Fresh moves to resolve PDP crisis outside court


Notwithstanding the initial failure of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s Peace Initiative to substitute the ongoing legal battle between the Peoples Democratic Party’s factions with an out of court political solution, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, reports that concerned elders of the party have not given up on the out of court resolution

NOTWITHSTANDING the initial failure of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s Peace Initiative to substitute the ongoing legal battle between the Peoples Democratic Party’s factions with an out of court political solution, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, reports that concerned elders of the party have not given up on the out of court resolution

Since Senator Modu Sheriff’s open disagreement with former President Goodluck Jonathan’s peace initiative and his sudden walkout on him in a crucial meeting, insisting on the resolution of the Peoples Democratic Party’s leadership crisis through court decision, top party leaders have been divided over the development even as some party elders continue to persuade Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Sheriff to save the party by accepting a political resolution.

The argument, according to a former aide of one of the former Presidents on the ticket of PDP, is hinged on the discovery that none of the two contending factions of the party would be ready to continue with the party if it loses in the court. “I learnt the concerned elders have found out that whichever faction loses in the ongoing court battle will eventually leave the party. They found out that each of the factions has made Plan B, a development that is not good for the party. That is why the elders, who love this party, are urging the parties to come together and work in the interest of the party, instead of relying on a court verdict that will pronounce one of the contending factions, winner and the other, loser,” the source said.

The Nation investigation shows that the week leading to the May 4 court sitting on the Sheriff and Makarfi’s leadership tussle, the matter was taken to virtually all the leaders of the party across the geo-political zones, some of who reached out to Sheriff and Makarfi but according to our source, “nothing came out of it.”

He confided that every concerned elder of the party was therefore worried before May 4 court sitting, but with the long adjournment, I can confirm to you that concerned elements in the party are back in the field to seek amicable settlement of the crisis. One thing is certain; most of the elders are doing everything to convince the warring forces that it will do nobody any good to divide the family through a judicial pronouncement. A situation where we have a no winner, no loser resolution will help mend the broken relationship.”

It would be recalled that the Supreme Court, on Thursday, adjourned the hearing on the objection filed by the court-backed National Chairman, Sheriff, against the appeal filed before the court by the Ahmed Makarfi’s faction of the party.

The current legal battle is a follow-up on the ruling of a Port-Harcourt High Court, on February 27 affirming Sheriff as the party’s National Chairman. Reacting to the ruling, Makarfi’s faction had on March 16 filed an appeal before the apex court contending the ruling.

So, on March 21, Sheriff filed an objection to the appeal, praying the apex court to strike out Makarfi’s appeal.

One of Sheriff’s prayers to the apex court is a request to disqualify Makarfi’s faction from appealing the judgment of the Appeal Court. This request was heard and argued, but the court asked the counsels to submit written arguments before the next date of hearing. The case was adjourned till May 25, 2017 for further hearing.

Divided house

Since the PDP leadership contention shifted to the court, there have been both high wired intrigues to frustrate each of the factions and sharp disagreement amongst party members as to the end result of a resolution based on court pronouncement. For example, keen observers noted during the May court sitting that the original panel headed by Justice Ibrahim Tanko is no longer in charge of the case. Already, tongues are wagging, though mere change of a panel does not necessarily determine the outcome of a case at the Supreme Court.

On whether or not an out of court resolution would be ideal, one of the top PDP leaders that have openly expressed belief that the matter would only be resolved through court ruling is the National Vice-Chairman (South-South) of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Emmanuel Ogidi. According to him, “To tell you the truth, there will be no political solution to the problem, because there are so many grey areas.

“If we didn’t take this to the Supreme Court, too many things would have come back to haunt the party, so it was wise we went to the court.

“The political solution is just a family thing. Sometimes people think it can be easy, but in this case, there is no way.

“That is why each time they keep saying let’s go for political solution, some of us know that it is going to be difficult and short-lived and therefore, look forward to the court verdict,” Ogidi said.

Ogidi, who expressed reservation for the Appeal Court’s verdict added: “It is the Supreme Court judgment that we are waiting for. I believe it will do the right thing.

“One man cannot call a convention and cancel it; no one is given such kind of power. Even the President does not have such power.”

For those who believe that the political solution sought by former President Goodluck Jonathan was the best option, Sheriff’s sudden walkout at the meeting came as a rude shock. But Jonathan and some other elders of the party, desperate to restore the dignity of the once powerful ruling party, resolved not to give up but to seek more acceptable means of achieving the purpose. One of the ways was the inauguration of a 40-man Peace Initiative Committee, with the task of seeking what Jonathan described as a political solution to the leadership crisis.

This plan could not fly as the Sheriff-led National Working Committee, which, like the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, was supposed to nominate six of the 40-man committee members refused to be part of the arrangement.  Other proposed members of the peace committee were to include two former governors, two former ministers, two women and two youths, who were to be appointed in consultation with Sheriff and Makarfi committees.

Sheriff’s deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojoughoh, who explained the position of the NWC said “That committee was not discussed with us. The meeting starts when the chairman of the party arrives and ends when he leaves.  Anything apart from that is null and void. People submit list to us.  We are not to submit list to anybody.  Our consultation continues. We are consulting with all the organs of the party.”

Given that posture, there has been confusion as to how the elders would proceed in the peace initiative. While some argued that the Sheriff leadership holds the ace to PDP’s crisis and as such must be appeased before any tangible progress could be achieved, others said former President Jonathan and the elders working with him should ignore Sheriff and go ahead to inaugurate the proposed committee.

“This has been the issue all through these weeks. The former president has been advised to go ahead and not allow any selfish element stop his noble intensions. But I am told by one of the elders involved in the matter that he is awaiting the conclusion of fresh negotiations with some select PDP elders before he would make public his next move,” said a source close to the former president.

Even before Jonathan’s next moves are made public, we gathered that influential party leaders are now sharply divided, a development our source said is giving the elders great concern. “In one of the meetings held this week in Abuja, it became obvious to all that none of the factions seems ready to give in now,” he said, adding, “everybody is on his own, it seems as both supporters of Sheriff and Makarfi have refused to yield anything.”

The division is no longer hidden as both factions easily reel out the governors and leaders in their camp. For example, Sheriff’s camp recently claimed it has more of the party’s governors in its camp than its rival faction led by Makarfi.

Reports quoting Ojougbo, said out of PDP’s 11 state governors, the faction has undoubted support of five while the Makarfi faction can only boast of three governors’ full support.

PDP governors include that of Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Bayelsa, Rivers, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Taraba and Gombe States.

He listed those with the Makarfi group as Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta).

Ojougboh reportedly said, “The Ebonyi governor, the Enugu governor, the Taraba governor, the Cross River governor, the Bayelsa governor are one hundred per cent with us,” adding that “It is only Fayose, Wike and Okowa that are with Makarfi.

Elders’ counsel

Worried by the development PDP elders have been calling on the factions to eschew selfishness and help save the party

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