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Stats: 170 members, 1,920 topics. Date: July 28, 2017, 7:34 am
Avalanche of reactions and wild jubilation, yesterday, greeted the Supreme Court judgment, which put an end to the protracted and bitter leadership squabble that had rocked the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
A seven-man panel of justices of the apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, in a unanimous judgment, sacked the factional chairman, Ali Modu-Sheriff and held that the National Caretaker Committee chaired by Senator Ahmed Makarfi was lawful having been duly constituted by the national convention of the party held in Port Harcourt on May 21, 2016.
Consequently, the court set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which on February 17, 2017 had declared Modu-Sheriff the authentic national chairman.
Delivering the lead judgment on the appeal filed by Makarfi and Ben Obi who were chairman and secretary respectively of the National Caretakers Committee, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour held that the Court of Appeal was wrong only to have examined section 47 of the PDP constitution to arrive at its decision.
“It has to examine all other Articles of the party constitution,” he stated.
He further held that the PDP Constitution provides that the National Convention of the party is the highest decision making organ of the party.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour traced the genesis of the PDP crisis to 2015 after the general election, which it lost, and the resignation of the National Chairman, Adamu Mu’azu following which the party leaders appointed Senator Modu-Sheriff to complete Mu’azu’s tenure.
At the expiration of the tenure, Sheriff convened the Port Harcourt PDP national convention and indicated interest in the chairmanship position.
He submitted half filled form without attaching his membership card, three years tax clearance certificate as required by the party guideline. According to the report of the party screening committee, Sheriff was disqualified to contest the chairmanship position because he did not fulfil the requirement.
He said when Sheriff got the hint of his disqualification, he sought to cancel the convention but failed because the deputy national chairman presided over the convention as permitted by PDP constitution.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour said he was satisfied that the PDP National Convention met all the requirements prescribed in the party constitution.
The court further held that the dissolution of the National Executive Committee by the convention was in order.
Other members of panel of Justices: Walter Onnoghen, Ibrahim Tanko, Clara Ogunbiyi, Dantiji Muhammad and Justice Olukayode Ariwoola agreed with the judgment.
Following the ruling, the courtroom erupted in an orgy of wild jubilation. Across the country, PDP stalwarts and supporters were seen at public places including eateries and bars chanting the party’s slogan and declaring free drinks in celebration of the ruling, which they described as victory for resurrection of real opposition.
Shortly after the ruling, Makarfi arrived the secretariat in company with members of the committee and other party top notcher.
Addressing party stalwarts at the Wadata House amid heavy security presence, Makarfi said the judgment was a victory for all members of party, noting that there was no victor and no vanquished.
He said the legal battle the caretaker committee fought was for the sustenance of democracy in the country.
He said the caretaker was committed to reconciliation and extended a hand of fellowship to members of the sacked National Working Committee (NWC) led by Senator Sheriff.
“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, a battle to do away with dictatorship in political parties. And this will never repeat itself.
“There is no victor, there is no vanquished. We must be open to reconciliation. But there is a caveat: reconciliation does not mean we take what belongs to people and give it to you. Reconciliation must be based on equity, equality and values.
“With this caveat, we should be prepared and willing to reconcile with everybody. Anybody that can meet this criteria, we should be willing and open to reconciliation with such a person no matter where they are. “
Makarfi said the caretaker committee will consult with relevant organs of the party within the next two days and come up with programmes on how to move the party forward.
Former president Goodluck Jonathan said the verdict was a validation of the strength and independence of the judiciary.
“I congratulate my political party, the PDP, on the successful resolution of its leadership crisis by the Supreme Court of Nigeria. I believe in our jurists. We may have issues with some individuals but the Nigerian judiciary deserves respect and commendation.
“It is a verdict that will bring our party together. As I congratulate the Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee, I 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. Thus, they must take inspiration from General Yakubu Gowon and declare a ‘no victor and no vanquished policy,’” he posted in his verified twitter handle, @GEJonathan.
He called on all those who left the party because of its leadership issues to return to their natural home and help in rebuilding the PDP.
Chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose said the judgment has placed the party in a good stead to win the 2019 general election.
He said the party will not fight Sheriff and his supporters, noting that the PDP will maximise the Supreme Court victory.
He pledged the support of the PDP governors to leadership under Makarfi.
“Where we need to speak we will speak, where we need to spend money we will spend. I urge us to support the Makarfi-led committee. The committee cannot please all of us. So please let us stop suspecting ourselves. Some will lead, some will follow. So let’s give the committee support.”
The Ebonyi State governor and Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, Chief David Umahi said the judgment was critical to the restoration of tenets of democracy where the masses would be allowed to choose their leaders, using political platforms as tools.
He said God by the judgment has raised the banner of the party above those he described as destructive elements whose sole aim was to render the party powerless.
On his part, Governor Nyesom Wike said the judgment was a victory for democracy, as the country will now have a viable opposition.
“I am very happy. Rivers people are very happy because we have no other party aside the PDP.”
While he said the PDP would emerge from the crisis stronger because all stakeholders will work hard to rebuild the party, he urged Senator Sheriff and his supporters to keep their word and work with other stakeholders in the interest of the party.
Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu also lauded the verdict as a new beginning for the opposition party. He called on PDP 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.
In his contribution, Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, said the court’s decision saved Nigeria from a destructive and annihilating slide into an autocratic and despotic one-party state, where absolutism and lack of opposition were already rearing their monstrous visages.
According to him: “Once again, the judiciary, the whipping “boy” of our democracy, has risen to the challenge of saving Nigeria’s wobbling and imperiled democracy. A virile opposition constitutes the heart and soul of democracy. The alternative is dictatorship. God bless Nigeria.”
Rising from a meeting, the PDP ex-Ministers Forum said through its chairman, Taminu Turaki, hailed the apex court, for giving fresh hope to opposition politics in the country.
“The judgment is hope for democracy. The opposition will continue to survive. Without opposition government won’t be able to sit up and do the work that is expected of them. We urge the committee to make necessary arrangement to consolidate the gains. Bring all members back to the fold. We have to be more united because we have more challenges ahead of us as we move towards 2019,” Turaki said.
For Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, the ruling is an impetus for the party to provide the needed leadership for the country.
“It is a reawakening for our great party to provide the much needed leadership for our country, Nigeria. It was a case of PDP vs PDP, so, we should remain united and committed to the slogan of the PDP – power to the people. As the biggest political party in Africa despite losing the presidential elections in 2015, it is time for us to rebuild our house, remain united, accommodate those who are leaving other political parties to the party that is truly democratic and believes in the rule of law, a political party that has the interest of the common man on the street at heart and continue to ensure that the best is achieved for the country.”
In his reaction, former national publicity secretary, Olisa Metuh said the ruling was a sign of better things ahead for the party.
Chairman of the PDP Caucus in the House of Representatives, Leo Ogor said with the ruling, the party will commence the process of reconciliation as well as the rebuilding of the party from the ward to the national level.
As far as Mr. Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State is concerned, the Almighty God has used the Supreme Court to heal the wounds of the PDP family.
The judgment would usher in an effective and capable opposition that would contribute meaningfully to governance and bring Nigeria out of the present recession, as well as contain various agitations in country, he said.
On his part, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Emeka Ihedioha, said, “it’s a victory for and triumph of democracy; celebration of the enthronement of light over forces of darkness.”
A governorship aspirant in the November 18 polls, Dr Alex Obiogbolu said the verdict would permanently take care of impunity and recklessness, the twin devil, which he noted, rubbished the fortune of the party in the country.
Meanwhile, the All Progressive Congress (APC) has dismissed suggestion that with the resolution of the crisis, the PDP would become a major threat.
“It will be wrong to say that the unity of PDP is a threat to APC. If anybody is thinking that PDP is now a threat to APC, it is not true,” National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said.
For the PDP to find its groove, a chieftain of the APC, Senator Abubakar Girei said it must change its name, which he said was battered and soiled during the last administration as well as during the factional crises.
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