S’Court to Rule on PDP Leadership Dispute Wednesday


Tobi Soniyi

The Supreme Court will Wednesday deliver judgment on the appeal by the Ahmed Makarfi-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) challenging the decision of the Court of Appeal which recognised Ali Modu Sheriff as the authentic chairman of the party.
The Makarfi group has already sent notice out to its loyalists encouraging them to come to the court in solidarity with the party.

Although, the two warring factions have high expectations of winning, they had both pledged to accept the judgment in good faith regardless in whose favour it goes.
While many have expressed the hope that the judgment would finally resolve the leadership dispute between the two groups, others are not too sure in view of deep-seated disagreement between the groups.
Efforts by leaders of the party, including former President Goodluck Jonathan to resolve the dispute did not result in any positive outcome.

As the main opposition party, PDP has not been able to discharge its responsibilities, even as the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) continues to fail the nation.
Makarfi, who is the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of PDP, is challenging the decision of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal, which in a spilt decision held that Sheriff was the party chairman.
Many party loyalists, especially those who had sympathy for Makarfi, rejected the Appeal Court’s decision. They now hope that the Supreme Court will rule in their favour‎.

The Supreme Court had on May 23 reserved judgment in the appeal for a date to be communicated ‎to the parties.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, who presided over the hearing of the appeal, refused to give a date to ensure that members of the panel were not put under pressure.

In an oral argument in support of his written brief, counsel to Sheriff’s group in the PDP, Chief Akin Olujimi (SAN), had urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the appeal filed by the Makarfi-led group on the grounds that the appellant did not have the authority to initiate an appeal in the name of PDP, having lost so in the Port Harcourt judgment, which pronounced Sheriff as the authentic chairman of the party.
According to him, by reason of the judgment delivered on February 17 by the Appeal Court, Makarfi’s side lost every right and privilege to act on behalf of the PDP.

He stated that the National Legal Adviser as well as the National Secretary of the party had in their motion, applied for withdrawal of the appeal, noting that the party cannot initiate a legal action against itself.
But the counsel to Makarfi-led side of the PDP, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), urged the court to dismiss the objection made by Sheriff’s group on the grounds that it was incompetent and lacked merit.
His argued that in the Port Harcourt judgment, Makarfi’s group was the appellant in the name of PDP, while Sheriff joined issues with the group in that capacity.

He maintained that until the Supreme Court, being the highest court in the land, pronounces which of the factions is the authentic camp to lead the party, the Makarfi-led PDP has the right to initiate an appeal.
Olanipekun also drew the court’s attention to Rule 29 of the court and consequently urged the court to invoke the rule on those representing Sheriff.

Earlier in a ruling, the Supreme Court had dismissed the application filed by Sheriff challenging the competence of the appeal filed by Makarfi, claiming that the appeal was filed outside the stipulated period by law.
The CJN, in dismissing the application, upheld the argument of the counsel to Makarfi that the appeal was filed within the time limit.

Justice Onnoghen upheld Olanipekun’s argument that the said judgment, having been delivered on February 17, and the notice of appeal having been filed at the Supreme Court on April 24, met the appeal timeframe, making it competent.
After listening to the arguments presented by both parties, the CJN announced that the judgment day would be communicated to them.