· BoT set to reconcile aggrieved members
Bolaji Adebiyi and Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The peace process in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was consolidated on Thursday as its major stakeholders filed behind the Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee appointed by the party’s National Convention in Port Harcourt last Saturday.
The only substantive organ of the party unrestrained by either the decisions of the National Convention or the Federal High Courts sitting in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, the Board of Trustees (BoT), as well as the Governors’ Forum, the National Assembly Caucus, the Professor Jerry Gana-led Concerned Stakeholders’ Forum and the Former Ministers’ Forum resolved at a meeting in Abuja to back the Makarfi committee in the overall interest of the party.
The former acting National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who was present at the BoT meeting, was, however, absent at the stakeholders’ meeting that eventually issued a communique, proclaiming cessation of hostility last night.
“We have agreed to support the decision of the National Convention, appointing a Caretaker Committee to govern the affairs of the party,” they said in a communique read by the Secretary of the BoT, Chief Ojo Maduekwe.
The peace process had been kick-started by the BoT on Monday as it began consultations with the stakeholders and contending groups in the crisis that worsened at the National Convention, where the National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party were dissolved.
But in obedience to the rulings of the Federal High Courts, sitting in Lagos and Abuja, restraining the party from conducting election into about 18 offices, including the National Chairman, National Secretary and National Auditor, the National Convention shelved the scheduled polls and appointed a six-man Caretaker Committee, headed by the former governor of Kaduna State, Makarfi.
The crisis deepened on Monday when the Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt and Lagos gave two conflicting rulings restraining both Makarfi and Sheriff from parading themselves as officials of the party.
The stakeholders, however, committed to peace yesterday asked everyone to queue behind Makarfi for the task of repositioning the party and provide a viable opposition to the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government, which they said was not performing.
The meeting, which was presided over by the Chairman of the BoT, Senator Walid Jibril, and attended by many members of the board, including the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, Hon. Leo Ogor, also resolved that all matters in court should be withdrawn immediately, pleading that everyone should submit themselves to the processes of peace and reconciliation.
According to the communique read by Maduekwe, a high-powered peace committee is to be set up by the BoT to reconcile all aggrieved members.
He also said that another committee was being established to reconcile Sheriff with the party.
Ojo said: “Accordingly, the combined meeting of both the BoT, and the expanded meeting with the governors’ forum, the NASS Forum, the former Ministers’ Forum and Concerned Stakeholders’ Forum have agreed to immediately engage all groups, party leaders and members involved in whatever disputes towards a just and lasting amicable resolution of all contending issues.”
Apparently responding to the conditions for peace laid down by the Gana-led Concerned Stakeholders’ Forum, the BoT secretary said it was agreed, “that the BoT will, therefore, preside over the processes of major reconciliation in our party as part of its leadership responsibility. In the light of that, the meeting agreed that all the various contending groups are being supported, and indeed have agreed to work together and to support the decisions reached at the National Convention.
“It was also agreed that the National Caretaker Committee of the party, ably led by former governor and senator, Ahmed Makarfi, and Senator Ben obi, involves members of Concern Stakeholders’ Forum for effective integration of all points, views and all tendencies”.
He added: “Another committee has also been set up to meet with former National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, in the spirit of working together and resolving all outstanding issues.”
On the multiple cases in court, Ojo said all litigants had been advised to withdraw their suits in compliance with the provision of the party’s constitution that forbade members from taking a legal action without exhausting the party’s internal conflict-resolution mechanisms.
“All cases in court shall be withdrawn immediately as an indication of good faith and commitment to party discipline and party unity,” he said, adding: “The various parties are also expected to make a commitment to maintain peace and an undertaken not to resort to external agencies to meddle with what is solely internal party affair.”
The consummation of peace began yesterday morning with the meeting of the BoT at which both Sheriff and Makarfi were excused after its opening.
Jibril had told journalists that both contenders to the chairmanship position of the party would be excused from the BoT meeting, adding that the BoT felt that their presence might create unnecessary distraction and interfere with the proceedings at the meeting.
He, however, said they would be admitted to the subsequent stakeholders’ meeting.
Makarfi arrived the Kano hall venue of the meeting about 10.30 am. He was immediately followed by Sheriff who went round beaming with smiles and shaking hands with other BoT members before taking a seat at the top table.
Meanwhile, Makarfi yesterday said that no court ruling had affected the decisions of the National Convention, admonishing party members to support him to reposition the party.
He warned that resort to court on matters that could be handled under the party’s constitution could be counterproductive, citing the contradictory rulings of the Federal High Courts as a sample of its negative impact.
While stating that Justice I. N. Buba did not make an order dissolving the Caretaker Committee, he added that it was “reckless misrepresentation of facts, and distortion of information by certain aggrieved members of our party to mislead members of the public”.
He said: “In strict compliance and obedience to the above order, the National Convention of the PDP did not conduct election into the above offices or any offices at all.”
According to him, “The ruling of Justice Buba did not touch the National Convention of the party. We acknowledge that a motion on notice to this effect is pending before Buba J. But until that motion is moved and/or granted or struck out there is no adverse judicial pronouncement on the proceedings at the National Convention of the PDP held on Saturday May 21, 2016.”
He pointed out that: “A court of coordinate jurisdiction, the Federal High Court, sitting in Port Harcourt, had given orders deemed appropriate in respect of specific issues bordering on the outcome of the National Convention held on Saturday May 21, 2016,” adding: “The said order of Liman J. subsists and specific on the issue as against that of Buba J, which only granted an injunction against conducting elections into certain offices as listed above, and the party never conducted election into those offices as directed by the court.”
Makarfi also added that no member of the PDP was bigger than the party.
“No office, person, organ, or institution within the PDP is bigger than the National Convention, which is the supreme organ of the party with powers, to even dissolve the party itself,” he said.