Former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, yesterday assumed office as the interim national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after top party organs endorsed him Monday night.
But Sen Ali Modu Sheriff, whom he replaced, described Makarfi’s assumption of office as a “charade.”
Sheriff, a former governor of Borno state, had members of his executive council sacked at the party’s convention in Port Harcourt on May 21, where Makarfi was elected head of a seven-man caretaker committee.
However, that convention was nullified almost immediately by a court in Lagos.
Ten out of the 12 PDP governors backed Makarfi’s election and some of them were at hand to witness the handing over ceremony at the party secretariat in Abuja yesterday.
The handing over notes were delivered by Sheriff’s deputy, Prince Uche Secondus.
The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu; a former deputy Senate President, Ibrahim Mantu; governors Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom; Ayo Fayose of Ekiti; a former governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau; a former information minister, Prof Jerry Gana and many others were at the event.
The interim committee was endorsed by the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Governors Forum, National Caucus and some members of Sheriff’s National Working Committee (NWC), at a late night meeting on Monday at the Ondo State Governor’s lodge, Abuja.
Chairman of the BoT, Sen Walid jibrin, said: “We are handing over the secretariat and Legacy House to the Senator Makarfi-led national caretaker committee to run the affairs of the party.
“Makarfi was duly appointed and accepted by us, to legitimately lead our party, and we abide by the decision and resolution of the May 21 national convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.”
Receiving the handing over notes from Secondus, Makarfi said the mandate of his committee was to reconcile aggrieved members and organise the national convention in three months.
”In the process of doing this, if we have hurt anybody, I, as chairman of the caretaker committee, publicly apologise on behalf of everybody.
“Let them in the spirit of democratic ethos and norms, also embrace dialogue and accommodate each other and move the party forward,” he said.
However, Sheriff as well as governors Darius Ishaku and Hassan Dankwambo of Taraba and Gombe states respectively, who reportedly endorsed Sheriff as the North-East candidate for the chairmanship did not attend the event.
Prior to the handing over, the Board of Trustees (BoT), led by Sen Walid Jibrin, last week, took over the national secretariat to run the party pending the resolution of the leadership crisis.
Makarfi’s emergence a charade – Sheriff
In his response Sen Sheriff said Makarfi-led national caretaker committee was “illegal, null and void.”
His special adviser on media, Inuwa Bwala, in a statement yesterday, said Sheriff did not authorise Prince Uche Secondus to handover to Makarfi.
He therefore called on loyal party members and the general public to disregard the “so-called handover” of the PDP to some people.
Bwala said the matter was still in court and that Sheriff remained the national chairman.
“While we await the verdicts of the court, we wish to state that Sen Ali Modu Sheriff is and remains the national chairman of the party, until otherwise declared by the courts.
We allowed the charade to go on at the secretariat without any form of challenge, in strict obedience to careful pronouncement on the matter, but we must also state that there is no gathering of groups or individuals, however powerful, such groups or individuals may be, that can be said to take precedence over the law.”
Also, the National Secretary of the party, Prof Wale Oladipo, said the caretaker committee remained illegal and lacked powers to run the affairs of the party.
In a statement in Lagos, yesterday, Oladipo described the caretaker committee as a group of ‘lawbreakers.’
“It was very wrong for the committee to take over PDP’s headquarters (also known as Wadata House). Sheriff is out of the country and will be back tomorrow (today). The law breakers are in Wadata deceiving themselves. The law will take its course in the next one week,” he said.
The Court Orders
Justice I.N. Buba of the Federal High Court, Lagos on May 20, a day to the Port Harcourt convention, restrained the PDP from conducting elections into the offices of the national chairman, national secretary and national auditor of the party.
The same court also restrained the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from monitoring the conduct of any election into the affected offices.
Before then, an Abuja High Court on May19, directed that there should be no election for 18 offices, including that of the deputy national chairman, national treasurer, legal adviser, deputy legal adviser, deputy national treasurer, deputy national auditor, youth leaders, deputy youth leader, national organising secretary, deputy national organising secretary, national women leader, deputy national women leader, deputy financial secretary and deputy national secretary.
However, despite the court orders, two parallel conventions held in Port Harcourt and Abuja that culminated in the emergence of Makarfi (in Port Harcourt as chairman) and Sen Ibrahim and Prof Tunde Adeniran (in Abuja as co-chairmen).
On Tuesday, May 24, Justice Buba declared the Makarfi-led caretaker committee illegal and ordered the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, to enforce the order.
On the same day, a Federal High Court, in Port Harcourt, following a suit by the Rivers State chapter of the PDP, delivered a conflicting judgment that gave the Makarfi led caretaker committee legal backing, and also gave an order, mandating INEC to recognise it in all matters pertaining the conduct of primary elections for political offices and the submission of the PDP list of candidates for any elections, pending the hearing and determination of the Motion on notice.
Speaking on yesterday’s endorsement of Makarfi by the PDP’s NEC, BoT and other organs, a legal practitioner, Barr Aminu Abdullahi said the PDP chieftains, including its governors, have “desecrated the courts and may be arrested for contempt.”
“The courts would definitely be angry because they have disrespected.
The essence of democracy is respect for the rule of law. I’m not a politician but I’m really afraid that what the PDP handlers do today (yesterday), will not stand in the eyes of the law,” he said.