Edo as Sheriff’s cannon fodder

LEON USIGBE writes on the fate of the chances of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the forthcoming Edo State election against the backdrop of the court order ceding the gubernatorial ticket to the Ali Modu Sheriff faction. 


BY last Monday, the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, would have resolved the legitimacy issue of the national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which held in the Rivers State capital on May 21.  Recall that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party presided over by Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the national chairman, convened the convention to elect new national officers of the party. Also recall that on the day of the convention, Sheriff unilaterally announced its cancellation on the ground that there was a court order which forbade the conduct of elections into the offices of the national chairman, the national secretary and the national auditor.

The convention went ahead without Sheriff, presided over by his then deputy, Prince Uche Secondus, and by a unanimous resolution, dissolved the National Working Committee (NWC) and in its place, set up a National Caretaker Committee, headed by a former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. Sheriff’s rejection of the outcome of the convention and his continuous claim of the office of the national chairman has since factionalized the opposition party.

Both sides have obtained several court injections conferring temporary legitimacy on each other, leaving the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) guessing as to what to do in the circumstance of the gubernatorial elections coming up in Edo State in September.

The commission has been careful about which of the factions to relate with over the election. They have conducted parallel primaries to select the gubernatorial candidate of the party but dispute remains on which of the factions is the legitimate one to submit a candidate to the electoral body. While Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu emerged as the candidate under the National Caretaker Committee, Honourable Matthew Idurioyekemwen, got the nod of the Sheriff faction. Whereas the primaries that produced Ize-Iyamu fulfilled the Electoral Act requirement of notifying INEC about any proposed primaries at least 21 days prior to the exercise, the Sheriff’s faction fell short of the provision. Therefore, INEC shunned the primaries that produced Idurioyekemwen.

The consequences do not worry Sheriff. Notwithstanding the previous conflicting court orders since the conduct of the Port Harcourt national convention, Sheriff has been able to obtain a much more potent order which could jeopardise what has been viewed as the beat chance of the PDP to snatch Edo from the governing All Progressive Congress (APC) in the September 10 election.

Last week, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court Abuja granted an injunction restraining INEC, the PDP and their agents from dealing with or according any facility required by law to any other persons or group than the Sheriff-led National Working Committee of the party. The ruling was in an interlocutory application filed by two governorship aspirants on the platform of the PDP in Edo and Ondo states, Chief Benson Akingboye, and his counterparts in Edo State, Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma. Justice Abang ruled that his restraining orders against the INEC and the PDP would subsist pending the hearing and determination of the substantive suit, FHC/ABJ/CS/439/2016, filed by the plaintiffs. INEC is the 1st defendant while PDP is the second defendant.

This restraining order came barely 24 hours after Justice Valentine Ashi of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, delivered a judgment sacking all national officers of the party who assumed office on the basis of an illegal amendment of Article 46(7) of the party’s Constitution. Former National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Adamu Mu’azu whose tenure Sheriff came to complete, benefited from the voided amendment.

The PDP in Edo has lined up its structure behind Pastor Ize-Iyamu and has suspended Idurioyekemwen who was beaten to second place by Ize-Iyamu in the primaries conducted by the National Caretaker Committee. Beyond having the party structure behind him, Ize-Iyamu also enjoys the support of who-is -who among the elders of the party in the state. His popularity among the voters is such that observers had taken it for granted that he would be the one to end the APC reign in Edo state. That is now hanging in the balance unless the court vacates the order restraining INEC from accepting nomination from the National Caretaker Committee of the PDP.

It does appear that Sheriff cannot be bothered by the lack of popular support for his candidate, Idurioyekemwen, as long as he, Sheriff, has the Edo gubernatorial election as a bargaining chip for relevance in the former ruling party. Pundits say that for Sheriff therefore, the Edo election is an expendable cannon fodder for his survival battle.