Makarfi Vs Sheriff; Hope Still Anchored On The Rule Of Law – By Sir Don Ubani; KSC, JP



Executive Director
Centre For Equity And Eradication Of Rural Poverty

The importance of the Judiciary in any democratic setting needs not be over-emphasized. That the Judiciary is the last hope of the common man is simply a testimony to the overriding significance of the rule of law.
Under the rule of law, the accused remains innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction and, interestingly, the onus of proof is the burden of the prosecution.
Equally interesting is the very assuring fact that administration of justice in a democracy is calibrated in such a just system that there exist the Magistrate Court, High Court, Appeal Court and the Supreme Court.
Even though Justices are, by virtue of their training and orientation, expected to be outstandingly disciplined, transparent, impartial and just, those who conceptualized the doctrine of the rule of law did not lose sight of vulnerability of man. Hence, the sequential calibration of justice administration in such a way that if justice is perverted at a judicial stage, the upper level, otherwise known as the Appeal, could correct and restore justice.
I have always told myself and others that could listen to me that the world would have been a total bestiality if there had been no rule of law. It simply could have been a jungle of injustice where only the strong and powerful would have been fit to live.
I have always reminded myself that no condition is permanent. Many years ago, I was a federal civil servant. I would later become a teacher. Once upon a time, I was a Commissioner for Information and Strategy. I had also occupied the post of Commissioner for Petroleum and Solid Minerals’ Development. Long before then, I had been State Chairman of defunct United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP. I also had the rare privilege of being one of the twenty-one Convener of PDP in Abia State.These positions have come and gone.
Like the late famous Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe; the first and only ceremonial President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, reminded late Mr Ukpabia Asika; one and only Sole Administrator of defunct East Central State of Nigeria, I am now Ex this! Ex that!!
Whoever that does not appreciate that life and everything associated with it are transient, is only living a false life and, therefore, deceives himself or herself.
We also have what we call vicissitude of life. This refers to fortunes and misfortunes that accompany life.
Michael Henchard in Mayor of Casterbridge had been seen selling his wife for liquor in a trade fair only to rise, through hard work, goodwill and favorable weather conditions, to become the Mayor of Casterbridge. But at the close of the narrative, we saw Michael Henchard degenerating to penury. This is life! No condition is permanent!!
This is the more reason why people in positions of power should not allow their earthly positions take the better part of them.
The Peoples’ Democratic Party came into existence in October 1998. It was a Political Party founded on the basis of mass movement. The motto of the Party was and remains ‘Power Belongs To The People’.
From 1999 to 2015, the Party controlled power at the Centre and in majority of the thirty-six States of the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja. Sixteen consecutive years of hold on power is an unprecedented record in Nigeria.
The Party was meant to be the equivalence of South Africa’s African National Congress and the calculations of the founding fathers of PDP were that the Party was to hold on to power in Nigeria for, at least, sixty years.
Unfortunately with time and age, persons who did not know when the Party was formed, making effective but dangerous use of pretence, sycophancy and deceit, walked their ways into strategic areas of the Party and the next thing we saw were impunity, greed, misgovernance, subversion of the will of the people and mischievous destruction of the largest Political Party in Africa and the Black World.
The Party was defeated at the 2015 general election. For sentiments some of the leaders of the Party say they are regretting now, a former Governor of Borno State; Alhaji Ali Modu Sherif,was brought in to lead the Party.
Constitutionally or otherwise, he was made Chairman of the National Executive Committee of the Party.
But when it became obvious that Sherif was not the man they had imagined, the same leaders that Wooed him into leadership decided to do away with.
Regrettably, Ali Modu Shrif is like an albatross. He has vehemently refused to be dumped.
His recalcitrance has resulted to litigations upon litigation, immediately after the Party’s National Convention of May 21, 2016 at Port-Harcourt.
In his judgment on July 4, 2016, Justice Mohammed Liman of Federal High Court, Port-Harcourt upheld the National Convention of the Party that produced the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee on 21st May, 2016.
On the contrary, a Federal High Court in Abuja of concurrent jurisdiction and precided over by one Justice Okon Abang, nullified the National Convention of the Party that installed Makarfi as National Caretaker Chairman of the Party. He affirmed Sheriff as the authentic Chairman of the Party until some time in 2018.
Yesterday; Thursday 17th February, 2017 a three-man Court of Appeal that sat in Port-Harcourt handed down a split verdict in favour of Ali Modu Sheriff.
A lead judgment read by Justice Bitrus Sanga and supported by the Chairman of the Court; Justice Abubarkar Gumel, constituting a majority ruling and premised on Article 47(3) of the Constitution of PDP, upheld Sherif as the Chairman of the Party.
On the other hand and to the beauty of the rule of law, a minority judgment by one of the three Justices; Theresa Orji-Agbadua, relying on Article 31(1), disagreed with the Majority Judgment. She ruled that the processes that produced Ahmed Makarfi are constitutional, legal, lawful and legitimate. She, therefore, upheld the legitimacy of Makarfi’s position.
Meanwhile, the PDP Governors’ Forum ably led by the Governor of Ekiti State; Ayodele Fayose, has rejected the lead judgment of the Court of Appeal and has rather
applauded the Minority Judgment given by Justice Theresa Orji-Agbadua.
The PDP Governors’ Forum has equally indicated her constitutional right to appeal against the judgment of the lower court.
It is the prayer of well-meaning Nigerians, especially those that know that a robust Opposition Party is needed for our democracy to attain it’s pride of place, that the Supreme Court will rise above sentiments, ethnic, religious and mundane considerations in giving justice it’s due place in this very crucial and sensitive matter.
As for members of the Party, this is an uncommon opportunity for you to exhibit loyalty, love and commitment to your Party.
If you hurriedly desert your Party now, you would simply be regarded as a sell-out, an opportunist and a food-is-ready politician. If the new Party you would decamp will never take you seriously.
Don Ubani.



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