..It’s victory of constitutionality over arbitrariness — Jonathan
…Fayose, Wike, see victory as enabler towards 2019
…It means nothing to us in APC, says Bolaji AbdullahI
..God has used judgment to heal our wounds — Peter Obi
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Umoru Henry, Ikechukwu Nnochiri, Dapo Akinrefon, Dirisu Yakubu, Ndahi Marama &Blessing Aina
ABUJA—Nigeria’s political landscape was, yesterday, being reshaped with new permutations and perspectives on the 2019 elections, after the Supreme Court resolved the leadership crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in favour of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee.
The judgement immediately electrified the political space with party chieftains affirming the readiness of the party to play its role as the country’s major opposition party.
The revalidation of the Makarfi-led executive which controls the mainstream of the party, it was learnt yesterday, was putting fresh focus on the party as the platform of choice to combat the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 2019 elections.
The ruling APC on its part, said it was indifferent to the ruling, saying the judgment made no impact on it as it had nothing to gain or lose from the aspirations of the two major tendencies in the opposition party.
After escorting Makarfi and members of his executive to take over the Wadata national secretariat of the PDP in Abuja, senior party chieftains were last night huddled in caucuses preparatory to revving up party organs that had laid comatose for more than one year.
Vanguard learnt, yesterday, that formal meetings of the organs of the party are not likely to commence until Monday at the earliest.
Meanwhile, leading associates and members of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction were also, yesterday, huddled in a separate meeting in Abuja where an official said they were studying the judgement with lawyers. A statement by the now de-legitimised leadership was being awaited at press time.
Jubilation in Maiduguri over Sheriff’s loss
The political loss for Sheriff was practically brought home to him as his local political rivals in Maiduguri thronged the streets in celebration of the defeat of the former governor of the state. Chairman of the APC, Ali Bukar Dalor while commending the apex court for its judgment told the crowd: “We have tried our best to ensure that we remain in the same party with Sheriff, but due to his pomposity and his attitude to look down on anybody, we had to chase him out of APC. It is unfortunate that even when he found a soft landing and became National Chairman of Caretaker Committee of PDP, he remained a stumbling block to not only Senator Makarfi, leaders and founding fathers of the PDP, but the entire PDP family. Thank God that he was finally sacked as the National Chairman by the apex Court today (yesterday).
Many may return to PDP
The judgement, political sources said yesterday, was being expected to bring back many politicians who had given up on the party being a viable platform to confront the APC in elections. Among those who have been severally mentioned are former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who associates say, would contest the 2019 presidential elections if not on the platform of the APC, then on an alternative political party.
Atiku had been the choice of some PDP insiders determined to find a presidential material from the North-East.
Assertions that Senate President Bukola Saraki, who some associates claim could also dump the APC on account of what they claim as his persecution in the hands of the APC government were refuted yesterday.
A very close associate said the issue of Saraki leaving the APC for a re-energised PDP was never on the cards.
Judgement re-energises PDP
The PDP as the country’s leading opposition party received a boost, yesterday, after the apex court, in a unanimous judgment by a five-man panel of Justices led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, handed leadership of the party to the Senator Markafi-led National Working Committee, NWC.
It validated the May 21, 2016, National Convention the PDP held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where the Sheriff-led National Executive Committee, NEC, was dissolved.
According to the Supreme Court, Article 33(3) of the PDP Constitution imbued the National Convention of the party with the authority to dissolve the NEC and appoint an interim Committee (NWC) to pilot affairs of the party.
It held that such National Officers could be removed when they are adjudged to have acted contrary to the PDP Constitution, or did anything that was capable of bringing the party to disrepute.
Delivering the lead judgment, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour noted that Sheriff, being aware of the provisions of the party’s constitution, initially submitted himself to the PDP Electoral Committee with the intention of vying for National Chairman of the party at the said Port Harcourt convention, but was disqualified a day before the event, May 20, 2016.
He also noted that Sheriff was only brought in to complete the tenure of former Chairman of the party, Adamu Mu’azu.
The apex court stressed that documents before it showed that Sheriff unilaterally suspended the convention after he was screened out on the grounds that he submitted “half-filled nomination form,” which the committee said was not supported with a tax clearance form, PDP membership card or voter’s card.
