17 January 2013

Nigeria: Oyinlola - Edging Obasanjo's Men Out of PDP

Photo: This Day
Alhaji Bamanga Tukur

Recent happenings within the PDP appear to show an effort to clip the wings of former President Olusegun Obasanjo by going after his henchmen holding or eyeing key positions in the party.

Two things happened within the inner circle of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) last week that seemed too similar and heavy to be dismissed as mere coincidence.

Former national chairman of the PDP, Ahmadu Ali who had indicated interest in vying for the position of the PDP Board of Trustees (BOT) chairman and seemed set to coast home to victory in the race for the chairmanship of the party's advisory body, was technically asked to apply the brakes on that ambition.

The election of a new BOT chairman which Ali appeared set to win at the initial stages was postponed and a committee set up to verify the list of authentic members of the board.

Ali according to sources within the party, had to be stopped as he was identified as the candidate of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

To further close the doors on Ali in case he did not get the message, the position of the BOT secretary was given to Senator Walid Jibrin who, just like Ali, is from the North Central zone of the country, such that even before the election, Ali's chances of becoming the BOT chairman would be dwindled by the federal character principle in the PDP Constitution which promotes the even distribution of the offices within the party according to zones thereby making it impossible for the chairman and secretary to be from the same geo-political zone.

As if that was not enough, the PDP national secretary, Olagun-soye Oyinlola, who days earlier was strong enough to flex muscles with the national chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and had enjoyed the support of nine other members of the National Working committee (NWC) of the party was axed via a court order nullifying his election.

Again, before Oyinlola would rush to the court to obtain a stay on the order, the deputy national secretary of the Party was brought in to take his seat.

As both Oyinlola and Ahmadu Ali belong to the camp identified as loyal to the former President, it became clear that certain forces within the party are no longer comfortable with the former President and may have set a machinery in motion to reduce the influence of the former national leader of the PDP.


All the subterfuges and schemes spiraling into the recent high drama in Wadata Plaza is suspected to be manifestations of a proxy fight between President Goodluck Jonathan and former President Obasanjo over who gets the PDP presidential ticket for the 2015 general elections.

Obasanjo who was behind the President in his bid to secure the ticket of the party in 2011, is believed to have fallen out with the latter due to certain actions of the President culminating Obasanjo's inability to get certain things done his way.

Early in the life of the present administration, there was a scandal that blew over a purported letter written by the former President to Jonathan asking him to replace the chief executives of certain key parastatals of government with his own men.

Though the former President was to deny the letter which content was never implemented, the stage for further disagreements in the now confirmed no love lost relationship between them was set.

The icing on the cake was when the former President was said to have indicated preference for Governor Sule Lamido to take over the mantle of leadership in 2015. Though Obasanjo quickly denied this also, but from the reaction of the presidency, would seem that the President was not too convinced about the denial.

Then very recently too, Obasanjo who is wont to support policies of the present administration, openly differed with President Jonathan on how the Boko Haram issue is being handled, suggesting a weakness on the part of the president. The President who is also known to be reticent when it comes to such matters also reacted to the suggestions of the former president on how to handle the security issue in ways that potray the former President as not been a success in terms of security matters.

Not long after that Obasanjo too came out with a counter offensive by reemphasizing the earlier point he made about handling the Boko Haram issue with a slight modification and the presidency fired back, accusing Obasanjo of lacking consistency.

The handwriting on the wall

On Wednesday January 9, 2013, one of the many political dramas played itself out at the Wadata Plaza. Bamanga Tukur, national chairman of the ruling party, was billed for a meeting with his National Working Committee (NWC) members on that day.

Curiously the NWC members expeditiously walked out of the secretariat when they noticed the arrival of their chairman (Bamanga) at the complex.

"As soon as the siren of the PDP national chairman was heard towards the Wadata Plaza, all the NCW members present filed out one after the other, leaving Bamanga alone", a source who witnessed the drama said.

Previously, ten members of the party's NWC members led by Deputy National Chairman, Sam Sam Jaja and National Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola had met behind Bamanga. At the end of their meeting, they jointly signed a statement nullifying the Adamawa State congress of the party that produced new executives. They said the Adamawa congress was neither authorized by the NWC nor monitored by the national secretariat.

While Bamanga had endorsed the congress that produced the new officials for the party in Adamawa state, the dissident NWC members rejected them. Curiously, they reinstated the Mijinyawa Kaugama led executives that had been previously dissolved by the party's national secretariat.

Worried by the seemingly intractable crisis, President Jonathan recently convened a meeting of the party's national caucus with a view to resolving the matter. Jonathan chaired the meeting which had in attendance Bamanga and NWC members as well as the Senate President, David Mark and House of Representatives Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal.

Although Bamanga who briefed Journalists at the end of the meeting at the Presidential Villa said the PDP was 'one big family' capable of resolving its internal problems amicably another was twist was added to the unfolding drama in the PDP's power play last weekend.

Oyinola's position, especially in the Adamawa crisis is seen to enjoy the backing of PDP governors who show solidarity for their Adamawa state colleague, Murtala Nyako.

