The National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on February 14, a day set aside to celebrate love, met in Abuja and sent a 'gift' to former president Olusegun Obasanjo, by sacking the last of his 'men' in the saddle. Tunde Sanni who has been monitoring events, writes on the implication of the latest development in the light of the perceived feud between Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan
February 14 of every year has been designated the world over as a day when people show love and affection to one another in a way that depicts tradition. The day is usually signified by generous exchange of gifts in expression of shared feelings. But when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)'s NWC met in Abuja on that day, it did not just show love to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, it sent such a gift that shattered whatever was left of the political relevance of the former president.
At the end of the said meeting, the NWC upheld the sack of the National Vice Chairman (South-west) of the party and former governor of Ekiti State, Olusegun Oni as well as the National Auditor, Chief Bode Mustapha. Earlier, the party had removed its National Secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, also a former governor of Osun State and loyalist of Obasanjo.
The trio believed to be stooges of Obasanjo, have been having running battle with a faction of the party in Ogun State led by Chief Adebayo Dayo, who had secured several court judgments sacking the three PDP stalwarts, one after the other from the NWC on account of the processes that produced them.
Interestingly, the crisis in the gateway state has been a hard nut for the national body of the PDP. The refusal of the party, apparently due to the Obasanjo influence, to accept the validly elected state executive committee of the party led by Dayo has led to a chain of legal actions which, unfortunately, has been favourable to the faction.
The crisis, however, changed colour when Oni, in the wake of his godfather's sudden resignation as the BoT chairman, visited Obasanjo and made a pronouncement that seemed to ruffle the status quo in the state. "I am aware that the National Working Committee (NWC) said there should be no congress and that means there was be no congress. And as far as I am concerned, there has been no congress in Ogun State."
"We will get there and when we get there, everybody will be involved. I don't want us to play an exclusive game, we want to play an inclusive game and I want all our members to know that. It is not in the interest of any group to take the control of the party to the exclusion of others, what are they going to do with the party? The party that will be strong enough to win elections, then what is the usefulness of trying to corner the party to the exclusion of others."
The pronouncement angered Dayo who assured the party that his faction was battle ready to take up legal action against the NWC and the Zonal committee of the party because there was no letter indicating that there should not be any congress in the state, adding that the state congress was monitored by representatives from the NWC, INEC and security operatives. That marked the start of an endless legal battle to validate the faction through the courts.
By April 27, last year, the first judgment came. Justice Okon Abang sitting at a Federal High Court in Lagos set aside the congress on the grounds that they were held in violation of a subsisting order of court and directed all parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the suit instituted by the Soremi-led faction of the party.
The court ruling was sequel to an application by members of the Harmonised Executive of the party represented by Soremi, Bayo Dayo and Hon Taiwo Abisekan. The suit was instituted against the immediate former key national officers of the party following their threats of disciplinary measures against the harmonised executive.
Inspite of the court order, Oni continued to parade himself as the National Vice Chairman of the party in the zone. There has been no report of a counter motion on the suit challenging the suit or a stay of the court judgment.
Consequently, the camp recorded another progress when it secured a court injunction against the National Auditor of the party, Mustapha who is also from Ogun and considered a sympathiser of the former president.
Days after, the party received yet another court judgment, this time from Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court, also in Lagos, who voided the appointment of Mustapha as National Auditor because he was not qualified for the office. As a result, the judge ordered PDP's National Chairman, Alhaji BamangarTukur and Oyinlola to appoint Alhaji Fatai Adewole Adeyanju, being a qualified chartered accountant and nominated for the office at the state congress of the party in Ogun State.
The judge further held that based on the judgment of January 27, which declared among others that the Soremi-led executive is the authentic management body of PDP in Ogun, the party officials who emerged from the congresses conducted by the Soremi executive were validly elected. The court verdict was based on a suit filed by Dayo and Alhaji Semiu Sodipo, for themselves and on behalf of the Ogun State Executive Committee of the PDP. The suit numbered: FHC/L/CS/347/2012 had PDP, Bamanga Tukur, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Bode Mustapha as defendants.
