Makarfi: Is Apex Court verdict phyrric victory for PDP in Kwara?

Date: 2017-07-21

By AHMED 'LATEEF

The last Wednesday's Supreme Court verdict, which laid to rest the leadership tussle rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems to be a soothing balm for members who have had to contend with the crisis while it lasted. AHMED 'LATEEF asks on the implication of the landmark judgement on Kwara State chapter of the party.


A new chapter may have been opened in the book of the PDP currently and widely acclaimed to be a major opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). For more than one year, the opposition was enmeshed in leadership crisis, which literally turns it into a toothless bulldog.

All efforts to salvage the party after it lost the 2015 general elections to the APC, particularly presidential, had proved futile as battle of wits and supremacy among bigwigs took centre stage, thereby throwing the party in disarray.

The outcome of the poll indeed dealt a huge blow on the fortunes of the party with blame game emanating from different quarters on who should be held responsible for the misfortunes that befell the party. The former Governor of Bauchi State, Ahmad Adamu Muazu, who was national chairman of the PDP at the time the election was conducted, was stampeded to resign from office. He was alleged to be part of the architects, who engineered the downfall of the former ruling party.

His exit paved way for the emergence of Ali Modu Sheriff as new national chairman of the party, who was expected to complete the tenure of Muazu before another round of convention is organized to inject new blood into the leadership of the party.

However, as the convention slated for May 2016 was gathering momentum, there was a lot of high wired politics, intrigues and suspicion among stakeholders of the party as it was said that Sheriff, a former Governor of Borno State, was planning to run for 2019 presidential election. He allegedly struck deals with Governors of Ekiti and Rivers States, Ayo Fayose and Nyesom Wike at different fora to make them his running mate in the poll if perchance he secured the party ticket.

Apparently irked that Sheriff might turn any of them to sacrificial lambs, the duo of Fayose and Wike reportedly laid ambush for him at the botched party's convention in Port-Harcourt. They allegedly turned the table against him through the crisis ridden convention where his removal was said to have been ratified.

But erstwhile Borno State Governor kicked, insisting that the convention had already been postponed and there was no way he could be removed from office when the said convention did not take place in the first instance.

Consequently, what began as mere war of words assumed a supremacy battle and later metamorphosed into legal firework beginning from High Court, through Appeal Court and the Supreme Court, which climaxed the litigation. 

Immediately Sheriff was declared sacked in the stalemated convention, the hierarchy of the PDP consisting of Governors, some principal officers of the National Assembly and other organs of the party employed a portion of its constitution leading to the setting up of a National Caretaker Committee (NCC) headed by a former Governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. 

Displeased by the development, the former Borno State Governor stuck to his gun, maintaining that he remained the authentic PDP national chairman. His belief was that Makarfi's appointment was an exercise in futility and therefore could not stand.

With this, the party cascaded and polarized along two factions where Sheriff and Makarfi laid claim to the chairmanship of the party. It however turned out to be a subject of litigation where the party for solid 13 months battled for its soul in various stages of law court.

The battle started with the Federal High Court sitting in Port-Harcourt, affirming the leadership of Makarfi but the Appeal Court differed; set aside the lower court judgement and affirmed the group led by Ali Modu Sheriff. The appellate court verdict further escalated the crisis in the party following mass movement of members, who eventually berthed in the ruling APC. Most of the former PDP members, who joined the APC cited leadership tussle and irreconcilable differences as reasons why they decided to dump their former party.

Some of them even predicted that the party may not reclaim its soul with the festering leadership crisis. But the Supreme Court judgement delivered by five-man panel appeared to be a watershed in the annals of the party, apparently the Makarfi's faction was controlling the larger percentage of members of the party.

It was also known that various organs of the party are fully in support of the Makarfi's group, some of who threatened to leave the PDP in the event that the leadership of Sheriff was affirmed as authentic by the superior court in the land.

But the crisis appears far from being over with the renewed war of words between the two camps of Makarfi and Sheriff. While the former announced 'general amnesty' for Sheriff and others, who partook in the legal battle against the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP, the camp belonging to Sheriff kicked, describing the word amnesty as misplaced.

