Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
In spite of the several law suits occasioning many contradictory rulings and judgments from courts of coordinate jurisdiction, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders indicated yesterday that they would resume talks aimed at settling their squabbles out of court.
The Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Walid Jibrin, told THISDAY in a telephone conversation that the peace plan the body initiated weeks before the botched August 17, 2016 National Convention of the party in Port Harcourt would be put into action, adding that the warring parties would be recalled for discussion within the next few days.
“We are still pursuing the peace plan and we intend to continue with the dialogue until final resolution is achieved,” he said.
The BoT had set up the Prof. Jerry Gana Committee to explore peace between the former National Chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, and the National Caretaker Committee led by Ahmed Makarfi and work the modalities for the two to work towards the botched convention.
But negotiations broke down as the two groups could not agree on some key issues, including the venue and composition of the convention committee.
The Deputy National Chairman of the Sheriff group, Cairo Ojougboh, however, explained yesterday that the peace negotiations broke down because of ego and sundry issues between Sheriff and Governor Nyesom Nwike of Rivers State.
Ojougboh offered this explanation as the former National Secretary of the party, Wale Oladipo, called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, to intervene in the judicial impasse that threatens to ridicule the judiciary.
Ojougboh told THISDAY that supremacy battle between Sheriff and Wike was behind the failure of the party to resolve its crisis.
A week before last Wednesday’s national convention of the PDP, the BoT had constituted a reconciliation committee headed by the former Minister of Information, Gana, to mediate in the leadership crisis but details of its report were not made public.
But Ojougboh said his group reached a seven-point agreement with the Gana-led peace committee on how to return normalcy to the party but it was abandoned.
He said that among the seven conditions Sheriff agreed to were that the Port Harcourt repeat convention be postponed and that the convention be held in Abuja, insisting that Wike would not be the chairman of the convention.
Others were that both Sheriff’s group and the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee should nominate members of the convention committee and that Makarfi would open the convention while Sheriff would give the closing speech.
“In fact they proposed the seven points after both parties had spoken and they said that they were going to come back and they came back with the seven points. We said we agreed, they left us and said they were coming back to us and we didn’t hear from them again only for us to learn that they had gone to meet the Northern Caucus and the Northern caucus said that they don’t want Sheriff, that Sheriff is the one causing trouble,” he said.
Narrating their own side of the engagement with the Gana committee, Ojougboh said: “Let me tell you what happened last week, we were seated in our office when Jerry Gana called that there was a need for us to settle this power tussle politically and we said ‘oh, that is very good, that is what we have being waiting for’, so Jerry Gana came and we spoke.
“We said ‘look we are ready for peace and we have started this peace meeting in the house of the Taraba State governor and of course I was there and we said we are very ready for peace’.”
Ojougboh said that after negotiating and agreeing on the peace plan, Gana and his team presented the proposal to the Makarfi-led caretaker committee, the PDP governors and National Assembly caucus of the party for consideration.
He said that to his greatest dismay, while others were giving consideration to the terms of the peace agreement, Wike opposed it and told them to forget Sheriff, adding that the convention must go on.
The Delta State-born politician said he had appealed to members of the BoT and the National Assembly caucus to do something urgently and find a political solution to end the crisis rather than allow the courts to be adjudicating on the matter.
“Till today we find it very dishonest. We can’t believe it that men of integrity and men that are respected in the society to behave like that because we were told that when they went to tell Wike what was agreed that Wike said they shouldn’t mind us that he has finished the matter, that he is in charge, that they shouldn’t worry that everything is in order and I was shocked at that,” he said.
On why Sheriff is against Wike and Port Harcourt as convention venue, Ojougboh said he believed that if the convention held in Port Harcourt it would never be free and fair.
He said: “At the first instance when we went to Port Harcourt for the May 21 convention, before we got there, the governor changed all the functionaries that were elected and gave their jobs to his commissioners and they were changing the name of delegates to suit them.
“Even the one they did on Wednesday, the same thing happened and of course if this convention was to take place, they have their plans and they would have ‘rail-roaded’ the convention and produced who they wanted to produce but we can never be influenced and that is what we are against.
“They have pencilled down Agbaje. They have pencilled down the former financial secretary from Kaduna to be the secretary of the party. They have pencilled down Uche Secondus to return as Deputy National Chairman of the party South. These are things we had already known and they had perfected how these persons would come over and we said no!
“This thing will kill the party and we must return the party to the people. Sheriff keeps telling them and we keep telling them that we must sit down as a party to grow this party. When I say it God doesn’t make mistake; Sheriff is an agent of change to say no to impunity and that is why those of us who are with him are supporting him.”
Former Scribe Calls on Buhari, Mohammed
Meanwhile, a former National Secretary of the PDP, Oladipo, has asked Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, to wade into the judicial wrangling trailing the court actions instituted by the party’s warring factions.
Oladipo said Buhari should step in to save the judiciary from the imminent danger of being infiltrated and controlled by politicians.
He spoke against the backdrop of the many conflicting orders and judgments emanating from different divisions of the Federal High Court and the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as they relate to the leadership crisis in the PDP.
In a statement in Abuja yesterday, the former PDP secretary said it was worrisome that after parties had been served court processes and had joined issues, they rushed to another court where they got pliable judges to grant them exparte orders and conflicting orders and judgments within days.
“This ugly trend began with the Hon. Justice Mohammed Liman of the Port Harcourt Division of the Federal High Court. He granted an exparte order in respect of the same issues and parties on the 23rd of May, 2016, twelve (12) days after the Federal High Court, Lagos, had become seized of the matter and made orders which forbids the PDP from ‘conducting any election into the offices of the National Chairman, National Secretary and National Auditor occupied by the 1st (Sheriff), 2nd (Prof. Wale Oladipo) and 3rd Plaintiffs (Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju) respectively pending the determination of the substantive suit’.
“The same court granted an order restraining the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from ‘monitoring and/or recognising the conduct of any election by the 2nd Defendant/Respondent (PDP) into the offices of the National Chairman, National Secretary and National Auditor occupied by the 1st (Sheriff), 2nd (Prof. Wale Oladipo) and 3rd Plaintiffs (Alhaji Fatai Adeyanju) respectively pending the determination of the substantive suit’,” he said.
Oladipo noted that while Justice Buba decided to return the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for administrative action upon being aware of the multiplicity of suits, Justice Liman of the Port Harcourt Federal High Court proceeded to hear the matter and went on to deliver a judgment that further reaffirmed the exparte orders within 40 days.
He said: “Although the undercurrents of the matter have been chronicled in a petition sent to the CJN and the National Judicial Council (NJC) for appropriate disciplinary action, it is disturbing that the same Justice Liman, who is the most senior and the Administrative Judge in the Port Harcourt Division of the court, has not relented in his questionable actions.
“While in the background, he is now using Justice Ibrahim Watila, one of his brother judges in the Port Harcourt Division, to perpetrate some dastardly acts. Just like it was before and after the botched 21st of May, 2016 National Convention, the same parties and issues that are already before the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court are being taken to the Port Harcourt Division for adjudication.
“The court, as presided over by Justice Watila, granted an exparte order, converted it to a Motion on Notice through substituted service, heard the matter within 72 hours and delivered judgment within a week without affording those who wished to be joined as parties the opportunity to do so.
“Having successfully done that without being called to order, the same Justice Watila, is said to be ready to grant another exparte order and curious judgment in the coming days and week.”