The battle for leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party will end on Wednesday as the Supreme Court has fixed July 12 to rule on who the true leader of the party is.
A former Borno State governor, Ali Sheriff, and a former Kaduna State governor, Ahmed Makarfi, both claim leadership of the PDP.
In a letter signed by a factional spokesperson of the party from the Makarfi faction, Chinwe Nnorom, the PDP said it has been formally notified by the Supreme Court that judgement on the matter would be delivered on Wednesday.
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The rift between both leaders of the party, which majorly began with a ruling of a Federal High Court in Lagos, on May 17 2016, resulted in contrasting court judgements which protracted the troubled days of the PDP and led to the loss of many members of the party.
In the said ruling, the Federal High Court, FHC, in Lagos gave an order restraining the PDP from conducting election into its national offices at a meeting that was to be held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, that month.
But shortly before the date of the said meeting on May 21, the PDP received a different judgement from another FHC in Port Harcourt allowing the convention to continue.
After the meeting, on May 25, two FHCs in Lagos and Port Harcourt gave conflicting judgements allowing and nullifying the proceeding of the meeting.
Then on August 15, Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, gave an order suspending a planned national convention of the PDP on August 17, after the Port Harcourt branch of the same court gave an order compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the police to ensure the conduct of the convention
The traits of crisis, within the PDP as shown by the various court judgements, attracted the attention of the National Judicial Council, which said in September 2016, that it would investigate the cases of contrasting judgement from courts of coordinate jurisdiction and bring defaulting judges to book.
It is not immediately clear whether the said investigation has ended or if it is still ongoing, as nothing regarding the matter has since then been heard from the NJC.
After months of traversing the trial courts, the Sheriff faction approached the Appeal Court in Port Harcourt to contest a decision of the lower court which on July 4, 2016 affirmed the emergence of Mr. Makarfi as the authentic leader of the PDP during the May 21 convention of the party.
On February 17 the Port-Harcourt Division of the Appeal Court upturned the decision of the lower court and affirmed the appointment of Mr. Sheriff as the authentic leader of the party.
After that judgement, the Makarfi-led faction approached the Supreme Court in what could be regarded as the last straw of efforts to control of the party.
After fielding arguments on the matter on May 22, the apex court adjourned to decide at a later date, on who the authentic leader should be.
While all of these were ongoing, many PDP members including lawmakers decamped to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, citing the division in the party as reason.
Earlier, a former senate president, Ken Namani, left the PDP early 2016, citing what he regarded as ‘poor management of the party.
With the planned judgement on Wednesday, some members of the party have expressed their views on what the future could hold for the PDP.
During an interview, the PDP chairman in Nasarawa State, Francis Orogu, narrated his expectation.
“Although you can see that the views of many people show that they believe more in the leadership of the party as put forward by Makarfi,” Mr. Orogu said.
In his reaction, the deputy national chairman of the party from the Sheriff faction, Cairo Ojougbo, said the former Borno governor would make a perfect leader for the PDP.
“The judgement of tomorrow will have a lot to do with the judiciary. You know that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. And you know that Sheriff obeyed the court order not to do a convention. The matter before the Supreme Court is very simple: Is it good for Sheriff to have obeyed court order? That is what the matter is.
“So we are waiting for the court to decide. I am soldier of the PDP and I mean well for Nigerians. And I do know that the survival of multiparty system in Nigeria depends on truth and on Sheriff who is the agent of change; so I am believing God that the judiciary will do the right thing,” he said.
He however added that he would remain in the PDP, regardless of Wednesday’s outcome.
“Whatever happens, the party will still succeed; it will still be my party. I believe that PDP is a great party.”
Another member of the party, Suleiman Adokwe, also from Nasarawa State, said although he prefers that Mr. Makarfi emerges winner; he wants both leaders to put the party first.
“I believe that Makarfi has the capacity to lead the party no doubt about that. I will be very happy if Makarfi wins.
“But if Sheriff wins I still remain a member of the party. We are concerned that the party must still remain dedicated and strong in order to remain the opposition party. So we are of the view that all the members should put heads together; to move the party forward. We are not going to do anything other than that.
“Both of them are interim leaders. So the proper thing any one of them will do is to take the necessary step after the judgement to hold a convention that will elect de facto leaders of the party.”