The ruling Peoples Democratic Party descended deeper into chaos Friday with the party's national leadership sacking key top party leaders loyal to former President Olusegun Obasanjo in what appears the most lethal political blow to the former president yet.
By the decision, the party has stripped Mr. Obasanjo of influence and control of the party in the national, South-West zone and Ogun state chapter levels of the ruling party.
Loyalists of the ex-President swore Mr. Obasanjo won't go down without engaging President Jonathan and Party Chairman Bamanga Tukur in a titanic battle.
The fresh crisis, coming days after feuding Mr. Obasanjo and Mr. Jonathan had lunch together in the presidential villa, began after the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party, in a shocking move, Friday evening removed another ally of the former president from the party's national executive, dissolved the entire South West zonal executives of the party, and accorded recognition to a faction of the party opposed to Mr. Obasanjo in his home state of Ogun.
In two separate statements sent to PREMIUM TIMES in quick succession, the party's National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, announced the removal of Bode Mustapha, an Obasanjo ally, as national auditor after a meeting of the NWC.
The PDP cited three court cases and said in removing Mr. Mustapha, it was complying with the court rulings.
"The National working Committee of the Party met on 14th February 2013 and gave careful consideration to the issues and decided that, in line with respect to the rule of law which is a cardinal principle of the present administration, the PDP as a law abiding party, will immediately comply with the said judgment," Mr. Metuh said.
Obasanjo loses even in Ogun
In a resolution at the end of its meeting, the NWC recognised a faction of the PDP in Ogun opposed to Mr. Obasanjo.
When the former president was having a running battle with the immediate past state governor, Gbenga Daniel, a controversial billionaire in Ogun State aligned with him.
The combination of Buruji Kashamu and Mr. Obasanjo chased Mr. Daniel from the PDP to a new party, the PPN. Both men also worked together for the Goodluck Jonathan presidential election in 2011.
Mr. Kashamu and the former president, however, soon fell out. This led to two factions of the party emerging after the 2011 elections. One faction was loyal to Mr. Kashamu and the other to the former president.
When elections were held into the state executives of the party, the Obasanjo faction elected Dipo Odunjinrin as its chairman while the Kashamu faction elected Bayo Dayo as its chairman. The election of Mr. Dayo and his executives was supervised by a Mr. Kashamu loyalist, Dayo Soremi.
Both parties had gone to court contesting the authentic leadership of the PDP in the state.
The NWC in its Friday statement put what seemed a finality to the issue.
"The Executive Committee constituted for the PDP in Ogun State at Congresses conducted by the Bashorun Dayo Soremi led harmonized Executive Committee for the Wards, Local Governments and in the State in March 2012 are valid Exco of the Party at the various levels in Ogun State and are entitled to their 4-years tenure," Mr. Metuh said.
This means that Mr. Obasanjo has thus been temporarily defeated in his home state.
The Obasanjo faction has, however, condemned the NWC for its actions.
"We just heard about it some 20 minutes ago, we have not heard officially. Whatever national deems fit, let them go ahead. If they want to destroy the party, let them go ahead. Let them continue, no problem," the state secretary of the Mr. Obasanjo faction, Dapo Adeyemi, told PREMIUM TIMES after Mr. Metuh's statement.
Mr. Adeyemi said the NWC had not contributed a penny to the success and administration of the party in the state since its inception.
But Mr. Dayo, the now recognised party chairman in Ogun, commended the NWC saying the party leadership was now following the rule of law.
In a telephone interview, Mr. Dayo said his party executive was now ready to regain the PDP's lost glory in Ogun State.
Oyinlola, Mustapha's election
When Party Chairman Bamanga Tukur, announced the replacement of the National Secretary of the party, Olagunsoye Oyinlola with his deputy, he said he was obeying a court order.
The court had declared Mr. Oyinlola's emergence was illegal. The complainant in the case was Mr. Dayo and his executive members in Ogun.
Although Mr. Oyinlola is from Osun State, where he was a former governor, he became national secretary because the position was zoned to the South West Zone of the party. He was presented as a consensus candidate for the post. The court ruled that the South West Congress that produced him was illegal.
It is the same fat that has befallen Mr. Mustapha, who is from Ogun and belongs to the Obasanjo faction of the PDP, like Mr. Oyinlola. Again, like in Mr. Oyinlola's case, the PDP said in replacing Mr. Mustapha, it was only obeying a court order on a case also brought by Mr. Kashamu's faction of the Ogun PDP.
"The South West zonal congress of the Peoples Democratic Party conducted in March 2012 is nullified," the party said.
The PDP said Fatai Adeyanju, who was chosen as National Auditor by the Kashamu PDP faction, is the true national auditor of the party.
Enter Segun Oni
Despite the internal crisis within some PDP state chapters in the South West, the leaders of the party in the zone came together to elect Segun Oni, former Ekiti State Governor as the South West zonal chairman of the party at a March 2012 congress.
The PDP NWC would have none of that.
The party has not only nullified Mr. Oni's election and that of his other executives, it has also appointed a caretaker committee for the South west PDP.
The 17-member caretaker committee is headed by Ishola Filani. The dethroned Mr. Oni is a core loyalist of Mr. Obasanjo
Friday's announcement by the PDP leadership may not be unconnected to the battle for the soul of the party that has pitted President Jonathan and Mr. Tukur against Mr. Obasanjo and state governors. Mr. Tukur, a loyalist of the president, is holding on to the party chairmanship by the whiskers.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how Mr. Tukur walked state party chairmen from PDP-controlled states out of a meeting with him at the party secretariat on Thursday night, as he decided to meet with only 13 state party chairmen from states not being governed by the PDP.
The South West is the only zone in Nigeria where the PDP has no governor currently.
"Perhaps the chairman and President Jonathan need to strengthen their hold on the party from there," a party insider told PREMIUM TIMES. "And defeating the retired general, Mr. Obasanjo, before the party's NEC meeting expected to be held soon, might just be the right strategy."