The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Ali Modu Sheriff, has commenced moves to stop any appeal to the Supreme Court seeking to challenge the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt Division, which affirmed him as the authentic leader of the party.
He has therefore applied to the apex court for the withdrawal of an appeal filed in the name of the party by the Ahmed Makarfi-led faction.
The appeal, with number SC.133/2017, was filed on February 27, 2017, in the name of the PDP by the Makarfi-led caretaker committee to challenge the February 17, 2017 judgment of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal which affirmed the Sheriff-led executive as the authentic leadership of the party.
In their motion to discontinue the appeal before the Supreme Court, Sheriff and his National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, argued among others, that no ground of law supported the appeal.
The motion was filed at the Supreme Court on March 16, 2017.
Filed through their lead counsel, Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi (SAN), the motion stated that more importantly, by virtue of the Court of Appeal’s judgment, Makarfi and other members of his faction were not the alter ego of the party and such were incompetent to institute any legal process in the name of the party.
It stated that none of Makarfi, Senator Ben Dayo Obi and Adeyeye could continue to act in any capacity as the representatives of the party.
The court paper read in part, “More importantly, however, the persons who have instigated the filing of the appeal and instructed lawyers to act for the appellant (namely Senator Ahmed Makarfi, Senator Ben Obi, and Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, who continue to style and parade themselves as the ‘National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party’), do not have the authority or power to do so.
“The corporate personality of the appellant can only be invoked by its legal alter ego, vide the National Working Committee/National Executive Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, consisting of the first and second respondents (Sheriff and Oladipo) and other officers represented by them, not Senators Ahmed Makarfi, Senator Ben Obi, and Mr. Adeyeye, who are not officers of the appellant (the PDP) at all, as confirmed by the judgment of the lower court .”
In an affidavit filed in support of the motion, Oladipo, who deposed to it, stated that a letter had been written to Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), to stop acting as counsel for the PDP, adding that the duo of Mr. Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Dr. Alex Iziyon (SAN) had been appointed in his (Olanipekun’s) stead.
Oladipo stated, “I also know that as a fact that a letter was also written to Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) requiring him to stop acting as counsel for the Peoples Democratic Party as he was never authorized by the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party appeal.
“The said Senators Makarfi, Obi and Mr. Adeyeye have so demonstrated disrespect for the judicial process and the proceedings before this honorable court by their utterances.
“I know as a fact that the Peoples Democratic Party has not authorized anyone, including Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) to file any appeal against the judgment of the lower court delivered on February 17, 2017.”
Respondents to the appeal by the Makarfi-led faction’s of the PDP are Sheriff, Oladipo, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Services.
Dickson, Makarfi exchange words over leadership tussle
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the National Reconciliation Committee of the PDP, Governor Seriake Dickson, has accused Makarfi of using blackmail to stall the party’s peace process.
He also accused Makarfi, who was the chairman of the ousted National Caretaker Committee of the PDP, of employing various antics to frustrate the resolution of the crisis in the former ruling party.
Dickson, who is the Bayelsa State governor, said this in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Sunday.
According to him, he and several other party leaders at different times made proposals aimed at ending the war of attrition in the leadership of the party, alleging that the refusal of Makarfi and some of his supporters to accept present realities was stalling the process.
In a separate interview with The PUNCH, Makarfi, who is the former governor of Kaduna State, stated that the issue was not about his person but about the overall interest of the PDP and Nigeria’s opposition.
Dickson said Makarfi was one of several party leaders who earlier pleaded with him to support the emergence of Sheriff as the chairman of the PDP when he (Dickson) opposed the move.
Dickson added, “I opposed Modu Sheriff’s entry as chairman; I thought there were other roles he could play. But some of my colleagues and other leaders thought otherwise, including most of these people who are calling names.
“I stayed in Abuja for three weeks and spoke with BoT members, other elders, and I want to thank them for the little regard they have always given to me.
“We went to Port Harcourt and we had an inconclusive convention because of court cases and a lot of controversies. It became imperative for the party to set up, for the first time, a national caretaker committee.