Justice Achibong, who granted all the reliefs sought by the plaintiffs, however ordered the party to accord all necessary recognition and facility required under the party's constitution to all the officers of the party as per the list submitted by the Soremi led Executive.
Again, the PDP ignored the ruling, preferring to accord both Oni and Mustapha due status because of their closeness to Obasanjo and in alleged deference to the position of the court.
But the financier of the litigation inclined camp, Kashamu Buruji, had in an interview declared that the party's national officers were toying with contempt of the court as he vowed that the camp would press contempt charges against Tukur and others at the resumed hearing of the suit.
However, as the Obasanjo loyalists were plotting to ensure the return of Oyinlola whom the party had deserted on account of his removal from office by Justice Abdul Kafarati, the hammer finally fell on them with the removal of the other two vestiges of the Obasanjo legacy by the NWC.
A statement by PDP's National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, read: "The National working Committee of the Party met on February 14, 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. This is all the more so that same has not been set aside or reversed by any superior court."
He contended that the party took the decision on the affected officers following series of suits on the congress that brought them to office.
The statement further read: "That Chief Bode Mustapha is removed from office as the National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party. That Alhaji Fatai Adewole Adeyanju is the validly elected National Auditor of the Peoples Democratic Party. That the Peoples Democratic Party is to rectify its records by deleting the name of Chief Bode Mustapha as National Auditor and replacing the same with Alhaji Fatai Adewole Adeyanju.
"That the South-west Zonal Congress of the Peoples Democratic Party conducted in March 2012 is nullified. That the Executive Committee constituted for the PDP in Ogun State at congresses conducted by the Bashorun Dayo Soremi-led harmonised 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-year tenure.
"That the PDP is to organise a fresh South-west Zonal Congress at which access is to be given to delegates elected at congresses conducted by or under the supervision of the Soremi-led Ogun State Executive and accept the candidacy, for offices zoned to Ogun State, of only the persons nominated at the said congresses for the said offices."
Immediately, the party had raised a 17-member committee headed by Chief Ishola Filani to run the South-west zonal chapter.
However, Dayo who spoke with THISDAY on the phone has described the decision as victory for the rule of law and promised to immediately start reconciliation moves of all the estranged members of Ogun PDP, affirming also that he had received a letter from the national secretariat, directing the police in the state to re-open the state secretariat shut down in the height of the crisis in the state PDP.
"The situation is that for a very long time, dictatorship has been reigning in so many areas, not only in our party but all over Nigeria. But this time around, our party sat down, we had a lot of deliberations and they decided that the only way out is to have a very clean party by following the rule of law. So, the rule of law has prevailed. Our party does not want any imposition. We want to have a very clean internal democracy. That is what is happening now," he said.
Meanwhile, threats that the Obasanjo men could work against the party in the 2015 polls have been dismissed by members the party who described the threats as empty, adding that the group had remained the problem of the party in the zone.
A chieftain of the party from Osun State who preferred anonymity also told THISDAY on telephone that, "the action of the NWC is a welcome development. We have been praying silently for this moment and God has used the Tukur-led NWC to answer our prayers.
"The Obasanjo group never stood for anything progressive in the party. They have been imposing candidates on us and with that; the party has been losing many elections. Chief Obasanjo himself has been a bad influence on the party in the region. For eight years, he was the president, which he was supposed to use to impact positively on infrastructure not in the region alone but in the country, but the reverse was the case. Many federal roads that were started during his regime were never completed and till now, not completed.
From the look of things, the erstwhile PDP chieftains might be used as sacrificial lambs in the ongoing face-off between Obasanjo and Jonathan. Many times, there had been media reports of frosty relationship between the two leaders and each time, they had denied it. But with the handling of the Ogun matter, it is clear that the two leaders are on sworn path.
But the major assignment before the Filani-led zonal working caretaker committee is the bringing together of the various warring factions in the party in the zone and form a counter strategy against the challenges posed by the merger of the opposition political parties which has begun to threaten the aspirations of the party in the region.