Now that Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff has been recognized as national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), what next for the party, CHIBUZO UKAIBE, writes.
xactly one year after he was first declared chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Sen Ali Modu Sheriff, on Friday, regained control of the party, after winning a major but fiery legal battle against the Sen Ahmed Makarfi-led camp, who enjoys the backing of most organs of the party.
Sheriff’s re-emergence, much like his unveiling as national chairman last year, sent many party faithful into shock, more so that the legal victory was secured in the backyard of one of his arch rivals, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
Expectedly, barely hours after the judgment, torrents of statements, rejecting the outcome flowed from the various organs of the party, amidst calls for calm.
The shock, frustration and anguish inherent in the reactions reflected how significant the court judgment was for the party stakeholders.
Publicity Secretary of the Makarfi-led caretaker committee, Prince Dayo Adeyeye described the judgment, not as only a disservice to the PDP, but to the Nigerian democracy.
Adeyeye expressed hope that they will get judgment at the Supreme Court, accusing the All Progressives Congress, (APC) of working to distabilize the PDP, pointing out that they will remain the CTC until the Supreme Court decides otherwise.
Miles away in Kaduna, Sen Makarfi described the judgement as a temporary political and legal set back.
He said further, ‘We have utmost respect for the judiciary. So we are not going to take the laws into our hands. We might not agree with the judgement but there is a process and procedure if you did not agree with something.”
To this end, he said, “as an individual, I cannot decide for the party until the party stakeholders meet and take a definite decision.
“The party will meet on Monday to take a decision of the Court of Appeal Judgement. Every person concerned had been notified. The governors, members of the National Assembly, members of the Board of trustees and Party officials.”
He therefore called on party members to remain calm, urging them to remember that PDP is in opposition. “We have to accept this temporary set back” he reiterated.
He maintained that since he took over the party, the party had done alot of things to remain afloat, pointing out, “We will not allow
opposition to be killed. We must strive to ensure that we survive for the sake of democracy and the country.
From the National Assembly, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, said there was no cause for alarm.
Governors of the party, described the judgment as a rape of democracy.
Chairman of the forum and Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, while hinting that the party will appeal the judgment at the Supreme Court, however reiterated his regret over supporting Sheriff to emerge chairman of the party.
Similarly, chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jubrin, appealed for calm amongst party members, arguing that the judgement was not a threat to the party.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja Fayose, while describing the Judgment as contrary to the will of the people said “If the people truly symbolize what a party is, then the machinations of our detractors and the anti-democratic organs will not prevail at last.”“We commend the minority judgment of the lower court and we believe the truth will prevail
“Thank God we have another opportunity to seek justice at the Supreme Court, which I believe will not be delayed or denied.
“The party will appeal the judgement as we believe in the ability of the judiciary to do justice,however we plead with our members ,leaders and supporters to calm down as we keep hope alive.
“If this is a price to pay, to keep our democracy alive and opposition strengthened, we are prepared to go the whole hug.
“The party organs will meet shortly to take concrete steps and decisions on the way forward”.
Former ministers forum of the PDP has also called on its members to remain calm, noting that the court judgment reinstating Sheriff as national chairman of the party will not deny them their right to determine the kind of leadership they want as a party.
Chairman of the forum, Kabiru Tanimu Turaki, said they will liaise with other organs of the party to decide on the next step to take.
Turaki, who spoke after a meeting of the former ministers, said “it is too early to decide on any decision but as a critical stakeholders the forum wish to advice that the Party should appeal the Judgment.”
He said the forum has setup a committee to look into the judgement, study it and advise them on what possible options to take.
He said “We want PDP members to remain calm and know that this is politics. That members of the political party, any political party for that matter, will not be denied the right to elect the kind of persons they want to govern them as members of the given political party. Certainly that should not be different from the PDP.”
While tales of woe rang out in the Makarfi camp, Sheriff’s group felt vindicated. National Vice Chairman of the Sheriff-led faction, Dr Cairo Ojugbo, described the judgment as no Victor, no vanquished and called for a true reconciliation within the PDP in order to move the party forward.