“So, His Excellency, my elder brother, Makarfi, for who I have a lot of respect (I am not going to trade insults with him) … the way he is blackmailing me and saying all kinds of things.
“Most of the people, who are talking about Sheriff today were the people promoting Sheriff while I said no. You can verify that from anywhere.”
The Bayelsa State governor explained that despite any misgivings anyone might have, Sheriff currently remained the PDP’s national chairman.
Dickson added, “If there were to be a bye election in Kaduna, Makarfi’s state, Makarfi today is not in a position to send a name to the Independent National Electoral Commission for INEC to accept.
“That is the political reality everybody in the PDP needs to accept, whether you like Sheriff’s face or not. I don’t support Sheriff and what he has done, but I acknowledge that reality.
“The reconciliation committee, which I have chaired for quite some time, met to review our position in the light of the Court of Appeal’s judgment and we said look, let us formulate a realistic, practical and strategic response to that reality because in the end, it is all about strategy.”
Dickson noted that one of the party leaders brokered a peace plan which would have seen Makarfi and Sheriff stepped down but that while Sheriff agreed to the condition, provided Makarfi also stepped down, the former Kaduna State governor declined.
In his reaction, Makarfi, who admitted that the Bayelsa State governor met with him a number of times, said it was not right to meet him alone and ask that he should negotiate.
Makarfi, who spoke in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the crisis in the PDP was not about his person but about the right things being done.
He stated, “All I have been saying is that any discussions should be with the organs of the party and anything they accept, I am duty bound to accept.
“Agreed he came to me and I believed he came in good faith, not with any ulterior motive. I told him that members of my committee and I are implementers of decisions of the organs of the party, he should go back to the party organs but instead of doing that, one or two hours after, he went and submitted his report to Sheriff.
“It is after submitting the report to Sheriff that he started going round to speak to organs of the party. How do you do that?”
Makarfi added that contrary to insinuations in some quarters, he was not opposed to earlier suggestions that himself, Sheriff and all members of the party leadership should step down for the party to start afresh.
On his part, Adeyeye, who is the Publicity Secretary of the sacked National Caretaker Committee of the PDP, accused Dickson of not encouraging reconciliation in the troubled party.
He said, “The way Governor Dickson is going about this committee seems he does not want reconciliation, because you cannot be attacking one group at all the times – attacking the Makarfi group. We are not comfortable with that.
“It is not true that we have been stalling the peace process. General Gusau at one time brokered peace among us, and it was Sheriff that did not allow it to work. There was never a time that Sheriff offered to resign as Governor Dickson claimed.
“Therefore, our position on the reconciliation efforts by Governor Dickson is that one; he has not even met with the caretaker committee. This is our problem.”
Adeyeye can’t speak for PDP – Sheriff
In a related development, Sheriff said it was wrong for a member of the sacked National Caretaker Committee, Adeyeye, to be speaking for the party.
He said the former minister of state for works should desist from using the logo of the party and from speaking on its behalf.
Sheriff stated this in a statement by the party’s acting spokesman, Mr. Bernad Mikko, in Abuja on Sunday.
He said, “For the umpteenth time, the attention of the National Working Committee of the PDP has been drawn to statement credited to Adeyeye in a desperate attempt to curry empathy, seek public attention and undeserved political relevance.
“It is hereby disclaimed that Adeyeye cannot speak for the PDP or use its logo and franchise without the authority and express permission of the national leadership of the party.”
Mikko alleged that Adeyeye was merely interested in his governorship ambition, adding that the ex-minister made this clear at a meeting he held with party leaders shortly after the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, sacked the caretaker committee.
When contacted, Adeyeye said he would not react to the statement, adding that if he would, his reaction would come in form of a statement on Monday (today).
Also, Mikko said the issue of factions had been settled by the Appeal Court judgment, stating that the issue before the PDP was the way forward.
He said, “The way forward is to go for our National Convention as recommended by the Governor Dickson Peace and Reconciliation Committee, which has given us a template on the way forward.
“The NWC has accepted the committee’s recommendation because it is all inclusive. The template is for everyone; every peace loving Nigerian, who is a member of the PDP or loves our party should follow it."