The reinstatement, last week, of the Peoples Democratic Party National Secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, by the Court of Appeal may not help the party already enmeshed in crisis, writes Shola Oyeyipo
The drama in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is unending. It is a reflection of an internal squabble that has persisted within the ranks of the party. They come in different dimensions that have made it impossible for book makers to postulate near accurately, how it could affect the fortunes of the party in the next general election.
The ugly side of the PDP crisis started to rare its head when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in a report stated that the conduct of the March 2012 national convention of the party was defective and insisted that in addressing the anomaly, some of the members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party must quit office.
Those affected by the report included the Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja; National Organising Secretary, Abubakar Mustapha; National Youth Leader, Alhaji Garba Chiza; Deputy National Youth Leader, Dennis Alonge Niyi; Deputy National Auditor, Senator Umar Ibrahim; Deputy National Woman Leader, Hannatu Ulam; and National Woman Leader, Kema Chikwe.
Also on the list were the Deputy National Organising Secretary, Okechukwu Nnadozie; Deputy National Treasurer, Claudus Inengas; National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, and the Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Binta Goje.
Although the elections of the National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur; former National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola; former National Auditor, Bode Mustapha; and National Financial Secretary, Elder Bolaji Anani were classified among those that met required guideline, the Chairman of Ogun State PDP, Mr. Adebayo Dayo, allegedly working closely with an Ogun State moneybag and President Goodluck Jonathan's political protege in the region, Mr. Kashamu Buruji, proceeded to the Federal High Court, Abuja to disengage Oyinlola from the party's NWC.
In his ruling on the suit filed by Dayo, the Judge, Justice Abdul Kafarati, said the election of Oyinlola did not follow due process. He held that Oyinlola could not have emerged as the nominee of the PDP in view of the fact that two courts of competent jurisdiction nullified the congress in which he was elected, adding that the action of both the PDP and Oyinlola amounted to a criminal conduct which was liable to imprisonment.
Kafarati, therefore, held that Oyinlola could not be recognised as the National Secretary of the PDP and as such, should vacate office immediately.
"These people, because they believe in illegality and imposition, had continued to do whatever they wanted without regard for the rule of law. The Adebayo exco instituted another case against Oyinlola as you are well aware that the South-west congress had been nullified and, automatically, there was no way Oyinlola could have remained in office. So, at the end of the day, this judgment only confirmed what transpired in the past.
“And what this means is that after God, the law comes next. The lesson in this judgment is that we must adhere strictly to the rule of law and I’m sure everybody has learnt their lesson. If they don’t want to implement this latest judgment, they would continue to push themselves further into problems and it’s only God that knows what can happen at the end of the day," jubilant Buruji had said following Oyinlola's sack.
That notwithstanding, like the proverbial 'Things Fall Apart', even where the party had been able to stage-manage coherence, the centre still could not hold. The relative peace enjoyed in the party lasted till Friday, January 11, when the Abuja court, sacked Oyinlola from the party exco.
Expectedly, the judgment did not go down well with Oyinlola and co. His counsel, Mr. Toyose Oyekunle, immediately served a notice of appeal and filed stay of execution, maintaining that Oyinlola's emergence as the PDP secretary was flawless.
“The whole world saw the PDP National Convention held in Abuja where Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola was elected National Secretary. The election was conducted in the open at the Eagle Square Abuja and one wonders how the court arrived at its decision that Prince Oyinlola was elected at the Zonal Congress held in Oshogbo, Osun State.
Since the judgment, the PDP crisis had deteriorated further. The suspended exco members have fought dirty, accusing Tukur and the president of desperation and high-handedness. Hence, they sustained a fierce legal battle against the party while at the same time formed a parallel PDP that has challenged the party’s authority in recent times.
To many, Oyinlola's travail could be associated with the fact that he is a loyalist of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who at some point had fallen out with President Jonathan, who everyone knew facilitated the latter's presidential ambition. It was also considered as a way of cutting Obasanjo to size in the scheme of things.
