“The enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution”
Following the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, which validated the choice of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and invalidated the setting up of a National Caretaker Committee, a lot of reactions and counter-reactions have rented the air and media space. I was also one of those who spoke, urging our respected leaders and elders to wade in, bury the hatchet and let us forge a common front. Specifically, I advised against appealing the 17th February, 2017 judgment of the Court of Appeal in the interest of peace and our members and supporters.
I am once again compelled to intervene in the needless muscle-flexing manifested in the Notice of Appeal and the application for a stay of execution of the judgment by some self-centred leaders of our party.
Given my deep knowledge of the issues, I do know, like I stated in the past without many of our leaders and elders taking heed, that this may yet be another wild goose chase. Asking for a stay of execution of a declaratory judgment or going to the Supreme Court to pursue an appeal that is not an election issue or matter between a state and the Federal Government may not be the better part of valour or discretion. It will prolong the issues unduly and further distract us as a party.
First, it is almost impracticable to ask a court of competent jurisdiction to either arrest or suspend its own judgment. That is tantamount to asking a court to stop a judgment creditor from enjoying the fruits of his labour. There is hardly a court worth the name that grants such an application.
Secondly and realistically, it is only after the Court of Appeal has heard and determined the motion for a stay of execution of the judgment that an appeal can be formally lodged at the Supreme Court. Not being an election petition or a constitutional matter, the appeal will take its normal course in the docket.
Why the insistence on appealing to the Supreme Court after the gentleman’s agreement between the two leaders to abide by the verdict of the Court of Appeal? Why has the intransigence of members of the Caretaker Committee? Why do they want to hold on to office without end? I know that Prince Dayo Adeyeye wants to succeed Fayose as governor of Ekiti State and he feels he can’t have his way with the present realities. But what does our revered national leader, Senator Ahmed Makarfi want that he cannot overlook whatever grievances he may have with Senator Sheriff and join hands with him to organize an all-embracing National Convention in the interest of peace and our party?
If not for ego and selfish ambition, there is no reason why anyone should insist on appealing an incurably bad case. The same Fayose who is on record as having urged party faithful to await the verdict of the Court of Appeal before any meaningful reconciliation could take place is now saying a court cannot choose a leader for the party. Yet, he is one of the arrowheads of “we must go to the Supreme Court” campaign. The question is: since, according to him, a court cannot choose a leader for the party, what does he want the Supreme Court to do?
I am also aware that being a dogged fighter and a consummate politician, Senator Sheriff will not fold his hands and allow his rights to be trampled upon. Information at my disposal indicates that he has assembled a team of top and some of the best in the legal profession to take up the appeal in case it goes on. Since some of our leaders have remained recalcitrant and almost ridiculing the judgment of the Court of Appeal, I have also read in the media that criminal contempt proceedings have been filed at the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt against some of them. That seems to me like a reaction to their defiance of the judgment of the Court of Appeal. According to lawyers, the practice is that contempt proceedings will first be heard and determined one way or the other before any other application – be it the motion for stay of execution or the appeal itself – can be entertained. Only God knows how long all of these would take.
It is granted that everyone has his own interest to protect and pursue. But, such interest must be measured and accommodated within the interest of the majority. You cannot be pursuing your own interest and then seek to stop the other person from pursuing his. You do not say because you want to build a mansion, all the other buildings in your neighbourhood must be demolished. Live and let’s live. That is the essence of party politics and life itself.
Surprisingly, it beats my imagination how our leaders and elders cannot see through the fact that it is only one man’s vaunting ambition that is tearing our party apart. Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose’s interest is to first become the Vice-Presidential candidate of the PDP in 2019 and then from there the Presidential candidate! He had thought that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff would be a pliable tool towards achieving his ambition. It was when he saw that Senator Sheriff was a man of his own who would not succumb to being pushed around or dictated to that he began the onslaught and blackmail against him. Even Senator Ahmed Makarfi is also not spared of their blackmail. But, thankfully, he has carried on with a high sense of level-headedness, grace and candour. That is why I always say that both leaders – Senators Sheriff and Makarfi – have proven themselves to be respectable leaders and men of honour. They both agreed to abide by the decision of the Court of Appeal. There is no need for anyone to nudge any of them to renege on the gentleman agreement they had. Why would anyone resort to pressurizing any of our leaders to pursue an appeal at the Supreme Court at a time we should close ranks and reposition our party for the challenges ahead? We know that the Supreme Court will take ages and we may not be able to finish the legal battle before2019, when will we have time to mobilize, organize and harmonize for 2019
Nigerians, particularly party leaders, elders and members would recall all the glowing tributes that some of those calling Senator Sheriff names paid to him on his emergence as the National Chairman of our great party about a year ago.
In fact, his now most vociferous critic, Fayose, said, “The All Progressives Congress (APC) knows Senator Ali Modu Sheriff’s capacity in terms of political network, being a three term senator and two term governor, and must be afraid that with such a person as the PDP Chairman, their regime of lies will be over soon.” He then went on to beg aggrieved party members to sheath their swords! So, at what point did he discover the “HIV” that he was talking about? Was it when he refused to take instructions from him or dance to his tunes?
