The Lagos Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party is being torn apart by leadership tussle between two party top shots – Owolabi Olorunoje and Tunji Shelle, both factional chairmen of the party
| By Anayo Ezugwu | May 25, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
THE internal crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, as a result of the defeat it suffered in the 2015 general elections has hit its Lagos State chapter. The party leadership in the state is presently divided into two warring camps with one sacking the other and the other insisting on the status quo. A group in the party, under the aegis of executive committee of the PDP in Lagos State, on Monday, May 11, announced the removal of Tunji Shelle as the state chairman of the party and replaced him Owolabi Olorunoje on acting capacity.
The group accused Shelle of mismanaging the campaign funds of the party and taking some decisions that were detrimental to the interests of the party in the state. They alleged that Shelle unilaterally rendered the party structure inactive before, during and after the 2015 elections without the approval of the state executive committee. Wahab Owokoniran, secretary of the party, said the group took the decision to impeach Shelle after taking a critical look at the recommendation of the disciplinary committee instituted to investigate the allegations levelled against him after the general elections, adding that with facts on ground, there was no need why Shelle should not be declared a persona non grata.
According to him, the disciplinary committee set up by the party had recommended expulsion or impeachment of Shelle having found him guilty of all the allegations levelled against him. He also disclosed that Shelle refused to appear before the panel, which made the party to resolve to impeach him as the PDP chairman. “We members of exco have all agreed that the way the party is being run should not be allowed. You will all agree with me that this party is not well run before, during and after the elections. There is need for restructuring. If we want restructuring, there is no way the chairman can continue in office,” Owokoniran said.
Outlining some of the allegations, Owokoniran accused the party chairman of unilaterally rendering the PDP structure inactive by allegedly allocating funds to various party members and officials according to his wishes without seeking the approval of the State Working Committee. He also accused him of hijacking the functions of treasurer and the party secretary, alleging that the money received by the party was outsourced to a third party who keeps it in his bank account and disburses from it. In addition, he said “he (Shelle) calls party official meeting without consultation. Lawful duties were neglected especially refusing to consult with the State Electoral Commissioner until four months after he was deployed to the state. Party guideline on payment for nomination form was breached by allowing his favoured aspirants to collect forms without payment.”
Realnews learnt that some aspirants in the party in the last party primaries of the party raised alarm of how Shelle collected some amount of money from them assuring them of the party’s ticket while he personally spent the money without reaching out to other stakeholders who could influence the party’s primaries in the favour of the aspirants he collected huge amount of money from. It was revealed that the cause of the crisis in the party, which later resulted to the sack of the party chairman, was not unconnected with the crisis rocking the party at the national level.
There are indications that the battle at the national level of the party also contributed to Shelle’s removal because of his closeness with Olabode George, former national deputy chairman of the party, who had been at loggerhead with Wale Oladipo, national secretary of the party. Realnews gathered that the undue rancour between the two national leaders of the party following the call by George for the sacking of Oladipo, has not gone down well with Musiliu Obanikoro, minister of state for foreign affairs, who is a close ally of Oladipo and a strong antagonist of Bode George in Lagos PDP.
It also learnt that Obanikoro was part of those that are engineering the investigation of Shelle because of alleged involvement of Shelle in the governorship primaries that favoured Jimi Agbaje as the party’s governorship candidate in the April 11 poll. It will be recalled that the governorship primaries of the party degenerated into crisis after Obanikoro claimed to have been rigged out at the primaries, accusing the party leaders and leadership of manipulating the primaries election against him. Some of the party’s executive council members who initiated and carried out the removal of Shelle were said to be strong loyalists of Obanikoro.
But the chairman on Tuesday, May 12, said he is still in control of the party. Addressing a press conference at the state office in Ikeja, he said, “It’s a pity we find ourselves in this situation and it’s uncalled for but that’s politics for you, we have to move on. The people acted illegally on Monday and they went too far. They went to the extent of driving the staffs of the party out of their offices. I’ m in the office now. I am in control. I am in-charge. The idea to impeach me was muted long before the party primaries to elect our candidate took place. Effort was made to rig the primaries and I stood my ground to prevent the illegalities, up till now the so called opposition within the system has not accepted the defeat of the primaries.
“I have tried enough to contain their excesses so that their action will not affect our changes in the general election and this I was able to do up to Monday when they did their coup which eventually failed. The exco is made up of 49 members and I control the majority at all times. It is unfortunate that few members with their arrow head, Wahab Owokoniran and Alhaji Kamal Owolabi Olorunoje eventually struck, now that they have failed. The wages of sin is death and they will be sent back to their sponsors,” he said.
This notwithstanding, a statement signed by Taofik Gani, state publicity secretary of the party, also distance itself from the alleged impeachment of the chairman. The party called on party members to disapprove the purported sack of the party leadership. It also admonished those behind the preposterous action to retrace their steps and allow peace to reign in the party. “The state chairman leading the present state executive has delivered the best unprecedented electoral result to the party members. It is therefore very irrational for anyone or persons in the party to try to create acrimony by claiming that the state chairman has not performed to warrant continuing in office,” it stated.
The statement also faulted the modus operandi employed by the detractors, which it said contravened the provisions of the party’s constitution on the sack of a state chairman. “The state chairman is a member of National Executive Committee, NEC, and can only be removed or suspended by the consent of the NEC. There is no NEC approval to the action. It thus stands, null and void. For the sake of clarity, Shelle remains the legitimate chairman of PDP in the state. All dealings with the party in the state should be through him.”
Meanwhile, a group known as Concerned Members of the State Caucus and PDP Stakeholders in Lagos, within the party, has accused Obanikoro, of sponsoring the removal of the state chairman. The group alleged that Obanikoro induced 34 members of the State Working Committee, SWC, to sack Shelle so that he could hijack the party structure and pave the way for him to emerge the governorship candidate of the party in 2019.
However, the group in a statement by Lanre Hassan, its secretary, said not only Shelle but all members of the SWC should be sacked because it was the entire party that failed to win the governorship election. “We know Obanikoro gave the 34 SWC members money to vote the chairman out. When will the PDP stop this politics of corruption and imposition? The person who wants to be an acting chairman lacks the profile, capacity and political expediency to lead us. We believe Obanikoro’s action to sponsor the removal of the chairman and replace him with his stooge is to demystify George and pave the way for his political ambition to run for governor in 2019,” it stated.
However, Obanikoro has denied the allegations levelled against him. He said it would be hypocritical of George to call for the removal of Adamu Mu’azu, national chairman of the party, on account of his failure to secure victory for the party but at the same time defend Shelle who also failed to ensure the PDP’s victory at the governorship poll. Obanikoro said George was the chairman of the party in Lagos, not Shelle. He, however, argued that with Shelle’s removal, things would change.
“How is it possible that I was behind Shelle’s removal? Am I a member of the committee? Besides, people who are loyal to Bode George also signed Shelle’s impeachment. The SWC is made up of about 40 members and over 30 people signed the notice. I am not fighting Jimi Agbaje. Shelle should stop making excuses. Shelle has been against Mu’azu and he is George’s boy. George has been calling for Mu’azu’s removal because we lost an election. If Mu’azu must go, why shouldn’t Shelle go?” he asked.