Mr. Oladejo Lamikanra, Senior Advocate of Nigeria SAN has highlited the major reasons that shaped the decision of the Supreme Court to sack Ali Modu Sheriff and declare Ahmed Makarfi as the authentic chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
Lamikanra said the Apex Court gave priority to institutional decisions against individual decisions; considered substantial justice ahead of technical perfections in the filing of Makarfi’s appeal; and also thought of consonance with natural sense of order and justice.
He said this in Abuja during an interview with newsmen over the judgement of the Apex Court on the leadership crisis that had rocked the PDP for almost two years.
He said: “The PDP as a party has been vindicated in their decision to assert that this is not about an individual; this is not about a strong man. This is about strong institutions
“That is what our political parties need to evolve to be.
“We cannot really have a true democracy without strong institutions, strong party institutions who are willing to abide by their own rules and play by their own rules.
“I think the Supreme Court judgement has affirmed that the PDP has abided and operated according to its own rules as a political institution, and they have been vindicated by those their own institutional rules.
“I think that is the essential message to take away from this judgement.”
On the narrow objection raised by the Sheriff camp about the authority of Makarfi’s camp to file an appeal at the Supreme Court on behalf of the PDP since the National Working Committee (NWC) led by Sheriff did not ask to do so, the
Senior lawyer said: “In all my years of legal practice, I have never seen a situation where a respondent will seek to terminate an appeal that has been raised against him.
“What the respondents (Sheriff and co.) were trying to do in seeking the withdrawal of the appeal was to say that the Court of Appeal decision is final. Whereas, the constitution of Nigeria says a decision by the Court of Appeal is appealable to the Apex Court. The only final court in the land is the Supreme Court.
“So, when they purported to have withdrawn and terminated the appeal filed to the Supreme Court, they actually intended, as it were, to subvert the constitution and the constitutional powers of the Supreme Court and of course the outcome was gratifying.”
On the issue of the Supreme Court’s decision to consider Substantial Justice over legal technicalities in the filing of Makarfi’s appeal, Lamikanra said: “The Supreme Court has eschewed technicalities and to some extent, it has put down what clearly was an absurdity in no uncertain terms.
“It is absurd for a defendant to say to a plaintiff ‘This case you intend to file, I have terminated it.’ Justice doesn’t work that way.
“Justice is about ventilation of grievance and the role of the court is to finally resolve dispute between two parties.
“You don’t resolve dispute by seeking to truncate or terminate or withdraw when there still exists the right to appeal to the Apex Court, which PDP-led by Makarfi has.
“The whole objective was to prevent the PDP from pursuing its right of final appeal. And as you can see it, that ploy collapsed spectacularly.
“It is the first point; I think the Supreme Court struck out.”
On the issue of Article 47 of the PDP constitution which talks about vote of no confidence needed to be passed on leaders before they are removed from office, as raised by Sheriff, which meant that he had the powers to remain as Acting National Chairman since such vote of no confidence was never passed on him and members of his National Working Committee (NWC) prior to a national convention that established Makarfi’s caretaker committee, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said: “In this case, the court resolved it on two grounds.
“First, it was not a constitutionally mandated requirement that as a matter of must; a vote of confidence or no confidence must be taken.
“Don’t forget that the National Executive presided over the then Acting Chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff issued a notice of convention at which the national executives of the Party consented to.
“That notice says that National Convention should hold in in Port-Harcourt in 3 months’ time which is in May, 2016.
“Now, if you agree that a national convention should hold and that elections to national offices should also hold at that convention, it means that you who sat to take that decision has accepted that you would surrender your mandate for that fresh election to hold.
“You cannot later complain and say ‘Oh! You cannot remove me unless a vote of confidence is first passed.’ You have already decided that vote of confidence when you issued that notice of congress which included the mandate for National elections into elective offices of the Party to hold.
“So, those are the two background reasons that informed the decisions of the Supreme Court to not only uphold Article 47 but to also say that in this circumstance, vote of no confidence was not a strict requirement.”