VP, Namadi Sambo, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo with wife and Former Ghanian President, John Kufour
Politics & Issues
The civic reception held by the Peoples Democratic Party, South-west, in honour of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, came with much colour and glamour. Beyond that, the house remains divided against itself in the region. Tunde Sanni reviews some of the things threatening the PDP unity in the region
For some time now, the civic reception organised by some elders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-west for former President Olusegun Obasanjo would be the talk of town, not only in the South-west but across the country. The reception, according to the organisers, was meant to showcase Obasanjo as an outstanding Nigerian a statesman and national icon as well as a father figure in the party.
In putting together the event, the organisers had carefully edged out the South-west organ of the party for reasons not explained though, National Vice Chairman of the party, Mr. Olusegun Oni, was part of the organisers of the two-day event. It was not surprising as leaders of the party from President Goodluck Jonathan and the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamangar Tukur, and a host of some governors fell on themselves to identify with the occasion.
The events kicked off with a lecture by a former Ghanaian president, John Kuffor, who recalled how Obasanjo was instrumental to several conflict resolutions between African countries, thereby promoting peace on the continent. Kuffor acknowledged Obasanjo’s salutary role in stabilising his government when he came to power in 2001 in Ghana.
“I had limited options at this time. I quickly ran to Obasanjo and requested that he should lift the fuel embargo Nigeria placed on Ghana for refusing to service its debt. Obasanjo graciously accepted and began to sell fuel to Ghana on favourable terms. This singular gesture served as impetus for the uplift of Ghana when other donor countries across the globe refused to offer assistance.”
Chairman of the occasion, former Head of Interim National Government, Chief Ernest Shonekan, described Obasanjo as a man of integrity and lauded him as the first Nigerian military leader who in 1979, relinquished power peacefully to a democratically elected government.
The President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, also eulogised Obasanjo and described him as an outstanding Nigerian statesman and a national icon whose love for the nation would be difficult to surpass.
Governors Emmanuel Uduaghan and Godswill Akpabio of Delta and Akwa Ibom States equally extolled the virtues of the former president and in their words, described him as “the defender of the defenceless.’ They both recalled how Obasanjo stood on the side of justice against the powers that opposed them in their respective states when they sought elections as governors.
Tukur, in his remarks, described Obasanjo as a living legend, recalling that the party made giant strides during his administration. He described Obasanjo as a symbol of hope and noted that Obasanjo was relentless and fought with dogged determination at a time it most mattered.
Against this backdrop, many had begun to wonder if the party in the region could used the robust reception for Obasanjo as a springboard for electoral victory, in governorship elections in Osun and Ekiti in 2014 as well as in the 2015 general election. Perhaps, the fear of the unknown, especially from the Buruji Kashamu camp of the party may have informed why the South-west was shut out of the event.
The Kashamu camp has been responsible for the various litigations against the party in the past nine months. The camp has successfully secured several judgments against the party, one of which was the ruling against the Oni-led zonal working committee as a Federal High Court judge, Justice Okon Abang, on April 27, last year, set aside the said congress on the grounds that it was held in violation of a subsisting court order and directed the parties to maintain the status quo pending the determination of the suit instituted by the Dayo Soremi-led faction of the party in Ogun State.
The court ruling was sequel to an application by members of the Harmonised Executive of the PDP in Ogun State represented by Dayo Soremi, Bayo Dayo and Hon Taiwo Abisekan. Named as defendants are the PDP, former Acting National Chairman, Abubakar Kawu Baraje, Tajudeen Oladipo, Uche Secondus, Olusola Oke and Prof Rufia Alkali.
Soremi and others had sued the party, challenging the legitimacy of Soremi and the Secretary to the Harmonised Committee, Pegba Otemolu, by Oladipo, 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 and cancelling those earlier conducted while also threatening disciplinary measures against anyone who disobeyed the said directive.
The restraining order as of now is still subsisting, though Oni has continued to parade himself as the National Vice Chairman of the party in deference to the court order.
Another national officer which the camp has secured a court injunction against was the National Auditor of the party, Chief Bode Mustapha, who interestingly is from Ogun State and believed to be a sympathiser of the former president. Justice Charles Archibong of the Federal High Court in Lagos on March 2, last year, voided the appointment of Mustapha as PDP National Auditor with the trial judge holding that Mustapha was not qualified for the office.
