The 14-month legal battle in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has finally come to a conclusion. The verdict of the Supreme Court put an end to the crisis. SAMUEL OGIDAN analyses the scenario
The Supreme Court judgment has finally put an end to the 14-month legal battle in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), between Ahmed Makarfi and Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff. The leadership tussle, which caused a lot of damages to the party, was finally put to rest on Wednesday last week. The emergence of Sheriff as the chairman of the party to complete the tenure of Adamu Ma’uzu, was like a cannon detonated at the wrong time. It set the party at a dangerous edge that almost tilted into a bottomless precipice.
When the tenure of Sheriff lapsed sometime in March last year, the party leadership extended his tenure by three months in order to organise a convention to usher in new leaders, but that singular gesture set PDP on a fast lane of endless crisis, which almost crashed the party described as the largest in Africa.
The party former National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, who started the court action against the Party joined Sheriff in the case, insisting that his tenure and that of the former Chairman and former National Auditor has not expired. And the High Court in Lagos declared that the party should not conduct election into these positions during its convention.
The party, however, played a fast one on Sheriff and his National Working Committee (NWC), it distances itself from conducting election into any position at the convention, that took place in Port Harcourt.
And when the convention went awry, because of the underground battle between Sheriff and some of the governors, instead of him to take a definite position at the convention ground, he went and organised a press conference at his hotel in Port Harcourt, declaring that he had cancelled the convention, forgoting that the convention can only be cancelled at the convention ground and not by the decision of an individual.
According to the party Constitution, in the absence of a Chairman, the Deputy takes over the affairs of the party. In the absence of Sheriff at the Convention, the Deputy, Uche Secondus took over the affairs at the convention, and the convention, which is the highest organ of the party sacked Sheriff and put a National Caretaker Committee in place to oversees the affairs of PDP.
The power of the convention as documented by Section 33(2) of the 2012 Constitution of the party as amended said, “the National Convention shall be the supreme and controlling authority of the party within the limits prescribed in this Constitution and it shall be the principal representative, policy making and administering body of the party.”
Sub (3) said: “Except in the exercise of the functions granted only to other bodies as specified in this Constitution or in the regulations made pursuant to the provisions of this Constitution, the National Convention shall have supremacy in all matters pertaining to the party and all officers and organs of the party shall be bound in the exercise of their functions by the decisions of the National Convention “
Maybe Sheriff was oblivion of these sections of the party Constitution. Blinded by his anger, the former Chairman, who allowed his emotion to take the better part of him challenged the action of the party and took the Caretaker Committee to court, to determine if the party can put such in place when the party Constitution did not make provision for it.
Between the last time the first salvo of court case was fired and when Supreme Court eventually determined who was qualified to occupy the position, 10 court cases were already instituted.
Because of the legal battle which spanned over 14 months, it has been motion without movement, which some political analysts noted that cost the party Edo and Ondo governorship elections.
Even though Sheriff had initially won the case at the Appeal Court, which allowed him to occupy the party secretariat, but the Supreme Court has finally put an end to the leadership crisis and declared that the Port Harcourt convention which put Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee in place was legal and valid.
Shortly after the Supreme Court verdict, wild jubilation greeted Makarfi victory. From the venue of the Court to PDP National Secretariat it was songs of jubilation and congratulations. The jubilation at the party secretariat was unprecedented as different songs and dance rented the air. Different drummers and cultural dancers took the centre stage celebrating the victory.
Those, who spoke with our correspondent on the victory, said that the victory was well deserved. They added that there will be stiff opposition from the PDP that would put the All Progressive Congress (APC) on its toes as the ruling has disappointed the people who voted them in power.
At the PDP party secretariat, armed police personnel numbering about hundred, civil defence and other security agencies were all around to help to check security situation. Several security officers were also at the hall where the party leaders were addressing the mammoth crowd of party faithful.
Various party leaders, who reacted to the judgment, though commended the judiciary for its forthrightness, pointed at the need for the party to put its house in order and reconcile the aggrieved members. They were of the opinion that instead of dividing the party further, there should be unity and reconciliation. They were also of the opinion that Sheriff and his group and other aggrieved members should be brought on board.
When the jubilation was still on, stakeholders of the party put modalities in place to reconcile the party, it was also reported that PDP lawmakers from the National Assembly, hurriedly left the plenary to visit the party National Secretariat to join the celebration and to partake in the series of meetings held by the party chieftains.
It was gathered that as at 8pm on Wednesday night, PDP governors, Board of Trustees members of the party and other leaders were meeting with Sheriff and his group on the way forward.
Reacting to the judgment, Makarfi, Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, former President Goodluck Jonathan and the Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu had said that the verdict ushers in a new dawn of peace, reconciliation and recovery for the party.
Makarfi said: “This victory is not just for PDP, it’s for democracy. This affirms the powers of political parties. This affirms the powers of convention of all political parties. The battle we fought was not a battle for PDP alone. It was a battle for democracy. It was a battle for supremacy of party men and women to decide their destiny. And it’s a battle to do away with dictatorship in political parties and this will never repeat itself.”