Former President Goodluck Jonathan, saturday, in Otuoke, Bayelsa State, said the Nigerian people have surrendered their power to elect leaders of their choice to the courts.
Jonathan, who spoke at his country home, when he received the Governor Seriake Dickson Peace and Reconciliation Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said the time had come for the people to take back their power. He condemned the rush to court at the slightest provocation when political solutions could be proffered.
This is coming at a time the Dickson committee is said to be seriously considering an out-of-court settlement on all the pending legal cases as the only solution to the long-winding crisis in the party.
If the said persuasion of the warring parties to withdraw the cases in court succeeds, the committee would have crossed the biggest hurdle standing in the way of peace and reconciliation in the PDP.
Jonathan, who lamented the rising number of cases at the election petition tribunals, contended that Nigerians had surrendered the power to choose their leaders to the judiciary.
“Here in Nigeria, we have surrendered the power to choose to the courts. We must return the power of electing our leaders back to the people,” he said, clarifying that his position on the need to allow people choose did not amount to disrespect for the judiciary and presiding judges.
He added: “I respect the judiciary and judges. They are credible men and women. They have decided to serve the people. They also starve themselves to semi imprisonment. The average judge does not socialise to maintain their integrity. When we go and enjoy ourselves, they don’t. They are respected. We (just) want our votes to count.
“Not that after voting, a judicial panel will upturn the vote. I am calling on Nigerian youths to call for a close review of the election process to hand over the power of choice to the people,” he said, adding that the resort to the courts have increasingly limited the people’s participation in the electoral process.
“After voting, it is 10 million votes for governors or president. Your mandate may be upturned by a few judges and this is anomalous in Nigeria. They (political leaders) may be distracted. They will not sit in the office and start going to court. And they are not supposed to be distracted. If a governor or president is sitting and facing litigation costing millions, his performance will be limited”, he posited.
While commending Dickson and his team for going round the country to meet with key stakeholders and leaders of the party in order to return PDP to the path of peace, he expressed the hope that the peace committee would finally put to rest, the protracted crisis in PDP, and therefore called on all members to work towards peace and stability in the party.
He implored PDP members to always explore political solutions to problems before rushing to the courts, noting that “I have always believed that political differences should be resolved outside the courts. Unfortunately, we are already involved in it. It has even gone up to the Supreme Court. But we are hopeful of a political solution. Party politics is supposed to be a family affair and ought to be resolved amicably without resorting to the courts,” Jonathan said.
He observed that while court cases would usually result in a winner-takes-all situation, deploying the tools of politics, including negotiations and compromise, would give better outcomes.
“I believe a political solution remains the best means of resolving the crisis in the party and that’s why the Dickson committee must be commended. No two parties go to court and come out smiling, especially for a political party like the PDP that’s in the opposition,” he said.
Before presenting the committee report to Jonathan, Dickson expressed Bayelsa’s indebtedness to the PDP, insisting that it was a thing of pride to work to ensure that the crisis in the party was finally resolved.
Meanwhile, the Dickson committee has recommended among other measures, the coming together of the feuding parties to hold unity national convention, a suggestion feasible only when the parties pull out of court as being suggested by the committee.
The committee also recommended that all national officers still laying claims to active tenure beyond the proposed convention date should be persuaded to discard such claims in the collective interest of the party.
Also, for the purpose of the convention, the committee contended that all officers elected at the ward, local, state and zonal levels before the first Port Harcourt convention of 21st May of 2016 would be deemed validly elected except for the elections declared inconclusive in some states by the NEC of the party.
It is worthy of note that for the first time since the peace initiative was floated, it was accorded some measure of recognition across board, when one of the parties in the dispute, the National Caretaker Committee headed by Senator Ahmed Makarfi, agreed to work towards a political solution to the crisis.
Apart from the caretaker committee, other key organs of the party, the leadership of the National Assembly PDP caucus and the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT) also assured members of the party that the report would be considered.
THISDAY gathered at the weekend that following the positive responses the reconciliation committee got from stakeholders, especially from unexpected quarters – it is now considering the next stage of engagement to further consolidate on the peace process.
According to a reliable PDP source, one of the steps being considered by the peace committee is to work out measures that would see to the withdrawal of multiple court cases involving the party.
But the Spokesman of the National Caretaker Committee, Dayo Adeyeye said such an arrangement could only be possible after both sides to the dispute have made necessary undertaking, including acceptance to resign from offices.
The caretaker committee had rejected the Court of Appeal ruling in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which restored Senator Sheriff as the national chairman of the PDP and had since appealed against it at the Supreme Court.
Since then, both sides had engaged each other in battle of wits, including media war, whilst trying to win the support of stakeholders of the party. But with the signing of an undertaking for ceasefire last Thursday, many party faithful heaved a sigh of relief that the crisis might be over soon.
Adedayo, however, on Friday corrected the impression that they had resolved their differences with Senator Sheriff. He said they only signed agreement before the Governor Dickson Reconciliation Committee to stop further media attacks on officers, elders and other stakeholders of the PDP across the internal political divide.
He said what was agreed upon between their side and the representatives of the Sheriff-led PDP leadership was actually meant to stop them from dissipating energy on needless verbal attacks.
Speaking to THISDAY on Saturday, he said although no such discussion had taken place, the court case could only be withdrawn after both parties had reached deal on settlement out of court.
“No, we don’t have to withdraw cases in court until everything is resolved. We can reach that stage when everybody has agreed to a solution and it is acceptable to all concerned and an undertaking to that effect is presented to the court.
“Before then everything has to be agreed upon: all those that are expected to resign have resigned and an agreement deposited at the court. That is when the cases could be withdrawn but we have not gotten to that stage yet,” he said.
Adeyeye, a former minister under Jonathan, who claimed there were some other cases still pending in the courts, apart from the one at the Supreme Court, expressed the support of the caretaker committee to reconciliation process being pursued by the Dickson committee.
On his part, the Deputy National Chairman of the Sheriff leadership of the PDP, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh said his side was very much open to peaceful dialogue, adding that all workable suggestions towards the proposed unity national convention would be welcomed.
Ojougboh, who also spoke to THISDAY in a telephone conversation yesterday, reiterated that the party leadership would welcome the idea if aggrieved stakeholders agreed to embrace the political solution and withdraw from further litigations to enable genuine reconciliation take place.