The judge ordered Tukur and sacked National Secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola to appoint Alhaji Fatai Adewole Adeyanju, being a qualified chartered accountant for the office at the state congress of the party in Ogun State.
The court verdict was based on a suit filed by Chief Adebayo 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 has PDP, Tukur, Oyinlola and Mustapha as defendants.
However, as the party thought it has gotten over litigation from the Buruji camp, another court order ousted Oyinlola as PDP national secretary. In removing Oyinlola, Justice Abdul Kafarati, held that the former Osun State governor could not have emerged as the nominee of the PDP in view of the two court judgments which nullified the congress, noting that a court order must be obeyed whether valid or not.
Again, the court’s pronouncement arose out of the litigation of the Bayo Dayo led executive committee of the party in Ogun state. Of the court injunctions, that of Oni and Oyinlola elicited joy from both party and non-party members. In Osun state, the government owned Osun Defender on daily basis has been celebrating the removal of Oyinlola and giving prominence to the interviews of Kashamu knowing full well that an injury to Oyinlola is an injury to the fortunes of the PDP in the state in the countdown to the 2014 governorship poll.
The PDP in Osun has been ambitious on its desire to reclaim the control of government in 2014. The party has been excited on its structure which against all expectations has united all the contending forces in the state and position the PDP for the 2014 poll. In line with the party’s hope of reclaiming the state, the party has got some aggrieved members of the ruling party from Ijeshaland to rejoin the fold while the party organ as well as some elders of the party had been faulting the acclaimed developmental efforts of Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
But also in the PDP, some members are happy about the political ‘misfortune’ of both Oni and Oyinlola. Some party stalwarts who spoke to THISDAY on condition of anonymity recalled how Oyinlola was smuggled into the race by Obasanjo in deep contempt for the aspirants who had spent fortunes traversing the country, especially their zone to canvass for votes.
In addition, they accused Oyinlola of not reaching out to those who ‘lost’ out to him at the national delegates’ congress of the party, unlike Tukur who was said to be extending olive branch to his challengers from the zone.
Perhaps, the litigation could have been unnecessary if the party officials had not attempted to curry the favour of Obasanjo by insisting on a fresh congress in Ogun state. But it appears the zone is yet to learn its lessons as Senator Dipo Odujinrin whose chairmanship has been annulled by the court was paraded during the reception as the chairman of the party in Ogun.
But Kasahamu has vowed that the litigation would be fought to a logical conclusion. He told newsmen at his Ijebu Igbo home that his camp was working on the committal of Oyinlola, Oni and Mustapha to prison for disobeying court order.
“Their conduct amounts to criminal contempt and they may be liable for committal to prison. It should be emphasised that an act of disobedience to an order of court renders those in disobedience to sanctions by the court and it also renders any step taken by those in disobedience invalid.”
“We are tidying up an application which we are going to file in court to declare the sentence on Oyinlola because the court had said Oyinlola had disobeyed the court order. Oni and Mustapha would go. Just wait and see what would happen in the next two weeks. What is important to us is that the elephant has fallen and once the elephant is down, the small animals would be easier to catch.”
As things are, it is the respect to the order of the courts that can save the necks of the party chieftains but respecting the rule of law may be counter-productive. The Obasanjo reception may not translate to political fortunes for the party in the region and unless efforts are stepped up, according to inside sources to tame the Kashamu camp, the hope of the party in the 2014 and 2015 polls in the region may be dashed.
Interestingly, Obasanjo is being accused of causing the misfortune of the party as the region is said not to have benefitted from his eight years rule. Observers cite such instances as the Lagos/Ibadan expressway and the Ibadan/Oyo/Ogbomoso/Ilorin highway which the administration ignored. There are other projects believed could have endeared the hearts of the people of the region to the PDP but which the Obasanjo administration ignored, a factor said to have led to the dismal performance of the party in the 2011 polls.
There is also the culture of imposition of candidates by Obasanjo and the tendency for the NWC to pander to him. The fight over imposition of candidates and the desire to halt the trend is at the center of the ongoing litigation in the party. But whether or not the party will come out stronger from the crisis or end up in self destruct remains fluid.