PDP: The uneasy calm in Sheriff’s camp

LEON USIGBE writes on the seeming silence in the camp of the Senator Ali Modu Sheriff’s faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the last court order barring him from parading himself as the National Chairman of the party.


SINCE August 18, 2016 when a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory  (FCT)  ordered Senator Ali Modu Sheriff to stop parading himself as the national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he has become increasingly less visible and has ostensibly toned down his rhetoric for the plum job of the opposition party.

Justice Nwamaka Ogbonna, in her judgment, placed reliance on an earlier judgment of Justice Valentine Ashi of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court  delivered on June 26, 2016 which has sacked Sheriff, noting that the judgement had not been set aside. Therefore, Justice Ogbonna held that all actions and decisions taken by Sheriff after the judgment of Justice Ashi on June 26, had become a nullity.

The former Borno State governor had shown perceived aversion to court orders in respect of the ongoing party feud as could been seen by his neglect of the May 24, 2015 order given by a Federal High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which had granted an interim injunction restraining him from parading himself as the national chairman of the party. Justices Ashi and Ogbonna’s orders came after that of Justice Abdulahi Liman of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, which had been observed in breach until the Justice Ogbonna’s ruling.  On his part, Sheriff had dangled his own court orders which he said conferred legitimacy on him as the validly elected national chairman of the PDP till 2018.

But Ogbonna’s orders and possibly the decision of the last national convention of the PDP to extend the lifespan of the National Caretaker Committee, seemed to have softened the claimant to the office of the national chairman because, since the August order, he has refrained from his normal and open activities as the factional national chairman of the party. Sheriff, who would normally address the press and receive loyalists from across the country several times a week, has hardly had one occasion since the last court judgment and may therefore have pushed back the initiative to his rival and the chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi. His personal office on Gana Street, Maitama, Abuja, which had served as his factional national secretariat, has virtually regained its status as the hub of his private airline business.

Despite producing a candidate for the Edo State governorship election, Sheriff appears to have lost interest in the poll as the faction has done little or nothing to project Matthew Idurioyekemwen who, under the Sheriff faction, is hoping to be handed the governorship post should the PDP be declared winner of the now shifted election.

Even before the postponement of the Edo election to Wednesday, September 28, there had been issues about the poll that the PDP was worried could hamper the conduct of a free, fair and credible exercise, not least the claim that the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) was perfecting its strategy to rig the election. While the Makarfi faction screamed to no ends about this, Sheriff was mute. Same thing with the recent APC Benin mega rally graced by President Muhammadu Buhari and a coterie of APC state governors.

The PDP National Caretaker Committee was aghast that the President could be dragged away from Abuja to lend weight to what the PDP viewed as a party without a future in Edo due to the alleged high-handedness of the  out-going governor, Adams Oshiomhole, whose allegedly  hand-picked candidate, Godwin Obaseki, they said had been rejected by the people. Sheriff or his loyalists made no comment.

Makarfi was also vociferous in his attempt to ensure that the September 10, 2016 scheduled date for the Edo election remained sacrosanct against the advice of security agencies that it should be postponed over alleged threats by insurgents to invade the state and cause mayhem during the exercise.

“The postponement of the election by INEC is illegal, unconstitutional and a breach of the peoples’ trust in the commission and the security agencies. It is a coup against the people of Edo State in particular and Nigerians in general,” the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee blurted to no avail. Sheriff and his men did not issue a statement on the development.

Somehow, though, he turned up at Ota, Ogun State, at the residence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo supposedly seeking solutions to the lingering leadership problems of the former ruling party. But observers found this surreal, given the fact that Obasanjo had, in a celebrated manner, disowned the party he once led by publicly destroying his membership card.

Since then, he has hardly hidden his revulsion for the party. It was therefore not surprising that the most poignant message that emerged from that Ota meeting was that the PDP was dying and Sheriff mightjust turn out to be the undertaker.

But is his seeming silence to be interpreted as deference to the last court order? That remains to be seen.