BY May Ubeku
THE leadership crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took a new twist last week. This was as a result of the Port Harcourt Appeal Court judgment which ruled in favour of the current embattled party chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
The Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led group immediately lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria against the decision of the Court of Appeal as well as filed an application for injunction pending an appeal, all of which were done in the morning of Monday, February 20, 2017.
Party stakeholders have also been meeting to find a lasting solution to the crisis with the most recent being those initiated by the former President Goodluck Jonathan, as well as several by the Governor Seriake Dickson-led-Reconciliation Committee of the party.
Within the week, Politics Undiluted spoke with Hon. Bernard Miko, a 1999-2003 Member of the House of Representatives, one of the contestants for the soul of the oil-rich Rivers State during the 2015 gubernatorial primaries, and currently, the Acting National Publicity Secretary of the Sheriff faction of the PDP, on the crisis rocking the party and the recent judgment by the Court of Appeal.
He spoke to our crew on certain striking issues that affect his party.
Can Politics Undiluted meet you?
My name is Hon. Bernard Miko, former Member, House of Representatives and now Acting National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
We hear that the Makarfi faction has filed for a Stay of Execution and have equally appealed the judgment at the Supreme Court. What is your take on this?
I am not speaking for the Makarfi people. I am here to speak for the PDP. I don’t know what they are doing. They say they were aggrieved, but I believe they should look strictly at the law. And applying the law strictly, I have no other choice than to tell you that Ali Modu Sheriff is the National Chairman of PDP. So the issue of Makarfi is just like any other stakeholder in the party. So his issue does not come up. He cannot lay claim to the party based on the recent court judgment.
We can see that the PDP Secretariat is alive again. It means, the party is back to work. What are your plans for aggrieved members based on the recent court judgment? How many people are aggrieved?
The Makarfi side are going to the Supreme Court. This shows they are aggrieved. So is the PDP (Sheriff Side) thinking of reconciling with the Makarfi side?
Before this time we have been meeting that whoever wins in court – in Court of Appeal, the matter is going to end there.
I was in Port Harcourt when the judgment was delivered and immediately, King Turner brokered a meeting between both parties. The Sheriff side was represented by Cairo Ojougboh, PDP Deputy National Chairman and I. On the Makarfi side, it was represented by their National Caretaker Legal Adviser; Abdul Ningi and Dayo Adeyeye in Hotel Presidential. And we came to an understanding that we must keep the terms of our previous agreement. Based on this, I didn’t speak to the press after the judgment, but Adeyeye spoke even without studying the judgment that they would appeal the judgment. I wonder on whose authority, when there are other stakeholders beyond him and I.
Also after the judgment Sheriff came and said, “No victory no vanquish. The party will be better for it if we all come together.” Afterwards, we proposed a national convention – a unity convention. And then through a newspaper publication, the Makarfi side said they don’t want a convention. So what do they want? This party is not for them. This party is for the people.
Everyone spoke about impunity in the party. Where is this impunity coming from? The Jerry Gana group agreed that there is impunity. They said lack of internal democracy led us to this failure. So who are these people that are perpetuating this evil? Where are they?
The people you see making this problem are few and they are just in Abuja here. Same people who put starch on their “Baba Riga” and move from one hotel to another.
In moving forward, we are ready for peace. We want peace. Nigerians are yearning for this party to come to the time of 1998, when we came to power.
The Nigerians you’ve just mentioned are actually disappointed that PDP cannot put its acts together as an opposition party.
I agree because the same people that led us (PDP) into failure, a few minorities that are vocal, looking for the platform, from investigation. These are the people responsible for the party’s problem. Some of them were governors. Some were ministers. They couldn’t deliver. If not we could have won the election. So why are we giving them attention? We have asked all the aggrieved to come back to the party, but they still want to continue to dictate the affairs of party even when they couldn’t win any election.
Recently after the Court of Appeal judgment in Port Harcourt, the leader of the party and Fmr. President Goodluck Jonathan met with the various groups; the Sheriff group as the national chairman of the party by law and the Makarfi group. Can you give an insight into the progress that has been made so far?
Before this time, they said that any side that wins, all the sides will support. The moment we won that court case, we went to him in regards to the judgment and told him that we are prepared to work with everybody. And he said he couldn’t have taken any other position. As the former president he was the custodian of our laws and he acknowledged that.
The next thing we saw was some former ministers and some people who ran to him. And a statement was issued; apparently I’m not sure that it was from him (Goodluck Jonathan), that he remains neutral. You cannot remain neutral on the side of the law. You have to be on the side of the law.
They have a legal right to seek redress in an appellate court. We are not against that but they should bear in mind that the law doesn’t change. There was a judgment by the Federal High Court in Lagos that certain positions were not vacant before the convention. There was also a judgment from an FCT High Court before the convention as well. And looking at these two judgments, the national chairman postponed the convention only for some persons to go ahead with the convention. After what they claimed was the convention they went to get a court order from Justice Mahmud Lima in Port Harcourt on the 24th of May, 2016 to legitimize their convention. They did not appeal these two previous court rulings and these are the positions held by the court of Appeal.
If they want to go to the Supreme Court, they are free to do so but the law will not change. And we appeal to them so that so much bad blood is not drawn.
You mentioned unity convention. If they agree to it, what percentage of involvement would be offered to them?
That is the basis of the consultation. Before you can go for convention, there have to be a meeting by the National Executive Council (NEC). NEC would set the date and issues for discussion. And these things are done by stakeholders and various organs of the party but they said they are not going to do any consultation
There is a popular notion from those on the other side that the executive under the leadership of Ali Modu Sheriff is been sponsored by the APC. What is the true position?
When Adamu Mu’aza resigned, Secondus took over for 3 months based on our party constitution. And he stayed in there for 8 months. And after these 8 months, Ahmed Gulak went to court to challenge the continued stay of Secondus. Gulak went to court and got the court judgment on the 16th of December, 2015 and won the case. Secondus appealed and lost on 3rd of January, 2016.
Based on this, we took over the party Secretariat. It was then; they now went and brought Sheriff. The people who brought Sheriff, were they agents of the APC? Ask them. How did they bring Sheriff into this leadership matter? Who were they working for? On Sheriff, I can assure you that, he is not working for the APC. We have to bring this party back to the grass root and let the leadership emerge from the grass root. This is what the party is all about