It observed that Sheriff’s action culminated to a suit marked FHC/PH/524/16, through which the Markafi-led NWC, sought to validate the mandate that was given to it at the Port Harcourt convention.
According to the apex court, during the pendency of the said suit, the Sheriff-led faction of the party, instituted over 10 legal actions “in desperate bid to continue to perpetuate themselves in office.”
Sheriff forum-shopping — Supreme Court
The court accused Sheriff of abusing the judicial process, saying he engaged in “forum shopping,” and “displayed infantile desperation to cling to office at all cost.”
Justice Rhodes-Vivour held that the former Borno State Governor, owing to his “palpable desire to perpetuate himself in office,” resorted to filing multiple suits.
“Most of the suits have since been abandoned. They will forever gather dust in the judicial archives”, Justice Rhodes-Vivour added.
Besides, the apex court held that the PDP constitution gave the Deputy National Chairman of the party the power to preside over the party’s convention in the absence of the National Chairman.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour said it was not in dispute that erstwhile Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Uche Secondus, attended the May 21, 2016, convention.
He held that the motion that dissolved the Sheriff-led NEC was moved in line with Article 33(5) of the PDP constitution.
More so, Justice Rhodes-Vivour maintained that despite a portion in the PDP constitution that provided that national officers of the party could be afforded two months notice before a vote of no confidence is passed against them, he said that such national officers could also be removed during a convention or congress.
“There can be no doubt after examining articles of the PDP constitution, that the National Convention has enormous and sweeping powers over the activities of the party,” the apex court stated.
It held that the convention the PDP held in Port Harcourt was legally valid as it was not done in breach of any court order.
“We have come to the conclusion that the National Convention acted in accordance with the PDP constitution.
“The National Convention was correct to dissolve the National Executive Committee and appoint a National Working Committee. The action was not in breach of any court order”, the court held.
It, therefore, vacated the majority judgment of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal, which had on February 7, in a two to one decision of a three-man panel of justices, declared Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the authentic PDP National Chairman.
The Supreme Court faulted the appellate court for solely anchoring its verdict on Article 47(c) of the PDP constitution, rather than a holistic interpretation of the entire statute.
“It is our conclusion that contrary to the decision of the lower court, suit FHC/PH/SC/524/16 was not an abuse of court process.
“The trial court and the dissenting judgement of the Appeal Court are therefore correct.
“Rather, we hold that it was the 1st Respondent (Sheriff) that was guilty of the offence of abuse of court process.”
Consequently, the court awarded a cost of N250, 000 each, against Sheriff and Prof. Wale Oladipo who acted as National Secretary of the party under him.
Earlier, the apex court also dismissed a preliminary objection that Sheriff and Oladipo filed against the appeal.
Aside the CJN, other members of the apex court panel that concurred with the lead verdict were Justices Tanko Muhammad, Kayode Ariwoola and Dattijo Muhammad.
Though Sheriff was absent at the Supreme Court when the judgment was delivered, Markafi attended the proceeding.
Other stakeholders in the party that were present in court included Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State; Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha.
Others were Prof. Jerry Gana, Chief Tom Ikimi, Dr. Ben Obi, Raymond Dokpesi, Chief Bode George, Chief Dan Orbih, chairman of the Edo State chapter of the party among many other party enthusiasts.
Victory electrifies Wadata House
Following the judgment, Makarfi flanked by party chieftains, moved over to the party’s national secretariat for a triumphant return. His presence immediately electrified the secretariat as staff and well-wishers dashed out to see him.
Dressed in traditional outfit with a cap to match, Makarfi, flanked by party faithful beamed with smiles as he waved to hordes of supporters who thronged the party secretariat in anticipation of his arrival, about an hour after the Supreme Court ruling earlier in the day.
Exchanging pleasantries with all and sundry, the former Kaduna State governor also took time to appreciate local drummers, some of whom headed for the party secretariat from the Supreme Court premises.
Makarfi was accompanied to the secretariat by party chieftains including Sule Lamido, Ibrahim Shekarau, Liyel Imoke, Ayodele Fayose, Peter Obi, Ina Ciroma and Professor Jerry Gana amongst others.
