Following the ruling of Supreme Court on Wednesday, which sacked Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, National Caretaker Committee of the party, under the leadership of Senator Ahmed Makarfi, has taken over PDP national secretariat in Abuja.
The secretariat was until Wednesday morning occupied by Sheriff and his loyalists.
Members of the party trooped to the erstwhile deserted secretariat located at Wuse Zone 5, Abuja.
As soon as the Supreme Court made the pronouncements, drummers and praise singers took over the party secretariat, singing and dancing as politicians in their large number rushed to the secretariat.
Among the early birds at the office were Makarfi and members of his team; former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana; a former governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke; Plateau State ex-governor, Jonah Jang; a former aviation minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; PDP Board of Trustees member, Prof. Ahmed Alkali; and a former Chairman, DAAR Communication, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, among others.
Drummers, trumpeters and singers were also on hand to welcome Makarfi and his team to the party’s erstwhile temporary secretariat located at Wuse Zone 2.
Members of staff of the parties, who had been receiving less than half salary for more than a year, also joined in the celebration.
Earlier on Wednesday, Supreme Court had removed Sheriff as National Chairman of PDP.
A five-man panel of the apex court, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, in its unanimous judgment, reinstated the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, which was earlier sacked by the majority verdict of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal on February 17, 2017.
The same majority judgment of the appeal court had recognised Sheriff as authentic National Chairman of the party after nullifying the national convention of the party, which had earlier removed the ex-governor of Borno State in Port Harcourt on May 21, 2016.
Wednesday’s judgment of the Supreme Court puts to rest the legal battle for the control of the party, the fallout of the political crisis which has been rocking the party since it lost the 2015 presidential election.
Reading the lead judgment of the apex court on Wednesday, Justice Bode Rhodes-Vivour formulated two issues for determination and both were resolved against Sheriff.
The judgment, which was based on the interpretation of the relevant provisions of the PDP’s constitution, also awarded the cost of N250,000 against Sheriff.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour descended heavily on Sheriff, whom the apex court adjudged to be filing multiplicity of suits in his desperation to cling to office after being removed by the resolution of the national convention of the party held in Port Harcourt on May 21, 2016.
The apex court upheld the judgment of Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, delivered on July 4, 2016, and the subsequent dissenting decision of a member of the three-man panel of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal, which both validated the removal of Sheriff as National Chairman at the party’s national convention held on May 21, 2016.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour held that the majority judgment of the two of the members of the panel of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal, delivered on February 17, 2017, was perverse.
The apex court held that the suit filed by the Makarfi faction before the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, was not an abuse of court process as wrongly held by the majority judgment which formed the decision of the Court of Appeal.
On the second issue, which it also resolved against Sheriff, the apex court held that the national convention of the PDP held on May 21, 2016, was rightly and constitutionally convened.
It held that going by the provisions of PDP constitution, it was right for PDP Deputy National Chairman to preside over the convention after Sheriff abandoned the convention and attempted to call it off.
It held that the convention acted rightly and not in breach of any aspect of PDP’s constitution by setting up the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour ruled, “When the first respondent (Sheriff) abandoned the convention, PDP Deputy National Chairman presided over the convention in accordance with Article 35(2)(b) of the Constitution of the PDP.
“Furthermore, the Court of Appeal was wrong for its findings and came to a perverse conclusion after examining only Article 47(d) of PDP constitution. It should also have examined other articles.
“It is also to be noted that the motion for the removal of the National Working Committee was brought pursuant to provisions of Article 33(5)(d) of PDP constitution.”
He therefore held that all the resolutions passed and adopted at the convention, sacking the NEC and the NWC of the party, were valid.
Justice Rhodes-Vivour ruled, “There is merit in this appeal. The appeal is allowed. The judgment of the trial court, which was affirmed by the dissenting judgment of the Court of Appeal, is affirmed by this court. Cost of N250,000 is awarded against the first respondent (Sheriff).”
He advised the heads of various courts, which have the duty of assigning cases to judges under them, to be wary of antics of mischievous politicians who file multiplicity of cases.
The apex court Justice advised the heads of court to ensure that cases of similar subject matters were heard by the same judge.
Rhodes-Vivour added, “Trial judges must also be on the lookout and refrain from receiving cases when aware that a brother judge is handling a similar matter.”
Justice Rhodes-Vivour noted that many of the suits filed by Sherfiff had been abandoned and would continue to gather dust in judicial archive.
