- Party screens George, Adeniran, Dokpesi for chairmanship election
Tobi Soniyi, Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Alex Enumah in Abuja and Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has said that it will go ahead with its national convention scheduled for wednesday despite a restraining order by a Federal High Court in Abuja stopping the convention.
The Abuja court order came on the heels of another one by a concurrent Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, which reaffirmed the convention and ordered the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor it.
In a statement issued monday evening, in reaction to the ruling of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court in Abuja, the spokesman of the PDP, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, said the party as a law abiding organisation would obey the order of the Port Harcourt Federal High Court until it is set aside by a “court of competent jurisdiction”.
“Our attention has been drawn once again to another act of judicial recklessness by the Honourable Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Okon Abang of the purported suspension of the PDP National Convention holding in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on Wednesday the 17th of August 2016.
“We wish to however state that a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, had earlier in the day given a comprehensive order wherein the Honourable Judge specifically ordered the PDP to proceed with the convention as scheduled without hindrance.
“Indeed his lordship while giving the order mandated all relevant agencies including the police, DSS (Department of State Service) and INEC to cooperate with the party in organising a hitch-free national convention.
“You may also wish to note that the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, gave an interlocutory order while Justice Okon Abang, Abuja, gave an interim order.
“The order of the Port Harcourt Court is clearly superior and earlier in time to the interim order given by Justice Okon Abang. In the light of the above, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as a law abiding party is obeying the order of the Port Harcourt, Federal High Court until set aside by any competent court of jurisdiction.
“In view of the above, the 2016 Repeat National Convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will continue as scheduled, as we welcome all delegates, party leaders, other critical stakeholders, the INEC monitoring team and other friends of PDP to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, while wishing all our members and supporters a successful national convention,” he said.
Before the statement by the main opposition party, the Federal High Court in Abuja had issued an order suspending the proposed convention of the party.
Justice Abang, who issued the order, said that he did so in the interest of justice for both parties in a suit pending before him.
Abang also said that the order was issued to curb the excesses of some parties in the matter and to serve as a disciplinary measure against those treating the court with levity.
He made particular reference to Senator Ben Obi, a member of the National Caretaker Committee.
Justice Abang whose attention was drawn to a copy of the ex-parte order obtained by Obi from the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, said that Obi’s action by filing the motion was in bad taste.
The judge held that Obi secretly went to Port Harcourt to obtain the said order, when he knew that he was a party seeking to be joined in the legal action filed by the Ali Modu Sheriff faction seeking to stop the Port Harcourt convention.
“Senator Ben Obi cannot undermine the authority of this court having become aware of the pendency of this matter, he ought to have waited for the outcome of this court.
“He cannot slap the court in the face and expect the court to grant him any indulgence.
“Democracy is not anchored on the whims and caprices of anybody, it is also not anchored on self help. Obi cannot treat the court with levity.
“It is unfortunate and unfair that he approached the Port Harcourt court for the ex-parte order which was granted to him.
“To curb the excesses of the recalcitrant parties and to prove that courts are not bull dogs that can bark but cannot bite, I am inclined to grant the request of Sheriff and I hereby make an order suspending the PDP convention of August 17 in exercise of my disciplinary jurisdiction to maintain the dignity and integrity of the court,” he said.
Earlier, Justice Abang had joined Senators Ahmed Makarfi, Obi, Odion Ugbesia, Abdul Ningi, Mr. Kabiru Usman, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye and Hajia Aisha Aliyu individually as defendants to the suit filed by Sheriff.
The judge also refused to grant the stay of execution on the ruling of July 28 in which he affirmed the leadership of the Sheriff-led faction of the PDP.
Abang said that Mr. Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), who made the request for the stay of execution on behalf of the Makarfi-led faction, lacked the locus standi to have made the request because he was not a party to the suit that brought the ruling.
The court described the lawyer as a busybody and a meddlesome interloper and imposed a fine of N50,000 on him for attempting to thwart the proceedings of the court.
Abang frowned on the claim by Orbih that he had filed an appeal against the ruling, adding that the lawyer failed to put the notice of the appeal at the disposal of the court and that his claim that he had transmitted the court record to the Court of Appeal was an exercise in futility because he did not obtain the permission of the court before doing so.
The court had also dismissed an application brought by one Mr. Sikiru Ogundele asking the judge to disqualify himself from the matter on account of bias.
Abang said that it was on the record that Ogundele was not a party to the suit, therefore, he could not seek for any relief.
Sheriff had filed a suit challenging the legality of the planned PDP convention and prayed the court to stop it on the grounds that it was being organised by a body not known to law.
The same judge last month affirmed Sheriff as the authentic national chairman of the party and nullified the appointment of Ahmed Makarfi as the caretaker committee chairman of the party.
However, before Justice Abang’s ruling yesterday, Justice Ibrahim Watila of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt had ruled yesterday that the PDP convention scheduled for Port Harcourt tomorrow was in line with the July 4 judgment of the court which validated the May 21, 2016 national convention of the party.
Justice Watila also ordered INEC to monitor the convention. He also ordered the Inspector General of Police, the Director General of the DSS, the Rivers State Commissioner of Police and the Rivers State Director of the DSS to provide security at the convention.
This came as the Rivers State governor and chairman of PDP National Convention Planning Committee, Nyesom Wike, declared that the convention would go on as planned because it was backed by the courts and all authorities.
Ruling on an application for an interlocutory injunction brought before the court by Senator Obi on behalf of the National Convention Planning Committee of the PDP, Justice Watila noted that the July 4 judgment of the court had not been upturned by any appellate court and so was subsisting.
He also noted that the defendants in the suit were appropriately served but failed to enter appearance in the suit, adding that that would not be an excuse for him not to rule on the application.
