Sheriff faces stiff hurdles as judgment nullifying his election stays

AS stakeholders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) meet on Monday, strong indications have emerged in Abuja that its newly reinstated National Chairman, Senator Ali Modu, may yet be hamstrung because of a subsisting court order which nullified the process leading to his emergence as the party boss.

An Abuja High Court presided over by Justice Valentine Ashi, had in June 2016, declared as “null and void” the process that produced the former Borno State governor as the National Chairman of the party.

The judge had faulted the amended PDP Constitution in 2014, which led to the emergence of Sheriff following the resignation of former Bauchi State governor, Adamu Muazu.

The amendment had zoned the office of the national chairman of the party to the North-East, but in his ruling on the matter, Justice Ashi held that the amendment was a violation of the Electoral Act.

He described the actions of the PDP leaders who participated in the amendment of the document as illegal. Sheriff has not appealed the court’s decision since then.

Top party sources told Tribune Online in Abuja on Sunday that the National Caretaker Committee led by Senator Ahmed Makarfi will make that a focal point in its effort to prove that Sheriff is not eligible to be the National Chairman despite getting a favourable decision from the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt.

According to the sources, the case decided by the Court of Appeal was purely on the legality of the May 21, 2016, national convention of the party and has no bearing on the nullification of Sheriff’s emergence as the national chairman.

Party elders loyal to the National Caretaker Committee were due to meet in Abuja on Sunday night as a prelude to the enlarged stakeholders meeting scheduled for Monday.

It was learnt that before approaching the Supreme Court over the Court of Appeal judgment, they will posit that since Sheriff did not appeal the court decision that voided his election, the judgement stands and so, he cannot claim to the National Chairman of the party.

“This is going to be a focal issue. Before we appeal and there’s a stay, we are going to remind ourselves that the judgement that voided his election still subsists,” our source said.

Noting that the window for appeal of the judgment has already lapsed, the source said Sheriff can however seek for leave to appeal and will get it under fundamental right.

“That will mean going back to the Court of Appeal and it will take months to decide,” the source added.

But Makarfi’s camp is confident that if the Port Harcourt Appeal Court judgment is taken before the Supreme Court, the apex court would do an expedited hearing of the case because it is tied to elections.

“Whether we like it or not, party leadership is tied to elections and there are nationally conducted elections every now and then. Once you approach it with that sound argument, they know that this is not a matter to be allowed to linger because it can cause a denial of representation by the PDP,” the source added.

Meanwhile, some politicians fear that the recent Court of Appeal judgment that nullified the powers of the national convention has grave implications for party supremacy and democracy in Nigeria.

A top PDP source volunteered: “Forget about PDP. Going forward, this is a decision that will be cited. Should political parties agree that their conventions have limitations? What is the power of a political party at its convention? Can an individual unilaterally stop a convention? These are fundamental issues arising from the judgment of this Court of Appeal.

“You must clear them for the sake of democracy; you must answer and clear them. This is beyond Sheriff, it is beyond Makarfi. It has touched on some fundamental political party activism which invariably affects the development of democracy.”

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