A day before the last national convention of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in March last year, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur and Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola were summoned to Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, where they met President Jonathan and some governors. There, Tukur and Oyinlola were told they would work together as chairman and secretary.
The party’s governors who wielded considerable powers in PDP had held President Jonathan by the jugular. Jonathan wanted former governor of the defunct Gongola State Tukur as chairman and the governors had told him in plain terms: “You want the chairman, give us the secretary. We will support Tukur as chairman and you too support Oyinlola as secretary.” Even when some governors from the North-east organised a kangaroo election and announced they had elected former PDP Secretary Musa Babayo as the choice of the zone for PDP chairman to embarrass President Jonathan and Tukur, the PDP governors went again to the Villa to dissociate themselves from the election and assure a badly-shaken Jonathan they were still standing by the agreement they had with him to back Tukur.
So, Tukur came from the President and Oyinlola from the governors, but Oyinlola, the former Osun State governor adopted by the governors, also happens to be a candidate and close ally of former President Obasanjo. The political marriage between Tukur and Oyinlola as chairman and secretary therefore is one of convenience. Both are strange bedfellows of sort. Like Tukur and Oyinlola, other members of the PDP National Working Committee also came from various interests, mostly from the governors of the states they come from, and they continue to represent and defend those interests.
It is with this background that the ongoing crisis of confidence rocking PDP could be properly situated and understood. The crisis got to its head during the week with the removal of Oyinlola from office as secretary on the orders of Justice Abdul Kafarati of a Federal High Court in Abuja. The ruling PDP, which is not too known to respect court judgments, hastened to implement the order. Justice Kafarati had asked Oyinlola to vacate his seat, saying the PDP and Oyinlola’s action amounted to a criminal conduct, that the former governor was not worthy to be recognised as national secretary as two court judgments had nullified the South-west zonal congress which nominated him as national scribe.
The entire political debacle had its roots in the Ogun State PDP crisis, which had pitted some chieftains of the party led by businessman Kashamu Buruji against former president Obasanjo. In Ogun, the Adebayo Dayo faction (Buruji faction) is up in arms against the Dipo Odujirin faction (Obasanjo faction). Oyinlola’s problem was not created from Abuja but Abuja - I mean the rump of the PDP NWC and the Presidential Villa - only cashed in on the conflict in a bid to do away with a secretary it is uncomfortable with. The same Ogun crisis had snowballed to put the jobs of the National Vice-Chairman, South-West, Segun Oni and National Auditor Bode Mustapha in jeopardy.
The court had earlier ordered them to stop parading themselves as National Vice-Chairman and National Auditor respectively, but they have challenged the verdict. Indeed, Mustapha was the first NWC member to be sent packing since being sworn in. But it is instructive that the party did not insist on Mustapha’s removal as it is doing in the case of Oyinlola. Both Oni and Mustapha are also from the Obasanjo flank.
It’s an Ogun State crisis as I said and Oyinlola is now suffering the collateral damage. I suspect the former governor Oyinlola had treated the court matter, which has been on for some time now, with levity. I guess he had taken it for granted until now. Indeed, bringing him into the Ogun fray in the first instance is politics at work.
This is why. Oyinlola as national secretary was not elected from the South-west zone. In the PDP Constitution, the zonal congress has nothing to do with the election of national officers. The zonal congress can only give support to or endorse a candidate, not elect a candidate for national office. It’s this realisation that negated the so-called election of Babayo as chairman by the North-east zone last year.
If there was anybody so endorsed by the South-west for the post of PDP secretary, it was former Minister, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, but he was dumped following the endorsement of Oyinlola by the governors. However, there was a contest for the office of national secretary in Abuja and Oyinlola, buoyed by support from the governors, fought along with former Minister of Communications Dapo Sarumi and one or two others and defeated them. The former governor has now stepped up legal efforts to get his removal nullified by the Court of Appeal.
Reports that the PDP is moving to strike out his name as national secretary or give him the Justice Ayo Salami treatment may unravel with disastrous consequences for the party for a number of reasons. One, his removal has further alienated the South-west within the PDP and national hierarchy as for now no top national post is occupied by somebody from South-west. Two, the PDP governors are said to be spoiling for a fight over Oyinlola’s removal. They reportedly vowed they would have nothing of such.
Can the party afford an all-out war against the governors and their interests within PDP? For Oyinlola who has always believed there is the hand of God in his affairs (an orphan at 9, number 43 in a family of 64 children who rose to the pinnacle of his military career and who became Osun governor despite his earlier wish in 2003 to go to the Senate, and PDP secretary when he least expected it), it’s another battle in the journey of life.