Speaking to newsmen at the party secretariat he said there was “no victor and no vanquished” as he said the party will forge reconciliation with all elements in the party.
He promised that expanded caucus, National Executive Committee, NEC and Board of Trustees, BoT meetings would hold between next Monday and Tuesday to give direction to the party.
Judgement means nothing to us in APC — Abdullahi
Reacting to the development yesterday, National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said the court judgement meant nothing to his party, saying: “For us, it has no implication, it has no meaning for us,” the spokesman of the ruling party said.
Chief Doyin Okupe, who recently left the PDP was also nonetheless bothered saying he had no regrets over his decision to leave the party even as he wished the PDP well.
“It is a good judgement and the contending parties have been sufficiently tamed and will not create any further division. I knew the judgement was coming and I knew it was going to be either A or B, so you can give me credit because it was not going to affect my own decision,” the former PDP chieftain said.
A high level source in the Sheriff faction told Vanguard, yesterday that the Sheriff faction was expected to examine the judgment with its lawyers last night. The meeting was to commence by 8.00 p.m.
Jonathan, Fayose, Ekweremadu, others react
Former President Goodluck Jonathan led the chorus of congratulations and admonitions to the Makarfi leadership to declare a no victor no vanquished policy aimed at further dousing the crisis in the party.
Among others who also spoke, yesterday, were Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu; Governor Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State; the Forum of former ministers, immediate past party spokesman, Chief Olisa Metuh among others.
Jonathan in a statement on Facebook also praised the Supreme Court jurists saying: “As I congratulate the Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee, I want to strongly urge them not to see this as a victory of a section of the party, but as a moral victory of constitutionality over arbitrariness.
“As a senior member of the party, I hereby call on all those who left the party because of its leadership issues to return to their natural home and build the PDP.
“The PDP is an inclusive vehicle, not an exclusive one. We see Nigerians as human beings deserving of the rule of law, separation of powers and a free market economy that provides a level playing ground for all.”
Senator Ekweremadu in his reaction said: “The ruling party has indeed profited from the prolonged power contest, not just in terms of defections, but also in the unchallenged degeneration of democratic values, rule of law, electoral practice, and the economy because the PDP has been too distracted to keep them on their toes.
“Importantly, I call on our party leadership and elders to immediately initiate an all-inclusive peace, reconciliation, and rebuilding process to reunite everybody under the big umbrella and reinvigorate the biggest party in Africa to bounce back to the rescue of the suffering masses of Nigeria come 2019”.
Supreme Court Verdict: It is victory for Nigerians, democracy – Fayose
Ekiti State Governor and Chairman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum, Mr. Ayodele Fayose has described the Supreme Court judgment, affirming the Senator Ahmed Makarfi led National Caretaker Committee as the authentic leadership of the PDP as “victory for democracy and the entire people of Nigeria who are suffering from the All Progressives Congress (APC) misrule.”
The governor, who reacted to the judgment in Abuja said: “With today’s judgment, PDP can now play its role as opposition party and prepare to take over power in 2019.”
According to his Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, Governor Fayose called on genuine members of the party to come together for its repositioning, repackaging and strengthening.
Governor Fayose, who maintained there would be no victor and no vanquished, said: “The ultimate winner is democracy which cannot survive without a virile opposition and the entire people of Nigeria who are already yearning for a return of the PDP, having been
short-changed by the APC.”
On his part, Governor Nyesom Wike said the court victory would lead to the PDP returning to power in 2019.
“We have tested them for two years, and Nigerians are suffering. Nigerians are dying, and there is insecurity everywhere. It has never been like this. This opposition will lead us to power in 2019.
“Now, we have a government, and we have a party that says there will be no opposition. If there is no opposition, there will be no democracy. “
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, in his reaction issued by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, hailed the Supreme Court for the ruling which he said has put to an end the protracted leadership crisis that had bedevilled the party.
“I congratulate members of our great party particularly the National Chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and members of the National Caretaker Committee for this well deserved victory. It is a victory for the Board of Trustees, Governors Forum of the party, National Assembly Caucus, State Chairmen’s Forum and other stakeholders.”
