As the August 17 national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, inches closer, many Nigerians are watching to see how the leadership crisis rocking the party will be resolved. This is because all efforts in the past have ended in futility leaving the courts to decide who leads the once largest political party in Africa.
The courts have not helped matters with different rulings from different judges leaving everyone more confused than in the beginning. Senator Modu Sheriff at the moment is claiming victory based on an injunction from a Federal High Court, Abuja, previously, it was Senator Ahmed Markarfi-led committee
In Port Harcourt, where its national convention was held, a Federal High Court affirmed the resolution of the convention which sacked the former acting National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and other members of the National Working Committee, NWC.
The sack of Sherriff at the convention was followed with the appointment of a caretaker committee headed by a former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, which is to lead the party for 90 days.
In Lagos, however, another Federal High Court nullified the constitution of the Makarfi-led caretaker committee, asking the police to enforce the order if members of the panel attempt to parade themselves as officers of the former ruling party.
It also recognised the embattled Sheriff, General Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, and the National Auditor of the party, Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju, as officers of the PDP.
The court in Port Harcourt granted an interim injunction restraining Sheriff and Oladipo from parading themselves as national officers of the party pending the determination of the motion brought before it by the PDP.
Sheriff, Oladipo and other immediate past national officers of the party were removed from office at the national convention in Port Harcourt which equally dissolved the National Executive Council, NEC.
In a suit marked FHC/PH/CS/524/2016 and signed by Justice A. M Liman, the court also restrained any member of the National Working Committee that was dissolved at the said convention from receiving nominations or submitting names to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as candidates or officers of the party in any capacity.
The PDP, that is the plaintiff in the matter, had prayed the court to stop the immediate past national officers including Sheriff from parading themselves as national officers of the party.
While Sheriff and Oladipo are the first and second respondents respectively in the matter, INEC, the Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Services are the third, fourth and fifth respondents.
The court also restrained INEC from according or continuing to accord any recognition to Sheriff and Oladipo or any member of the NWC removed during the convention as officers, organs of the PDP pending the determination of the motion on notice.
Justice Liman directed that INEC should recognise the national caretaker committee led by Makarfi in every matter related to the conduct of primary elections for political offices and submission of the list of candidates for any election to be conducted by INEC, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.
The court stated “That the first and second respondents or any/or all the national officers, members of the National Executive Committee and members of the National Working Committee of the plaintiff, who were removed from office by the national convention of the plaintiff held on Saturday, May 21 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, be and are hereby restrained from parading/holding out or continue to hold themselves out either individually or collectively as chairman, secretary, or national officer or member of the NEC or NWC of the plaintiff, nor do anything whatsoever to negate or frustrate the decisions reached at the said convention, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.’’
The court, however, adjourned till June 7 for hearing of the motion on notice.
In another court in Lagos, Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court ordered the disbandment of the caretaker committee.
The judge, in a ruling, declared that the caretaker committee was constituted in violation of an order he made on May 12 in a suit filed before him, praying for an order preventing the conduct of election to fill the positions of the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor of the PDP.
Buba said a judge has the duty to enforce Section 287 (3) of the 1999 Constitution which he said, stipulated that an order of any court created by the constitution “shall be enforced in any part of the federation by all authorities and persons…”
“No court can make an order in vain,” Justice Buba declared, stressing that he would not sit back and allow his order to be violated without consequences.
Listed as the first, second and third plaintiffs in the suit before the judge are Sheriff, Oladipo and Adeyanju.
But Sheriff had since dissociated himself from the suit, claiming that he did not authorise any lawyer to file the suit on his behalf.
Later, Counsel to Oladipo and Adeyanju, Mr Ajibola Oluyede, appeared before Justice Buba with an application praying the court to invoke its disciplinary powers against those that had violated its order.
“My Lord, certain steps were taken to remove the plaintiffs from their office notwithstanding your lordship’s interlocutory injunction which restrained the respondents from taking such steps.
“The steps were taken over the weekend to remove them and it was during the pendency of this action. It is for that reason that we were constrained to file this application. We seek your lordship’s disciplinary jurisdiction to bring back matters to the status quo based on the order of May 12,” Oluyede said.
In response, Justice Buba said though Oluyede’s application was not ripe for hearing, he had the duty to prevent his own order from being violated without consequences.
As prayed by Oluyede, Justice Buba declared as illegal the constituted PDP caretaker committee, warning that its members–Makarfi, Ben Obi, Odion Ugbesie, Abdul Ningi, Kabir Usman, Dayo Adeyeye and Alhaja Aisha Aliyu must not “act in that capacity in defiance of this order.”
“Therefore, the inspector-general of police is directed to enforce the order of this court until it is set aside or all the applications before the court are disposed of.’’
But the Sheriff-led group has called on the party to respect the first court order which had ordered that his post and two others should not be filled.
He said it was wrong for the party to rush to a court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, when there were other orders from courts asking it not to tamper with officers of the party at the national level.
National Secretary of the Sheriff-led group, Wale Oladipo, said the order by the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt would not stand.
“The order they said they got from Port Harcourt they should explain how they got it. What happened to the earlier orders from different courts that they served on us at the party, which were disobeyed by some certain people in the party? They should tell us. What is interim order? When did they go to court, after the illegal convention? Well, let us wait and see.”
Also, a faction of the PDP made up of some elders had called on the judiciary to be careful with the way it was giving out conflicting orders.
The group, which met in Abuja, appointed a former Deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu, as the head of a transition council.
Spokesperson for the faction, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, said it was apparent that the judiciary had become what he described as ‘jankara market’ where orders are being dished out without recourse to the law.
Suleiman, a former Minister of National Planning, said “The judiciary must watch it. It must know that it remains the hope of the ordinary man and should therefore not do anything that would affect its integrity. Its leaders should step in so that it will be able to salvage its integrity and should not allow politicians to rubbish its image.”
In his own reaction, a member of the PDP’s Board of Trustees, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said the country must get rid of political miscreants, who are bent on destroying the country’s democracy.
Babatope, in a statement, threw his weight behind the Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee.
“Nigeria must be careful of political miscreants who are bent on destroying our democracy. All Nigerians must join in the struggle to stop miscreants who want to use frivolous suits to disturb our democracy.’’
“If we in Nigeria are not careful, political jobbers who currently parade the country with frivolous legal suits may one day use these cases to run Nigeria out of existence.”
However, political observers are of the view that the crisis in the PDP can only be settled out of court and not through judicial pronouncements. This is why many Nigerians lauded the caretaker committee and the Board of Trustees for bending backwards to reach out to all aggrieved members through reconciliation committees. Watchers of the unfolding drama are also of the view that Sheriff will be jeopardising his political future if he shuns the reconciliation moves and remains uncompromising in his claim to the chairmanship of the PDP as it is common knowledge that he was appointed to complete the four-year tenure that was started by Dr Bamanga Tukur in March 2012.
The courts cannot impose leadership on any political party and if Sheriff continues to rely on them to give him legitimacy he will only succeed in alienating himself from all members of the party apart from few individuals that are feeding fat from the crisis.


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