If Senator Sheriff did not have what it takes to lead the party, the governors and other leaders and elders of our party would not have brought him. It is wrong and unjust to have brought him and now turn against him in the middle of the road because they suspected that he had an ambition beyond the party Chairmanship.
While not confirming the suspicion, I dare say that even if Senator Sheriff wanted to contest to be President, it is not automatic that he would win the primary election, let alone the general election. It is what the Almighty Allah has ordained that will come to pass. Nothing precludes him or Senator Makarfi from aspiring to higher positions. It is only a dead man that does not have aspirations. The mere fact that someone is alleged to have an ambition does not justify the elongation of the leadership crisis by anyone. More so, when Senator Sheriff has indicated his interest to organize an all-embracing National Convention and quit the stage. By going to the Supreme Court instead of teaming up with him, the same people who said they don’t want him are merely prolonging Senator Sheriff’s stay in office because he could choose to wait till the Supreme Court dispenses of the matter. And God helps them if Senator Sheriff wins again at the Supreme Court.
Come to think of it: Is Senator Sheriff not better than Fayose who is so blinded by his ambition that he does not know where to pull the brakes? He believes the quickest way to realizing his selfish ambition is to abuse the President and denigrate the very office he now seeks to occupy. He has been lying about his VP ambition until recently that he schemed his way into the Chairmanship of the PDP Governors’ Forum and has now announced to the whole world that he wants to become the President. But, he would soon know that Nigerians, and particularly the good people of Ekiti State, are not fools. They can see through his antics.
Nigerians would recall that some time ago, I told them that Fayose wanted to be Vice-Presidential candidate of the PDP and that that was why he wanted the party structure under his control. He lied that he was not interested in being any VP. Now, he has come out to tell the whole world that he wants to be VP and then President. So, should such a person be trusted? Whereas over the weekend we all saw that the five South East Governors met in Enugu where Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi was elected as the Chairman of the South East Governors’ Forum, how many PDP governors were at the meeting where Fayose was purportedly chosen? The mere fact that most of the governors have never attended any meeting he calls since his purported emergence speaks volume. That they have not publicly joined issues with him speaks more to their level of maturity than acquiescence.
While nudging some of our leaders to go to the Supreme Court and purporting to be speaking on behalf of the PDP Governors’ Forum that they would not participate in the National Convention being planned by the party, Fayose launched a political group in Ekiti State last Thursday. I thought he said he has the people with him. Why the registration if he has them already? So, all the talks about the people being with him have no basis in facts and figures.
Although we know that no meeting of the PDP Governors’ Forum has held since the Court of Appeal gave its judgment, and no such decision or anyone for that matter has been taken by the Forum, it is incumbent all our well-meaning leaders and elders of our party to rise up to the occasion and act like the “enlightened ruler” who “is heedful” and the “good general” who “is full of caution” – as espoused by the war veteran, Sun Tzu.
With Fayose’s recent open declarations and actions, all well-meaning PDP leaders and elders should pause for a moment and reflect deeply on the issues and their positions. Whilst trying to work out his own political future, he does not want the PDP to have a united front, except things are done on his terms.
That is why in one breath he would describe Senator Sheriff as the best thing to have happened to our party and another breadth call him names. He deceives and speaks from both sides of the mouth with ease.
When efforts were on to reconcile the leaders while the matter was pending at the Court of Appeal, he said, “That move, you see, I’m not against anything called resolution within the party but everybody must wait for Court of Appeal to resolve this matter.
“Matters are in court, nobody has withdrawn any matter and they are resolving. What are you resolving? When matters are in court you, allow court to lay them to rest. The moment this thing doesn’t go with one side, they will tell you are still in court.
“But allow the court to take a stand and reconciliation would be made easy…Let’s wait till then. But my opinion is the Court of Appeal must resolve this matter. When you resolve the matter, you know that I am wrong and you are right and reconciliation will be made easy.”
Now, the Court of Appeal that Fayose said should be awaited to resolve the matter has given its judgment and he is screaming blue murder, threatening to pull down the roofs. Other well-meaning leaders and elders are saying all stakeholders should come together and support the national leadership of the party towards organizing an all-embracing National Convention but he would not have any of such. It is somewhat intriguing that a man who says the majority is on his side is afraid of testing his popularity at a National Convention! Practical politics tells me that anyone who refuses to participate in the proposed National Convention would be shooting himself in the foot because the convention will elect new national officers for the party without his input. Anything Senator Sheriff does until the Supreme Court affirms the judgment of the Court of Appeal or says otherwise remains valid.
To those who have some morbid fears about the National Convention, I wish to reassure them that Senator Sheriff alone cannot single-handedly determine what will happen in PDP. He has been consulting with party leaders and elders on the way forward. He knows he needs everyone and that is why he has continued to preach peace and reconciliation instead of joining issues with his critics. Our respected leaders and elders should give Senator Sheriff the benefit of the doubt and join hands with him towards organizing an all-embracing National Convention. If they tell him what to do towards holding such an event and he does not, then their allegations against him can be sustained and better appreciated.
