By G9ija

When the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, on Friday, February 17, 2017 affirmed Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the authentic National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PD), many had thought that the judgment would bring to an end the protracted crisis that engulfed the former ruling party.
A three-man panel of judges of the court in a two against one decision, ruled that Sheriff is the authentic National Chairman of PDP instead of another factional leader, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, who had been laying claim to the position.
The party had been engulfed in serious leadership tussle following the inauguration of the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee (NWC) in May 2016.
Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court sitting in Rivers State had sacked Sheriff as the PDP chairman, while the Abuja Division of the court, presided over by Justice Okon Abang, had declared Ahmed Makarfi’s caretaker committee as illegal.
Displeased with the judgment of the lower courts, both parties had gone the Appellate Court to seek redress and for the Justices to determine who among the two PDP chieftains is indeed the proper claimant of the exalted position.
Sheriff’s Faction Embrace Judgment
Expectedly, the Ali Modu Sheriff’s faction of PDP, in accepting the Appeal Court judgment, described it as the confirmation of the will of the people. Cairo Ojougbon, the Deputy National Chairman to Sheriff, said Sheriff-led National Working Committee (NWC) is ready to dialogue with the Makarfi faction irrespective of the judgment.
According to him, “To us, the judgment is no victor, no vanquished. Irrespective of the judgment, our door is open to our brothers who unfortunately are in the other group. We promised not to victimise anybody, but work together to reunite the party.”
Ojougbor added that following the judgment, Sheriff was ready to organise a credible National Convention of the party as soon as possible.
He said: “The will of the masses is that the party should be handed over to the people and that is what Sheriff has come to do and he will never be distracted in achieving that.
“The PDP Chairman, Sheriff has directed me to assure our party members that the PDP National Working Committee would as soon as possible, organise a national convention that would lead to the election of credible leaders of the party.”

Mafarfi’s faction, PDP Governors Reject Ruling
However, the Makarfi faction of the party quickly rejected the verdict. First to fire the first salvo was the PDP Governors Forum. Its Chairman and the Ekiti State governor Ayodele Fayose, said the Forum rejected the judgment.
Fayose, announcing the Forum’s stand, said the party’s governors were dissatisfied with the court judgment, indicating that the faction would head for the Supreme Court immediately to file an appeal.
He said: “The outcome of the Port Harcourt Court of Appeal that reinstated Ali Modu Sheriff as Chairman against the will of the people, is nothing but a rape on our democracy,” even as the governors commended the minority judgment.
The PDP Caretaker Committee also rejected the court judgment. Like the governors, the committee said it would be challenged at the Supreme Court. Prince Dayo Adeyeye, National Publicity Secretary, in a statement, described the judgment as a travesty of justice.
Adeyeye: said: “The judgment is a big disappointment. It is a travesty of justice; a miscarriage of justice and an invidious attempt to destroy the PDP.
“The minority judgment is very sound in law, logic and fact. It gives us hope that we will have our day in the Supreme Court. Whereas the lead judgment left out the main issues and laboured unconvincingly to work to a preconceived answer, the minority judgment thrashed all the issues and upheld the judgment of the High Court in Port Harcourt delivered by Liman on July 4, 2016.
“We will certainly appeal to the Supreme Court. No reconciliatory effort will stop it. We need the Supreme Court to make a pronouncement on the issue once and for all.”
Thus, a stage is state for the final legal battle for the soul of the PDP, the main opposition and former ruling party, which once prided itself as the biggest party In Africa and had predicted that it would rule Nigeria for 60 years, but was cut to size on its 16th year by the Al Progressives Congress (APC).

Sheriff For Now Is PDP Helmsman –Obi-Okoye
Chief Ifeatu Ivy Obi-Okoye, National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and a one-time state chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), likened the crisis rocking PDP to what obtained in Anambra State where the party failed to vacate the judgment of a Court of Appeal in Enugu even though it wanted to oust the state chairman.
Obi-Okoye said: “There are fundamental principles that an order of court remains valid until set aside. The main problem of the party is that the seat of Modu Sheriff up till now has not been upturned.
“As long as it is still subsisting, any other court judgment is an abuse of court process. The PDP ought to know that a voyage to the Supreme Court will be null.
“If PDP wants to remain an opposition party, it should brace up. If they can’t do with Sheriff, APGA will admit them. They must know that they will lose at the Supreme Court because it will sustain the judgment of the lower court.
“It is similar to the issue in Anambra state. Mr. Ejike Oguebego obtained a court judgment as chairman of PDP.”
PDP Crisis Blown Out Of Proportion – NCP Chief Scribe
Alhaji Waheed Lawal, the Executive Secretary of Justice Now Foundation and chieftain of National Conscience Party (NCP)  said the PDP crisis, is being blown out of proportion by the players in both camps.
He said that the development shows that both factions are not ready to cooperate and work together to resolve the crisis for them to focus on the 2019 general elections.
Lawal maintained that if both factions love the party and Nigerians as well as the nation’s fledgling democracy and are not working to derail it, they should be ready to work together and resolve the crisis.
He stressed: “What I mean is that the Makarfi group must be ready to cooperate and work with Sheriff faction to salvage the party. But, the impunity and arrogance some politicians are displaying will not help the party.”
Lawal maintained that going to Supreme Court will not result in something difference. According to him: “If the Apex Court judgment favours Sheriff camp again, Makarfi group would not want to work with him and it is likely they will dump the party to form another party or join the existing ones.
“Also, if the Supreme Court judgment favours Makarfi camp, will Sheriff group be ready to work with it? If they are ready to work with it, will they (Sheriff camp) be treated well?”
He said the two camps have shown the tendencies that they cannot work together to salvage the party, which he stressed, had been inflicted with serious incurable diseases, which does not augur well for Nigerian democracy
Lawal added: “With this, it is hard to say the party may regain its lost glory. The danger is that the party cannot serve as shadow government or alternative party for the betterment of our democracy.
“In the country at present, there is no strong opposition like PDP and they decided to form another party or fused into one of the existing parties, it is an indication of seriousness on the part of our politicians.
“They are not fighting on principles, they are not fighting on how to make Nigeria a great nation, they are not fighting on how to make our parties do the real job of partisanship. They are not fighting on how to form a shadow government but they are fighting for their selfish interest, power and money.
“The PDP must be able to sacrifice a lot like the former opposition in the country to regain the power and if they are not ready for that, it shows there is still a long way for the party to go in the struggle for political power come 2019.”