Not only Oyinlola was affected; other members of the PDP leadership believed to be loyal to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, have been having a tough time with Tukur, who has the support of the president.
The development, however, contributed in no small measure to the infighting in the PDP. This manifested significantly during the last mini national convention in Abuja, when a former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and seven PDP governors now known as G-7 governors walked out of the convention ground.
The governors are Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso (Kano), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Chibuike Amaechi (Rivers), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Aliyu Babangida (Niger), Abdulfatai Ahmed (Kwara), and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa). There governors were also not alone; they had with them some prominent members of the New PDP like former Governors Adamu Aliero (Kebbi State), Bukola Saraki (Kwara State), Danjuma Goje (Gombe State), and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa State).
It also has with it, several members of the National Assembly, organized under the leadership of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje with Sam Sam Jaja as deputy chairman; National Secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and Vice-Chairman, North-West, Ibrahim Kazaure, among others.
Their decision to form a parallel PDP has negatively affected the mainstream party. But the splinter faction had outlined its grievances against President Jonathan and the PDP leadership, prominent among which was the conduct of a fresh national convention, to allow members of the NWC shutout return to the party’s hierarchy.
Explaining why he joined the Baraje faction, Oyinlola said Tukur had engaged in too many excesses and all efforts to make him realise that have failed. According to him, the five governors, including the Adamawa State governor, Murtala Nyako, who was locked out of the party's mini convention at Eagle Square, were fighting the injustice of his removal as the PDP scribe.
"It was not true that I left their convention under the pretext that I wanted to go to the toilet. It was not easy for me to stay there and watch what they were doing there. They locked out the Adamawa State governor and his people. They doctored the lists of delegates from Anambra and Rivers States," he said.
While the internal wrangling persisted, the New PDP had continued to swell its rank. Its membership has continued to grow and spread wide. It was becoming a threat to the continued dominance of the political space by the ruling PDP. More importantly, the leading opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been working frantically to cash in on the cracks.
The party, which emerged from the merger of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a significant proportion of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) now has 12 states under its control and hopes to add the seven aggrieved PDP governors to grow to 19. This has elicited concerns in the PDP, especially that additional five governors are said to be waiting on the line to join the league.
As a result, some are already speculating a possible collaboration between the APC and the New PDP, but the likes of Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, has remained resolute that he would not jump ship. In fact, he recently told THISDAY that there is the hope that the crisis in his party would end soon. He said the demands of the aggrieved governors were being looked into in principle by President Jonathan.
"When we met for the second time, in principle all our demands were acceded to. First, restoration of Adamawa party structure; two, recall Amaechi and give him his structure; three, sack Bamanga Tukur; four, new convention – election of new officials who have been shutout, then because there have been so much impunity, restore the party to the path of legitimacy and legality as per the laid down rules.
"In principle, all these were accepted. Now it is only the pronouncement we are waiting for because there was a committee which was set up by the president, headed by me and we made a submission part of which was that Adamawa structure should be restored to Nyako. So, really, that one is conclusive and only needs a pronouncement to bring it into being. That is all!
“Amaechi, because he went to court, they said there should be a procedure, therefore, the chairman of BoT would go and meet Amaechi and the others and then all cases pending in court in Rivers State would be withdrawn and that will also be restored. So in principle, all the terms given were agreed to. It is simply the implementation that we are expecting," Lamido said.
Conversely, with Oyinlola's victory at the Appeal Court, one may believe that those saddled with the management of the PDP are aware of the implication of refusing to yield to some, if not all of the demands of the G7 governors; who if defect to another party, could spell doom for the PDP. Though the process is not conclusive yet until the Tukur-led executive committee of the PDP, which says it is studying the judgment, decides what next line of action to take.
As it is, it
does not look like a development that would enhance the peace process in the party, given the growing mistrust amongst the active players. But however this is handled would give some clue where the party is headed in terms of its peace process.