By BEN AGANDE, ABUJA
The National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party has slated Wednesday, August 17 to hold the party’s national convention where new leaders. The convention is expected to bring to an end, the lingering leadership crisis that has dogged the party since its last convention in Port-Harcourt.
But as it is with everything in the party since it lost the presidential election last year, the proposed convention is again steeped in controversy as the factional Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and his supporters have continued to kick against it, relying on the interlocutory injunctions that his faction had secured from various courts to confer legitimacy on Sheriff as the leader of the party.
And to push further his challenge to the proposed convention, Sheriff, who is still smarting from the rejection of his governorship candidate for the Edo governorship election, wrote the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, warning the electoral body not to recognize the proposed convention of the party in Port-Harcourt.
He contended that if the commission went ahead to monitor the proposed national convention, it would amount to contempt of court.
He said: “Kindly refer to a letter dated 20th July, 2016 by the illegal PDP Caretaker Committee purported to notifying INEC of a proposed Ward Congresses to nominate 3 Ad-hoc Delegates on Wed August 10, 2016 and LGA Congresses to nominate National Delegates on Friday, August 12, 2016, for a repeat National Convention, and also a repeat National Convention slated for Wednesday, August 17, 2016.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the only body that can call for and ratify activities culminating to a National Convention of our great Party the PDP is our Party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) headed by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as National Chairman”.
But in a rebuttal, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, the Chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, pooh-poohed Sheriff’s contention, pointing out that there was neither legal nor political reason to consider the letter written by Sheriff as he lacked the locus to challenge the legitimacy of the Caretaker Committee and even the proposed convention.
In a letter, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the spokesman for the committee, said the letter by Sheriff was a further indication that Sheriff was out not only to stop the convention but also to destroy the PDP.
He contended: “The latest attempt by the former National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and his cohorts is not only to scuttle the forthcoming National Convention but also another clear evidence of his determination to destroy the PDP.”
Making reference to the court pronouncements which Sheriff relied upon to derive his legitimacy Adeyeye said those legal pronouncements were “mere legal tales”.
The spokesperson said: “The ruling of Justice Okon Abang which Ali Modu Sheriff is relying on is a mere narrative of the Case before the Federal High Courts in Lagos and Port Harcourt Divisions. It does not set aside or nullify the judgment of Justice Liman which has authenticated the May 21st National Convention and the resolutions emanating therefrom.
“The ruling did not anywhere direct INEC to do anything or not to do anything, to discharge or not to discharge any obligation; to perform any function or not to perform any function.
“In essence, it is a mere legal tale and the Order having been made without any application before him by either of the Parties has no foundation in law.
“Hon. Justice Valerie Arshi had in a Judgment nullified the appointment of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as Chairman of the Party. That Judgment has not been set aside. It is still valid and subsisting. And no Court of Coordinate Jurisdiction including the Federal High Court can make any other Order with the intention of rendering that Judgment ineffective.
“The National Convention which held in Port Harcourt on May 21st, 2016 which resolutions were confirmed by Justice Liman of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt on July 4, 2016, dissolved the National Executive Committee (NEC) and the National Working Committee (NWC) and affirmed the National Caretaker Committee as the Supreme body to run the affairs of the Party until another Convention was held within 90 days.
“That being the case, it was, therefore, the last Convention that in fact convened the forthcoming one slated for August 17, 2016, and not the National Caretaker Committee parse. The National Convention is superior to all other Organs of the Party”.
Though Makarfi’s leadership enjoys the support of majority of party members, this is not enough to stem the tide of confusion that has trailed the party since the emergence of Sheriff as the Chairman of the party. Several conflicting court judgments, sometimes from courts of coordinate jurisdictions have further obfuscated the already confused state of the party. With such disarray in the judiciary, even if the Port Harcourt convention goes ahead without an internal reconciliation of the contending forces, the crisis may be far from over.
But beyond the confusion of leadership in the party, the process leading to the processes of the proposed convention have been anything but inspiring. Though the chairmanship position of the party has been zoned to the southern part of the country, only the founder of DAAR Communication, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, has been actively campaigning across the country to be elected as Chairman.
With other court cases lined up for hearing in various courts, whether the convention holds or not may not be determined by the preparedness or otherwise of the PDP leadership. Wherever the judicial pendulum swings in the coming days would determine whether the convention will go ahead or it will again be encumbered by the various interests that have conspired to render the once ruling party comatose.