Former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State on his part said: “I am glad the whole saga is over. Its time for rebuilding of the party, especially at the National level, it is time for the Senator Amodu Sheriff group to get themselves re-integrated into the party.”
Forum of ex-PDP Ministers reacts
The Forum of former PDP ministers on its part described the judgment as “one of the most celebrated cases of our time”, adding that it was in tandem with the wishes of party members.
Speaking to newsmen after a meeting of the forum yesterday, chairman of the forum, and former Minister for Special Duties, Tanimu Kabir Turaki, said the judgment gave hope for the country’s democracy.
While he hailed Makarfi for his steadfastness, Tanimu also congratulated other organs of the party as well as staff of the party.
“We urge the committee to make necessary arrangement to consolidate the gains and bring all members back to the fold.
Chief Metuh on his part in a press statement in Abuja, called on Dr. Jonathan to come on board and “assist in navigating the waters. Indeed, his advice, goodwill, experience and democratic credentials are needed now, more than ever before, to help the party navigate through this very important period in its history.
He also said the judgment should be seen as a “no victor, no vanquished situation.”
Speaking in the same vein, chairman of the Edo State chapter of the party, Chief Dan Orbih said:
“It is a victory for true democracy. This victory will give the opportunity of exploring the alternative to change the APC federal government come 2019. Democracy without viable opposition will lead to dictatorship.
“By this singular verdict, Nigerians have been reassured there is bright light at the end of the tunnel where they will have the opportunity to vote APC out of government.”
Reacting, factional chairmen of the party in Lagos State, Messrs Moshood Salvador and Segun Adewale hailed the judgment.
Salvador said: “This judgment goes beyond the PDP intra-politics but actually a successful surgery on the political stability of Nigeria which has been very volatile as a result of the diabolical attempt by the APC to “kill” the PDP.
On his part, Adewale said: “The verdict of the Supreme Court is to me a ‘no victor, no vanquished’ situation. It is a victory for democracy and the Nigerian people. The fact that this great party stood through this most difficult and challenging times with the preponderance of its members and structures across the country still intact speaks volumes of the strong ideology that binds us together as a family.”
It is a family quarrel, says PDP Senate Caucus
The Senate caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday hailed the Supreme Court judgement which declared the Caretaker Committee Chairman of the party, Senator Ahmed Markafi, as the substantive chairman of the opposition party.
At the chambers yesterday, Plenary did not start early, as PDP members moved round the chamber to congratulate one another.
For over twenty minutes, Senate Chief Whip, Senator Olusola Adeyeye, APC, Osun Central could not control them for plenary session to commence for the day as he continually called on names of PDP senators to seat down for Senate President, Bukola Saraki, to preside.
Addressing jounalists, Senator Akpabio, who described the judgment as monumental, said that it was a no victor, no vanquishes situation, since it was a family fight.
He also said the party would extend the olive branch to Modu Sheriff and all other aggrieved members of the party, adding that the blood remained same.
Akpabio noted that nobody would be penalized, saying “a monumental event has happened in our dear country, that event is the fact that the seemingly, intractable problem of the tussle of the chairmanship of the PDP has been settled by the Supreme Court and that was settled in favour of all Nigerians and all PDP faithful in Nigeria and all APC members who love democracy.
“We were worried and eager to have a vibrant alternative so that in future, they could join the change The caucus is very delighted with what has occurred. It was not unexpected, in view of the fact that we believe strongly that the Supreme Court is a court of justice and that God is a God of justice and that justice was going to prevail.
“But on our part, we do not want to lose any member and so we are describing that victory as no victor, no vanquish. It was a family quarrel and, therefore, the blood remains the same, the blood of the PDP remains in the veins of both sides and, therefore, we are saying today that with the decision of the Supreme Court, we must come back together as a family and we have, indeed, come back together as a family.
“We are calling on all those who went on exile in the course of the struggle, in the course of the seeming problem of the chairmanship to return home, the doors are open, nobody will be penalised, whether you were a member of the State House of Assembly, or House of Representatives or whether you are a senator.
‘’We are very prepared to receive our brothers back and we believe that some of them went on exile because there were problems in the house, now that the problem has been totally settled and the PDP has come back as a very strong alternative and a very viable one for that matter, they should come back from exile.”