Watila declared that the July 4 judgment of the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt recognising theMay 21 National Convention which produced the National Caretaker Committee had neither been appealed against nor set aside, hence it behoved the court to protect that judgment.
The court added that there was no injunction against the holding of the convention in Port Harcourt brought to the attention of the court during the hearing of the application submitted by Senator Obi.
The motion was filed by Wori N. Wori on behalf of Obi relying on a 30-paragragh affidavit deposed to by Felix Obuah.
“The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th defendants are hereby restrained in any manner howsoever from interfering with the conduct of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, the 17th day of August 2016 or any other date and venue pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice or the originating summons as the honourable court may decide,” Justice Watila ordered.
The court also ordered that the police, DSS and INEC be served by substituted means through their respective offices in Port Harcourt.
In an interview after the ruling, counsel to Obi, Mr. Wori, said with the granting of the interlocutory injunction, the party had the legal backing to carry on with tomorrow’s convention in Port Harcourt.
Also addressing journalists after the ruling, Rivers State Governor Wike said all was set for the convention.
“It (court ruling) is a good news because many people have been wondering whether the national convention will hold as a result of certain remarks by certain persons, but let me assure you very well that we are going ahead with the national convention.
“We are backed by all authorities and by the law that the convention will go ahead based on the fact that the court has recognised the convention before now from the July 4, 2016 judgment.
“Again, today, the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Ibrahim Watila has reconfirmed the judgment of Justice Liman that INEC should monitor the convention and that the security agencies should provide security as required.
“Today’s matter was instituted by the PDP caretaker committee against INEC and security agencies. One of the reasons being that the security agencies were party to the judgment of July 4, 2016.
“Since the court upheld the convention that was held on the 21st of May 2016, the caretaker committee of the party felt it should go a step further to make sure the judgment of the court is implemented.
“Now, the court has said that INEC should monitor the election as required by law, knowing fully well that INEC has been dealing with the Makarfi-led committee, by the grace of God, everything is set for the national convention to take place on the 17th of August,” the governor explained.
Reacting to the condition given by Sheriff that Wike should step down as the chairman of the convention planning committee and that the convention should be held in Abuja, Wike said Sheriff was being petty and was in no position to dictate to the party.
“That is being petty. It means that if I step down as the chairman of the convention and they move the convention, then he will be willing to do that. Sheriff says he is the chairman of the party.
“So if I stepped down and the convention is moved to Abuja, does it mean he will no longer be the chairman of the party? You see, it doesn’t make sense. If you allow that to happen, then you are giving him recognition.
“We have every organ of the party; we have the BoT, we have the National Assembly caucus, we have the Governors’ Forum.
“All these organs of the party are together in saying that the convention must hold. So the issue of me stepping down or the convention being moved to Abuja does not arise.
“This is not the first time convention would be held outside Abuja. He is not the person to determine that,” Wike explained.
On the claim by Sheriff that Wike and Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose had hijacked the PDP, Wike said: “Did we hijack the party when he said he never expected to be chairman and then we made him chairman? Now because it is not in his favour, he is saying we are hijacking the party. It is very wrong for Sheriff to have said that.
“When did he come to the party; we were in the PDP since its formation. Am I going to hijack the party from a person that just became a member or from somebody who has been a member of the party?
“What some of these people do not understand is that they must make sacrifices. The party is saying this man (Sheriff) cannot be our chairman. He cannot be right where everybody is saying we will not accept this; it will mean being insensitive to the plight of the people.
“We brought him in then, thinking that he had what was required to manage the party. You can see the reaction from everyone – 99 per cent of the party is saying we cannot accept this character. That is why we have to follow the line of members of the party.
“Some people don’t want to make sacrifices for the party’s interest. What is Sheriff looking for that he cannot forgo in the interest of the party? Remember that when he was made the chairman of the PDP, the governor of Kano State, Ganduje, came out and said that Sheriff was going to work for them (APC) while the governor of Borno State said Sheriff was going to destroy the party (PDP).
“Sheriff should have proved these people wrong by proving that he is not going to work for them and will not destroy the party (PDP). But he is now confirming what these governors have already said; that he was going to work for the APC and try to destroy the PDP. It is very clear that these governors predicted correctly because they know him very well.
“Sheriff has nothing to say again and that is why he is talking about the hijack of the party. Who is going to contribute more in terms of PDP winning? I am from Rivers State, he (Sheriff) is from Borno. What is the vote from Borno that he gave to PDP and what is the vote from Rivers for PDP?
“If there is an election today, who will support the PDP more? Is it him from his state or me from Rivers State? Who is more of a liability to the party? Is Sheriff an asset to the party and me a liability or me an asset to the party and him a liability? I am going to do anything that is required to support the party. So, such accusation of anybody hijacking the party is neither here nor there.”
Also, ahead of tomorrow’s convention, the screening committee of the party yesterday screened former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Bode George; former Education Minister, Prof Tunde Adeniran; and Chairman of Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, in readiness for election to the post of national chairman of the party.
This was just as the screening committee chaired by former Benue State Governor, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, commenced screening of candidates who would vie for various elective positions.
Other prominent members of the convention screening committee include: former Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa; former Imo State Governor, Achike Udenwa; former Adamawa State Governor, Boni Haruna; former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ibrahim Mantu; Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe; and former Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Josephine Anenih. Rivers State Attorney General, Emmanuel Aguma (SAN), serves as secretary of the committee.
Suswam stated that the committee would screen 57 candidates who had purchased forms to contest elections.
All three chairmanship candidates declared that they would accept the outcome of the convention, pledging that their loyalty remained with the party.
They also pledged that they would support the process to rebuild the PDP after the convention.