He held, “The respondents (Sheriff group) and their allies filed over 10 suits. The Court of Appeal has this to say; ‘the first appellant’, I agree, ‘displayed an infantile desperation to cling to office at all cost’.
“The first respondent has unpalatable desire to cling on to office.
“That desire was deployed relentlessly by filing over 10 suits. Most of which have been abandoned. They shall forever gather dust in judicial archive.”
Earlier in the judgment, Justice Rhodes-Vivour dismissed the preliminary objection filed by Sheriff.
Sheriff had contended in the motion, which the Supreme Court ruled as lacking in merit, that the appeal by the Makarfi faction was invalid on the basis it was filed in the name of the PDP, which he (Makarfi) was no longer in control of after the February 17, 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal.
Other members of the panel, who also consented to the lead judgment, were Justices Onnoghen, Tanko Muhammad, Kayode Ariwoola and Dattijo Muhammad.
While Makarfi was at the Supreme Court with a large retinue of loyalists, Sheriff was absent.
The only notable personality of the Sheriff group present in court on Wednesday was the Deputy National Chairman of the faction, Cairo Ojougboh.
The roll of the party’s big names on Makarfi’s side, who attended the proceedings, were Fayose and Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Also present were a former Vice-Chairman of the party (South-West), Bode George; and the present occupant of the position in the faction, Eddy Olafeso; a former National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh; a former Minister of Education, Tunde Adeniran; and a former Governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shekarau.
Meanwhile, the national leadership of PDP has vowed to regain power in the country in 2019.
Makafi stated this at a meeting he had with members of the party’s Senate caucus shortly after the Supreme Court verdict which affirmed his leadership of the party.
The meeting was held at the private residence of Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, in Abuja. Fayose is chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum.
Makarfi said the party would not repeat the mistakes of the past, adding that history must not be allowed to repeat itself.
He urged the leadership of the party to work together and also ensure that nobody “is allowed to hold the party to ransom again.”
He said All Progressives Congress made a blunder in Osun State, adding that this was the reason why the ruling party in the state lost the Osun-West senatorial election to the PDP.
He said, “Work, we must work together. We must also learn to accommodate. But that should not be to the detriment of the people who fought for the party.
“Just as we took Osun West, we will take Nigeria in style by 2019.
“We would be coming with a programme that would be realistic and will not be against any constitution of the party, electoral act or any law whatsoever.
Makarfi told the senators and others present at the meeting that the party’s leadership would meet on Tuesday with the party’s Board of Trustees.
He said it was after the meeting that decisions would be taken on when the party would have its National Executive Committee meeting.
The former governor of Kaduna State added, “All the caucuses are meeting soon, I think on Tuesday or so. We must be tactical, we must be careful and we must know that the enemies are also watching.
“The enemies are shivering already. Today is a turning point of things in Nigeria. We are moving forward. Where we have erred, we must tell Nigerians that we erred and seek their forgiveness. This is a collective victory.’’
Fayose, however, said, “The wall of Jericho has fallen. We must come together to get power in 2019.”
He declared that the Supreme Court judgment had placed the party on good stead to return to power in 2019.
He assured the Makarfi-led leadership of the full cooperation of the governors, adding that, “where we need to speak we will speak, where we need to spend money, we will spend”.
However, members of the Sheriff faction refused to speak on the outcome of the court case.
Spokesperson for the faction, Mr. Bernard Mikko, who had earlier told one of our correspondents that members of the faction were meeting and would speak afterwards, later switched off his telephone.
Also, Sheriff’s deputy, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, did not return his calls and had yet to respond to a text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.
Meanwhile, APC National Vice-Chairman (North-East), Alhaji Mustapha Salihu, said the Supreme Court judgment resolving the leadership tussle in PDP, was not a threat to APC.
He said this at APC national secretariat in Abuja on Wednesday.
The party chieftain said it didn’t matter who led the PDP, the party, as a platform, had lost credibility.
Salihu added, “You assume that it is about Ali Modu Sheriff and Makarfi or anybody else? It is not so. The issue is this, what you look at is the party as an institution.
“This is an institution that institutionalised corruption. This is an institution that distroyed our infrastructure. This is an institution that distroyed our security. We are not threatened by anybody that is left of that institution.”
But Organising Secretary of PDP in the South-West, Mr. Fasiu Bakene, described the judgment as a good foundation for democracy.
Bakene stated, “The Supreme Court’s judgment today is a clear and solid foundation for the sustenance of democratic rule in Nigeria.
“With this judgment, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi caretaker committee should immediately put PDP in its rightful position of giving good governance to Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliation.”