Mr. Olagunsoye Oyinlola
The removal, last week, of National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Olagunsoye Oyinlola, by a Federal High Court in Abuja, may have compounded the plight of South-west in the geo-political power balancing. Tunde Sanni examines the import of the latest development
The sack of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), last Friday, marked another turning point in the history of the party. Oyinlola, a former governor of Osun State is one of the three representatives of the party on the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. The two other representatives are Chief Bode Mustapha, National Auditor from Ogun State and Chief Olusegun Oni, National Vice Chairman, from Ekiti state.
Unfortunately, one after the other, the courts had removed the three Yoruba ‘ambassadors’ in a litigation facilitated by the Chief Bayo Dayo-led executive committee of the party in Ogun State. But they still remain in office until the final determination of their appeal which might end up at the Supreme Court.
Ogun State’s executive had challenged the nomination of Oyinlola by the South-west caucus on the grounds that two court judgments had nullified the South-west zonal congress through which he was nominated. Others listed as defendants alongside Oyinlola were the PDP and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Delivering judgment on the case, Justice Abdul Kafarati, held that Oyinlola was not worthy to be recognised as national secretary of the PDP and that the action of the party and Oyinlola amounted to criminal conduct, liable to be condemned to prison, being a flagrant disobedience to two court orders. He therefore ordered the embattled National Secretary should vacate the office immediately
The trial also held that Oyinlola could not have emerged as the nominee of the PDP, in view of the two court judgments that quashed the congress, declaring that an order of a court must be obeyed, whether valid or not.
But the last may not have been heard on the latest development as Oyinlola had also filed a stay of execution to the judgment while heading to the Court of Appeal to fight the battle. The calculation is that political litigations except elective positions take time to run its full course in the land and by the time it would have run its fill course, their tenure would either almost end or must have ended.
However, the financier of the anti-Obasanjo bloc, Buruji Kashamu, was reported as saying that the court judgment had nailed the coffin of Oyinlola on the highest decision making body of the party.mHe said the judgment has only confirmed earlier judgments obtained from different courts regarding the nullification of the South-west PDP Congress.
“It’s based on the different judgments that not only nullified the South-west congress but also reaffirmed the Dayo-led Executive of Ogun PDP. These people, because they believe in illegality and imposition, had continued to do whatever they wanted without regard for the rule of law.
“The Adebayo executive instituted another case against Oyinlola as you are well aware that the South-west congress had been nullified and, automatically, there was no way Oyinlola could have remained in office. So, at the end of the day, this judgment only confirmed what has transpired in the past. And what this means is that after God, the law comes next.
“The lesson of this judgment is that we must adhere strictly to the rule of law and I’m sure everybody has learnt his lesson. If they don’t want to implement this latest judgment, they would continue to push themselves further into problems and it’s only God that knows what can happen at the end of the day,” he said.
There were also media reports that following the judgment, pressures were being mounted on Oyinlola to step aside while there are already considerations for his successor, though in acting capacity from the Yoruba speaking zone.
Oyinlola’s spokesman, Ayo Olaiya, has however said if the litigation persisted, it would affect national chairman of the party, Alhaji Tukur, more than anyone else in the party hierarchy.
“The argument of Oyinlola is that he was not a product of any zonal congress. So, his nomination is not illegal. Oyinlola said he emerged at the National Convention after other contestants had publicly stepped down for him,” adding that, “Nobody in the party, including the National Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, has asked Oyinlola to leave office. Oyinlola will not vacate his seat and any move to make him do so will be subjudice, given the appeal already filed.
It has been speculated that some party leaders had shortlisted one time Transport Minister, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Oni and former National Publicity Secretary of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), Chief Ishola Filani, as possible candidates to replace Oyinlola in acting capacity. Tukur, and some other leaders of the PDP are said to have asked Prince Oyinlola to step aside until the determination of his appeal.
A party source was also quoted as saying: “the party is expecting an enforcement order from the court to enable Oyinlola vacate his seat till his matter is finally ironed out by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Once Oyinlola leaves office temporarily, the party will prevail on the South-west to pick a nominee as acting National Secretary among three candidates to be recommended. The party wants to stick to the zoning formula instead of asking the Deputy National Secretary to act.”
