Peace kisses the dust in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party following announcement of the suspension of four key members of the renegade group, to pre-empt Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun State, who got a court of appeal ruling from returning to his seat as the party’s national secretary
| By Olu Ojewale | Nov. 25, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is deepening. Following the suspension of four key members of the group leading a rebellion against the party, on Monday, November 11, some members of the renegade group and analysts believe it will take time for peace to return to the party. Slammed with an indefinite suspension were Abubakar Baraje, national chairman of the splinter group which christened itself as new PDP; Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun State and national secretary of the party; Sam Jaja, deputy chairman of the group and Ibrahim Kazaure, a senator. In a statement by Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the PDP, the party said it had written to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, on the decision of the National Working Committee, NWC, to suspend the four members. The NWC said it derived its powers from Section 57(3) of the PDP constitution to take the disciplinary measure and in the overall interest of the party and its members.
But the suspension has been largely seen as a reaction by the PDP national leadership to the appeal court decision of Thursday, November 7, asking that Oyinlola be reinstated to his post as the party’s national secretary. Hence, the suspension was seen as a move to prevent Oyinlola from getting back to the top position. But Metuh, who stated that Oyinlola’s suspension had nothing to do with the Court of Appeal ruling, said: “As far as the PDP is concerned, we are yet to receive any Court of Appeal order. The party has not received any judgment or any enrolled order from the Court of Appeal. Until we are served, there is nothing the party can do to the contrary. Members of the party are not happy with the activities of the faction that has constituted itself into a nuisance and is involved in party identity theft. We have been treating our brothers with kid gloves thinking that they would see reason and come back to their senses.”
However, the PDP’s decision appears to have severely damaged the relationship between the G7 and the party. Bukola Saraki, former governor of Kwara State and a sitting senator who is a prominent member of the splinter group, said the action of the Bamanga Tukur-led NWC had put a spanner in the works and effectively killed any chance at reconciliation with the renegade members led by seven governors of the party. Saraki said the suspension had not only thrown a clog in the wheel of the current efforts at reconciliation, it had also strengthened the resolve of the G7 governors to continue with their quest for reform of the PDP. He said the suspension was used to circumvent the ruling of the court that reinstated Oyinlola.
“We should not take the issue of the rule of law with levity. Since a court has ruled that Oyinlola should resume as national secretary of the party, the PDP should comply with its judgment. These are some of the issues that some of us are angry about. The PDP will be there, long after Oyinlola, long after everybody. We should protect the institution.
“We can’t win always. We would win some; we would lose some. By doing this now, how are we going to help the reconciliation? It will surely not help reconciliation. Some of us thought it was a golden opportunity to begin to reconcile. I think the party should review its action and give peace a chance because to suspend key members of a faction and still expect the aggrieved governors to be sympathetic to the cause of the party and be attending its meetings will be difficult and would not help the party,” Saraki argued.
Apart from the issue of reconciliation, he said the party’s action would not promote democracy. Besides, he said that the activities of the party within the next one or two weeks, would determine the direction of things. Saraki said further: “In politics, you win people to your side; you don’t gain anything from losing people. When seven states representing one third of states being controlled by the PDP are aggrieved, they should be taken seriously. The suspension of Oyinlola a day after he was to resume in office was done in bad taste and this would not help the party at all.”
In his reaction, Governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State, said the peace process had been dead and buried. Nyako said by ignoring a court order to reinstate Oyinlola, the PDP had “killed and buried” the peace process. Speaking through a statement issued by Ahmad Sajo, his director of press and public affairs, the governor said: “We always knew there was no peace process. The peace process is dead and buried. The court had given them a soft-landing but instead of obeying the court order, look at the step they have taken.” The governor who was at a parley with members of the Bishops and Eminent Clerics Forum of Nigeria, Niger-Delta chapter, in Yola, capital of Adamawa State, said he was no longer prepared to work with the PDP.
Oyinlola on his part said: “This is part of the impunity we are protesting against. None of us has been queried or requested to give explanations for any alleged offence. And if they are reacting to the issue of the new PDP, why did they decide to leave out the serving governors, senators and members of the House of Representatives who have been very vocal? It’s all an attempt to circumvent the ruling of the Court of Appeal. Certainly, the last has not been heard about this matter and I am sure that truth will prevail over falsehood.”
