By Joe Iniodu
Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, the controversial and factional Chairman of PDP reminds many of one of the widows in the legendary arbitration of King Solomon wherein he delivered judgment that a new born baby of disputed ownership be shared between the two contending claimants. For the authentic owner of the baby, the child should live and be owned by the false claimant rather than be put to death in the course of the sharing. But the usurper accepted the judgment of sharing the child with exhilaration. She did that because for her nothing was at stake and nothing was to be lost.
Senator Modu Sheriff fits aptly into this scriptural equation in his persistent and dubious attempts to hold onto the leadership of the People’s Democratic Party. In one of his hollow submissions, he said that he was sitting pretty in his house and resting when Their Excellencies, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State came calling requesting him to come and take over the party. According to him, he obliged them and therefore his position as Chairman remains sacrosanct until 2018. For him, the interest of other stakeholders which the duo that invited him had since surrendered to as the popular position is immaterial as Sheriff’s interest takes precedent over and above all other considerations. It would be the first time in a democracy where the majority would merely have a say while the minority would actually have the way. In every sane clime, the converse is always the inexorable choice.
When Senator Sheriff was spawned as a Chairmanship option with incumbent governors accused of imposing him, the ranks of stakeholders of the party were rankled. The party quickly suffered a split with formidable elements within the party shared into camps. It was clear that majority of the party faithful particularly stakeholders were discomfited with his choice. They raised concerns about his loyalty as a party man having demonstrated peripatetic tendency these past few years and credibility challenges, having been accused of being complicit in the emergence of the current scourge called Boko Haram. These concerns trailed him like the sword of Damocles and impelled honest stakeholders of PDP to distance themselves from him. With these developments, those touted to have brought him had to do a rethink to flow with the popular tide and save the party from being immolated. It was the only reasonable thing to do at that point in time.
But Senator Sheriff and his handful of supporters would accept nothing else than his continuation as Chairman of the Party at the risk of implosion and perhaps eventual extinction of the party. That ambush tactics became manifest in the run up to the earlier scheduled National Convention that was to hold on May 21, 2016. As the then Chairman whose tenure was however expected to terminate that day before commencement of the proceedings of that convention, Senator Sheriff may have expected that the organ would validate his continuous stay in office. When he therefore arrived Port Harcourt and got wind of a different thing all together, he reacted irascibly. He harried into place an emergency Press Conference and announced a postponement of what would have passed as a well organised event but for the suspicion of enthroning him as Chairman which gave rise to the parallel convention in Abuja. Modu Sheriff played a smart alec by exploiting the altercation that dogged the two camps to postpone the convention albeit illegally.
The Convention of May 21, 2016, in partial fulfillment of its constitutional mandate, taking cognizance of a subsisting suit barring the election of persons into certain offices appointed a caretaker committee with the proviso to conduct elections into all the offices within 90 days. It was the intention of the party to ensure that all internal wranglings within the party are resolved including the ones with pendency in court before the expiration of the set duration.
Well as a party with clear understanding of the need for social cohesion and harmony, the major camps began to close ranks. Reconciliations were achieved even faster than expected. The party began to plan for another convention. While all these were going on, Senator Modu Sheriff continued to parade himself as Chairman even as his touted occupation of that office was no longer known to Law as it had reached its terminal end. But sheriff in a show of shenanigan approached the court and had his already expired tenure curiously re-validated by an institution that is supposed to provide ruling that is consistent with public good and order, not confusion. Since that ruling, a flurry of other rulings, some conflicting had trailed PDP’s planned convention leading to the most controversial which was Justice Okon Abang’s very disturbing order suspending the August 17, 2016 National Convention of the people’s Democratic Party less than 24 hours to the event. In a related vein, the People’s Democratic Party approached a court of Coordinate Jurisdiction in Port-Harcourt wherein it procured an order mandating the security agencies to provide security for the convention and Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to monitor the event accordingly. And so, two courts of Coordinate Jurisdiction made different rulings in respect of the same National Convention.
But what perhaps stirred curiosity and provided the basis that suggests external influence is the discretion of the security agencies to obey a court order that does not have appellate jurisdiction while discountenancing the other which possesses coordinate jurisdiction with the one they decided to obey. As laymen who are not heeled in the nuances of law, we reason that the security agencies showed partisanship in their action and failed completely on the forte of neutrality. Their obtuse argument that they were only there to prevent any breakdown of law and order and not to circumscribe the Convention from holding is hollow and bereft of logic.
In all of these show of shenanigans, two institutions appear to be the victims – our democracy and the judiciary. Every time democracy in our country sets itself in the course of contemporary spectrum, there are always forces that rise to either thwart or make it yield to their caprice. The result is always a façade democracy lacking in its basic fundamentals like rights, freedom, justice, equity and fair-play. Those who hold the reign of power work at abbreviating these decimals particularly as they relate to those perceived as opposition. Sadly too, in the minion mindsets of many, the authorities of all agencies are subsumed in the powers of the Central Government. Therefore, everything must be done to please Mr. President whether at his asking or not.
The other victim of the Shenanigan is the Judiciary. In every sane clime, the Judiciary is considered as the last hope of the common man. It exists for the sustenance of the basic rights of all, regardless of any other consideration. For the judiciary to maintain its honour, it must be above reproach and must possess moral health that borders on principle, self honour, ethical conduct and courage. These are attributes those who man that critical structure of human affairs must have. They are expected to bring these attributes into their works and discharge same without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.
The current events and the flurry of court orders and interlocutory injunctions seem to negate the attainment of the height expected with the presence of the aforementioned decimals. The Judiciary should know that moral bankruptcy had since seeped into the body politics of our Nation and that it behooves on her as the interpreters of our laws to operate from a moral high ground to be able to rein in these desperate band of marauders that have forayed into politics to taint the enterprise.
The current trend in the Judiciary reminds us of Justice Wilson Egbo Egbo, who lent himself to the judicial rascality that was perpetrated by late General Sanni Abacha. The National Judicial Council once again has a responsibility to save the Judiciary from ignominy. The perception that the Judiciary is being used to facilitate the extinction of the opposition is a sad commentary on our claim to being a democratic Nation and the giant of Africa. The beauty of any democracy is the existence of alternative views and which the ruling party could use to improve its fortunes. The government of the day should therefore gladly encourage a vibrant and viable opposition for there lies the real road to burgeoning and robust democracy that can stand shoulder to shoulder with democracies of other climes with the assurance of doing the greatest good to the greatest number.
Iniodu Is a Public Affairs Analyst