I wish to conclude this piece by urging most of our leaders and elders not to join the bandwagon in merely saying they are appealing the judgment for the fun of it. They should take time out to read the judgment of the Court of Appeal and digest it. They should not rely on what anyone tells them. Quite honestly, they will find that Senator Sheriff’s case was and is still being made stronger by their own admission and averments even in their Notice of Appeal. They agreed that there was an 18th of May, 2016 judgment of the Hon. Justice Mohammed of the FCT High Court that said certain officers should be in office till August, 2017, two others till October, 2018 and Senator Sheriff till election is held, but that it did not nullify the Notice of Convention as sought by the plaintiffs. Pray, why would a court bother itself to nullify the Notice of a Convention when a convention could either be elective and non-elective? The corollary question is that: if the court did not nullify the Notice of Convention did it say those that were removed should be removed? No. Rather, it secured their tenure. Instead of challenging that judgment on appeal, the gladiators who are pushing for an appeal to the Supreme Court as if they know what the others do not know did not. They took the laws into their own hands, subverted the constitution of the PDP and sought to rubbish the court judgment.
Besides, there are still two subsisting court orders from the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court that also sought to sidestep. This is in addition to the brushing aside of the mandatory provisions of Article 47 (3) of the PDP Constitution.
That was why the Presiding Judge of the Port Harcourt Division of the Court of Appeal said, “My conclusion is that the originating summons herein was contrived to overreach the interlocutory order of Buba, J. on the 24/05/16. The notice of preliminary objection challenging the competence of the lower court to entertain Suit No. FHC/PH/CS524/16 ought to have been upheld and it is hereby upheld for being meritorious. The originating summons is an abuse of court process and it ought to have been struck out as such. It is hereby accordingly struck out. All orders made therein are set aside.
“On issue 2, in view of the averments of the Plaintiff/1st Respondent in paragraphs 27 to 30 of the affidavit in support of the originating summons, the removal from office of the Appellants and other members of the NEC of the 1st Respondent was done illegally, against the provisions of its Constitution and therefore null, void and of no effect. It is accordingly set aside. The parties are ordered to maintain the status quo as at 18/5/16 courtesy of the judgment and orders of Mohammed, J. in Suit No. FCT/CV/1443/16. For these and the more elaborate reasons of my learned brother in the lead judgment, I too would allow this appeal and abide by all the consequential orders therein”.
Like I have always done, I want to plead with all our national leaders and elders to rise up to occasion and provide the needed leadership at this critical time in the life of our party. It is most ridiculous and unfortunate that in party that has eminent personalities like Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu; Senator Godswill Akpabio, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Senator Jubrin Walid, Chief Olabode George, Prof. Jerry Gana, Senator Ibrahim Mantu and other respected elders, an uncouth and garrulous Fayose would be presiding over a meeting that they are in, making orders and insulting their age, experience and integrity. He claims to be the oldest Governor as if he had served more than the eight years guaranteed by the Constitution! Fayose is just after his own parochial interest. Nothing more! His allegations against Senator Sheriff are unfounded. He is even on record as having defended him against the same allegations of working for the All Progressives Congress (APC). So, let no one fall for his debauchery. It is those who are hell-bent on going to the Supreme Court and thereby prolonging the issue that are working for the APC. The Court of Appeal has resolved the leadership issue. The National Secretariat of our party has been opened. Renovation works have commenced in full swing. The party secretariat is now wearing a new look. The air of freedom, equity and justice is blowing across the PDP.
Our party is regaining itself and coming back to life, as it was pre-May, 2016. Things are beginning to take shape. Let everyone come under the umbrella of our great party and find rest. The umbrella is big enough to accommodate all. Let’s unite, pull resources together and move our party forward. Let’s deepen democracy. This is the time to roll up our sleeves and work together in the overall interest of our beloved party and country. This clarion call is to our brothers and sisters in the North, South, East and West. Let us rise above selfish and parochial interests and show the whole world that we have the capacity to resolve our differences. Let us show that our strength does not lie in not disagreeing but that when we do disagree, we also have the capacity to resolve our differences. We have done it before; we can do it again. We have tested the courts and it has not completely resolved the issues. Let us pause for a moment and talk to ourselves. Senator Sheriff has continually restated his commitment to quit the stage after organizing an all-inclusive National Convention. Why don’t we just support him to achieve this instead of threatening to bring the house down because things did not go our way? Let us learn to be humble. For as David Richo said, “Humility means accepting reality with no attempt to outsmart it”. The reality in all of these is that “politics must submit to the law” as enunciated by the eminent jurist Fatayi-Williams. Let us accept this reality, situate our interests and work together as practical politicians who love our country and party.
Senator Buruji Kashamu
Ogun East Senatorial District