Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
As stakeholders of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) await the definitive ruling on the contentious issue of authentic leadership at the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, Rivers State an atmosphere of anxiety seems to have taken over the business of the party.
The Appeal Court in Port Harcourt is expected any moment from now to decide on which of the two contending forces, the Ali Modu Sheriff-led group and the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led Caretaker Committee is the authentic leadership of the PDP.
The Federal High in Port Harcourt presided over by Justice Mohammed Liman had given a ruling authenticating the PDP national convention held in May last year which appointed the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee. But Senator Sheriff and his aggrieved faction rejected the judgment and appealed it. Although hearing on the substantive case has been heard by the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt, the date for its delivery is yet to be fixed.
After months of dashed hope of peaceful resolution of the conflict bedeviling the party, most of the members, especially those outside the top leadership echelon, have become downcast and are no longer sure of what to expect next. Not even the bravado exhibited by the leadership of the National Caretaker Committee which saw the setting up of the 85-member Strategy Review and Inter-Party Affairs Committee under the Chairmanship of Prof. Jerry Gana, could stem the growing apprehension amongst the rank and file of the membership of the opposition.
Only last week, concerned staff members of the PDP staged a protest at the national secretariat of the party still locked by security agents due to the crisis. The protest by the over 80 members of staff of the former ruling party over the continued uncertainty in the PDP is the second in the last six months. The workers under the auspices of PDP Staff Welfare Forum cried out to the judiciary to ensure speedy dispensation of justice on the cases relating to the crisis rocking the party so as to save the country from one party state.
Speaking during the protest rally, Secretary of the Forum, Hon. Dan Ochu Baiye said the PDP workers are pained over their stay at home without work. He said the worried staff members have expressed regret at the incessant petitions by one of the parties in the court case and described it as a delay tactic to subvert justice.
According to the protesting staff of the PDP who thronged the national secretariat of the party in the early hours of yesterday, the crisis is apparently persisting due to the alleged underground support one of the groups is getting from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
“The delay is only beneficial to the petitioner, who is being sponsored by the ruling APC to weaken and silence the only opposition party. The staff members of the PDP National Secretariat hold the Judiciary in high esteem and believe in it to remain unbiased and dispense justice that will maintain the sanctity and independence of the rule of law and the court.
“The staff members were particularly worried about the continuous shutdown of its national Secretariat by the Nigerian Police Force (NPF), a situation which has made it impossible for them to report for duty and possibly interface with leaders on issues relating to their outstanding salaries. In their anguish, the workers pointed accusing fingers to certain elements within the ruling APC, whom they accused of wanting to ensure that the PDP national secretariat is perpetually under ‘lock and key’.”
They demanded the immediate and unconditional reopening of the secretariat to allow staff members gain entrance into their offices for routine party activities since, according to them, no court in the country gave the order for the lockdown of the PDP National Secretariat by the Nigerian Police Force.