Announcing the decision of the party at a press briefing in Abuja, the Spokesman of the NCC of the party, Mr Dayo Adeyeye, said the party leadership had resolved to offer amnesty to all members, who in one way or the other participated in the legal tussle that characterized the main opposition in the last 13 months.

But the Sheriff's camp, who spoke through Mr Cairo Ojuigbo, said members of the party who took the party to court cannot be said to have been granted amnesty when they are not criminals in actual sense.

With this development, another epic battle of wits seems to be hanging in the balance for the party even as Sheriff's camp is yet to come to terms with the apex court verdict, which conceded the party leadership to Makarfi.

Despite the judgement, which apparently laid to final rest the leadership tussle at the national level, the scenario in Kwara State chapter of the party might not be same. This is because the leadership of the party at the state level was also divided along two factions. Prior to the verdict, Prince Sunday Fagbemi led faction had pitched tent and pledged loyalty with the Makarfi's faction while another group chaired by Iyiola Akogun Oyedepo also identified with the faction led by former Kaduna State Governor.

The duo of Fagbemi and Oyedepo have always laid claims to be in control of authentic leadership of the party. Though Fagbemi gave an indication that the Supreme Court judgement at the national level ended the era of factionalization of the party even at the state level, pundits were still of the view that the crisis in the leadership of the state chapter of the party was yet to be over.

The subsisting argument was that in as much as both Fagbemi and Oyedepo failed to reach compromise on who should be recognized as bonafide leadership of the PDP in the state, it remains a wishful thinking to posit that the party had overcome its internal wrangling.

Although Fagbemi's led faction shortly after the apex court ruling, which affirmed the leadership of Makarfi, said it typified that there was no more faction in the state chapter of the party, adding that he had already telephoned his counterpart, Oyedepo, on the need to bury hatchets and work together as a team. Understandly, the Fagbemi's chairmanship is enjoying the full backing of some chieftains of the PDP in the state including a former Minister of Planning, Professor Suleiman Olanrewaju Abubakar; a former Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters, Senator Suleiman Makanjuola Ajadi; a former governorship aspirant of the party, Alhaji Abdulrahaman Abdulrazaq and Mr John Dara among others.

Addressing a new conference in Ilorin last week alongside other stalwarts of the party, Fagbemi said the apex court verdict had ended factions in the state chapter, saying the party, which has continued to slumber while the litigation lasted, is now properly positioned to assume the role of opposition. 

He insisted that he is the state chairman known to the leadership of the party and called on aggrieved members to sheath their swords and work collectively in the interest of the party.

Fagbemi, who felicitated with Makarfi over the Supreme Court's verdict, which affirmed his leadership, however, urged party members to close rank by borrowing a leaf from the recent bye-election won by the PDP candidate in Osun West Senatorial election.

"With this landmark judgement, our great party, the PDP is now in a better stead to play its role as the leading opposition party in the country. It's also a great opportunity to reposition the party ahead of the 2019 general elections.

"We have strong conviction that the party under the chairmanship of Senator Ahmed Makarfi will wrest power from the crisis- ridden ruling All Progressives Congress in the next general elections. The feat recorded by the PDP in the last weekend senatorial bye election in Osun state is a pointer to this.

"I, therefore, on behalf of myself, other members of the state executive, leaders and elders and indeed the entire PDP members in Kwara state felicitate with our national chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi and his team on this landmark Supreme Court's judgment. Finally, we call on our members to be united and take a cue from what unity achieved in Osun state senatorial bye election last week", he said.

In spite of the call for rapprochement, pundits were of the view that the Kwara State chapter of the PDP may be warming up for a new supremacy battle on what leadership is in charge of the affairs of the party in the state.

Both Fagbemi and Oyedepo seem not ready to sacrifice their mandate as they continue to parade themselves as authentic chairman of the party, though Fagbemi is believed to be controlling a sizeable number of the party's membership.

 


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