‘PDP Warring Factions Should Not Allow Party To Die’
Alhaji Danladi Umar Abdulhameed, Coordinator/Director of Programme, International Institute of Leadership and Governance, zonal office, Minna, Niger State and former State Commissioner for Basic Education and Information and Culture, said the in-fighting in PDP is an indications that people still love the party, wish it well and want it to bounce back.
He stressed that the genuine opposing views is for the overall interest of Nigerians and good for the country’s democracy, adding, “we disagree to agree and move on. But in all sincerity, what is happening also indicates that there is great distrust on the part of Ali Modu Sheriff-led group compared to the Makarfi group.
“You may be popular in your own views, but people will still say they don’t want you for a particular position and you have to think twice before you take any more step in what you claim and believe in to the best of your knowledge.
“Having said that, my personal view in the crisis is simple, the Court of Appeal has decided in favour of the Ali Modu Sheriff-led faction. If the former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led group feels not satisfied, they should go to the Supreme Court.
“But, they must agree that whatever is the outcome will be acceptable to all parties. This is because people have shown that there is something good about the PDP and that is why people wanted to identify with the party and we should not allow anything to break us.
“I believe we will be stronger if we understand ourselves better. Again, I see some forces behind Sheriff which many of the members, especially elders and all other apparatus of the party are not comfortable with.
“That is why the struggle to wrestle the party from him to restructure it to bounce back according to the dreams of the founding fathers, which they cannot entrust in his hands. I say so because I know many people will be arguing that the Supreme Court will be same.
“But no, they are people of integrity who have reached the peak of their career and so cannot afford to perpetrate injustice or being influenced in anyway. But on the alternative, we have an institute, the International Institute of Leadership and Governance. If they will seek for our mediation or to intervene, we can be of assistance to restore peace within the fold.”

‘Sheriff Seems To Be Sincere, Acceptable To Many’

Mr. Efosa Ugbekun, a human rights activist said: “All the questions have been answered because Ali Modu Sheriff is already getting support from the other faction as a result of his statement that he is going to organise a National Convention as quickly as possible to elect national officers to take over from him.
“With that statement, many Nigerians, and not only the PDP members, believe that Ali Modu Sheriff is very sincere in all his actions. I personally believe that he is not being carried away by the office of the National Chairman of the PDP and I will like to advise all those doubting his sincerity to give him the benefit of doubt by allowing him some time to preside over PDP affair.
“I happen to have listened to Governor Ayo Fayose after the aborted meeting at the National Conference Centre, Abuja, on Monday where he was threatening that he and his faction would not have anything to do with Ali Modu Sheriff group, and that instead, they would abandon the party for him.
To me, that is not a better option because from what I saw in Ali Modu Sheriff, he looks sincere. Why not give him a chance and see what he is going to do rather than leaving or threatening to leave the party? I believe that leaving the party should be ruled out completely as it not an option.”

Makarfi Faction Should Demonstrate Spirit Of Sportsmanship –SDP Chief

Nzeh Valentine Ekwonwalu, an elder statesman, former Councilor in Old Owerri local government area of Imo State and now a chieftain of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), said  the PDP Caretaker Committee of the  Makarafi Group should sheathe their sword if they want the party to survive.
He said the group should demonstrate the spirit of sportsmanship and cooperate with Ali Modu Sheriff in order to reposition the party for the great 2019 battle.
He asked: “If they go to the Supreme Court and the court upholds the ruling of the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt, what will they do?  Will they go to the world or where?”

‘Makarfi Group Should Embrace Sheriff’
Sir Johnson Ndukwe, Owerri, Imo State-based Policy Analyst said the PDP stakeholders should allow sanity to prevail and embrace peace if they are still serious of coming back to power in 2019.
He maintained: “Sheriff has won and they should cooperate with him until he services out his tenure. Why should they continue to insist on Makarfi? Has God told them that Makarfi is indispensable to the party for them to dislodge the APC in 2019?”

Supreme Court Is The Final Arbiter – LP Woman Leader
Chief Elizabeth Ngozi Anyaegbulem, Woman Leader of the Labour Party (LP), Oru East local government area of Imo State, maintained that PDP has been in leadership crisis for a long time, describing the development as unfortunate.
According to her, “The party’s members backing Makarfi have the right to approach the Supreme Court, which is the final judicial authority in the land. Those who want to dump the party and defect to other political parties are free to do so.”