adjournment after which it would listen to the arguments of both parties.

After about six hours, Ibrahim said the court would have to adjourn and fix another date to listen to the arguments. He acknowledged the efforts of all the parties in the case for their patience in waiting and said the case had been adjourned to December 15.

The Makarfi-led faction filed the application at the Abuja division of the appellate court, while Sheriff filed the one at the Port Harcourt division.

Makarfi is seeking to upturn the judgement handed down by Justice Okon Abang of the federal high court in Abuja on June 30, which recognised Sheriff as national chairman of the party. Abang had in the judgement, ruled that Sheriff had the authority to take decisions for the party, including briefing of lawyers to represent the interest of the PDP in court.

Sheriff on his part, asked the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt to nullify the judgement by a high court in the state, presided over by Ahmed Liman which validated the national convention where Makarfi was elected head of the PDP caretaker committee.

The Port Harcourt division of the court gave no specific date for its next hearing during the last sitting on November 24.

While the gladiators are entangled with legal fireworks, they seem not to be neglecting any available means of getting at each others’ jugular. Just last Tuesday, November 29, Makarfi, who heads the national caretaker committee of the PDP, warned Sheriff to stop parading himself as the party’s national chairman or risk imprisonment.

 Dayo Adeyeye, spokesman of the committee, in a statement, on Tuesday, said Sheriff’s consistent claim to the office was a continuation of his “plans to sustain mayhem” in the party.

The statement said in part: “We wish to draw the attention of all Nigerians to the judgement delivered by Justice Valentine Ashi of the FCT high court, which states clearly that Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff was never and is not the PDP national chairman.

“It is instructive to note that Modu-Sheriff and his team of circus performers have not deemed it fit to appeal the court judgement. The courts have spoken, and their pronouncements are binding. However, those who wish to spend the rest of their lives behind prison bars may continue to utter heresy against the court. We hope their children would be proud to bear the family names of convicts.”

Makarfi
Makarfi

Besides, the committee said it was morally wrong for the Sheriff group to blame the committee for the PDP’s loss in Edo and Ondo governorship elections. It alleged that Sheriff and Jimoh Ibrahim, his purported candidate for the Ondo State governorship election, were “agents of darkness” used by the All Progressives Congress, APC, to cause confusion and frustrate the PDP in the election, and should be blamed for impunity.

In a prompt reaction, Cairo Ojougboh, deputy national chairman for the Sheriff-led faction, said it was the Makarfi group that was risking jail sentence, claiming that forms 48 and 49 had already been issued by an Abuja federal high court against the group.

Perhaps, to demonstrate that the group is in control of the party apparatus, the Sheriff action of the PDP in Ondo State summoned Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Azeez Olubboyo, his deputy and Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, governorship candidate in the November 26 election, to appear before its disciplinary committee for anti-party activities.

Mimiko allegedly contravened the constitution of the party through his actions during the Saturday’s poll.

Poroye Biyi, factional chairman of the party in the state, said he had constituted a seven-man committee to look into their activities before and during the governorship poll.

In a statement issued by Yemi Akintomide, director of publicity, Biyi promised that the committee would investigate all activities of Mimiko and others.

According to the statement, Mimiko and others who are to appear before the committee breached Section 7 (3) (c) of the party’s constitution which provides that the party shall adhere “to the policy of the rotation and zoning of party and public elective offices in pursuance to the principle of equity, justice and fairness.”

The statement said in part: “the seven-man committee which is headed by Senator Omololu Meroyi, will investigate all actions of individuals or group of persons that were in breach of the party’s constitution and its fundamental objectives which led to the failure of the party in the last governorship election.”

The party, had before the November 26 governorship election, enmeshed in serious internal crisis, a development which caused confusion on its choice of candidate for the election.

The Makarfi faction had earlier presented Jegede as its candidate for the election, but the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, acting on a court judgement obtained by the Sheriff group, initially substituted his name with that Jimoh Ibrahim who was from the Sheriff’s faction.

However, Jegede who appealed against the judgment, got justice at both the Appeal and Supreme Courts in less than 48 hours to the election.

The statement added that “the committee shall look into the acts and commissions of government which impacted the people including public servants negatively, culminating into people’s anger and rejection which affected the electoral fortunes of the party.”

“The committee shall also investigate the conduct of certain individuals in the disbursement of the resources of the party in the mobilisation of members for the election,” the statement added.

Others summoned to appear before the committee are Jumoke Akindele, speaker of the House of Assembly; Clement Faboyede, Fatai Adams, Banji Okunomo, John Ola Mafo, Wole Ogunyemi, Bamiduro Dada, Akin Akinbobola and all commissioners in Mimiko’s cabinet.

The statement said all the concerned persons should appear before the committee as from Thursday, December 1.

But the Makarfi faction had on Tuesday, November 29, suspended leaders of the Sheriff’s faction including Poroye and Meroyi.

A statement by Banji Okunomo, publicity secretary of the faction, said the party took the decision after an emergency meeting of its State Working Committee, SWC.

He said the action of the SWC was in line with section 57 of the constitution of the PDP, adding that the party leadership acted based on the powers conferred on the SWC.

Others suspended from the party are Ebenezer Alabi who was the running mate to Jimoh Ibrahim, Bakkita Bello, former speaker of the House of Assembly, Dare Emiola, former deputy speaker, Sola Ebiseni, former commissioner for the Environment, Olu Ogunye, Yemi Ajonibode and 14 others.

Okunomo said based on the Court of Appeal judgment, “Biyi Poroye does not only cease to be an executive of the party as he claimed, but he is no longer a leader of the PDP.”

He said that the suspended members were expected to appear before the disciplinary committee of the party on Monday, December 5.

As supporters of each faction continue to intensify the conflict, it appears the centre of gravity in the PDP is gradually eroding.

Irked by the perennial internal crisis rocking the leadership of the party, Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, perhaps, out of irritation announced on Wednesday, November 30, that he would consider dumping the party for another party in 2018.

Fayose, who gave the hint during a meeting with the Suppliers’ Association of Nigeria, Ikere chapter, said: “I don’t know the platform I will use for the 2018 election yet, but at the appropriate time I will tell you.” The governor, while decrying the leadership tussle in the party said that the PDP had been infiltrated by “charlatans.”

From all indications, it appears the leadership crisis dividing the party may sustain until the next general election in 2019, that is, if the founding fathers of the PDP refuse to step in. As it is, there seems to be no peace in sight for the erstwhile ruling party.

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