There is also the PDP governors’ sympathy in favour of Oyinlola as a source close to the PDP Governors’ Forum said: “As far as the governors are concerned, Oyinlola won’t step aside at all. Instead, they have encouraged him to be steadfast because he remains their candidate for the job. The governors took note of the fact that a High Court is not a final court in the land. Therefore, hanging on to the High Court judgment would amount to mischief.”
Nonetheless, the litigation could be an extension of the fight for political supremacy between former president Olusegun Obasanjo and President Goodluck Jonathan.
As it now seems for the South-west PDP, the fear of Dayo-led executive committee of the party in Ogun state appears the beginning of wisdom. The party crisis in Ogun has boiled over due to the anger of a bloc in the party who felt used, dumped and shortchanged overtime in the bid to make party relevant. The bloc is powered by Kasahamu.
There is also the bloc of save Obasanjo from being run down in his state which cut across the South-west zone and extended to the national axis of the party. The two blocs are locked in ego fight not only on the control of the party in the state but also in the zone. The Obasanjo power warriors had successfully installed its cronies in all the executive platforms of the party in the zone, shutting out those not loyal or faithful to them or to their principal with impunity.
They also reached out to the national level where they ‘planted’ two national officers on the National Working Committee of the party. The deed done, they had dared the aggrieved and disadvantaged members to their worst. None was ready to pick the war vest because of their political interest in the nearest future but not the Ogun state which aside from picking the war vest had been the victor so far in all the legal battles, thus demystifying the political myth of the former president and waiting for the next line of action of the Obasanjo political warriors.
The refusal to accept the executive committee produced at the March 2012 state congress of the party had aggravated the crisis. Though, the congress produced the Dayo-led executive, the Obasanjo backers had insisted that there was never a congress in the state that produced any leadership and therefore mounted pressures on the national working committee of the party to dissolve the executive and put in place a new set for the former president to manipulate.
The sentiments were echoed by Oni who shortly after his emergence and on his visit to Ogun state dared the Bayo Dayo executive when he said, “I am aware that the National Working Committee (NWC) said there should be no congress and that means there should be no congress. And as far as I am concerned, there has been no congress in Ogun State.”
The executive, however, responded and declared that it was ready to take a legal action against the NWC and the Zonal committee of the party, pointing out that there was no letter indicating that there should not be congress in the state. It argued that the state congress was monitored by representatives from the NWC, INEC and security operatives.
It maintained that the congresses by Soremi-led executive was covered by the rule of law adding that what they have done is to ensure internal democracy within the party ‘as against the practice of some elders who would go into one corner of their room and write names.
The dispute later snowballed into litigation at the Federal High Court which on April 27, 2012 sacked Oni and his zonal working committee. Justice Okon Abang, in a ruling, set aside the zonal congress which produced the zonal executive on the ground that it was held in violation of a subsisting order of court, directing parties to maintain status quo pending the determination of a suit instituted by the Soremi-led faction of the party in Ogun State.
The judge observed that despite an undertaking by lawyers to Oni’s predecessor, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo, to ensure that his client took no further steps in respect of the issues raised by the plaintiff, Oladipo proceeded with the congress and put the plaintiffs in a position of disadvantage.
Abang, aside voiding the congress, also set aside the list of delegates sent to the party’s headquarters by the Ogun PDP and nullified the nomination of Tunji Akinosi, Segun Sowunmi and Pegba Otemolu as delegates from the state chapter of the PDP.
The Soremi harmonization committee of the party and others had also sued the party leadership for querying him and the Secretary to the Harmonised Committee, Pegba Otemolu, on the basis of which they were threatened with disciplinary measures. They also queried the legitimacy of a published directive purportedly made by Alkali, barring the party from conducting congresses in the state, allegedly cancelling those earlier conducted and threatening disciplinary measures against anyone who disobeyed the said directive.
Few minutes after the court handed its ruling, the new legal adviser of the party, Sola Oludipe, faulted the position of the court and affirmed that it was neither served any court processes nor put on notice of an impending legal matter relating to the Congress or any other issue.
The unfolding political development may be a minus in the bid by the party to stage a return to the South-west states from next year. It may also alter the political permutations at the top.
With the election of Obasanjo’s successor as BoT chairman resulting in a stalemate and the gradual weeding off of Yoruba speaking top shots from the highest decision making organ of the party, moreso that Oyinlola has been replaced by Deputy National Secretary in acting capacity, Solomon Onwe, the cry of marginalization of the zone at the federal level may further deepen as events unfold.