Not to be seen as being cowed by the party’s suspension, Oyinlola, in a letter dated November 12, and addressed to Victor Kwom, the PDP’s national legal adviser, asked the party to prepare the ground for his resumption. Oyinlola attached to his letter a copy of the appeal court judgment that ordered his reinstatement and asked the party to implement the decision of the appellate court by recognising him as its national secretary. His letter read in part: “As you may be aware, the Court of Appeal, Abuja judicial division, has nullified the January 11, 2013, judgement of the federal high court, Abuja, which removed me from office as the national secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
“The directive of the court was implemented by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, which consequently struck out my name off its register and other documents, as the national secretary of the PDP. Following the nullification of the above stated judgment of the federal high court, Abuja, presided over by Justice Abdul Kafarati by the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which is a superior court of competent jurisdiction, which also ruled that I was wrongfully removed from office as PDP national secretary, this correspondence serves to inform you of my decision to continue to perform my duties as the validly elected National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party.
“Your records would reveal that I was validly elected into office as national secretary at the national convention of the PDP held on Saturday, March 24, 2012. You are requested to kindly note this development and reflect it accordingly in your records, in compliance with the court judgment delivered on Wednesday, November 06, 2013.
“A copy of the judgement is attached for your attention and further necessary action, please. Kindly note that in compliance with the constitution of the PDP, I am expected to sign all official correspondences emanating from the PDP national secretariat, to the Independent National Electoral Commission, in my capacity as the national secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party.” The Osun prince also sent a similar letter to the INEC to inform it about his reinstatement by the court and asked not to entertain any correspondent from the PDP not signed by him.
Further, Oyinlola was said to have briefed his lawyers on Tuesday and asked them to file a petition at the appeal court asking that Tukur be committed to prison for contempt of court. The former governor would also be seeking a court order restraining the national disciplinary committee of the PDP, headed by Umaru Dikko, former minister of transport, from entertaining any complaint against him.
In his Reaction, Baraje on Tuesday, November 12, appealed to Nigerians to remain calm and steadfast. In a statement he signed in IIorin, the Kwara State capital, Baraje said there was no cause for alarm over his suspension from the party, adding that he and other suspended members would soon announce their next line of action. Perhaps, as a sign of demonstrating his desire to continue the fight, the leader of the splinter group resigned his chairmanship of the Nigeria Railway Corporation on Tuesday.
However, an unconfirmed report said that when the court ruled for Oyinlola’s reinstatement, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had contacted President Goodluck Jonathan, urging him to use the ruling to resolve the crisis in the party. On its part, the NWC of the party held three separate meetings on Tuesday, November 12, on the judgement, but there was no consensus on how to deal with Oyinlola’s reinstatement. Some of the members were said to have argued that it would be fool hardy to allow Oyinlola to return and allow him and his co-travellers to take over the party machinery. Others who feared that disobeying the court would have a grave consequence on the party suggested that the suspension was the best option while the matter goes to the Supreme Court.
To many Nigerians, Oyinlola’s travail could be associated with the fact that he is a loyalist of Obasanjo who, at some point, fell out with President Jonathan. It is also considered as a way of cutting Obasanjo to size in the scheme of things. Oyinlola was not only one affected in the power-play, other members of the PDP leadership believed to be loyal to the former president are also believed to having a tough time with Tukur, who has the support of the president. The development is believed to have contributed to the internal wrangling in the party and which eventually led to the walkout during the last mini national convention in Abuja. The walkout at the convention ground was led by Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, and seven PDP governors, now known as G-7 governors.
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). They have since been joined by other prominent members such as former governors Adamu Aliero (Kebbi State), Saraki (Kwara State), Danjuma Goje (Gombe State), and Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa State), among others.
Ibe Lawson, a public commentator, said the suspension of the four members of the new PDP was long overdue. He argued: “If you do not agree with the ideals of your party as presently constituted wait till it gets to your turn because such positions are rotational, they are not permanent. So… destroying the party is a very wrong move by the gang of seven and the point they are missing is that they do not have the power to determine who rules come 2015 and with their recent actions they cannot be in opposition within the same party.”
Lawson also accused some members of the new PDP of disloyalty by romancing with the All Progressives Congress, APC. Dennis Tonye, a businessman and apparently a PDP sympathiser, said the suspension of Oyinlola and his co-travellers is in order. Tonye said: “no association or group can thrive in lawlessness,” and that the former governor suspended himself from the party when he became secretary of the new PDP, which granted his wishes. “He should celebrate the suspension,” he said.
Indeed, the infighting in the PDP appears to have provided a fertile ground for other parties to feast on. The All Progressives Congress, 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 faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, which already has 12 states under its control, has been beckoning to the seven aggrieved PDP governors to come over. This has elicited some concerns in the PDP that adding the five states to the APC would tilt the balance in favour of the new party. Besides, the APC leadership has made a show of its visits to some of these governors and tried to talk them into making a public commitment to join the party.