Oyinola's sack by the Federal High Court followed a lawsuit by an anti-Obasanjo group in the Ogun state chapter of the PDP; who had through its chairman, Engineer Adebayo Dayo, challenged his nomination by the Southwest caucus of the party on the ground that two earlier court judgments had nullified the South-west zonal congress that produced Oyinola as consensus candidate.

Justice Abdul Kafarati who delivered judgment last Friday over the suit ordered the immediate removal of Onyilola from office. He said the actions of both PDP and Oyinola in going ahead to field the latter in spite of a court order on the contrary "amounted to criminal conduct" and the violators of such order ought to have been sent to prison since their action was completely a flagrant disobedience of the court orders. Kafarati further held that Oyinola is not worthy to be recognized as the national secretary and should vacate the office immediately.

The split in Wadata Plaza

Against the backdrop of the deep division within the hierarchy of the ruling PDP which has Bamanga leading one camp and Oyinola leading the other, the Friday judgment was largely seen to have provided the impetus for Bamanga to hit back. Bamanga had earlier described the decision by the Oyinlola led faction announcing a reversal of the dissolution of the former Adamawa state executive of the party as "betrayal of trust."

"This is just a case of betrayal of trust; the documentations and correspondences in this matter will justify that the congresses in Adamawa State were approved by the NWC."

It was therefore hardly surprising when Bamanga on Monday swiftly announced the replacement of Oyinola with his deputy, Chief Onwe Solomon Onwe. At an emergency meeting of the party's NWC chaired by Bamanga at the Wadata Plaza on Monday, he ordered for Oyilola's replacement.

At the end of the meeting which was presided over by Bamanga, a statement was issued announcing Onyilola's replacement. The three paragraphs statement signed by Bamanga himself after the meeting reads: "Pursuant to the powers conferred on the National Chairman by Chapter V Section 35 (1), 35 (1)(b) as well as section 36(2) of the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party, (as amended), the Deputy National Secretary of the PDP, Barr. Solomon Onwe is hereby directed to assume duties as the Acting National Secretary of the PDP.

"Onwe shall by this directive conduct all correspondences of the party, issue notices of meetings of the National Convention, the National Executive Committee, the National Caucus and the National Working Committee as stipulated in the Constitution of our great Party.

"This directive takes immediate effect and is hereby communicated to all the levels and offices of the Party."

Legal issues in Oyinlola's sack

Before taking the decision to replace Oyinola, Bamanga reportedly invited a legal luminary, Chief Joe Kyari Gadzama (SAN) for legal opinion on Friday's judgment that sacked Oyinola from office; in view of his intention to appeal against the ruling. Sources at the meeting had told Daily Trust that the NWC members were informed that the Federal High Court judgment "was declarative and so appeal does not amount to stay of execution."

It was based on this legal opinion that Bamanga was said to have secured the approval of the NWC members at the meeting to ask Onwe to take over from Oyinlola.

Daily Trust gathered that five of the NWC members: national legal adviser, publicity secretary, auditor and youth Leader as well Onyinlola himself were not present at yesterday's meeting, raising the question of whether or not the meeting formed the quorum to take such a decision

Bamanga was said to have argued that since Oyinola was technically out of the NWC meeting, t seven members out of eleven was up to the two-third of the members constitutionally required taking such a decision.

A source at the meeting quoted Bamanga as saying that even if Onyinlola was to be at the meeting, he would technically not have participated in the debates and decisions on matters affecting him, which also said made seven of the eleven members appropriate to act.

Jonathan's body language

President Jonathan who appeared to be uncomfortable with the series of interventions of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in state and party affairs, was said to have given tacit support to the ouster of Onyinlola.

Although Oyinola could not be immediately reached for his reaction on the development, he was on Monday filed an appeal against the Federal High Court's judgment that sacked him last Friday. The appeal filed at the Abuja Division of the Court is on the grounds that the lower court judgment is against the weight of evidence in his favour.

He argued that the learned trial judge erred in law when he overruled the preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the court and assumed jurisdiction and delivered judgment. He sought the appeal court to reverse the Federal High Court's judgment and dismiss the entire action with costs.

Build up another to thriller

The PDP governors, who are opposed to Tukur have reportedly vowed that any action injurious to the continuation in office of Oyinlola as national secretary would also mean Bamanga exit.

The PDP governors led by Rotimi Amaechi who doubles as the chairman of the Nigeria Governor's Forum (NGF) have been against the action of Bamanga against Nyako in the Adamawa crisis and are believed to have supplied the fuel with which the Oyinlola group had derived energy and verve to take the action they took against Bamanga.

Already, there are reports that Bamanaga would be replaced with the Wakilin Adamawa, Alhaji Hassan Adamu but with the ouster of Oyinlola and with the President currently behind Bamanga, it would seem a tall order bringing him down.

Obasanjo's silence

Obasanjo had not yet said anything concerning the crisis. In order not to appear too involved in the fray, he was said to have stayed away from the last BOT meeting of the party.

But the Ogun state PDP in statement have denied that Oyinlola was imposed on them by Obasanjo saying he was elected by PDP members at the congress hence cannot be said to be an imposition by an individual.

The Ogun PDP also condemned the removal of Oyinola as the national secretary.

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