PDP crisis: Makarfi should step down, Bayelsa gov says

• We’ll only listen to party organs —Makarfi • PDP members have lost confidence in Dickson’s committee —Adeyeye • As Sheriff moves to stop Makarfi’s appeal at Supreme Court

Bayelsa State governor and chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) reconciliation committee, Mr Seriake Dickson, has called on the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led caretaker committee to step down in the interest of the party.

The Bayelsa State governor made the call while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, on Sunday.

The chairman of the national caretaker committee of PDP, Senator Makarfi, however, said the committee would do whatever the organs of the party, who are in the majority, request it to do.

Also, the spokesman for the national caretaker committee, Mr Dayo Adeyeye, said Dickson’s statement had given him out as having taken sides with Sheriff, adding that members of the party no longer had confidence in his committee.

Dickson had said the stage was now set for the chieftains and elders of the party to impress it on the caretaker committee to cede its authority to the Ali Modu Sheriff-led leadership.

“When the idea of making Sheriff the national chairman of our party was hatched, I personally kicked against it.

“I also turned down all the overtures from Sheriff because I did not believe in him and what he did.

“So now, my position is that we have to move forward. I am a politician of conviction, I am not a politician of convenience and I am not a typical Nigerian politician,” Dickson said.

He said the party had come to a threshold when the right political decision should be taken to end the prolonged crisis.

“The Makarfi-led caretaker committee should remember that it was a brainchild of the majority of party members, including me, at a convention in Port Harcourt.

“I  and up to 80 per cent  of the population of the PDP members were for Makarfi ,but the unfolding events have  compelled us to adopt a political resolution instead of embarking on further bickering.

“As politicians and democrats, we must first obey the constitution and all other instruments of civil rule which include obeying the judiciary,” he said.

“We had expected that the Court of Appeal would give us judgment, but it rather upheld Sheriff as the national chairman of the party.

“Whether anybody likes Sheriff’s face or not, the Makarfi-led caretaker committee was stripped of its authority to manage the affairs of the party the day the judgment was delivered.

“It was in the spirit to honour the court’s pronouncement that the party’s reconciliation committee that I chair submitted its report on how we shall move forward to Sheriff.

“In fact, as it stands now, Sheriff has started addressing issues within the party, he is the one sending names of party members contesting elections in various states.

“If there is going to be a by-election in Kaduna today, Makarfi’s home state, INEC would not accept correspondences from Makarfi any longer because his business in the party has ended,” he added.

Dickson said Sheriff had always been disposed to political settlement of the crisis, adding that Makarfi had remained adamant.

But reacting, Makarfi said the call by Governor Dickson was contradictory as it was against the spirit of the judgment given by the Port Harcourt division of the Court of Appeal.

He told the Nigerian Tribune that if Dickson believed in the judgment, he had no need to call on the national caretaker committee to step down.

“The national caretaker committee is not opposed to any other reconciliation, but it must be based on the majority position that sets up the committee.

“More so that even he, Governor Dickson, believes in the Appeal Court pronouncement, then why demand their resignation which appears contradictory to his emergency call for national convention in the face of conflicting judicial pronouncements and other issues?” he said.

Also reacting, Adeyeye, in a telephone chat with the Nigerian Tribune, said Dickson’s position also had made it clear that his committee could not achieve reconciliation.

He said it was wrong to have taken sides with one of the factions, adding that Sheriff’s group was incapacitated as constituted at present.

According to him, the group had no National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Committee (NEC) which could enable it to call a convention.

“That statement shows that Dickson’s committee cannot achieve reconciliation. It shows he has taken sides with Sheriff, a side that is badly in minority. His statement has betrayed his mindset and people no longer have confidence in his committee.

“The national caretaker committee did not put itself in office. It has never acted unilaterally without the organs of the party. Why did Dickson not call a meeting of all organs of the party to get the caretaker committee to resign? Why did he not discuss the reconciliation report with all organs of the party?

“Why is he calling for resignation of the committee unilaterally? This issue is not a personal matter. We represent the party; we are merely agents of the party. He should call a meeting of all organs for them to agree that the committee should resign,” he said.

Dickson, however, insisted that the reality is that Makarfi no longer had the legal backing to carry on with the task of managing the party.

“We are aware of this quagmire and, therefore, the reconciliation committee went ahead to formulate a realistic, practical and strategic response to this reality, because in the end, it would be to the benefit of PDP,” he said.

Dickson said the template to ensure the conduct of the party’s national convention in June was uppermost, adding that Sheriff was positively disposed to it.

“So if you said you are passionate about the survival of the party, then you should be willing to sacrifice your ambition.

“The crisis has caused us a lot, our elected officials, top notch members are defecting to even lesser parties,” he said.

On whether it was right to challenge the decision of the Court of Appeal, Dickson said an amicable resolution of the crisis remained the best option.

“Yes, we said they can go on to appeal but without prejudice to the Supreme Court case, let us intensify and fast track the peace moves,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sheriff has applied to the Supreme Court, seeking to stop the appeal lodged by the national caretaker committee of the party led by Senator Makarfi over the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal.

The caretaker committee is appealing the judgment which ordered the party to revert to status quo ante May 21, 2016, effectively restoring Sheriff-led NWC as the authentic national leadership of the party.

But Sheriff has now applied to the Supreme Court for the withdrawal of the appeal filed in the name of the NWC.

The appeal, with number SC.133/2017, was filed on February 27 in the name of the PDP.

In the motion filed by Sheriff’s counsel, Chief Akinlolu Olujinmi, on March 16, for discontinuance of the appeal before the Supreme Court, Sheriff and the national secretary of the party’s NWC, Professor Wale Oladipo, argued, among others, that no ground of law supported the appeal.

The motion stated that more by virtue of the Court of Appeal’s judgment, Makarfi and other members of his faction were incompetent to institute any legal process in the name of the party.

It argued that Makarfi; secretary of the caretaker committee, Senator Ben Obi and the national publicity secretary of the group, Dayo Adeyeye, could continue to act in any capacity as the representative of the party.

“Senator Makarfi, Senator Obi and Mr Adeyeye, who seek to hide behind corporate veil of the PDP are, in fact, doing so in furtherance of disregard of the judgment of the lower court which clearly amounts to exposing the administration of justice to disrepute and public odium, as evidenced by their utterances against the justices of the lower court, after the delivery of the judgment of the lower court.

“The corporate personality of the appellant can only be invoked by its legal alter ego, vide the National Working Committee/National Executive Committee of the PDP, consisting of the first and second respondents (Sheriff and Oladipo) and other officers represented by them, not Senator Makarfi, Senator Obi, and Mr Adeyeye, who are not officers of the appellant (the PDP) at all, as confirmed by the judgment of the lower court,” the Sheriff’s motion read.

Oladipo deposed to an affidavit filed in support of the motion, stating that a letter had been written to Chief Wole Olanipekun to stop acting as counsel for the PDP, adding that the duo of Mr Lateef Fagbemi and Dr Alex Iziyon had been appointed in his (Olanipekun’s) stead.

Those listed as respondents to the appeal by the Makarfi-led faction’s PDP were Sheriff, Oladipo, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Inspector-General of Police and the Department of State Security (DSS).