- Party leaders defy security clampdown to meet in Abuja
- Sheriff begs Jonathan to intervene
Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The National Caretaker Committee (NCC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi has approached the Supreme Court to seek a stay of execution on the judgment of the Court of Appeal reinstating Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as National Chairman of the party.
The move by the caretaker committee came just as Sheriff monday led a delegation to the home of former President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to seek his advice and possibly get him to help negotiate a peaceful settlement of the party crisis.
Before yesterday’s meeting of the stakeholders of the PDP held in Abuja, the leaders were faced with a challenge when the International Conference Centre, venue of the meeting, was sealed up by security men.
The leaders were prevented from making use of the conference centre for the expanded national caucus meeting by officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force.
It took a last minute decision of the caretaker committee to quickly move the meeting to an alternative venue at the Ekiti State Government Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
One of the high points of deliberations at the meeting was a unanimous vote of confidence passed on the leadership of the national caretaker committee.
The stakeholders’ meeting, which was convened by the Makarfi-led national caretaker committee to decide on the next line of action following last Friday’s Court of Appeal judgment, Port Harcourt division, which reinstated Sheriff as the party’s National Chairman, was later shifted to the private residence of the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.
Visibly angry party leaders who spoke in turns, condemned the effort by the present administration to muzzle the opposition by sending security men to try and thwart their lawful assembly.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the leaders said they had filed an appeal at the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal judgment.
According to the communiqué read by former Minister of Information, Professor Jerry Gana, both an appeal and an application for stay of execution of the Appeal Court ruling were filed yesterday pending the decision of the Supreme Court on the matter.
“We pass a resounding and unqualified vote of confidence on the leadership of the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the PDP and pledge our unalloyed support to it as it pilots the affairs of the party in this critical transitional period of the party’s life.
“To this end, we are not at all deceived by the supposed olive branch being offered by Sheriff, knowing that the only thing that can come from traitors of his ilk is nothing but a poisoned chalice and a Greek gift.
“Our abiding faith in the capacity of the judiciary to protect Nigeria’s democracy and political aspirations of the Nigerian people, particularly at the level of the Supreme Court, proven repeatedly over time, is aided by the profound, fearless, irrepressible, comprehensive and insightful minority decision of T. N. Orji-Abadua, J. C. A. in CA/PH/349/2016 Sheriff & ORS. VS. PDP & ORS., whom we salute for doing the judiciary proud in spite of the predatory interferences of anti-democratic forces and State actors,” the communiqué added.
The meeting enjoined PDP stakeholders and leaders to return to their geopolitical zones, states, local government areas and wards to convene meetings of the party and disseminate the position of the party to members.
“True party men are urged to remain calm, steadfast, loyal even in the face of wanton provocation of sealing off the venue of a peaceful assembly of stakeholders. We remain committed to the ideals of the party which stands us out as democrats,” PDP assured.
While welcoming party leaders to the meeting, Makarfi frowned at the action of the security agents in preventing the party from using the ICC as venue for the meeting.
He said the party is filing motion of injunction to allow the caretaker committee to continue in office pending the determination of the appeal at the Supreme Court.
He said what happened in Port Harcourt was happening in Abuja again.
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, said the court cannot decide for the PDP who lead it, adding that he and other leaders of party have accepted their mistake for bringing Sheriff into the party.
In his remark, the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, described as worrisome the manipulation of vital institutions of democracy and radical decline of democratic freedoms in Nigeria.
Ekweremadu, who was particularly peeved at the sealing of the International Conference Centre, Abuja, the earlier announced venue of the PDP stakeholders’ meeting by the security agencies, said such flagrant manipulation of critical institutions of democracy was not only dangerous, but bad news for the nation’s democracy.
Before the meeting got underway at the Ekiti State Government Lodge in Asokoro area of Abuja, security agents had attempted to stop it from holding by barricading the previous venue at the International Conference Centre and preventing entry into the facility.
The take over of the venue of the meeting at the ICC, kind of rekindled the defiance and resolve of the PDP leaders to go ahead with the stakeholders meeting.
Many party leaders, both the high and low who thronged the alternative meeting venue at the Ekiti State Government Lodge jettisoned all comfort and squeezed themselves in a every available space in the small meeting hall.
Some of the top leaders of the PDP who attended yesterday’s meeting included: Makarfi, Secretary of the committee, Senator Ben Obi, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremmadu, Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Emmanuel Udom (Akwa Ibom), Ayodele Fayose (Ekiti), Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), House of Representatives Minority Leader, Leo Ogor, Bode George, Vincent Ogbulafor, James Ibori, Senator Iyoola Omisore, Tunde Ogbeha, Raymond Dokpesi, Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Apkabio, Dayo Adeyeye.
Others are former Deputy Speaker House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, former Niger State Governor, Babangida Aliyu, former Kaduna Governor, Ramallah, Prof. Jerry Gana, Prof. Tunde Adeniran and Chief Tom Ikimi,
Although the PDP meeting was scheduled to take-off by 2p.m., THISDAY gathered that the security men had taken positions at the ICC venue early in the morning, thereby prompting the Makarfi-led committee to move the meeting to the Ekiti State Government Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja.
In a short statement issued by Dayo Adeyeye on behalf of the caretaker committee, he urged all stakeholders to proceed to the Ekiti State Government Lodge for the meeting.
The statement read: “Sheriff in collaboration with the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led federal government has barricaded the International Conference Centre, ICC, venue of the scheduled stakeholders’ meeting of the entire organs of the PDP.
“This is a very sad development in our democratic history where there is no longer free association and movement of citizens of this country.
“ Sheriff and his APC collaborators cannot stop the will of the people. Nigerians can now confirm that Sheriff is a mole in PDP to destroy the only strong opposition in the country.
“All invited members of the party for the scheduled stakeholders’ meeting are hereby directed to proceed to will the Ekiti State Government Lodge on T. Y. Danjuma Street, Asokoro, Abuja by same time, 2p.m.,” it said.
Meanwhile, the police have denied the allegations that it tried to stop the PDP meeting.
The police yesterday denied that it barricaded the venue for the PDP meeting in Abuja.
Reacting in a phone call that the police barricaded the centre for the meeting, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Police Command, Public Relations Officer, Manza Anjuguri, said police’s interest at the centre was to maintain law and order.
According to him, it doesn’t matter whether it was a private or public gathering, the role of the law enforcement agency was to ensure a peaceful atmosphere for all at all times.