PDP governors insist Sheriff is out, supporters fight with machetes
• His removal is valid, court told
The battle for the control of the national secretariat of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) became fiercer yesterday.
Two groups of protesting youths were locked in a physical battle during which machetes, sticks and other dangerous weapons were freely deployed.
Meanwhile, the PDP has told a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt that its former acting national chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, was validly removed by the legally constituted May 21, 2016 national convention of the party in Port Harcourt.
It also maintained that the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee was duly appointed in line with the constitution of the party.
The party made the assertions during the hearing of its suit at the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Abdullahi yesterday.
Defendants in the suit are Sheriff, Prof. Adewole Oladipo (sued as themselves and as representing national officers ), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the State Security Service.
First to arrive for the continuing battle for the secretariat was the pro-Makarfi group of youths about 9:30 a.m., only for the pro-Sheriff group to arrive shortly after.
The two opposing groups were peacefully trying to sing louder than each other when suddenly the youths supporting Sheriff approached the gate in front of which the pro-Makarfi youths had been staying.
For five minutes, serious fighting ensued during which machetes and cudgels were deployed. Then the pro-Markafi youths got the upper hand, chasing their pro-Sheriff opponents out of the secretariat.
Meanwhile, Sheriff has called off the earlier press conference he had planned to address at the national secretariat. His media assistant, Inuwa Bwala, said he had another meeting but gave no details .
Over a dozen plainclothes officers had taken positions within the secretariat premises, though it could not be confirmed the person they were there to protect.
The forum of PDP governors rose from a meeting in the early hours of yesterday justifying the removal of Sheriff as national chairman of the party.
Briefing journalists on the outcome of the meeting the governors held with the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) and National Assembly Caucus, Governor Ayo Fayose declared that the meeting advised the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government to stay away from the internal crisis of the PDP.
He said :”Rising from the meeting, we must put it in the public domain that the PDP, whatever we are going through today is a phase and very soon the whole issue will be over. But we need to put it very clearly that Nigeria as a country needs an opposition party to make the average Nigerian get value for his votes. Any attempt to destroy opposition in Nigeria is not going to be in the interest of democracy.”
On the alleged interference by the Federal Government in the crisis, Fayose stated: “We stand as a party to condemn interference and strategic effort to destroy PDP in Nigeria.
“We want to make it very clear that the international community, well-meaning Nigerians must take note that as a party, we are prepared to give credible opposition to government in power that have so far achieved nothing in the space of one year of assumption of office.
“I want to say that efforts by PDP to put its house in order is our business and we are doing everything possible and want to appeal to the security agencies to please stay within the ambit of law and allow the PDP to put its house in order.”
On why the party dumped Sheriff, Fayose who admitted having invited the former governor to serve as chairman of the PDP, said: “Without doubt, I did not beg him but I supported his coming.
“I am not someone that will say I did not support Sheriff. But when you want to marry a woman, on the wedding day they tell you that the woman has HIV, will you still remain in the marriage? I am out of it.”
Also speaking to journalists after the meeting, Makarfi cautioned against the use of thugs in the crisis that had bedeviled the party, pointing out that this was how the deadly Boko Haram began.
“We reviewed all that have been going on in the party, especially since Monday. You are all witnesses to the thuggery that took place.
Actually, those who remember, know that was how Boko Haram was born. Thugs were brought into Abuja and some people forced themselves into the secretariat, in the process documents and some property belonging to the party cannot be accounted for. This cannot be without some support from some quarters, definitely not PDP.
“We have had the former chairman recorded saying that he was going to go beyond IG in order for him to gain access into the secretariat. We don’t know what he meant by beyond the IG but all of you are sensible enough to decide who ‘beyond IG’ could actually mean.”
He stressed, however ,that the meeting stood by the decisions taken at the May 21, 2016 convention of the party in Port Harcourt.
Counsel to the PDP, Oladejo Laminkanra (SAN) in an originating summons stated : “Modu Sheriff submitted himself for screening at the Port Harcourt National Convention. Realising that he had lost his bid to be national chairman, Modu Sheriff alone without consent and consultations with the National Executive Committee claimed he postponed the convention. Modu Sheriff had no such powers to postpone a convention approved by the National Executive Committee . “Modu Sheriff is not the chairman of PDP. He was never elected at any convention and he is subject to the extant judgment of Justice A.B. Mohammed (FCT High Court) which Modu Sheriff is curiously seeking to enforce. The FCT High Court Justice A.B. Mohammed had in judgment of May 18 , 2016 in FCT/CV/1443/2016 rejected Modu Sheriff’s argument that he is PDP Chairman until 2016,” he said.
The PDP argued that no court stopped the party from holding its national convention. It added that the national constitution of the PDP was also never suspended, hence the national convention derived its powers from the party’s constitution.
The party stated that the interim order of the Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt stopping Modu Sheriff from parading himself as PDP Chairman was still subsisting.
The PDP stated: “The Interim Order could not possibly lapse when Modu Sheriff had an application asking court to set aside the same order. It could not possibly lapse when Modu Sheriff was asking the name PDP to be struck out from the suit.
“An interim order met with the applications mentioned does not lapse until 14 days after arguments are taken. That is 14 days from May 16, 2016 “.
The party stated that the national convention was convened by the National Executive Committee headed by Sheriff, who himself participated in pre-convention events including the screening .
Justice Liman had last month directed the INEC to recognise the national caretaker committee appointed by the 2016 National Convention of the PDP in Port Harcourt on May 21, 2016.
The court also restrained Sheriff, Oladipo and other sacked members of the National Working Committee and National Executive Committee from parading themselves as officials of the PDP.