It was one seat that was hotly contested, within and outside the courtroom, by two men who wouldn’t give up or shift ground.
A temporary conclusion was reached on Friday as the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, recognised Ali Sheriff as the authentic National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Although the Ahmed Makarfi faction, which has the support of the party’s governors, has vowed to challenge the ruling at the Supreme Court, Mr. Sheriff has declared “no victor, no vanquished.”
Although Mr. Sheriff has called for a united party, PREMIUM TIMES reviews the winners and losers from the Appeal Court ruling.
AND THE WINNERS ARE….
Ali Modu Sheriff
One thing that can’t be taken away from Mr. Sheriff, as far as the leadership crisis within the PDP is concerned, is his courage and tenacity. The former governor of Borno State took on the hitherto invincible PDP governors’ forum and went through fierce political and legal battles against the Ahmed Makarfi faction which had the backing of the governors.
Before now, the support of the PDP governors’ forum was a major factor in choosing the national chairman of the party. Mr. Sheriff himself was handpicked by the governors in February 2016 as the acting chairman after the party which lost the 2015 presidential election.
For the Appeal Court judgment, Mr. Sheriff, 61, is obviously the biggest winner.
The controversial businessman, backed by Mr. Sheriff’s faction of the PDP, made a failed attempt to fly the PDP flag in the November 2016 governorship election in Ondo State.
The Makarfi faction had nominated Eyitayo Jegede, a legal practitioner and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN. After the Supreme Court affirmed Mr. Jegede as the right candidate of the PDP, Mr. Ibrahim in order to spite his party, turned around to offer political support to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Rotimi Akeredolu.
Mr. Ibrahim claimed he could have won the election which was later won by Mr. Akeredolu.
The Court of Appeal ruling appears to have vindicated Mr. Ibrahim who has also celebrated the victory. A photograph uploaded on his Twitter page, Saturday, showed Mr. Ibrahim dancing, with a glass of drink in his hand, with the tweet “Ali Modu Sheriff is PDP National Chairman”.
Ali Modu Sheriff is PDP National Chairman… pic.twitter.com/Zye9oEnwyu
— Barr. Jimoh Ibrahim (@JimohIbrahimOFR) February 18, 2017
Justice Okon Abang
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had ruled in July last year that the May 21, 2016, PDP Convention in Port Harcourt was illegal. It was at that convention that Mr. Sheriff and his national working committee were replaced with Mr. Makarfi-led caretaker committee.
Mr. Abang, who also declared Mr. Ibrahim as the PDP candidate in Ekiti based on being nominated by the Sheriff PDP, also received a lot of criticisms for his rulings by the Makarfi PDP faction.
The judge is definitely one of the winners as he would feel justified by the Appeal Court ruling.
Buruji Kashamu, a controversial senator from Ogun State, is among the high-profile supporters of Mr. Sheriff.
Mr. Kashamu, who was suspended by the Ogun PDP loyal to Mr. Makarfi, leads another faction in the state aligned to Mr. Kashamu.
The lawmaker will feel vindicated by the Appeal Court ruling.
And the losers are….
Ahmed Makarfi, who has been battling with Mr. Sheriff for the PDP number one seat, is the first in the line-up of losers.
With the court judgment, the former governor of Kaduna State is sure going to lose some following. Ben Murray-Bruce, a senator from Bayelsa State, who hitherto was with Mr. Makarfi’s faction, has already declared solidarity with Mr. Sheriff.
Mr. Murray-Bruce said it was high time the party put an end to the prolonged battle.
PDP workers at Wadata plaza, Abuja
The PDP workers at the party headquarters took side with Mr. Makarfi’s faction, and shunned an invitation to a meeting with Mr. Sheriff.
The workers had protested the continued closure of the party secretariat by the police due to the crisis. They shunned a meeting with Mr. Sheriff to discuss the closure and blamed it for it.
Many of the workers will surely be worried by the implication of the Appeal Court ruling.
The governor of Rivers, Nyesome Wike, has played multiple roles in the crisis rocking the PDP. Besides chairing the committee that planned the ill-fated May 2016 Port Harcourt Convention, Mr. Wike is alleged to be among the few governors who “appointed” Mr. Sheriff as the acting national chairman of PDP and later dumped him for Mr. Makarfi.
Mr. Wike has been one of the major opponents of Mr. Sheriff, and now he could be one of the biggest losers.
Mr. Akpabio, the Senate Minority Leader, moved the motion at the May 2016 Port Harcourt Convention which led to the sacking of Mr. Sheriff and the national working committee.
Since then, the former governor of Akwa Ibom State, together with Governor Wike, has been working assiduously against Mr. Sheriff continuing as the PDP chairman.
Mr. Mimiko, the outgoing governor of Ondo State, pitched his tent with Mr. Makarfi. His state became the stage where the factional fight played out more dramatically during the last governorship election there.
Mr. Mimiko’s man, Eyitayo Jegede, defeated the controversial businessman, Mr. Ibrahim, at the Supreme Court to finally fly the party’s flag in the election, even though the PDP eventually lost to the APC in the general election.
Mr. Fani-Kayode, a former minister of Aviation and a chieftain of the PDP, has been consistent in his attacks against Mr. Sheriff whom he said was unfit to lead the party.
At some point, the former minister said it was better for Mr. Makarfi’s faction to go form a new party than to negotiate with Mr. Sheriff.
Now, with the Appeal Court judgment, Mr. Fani-Kayode could be more angry and disappointed.