Similarly, spokesman for the Sheriff PDP, “The judgement of the Court of Appeal in PH is a significant step towards legal resolution of the PDP leadership crisis. With this development, we hope the political solution is insight.
“We therefore appeal to all loyal PDP members and stakeholders to remain committed to the reconciliatory process that will bring peace and harmony to the PDP family and give hope to the Nigerian people who are seemingly despondent.
“The outcome of the appeal court judgement should neither be personalised nor seen as victory for any individual or group of persons. No one should be perceived as vanquished as the party will re-invent itself through an effective grassroot participatory process already started by the National Chairman, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff.
“The party is open to greater and effective consultation and no one will be sanctioned or prejudiced for holding any opinion on the way forward.
PDP is bouncing back!” Evidently, the judgment was an anti-climax for the Makarfi group who had oozed confidence in recent weeks.
The PDP Strategy Review and Inter party Committee, led by former minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, setup by Makarfi, had two weeks ago submitted a report on how to reposition the party.
Moved by the seemingly wide acceptance the report got at its submission, a delegation of the committee had last Monday visited some of the founding fathers of the party and leaders of the party and presented them a copy of the report.
In Abuja, they visited former President Goodluck Jonathan, former chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Chief Tony Anenih. They also traveled to Enugu to meet former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme.
In all, the responses from the trip, were a mixture of hope, regret, concern and a scintilla of doubt.
But while the Makarfi grabbed all media spotlight, Sheriff seemed to have fizzled out of the radar. But months to the judgement, Sheriff had taken some significant moves which got pundits guessing as to his next move.
To the consternation of party watchers, Sheriff’s deputy, Dr Cairo Ojougboh, had declared that they would abide by the outcome of the highly anticipated judgment in Portharcourt.
Weeks later, Sheriff, in a move that portrayed sobriety, withdrawn a petition against some judges arising from legal dispute over who was the legitimate governorship candidate of the party in Ondo State.
And so when the court judgment came in his favor, it struck at the heart of the party, who had began to move on beyond the leadership tussle.
Still, for Sheriff, the court judgment is much more than another major victory, but a message to the governors, particularly Fayose and Wike that he has the wherewithal to stand against their overbearing tendencies within the party, even though his agitation has caused the party some huge losses.
More than once, after series of peace processes failed, Sheriff had forced the Makarfi camp to beat a retreat. He was accused of being responsible for the party’s loss in the Edo and Ondo guber polls. He had forced the Makarfi camp to alter their convention. More so, the party’s secretariat has been locked for over 10 months.
Yet, he has remained unfettered by insinuations projected by the Makarfi-led camp that he is being sponsored by the APC. If anything, he believes he will rebuild the party and like has become his mantra “return the party to the grassroots”.
Clearly, Sheriff is not unfazed that none of the major organs of the party are openly associating with him, even though he has claimed that most governors, senators are with him.
Nevertheless, his supporters would hope that perhaps the Wadata plaza, PDP’s political fortress, would be reopened to him, even though the legal tussle will continue at the Supreme Court.
Reacting to this however, Makarfi said while he is not in a position to tell the world what Sheriff will do, he would be surprised if the security will allow him (Sheriff) access to the party secretariat.
“When a court ruled in our favour sometimes ago, we were not allowed to occupy the secretariat. So, we are going to see what happens this time around” he emphasized.
By and large, the continued tussle further chips away at the goodwill the PDP enjoys as a formidable opposition. The expectations of the party by voters continues to fade. More defections by its elective members looms.
The prospects of the Makarfi group dumping the party for a new platform also looms just as the parties in their merger talks are left dumb founded.
While the Makarfi camp tidies the processes at the Supreme Court, there is no telling the kind of radical changes that Sheriff would make within the period he has to function as chairman.
Will he be magnanimous in victory and initiate and new process of reconciliation with the Makarfi camp? Will he continue with the recommendations of the Gana committee? Can he work with the governors under the leadership of Fayose? These are some of the many questions on the mind of party watchers.