Alhaji Bamanga Tukur
By Chuks Okocha and Tobi Soniyi and Tunde Sanni
The power tussle in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) took another turn Monday when the party named its Deputy National Secretary, Mr. Onwe S. Onwe, as the acting national secretary following last Friday’s judgment of a Federal High Court that ordered the removal of the incumbent, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
The party’s National Working Committee (NWC), after an emergency meeting in Abuja, presided over by the PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, directed that Onwe should act as the secretary, pending when Oyinlola, who has appealed the judgment and is seeking a stay of execution of the order, is able to get the court to suspend the order removing him from office.
Besides Tukur, others who attended the meeting were the Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja; National Organising Secretary, Alhaji Mustapha Abubakar; National Treasurer, Alhaji Bala Kaoje; National Women Leader, Dr. Kema Chikwe; and Onwe.
The National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh; National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; National Youth Leader, Alhaji Garba Chiza; and National Auditor, Bode Mustapha, were absent.
Metuh was said to have travelled to Malaysia, while Kwon travelled on Sunday to Dubai.
Also absent was Oyinlola, who was at the Court of Appeal to file his application, in which he is urging the upper court to upturn the lower court’s judgment because it was against the weight of evidence submitted by his counsel.
Before Onwe was appointed acting national secretary, the Chief Legal Consultant of the PDP, Chief Joe Gadzama (SAN), had briefed the meeting, explaining that in order to uphold due process, an acting national secretary should be appointed, because the law does not allow a vacuum.
It was after the briefing by Gadzama that the meeting unanimously agreed that Tukur should write to Onwe to assume the position of national secretary in the interim.
THISDAY gathered that the only objection came from Jaja who complained that it was not fair for the NWC members to be summoned to a meeting through the media.
Tukur said what the media reported was speculative, as he did not grant an interview to any reporter.
Also, Chikwe urged the NWC to seek the approval of President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the leader of the party, before implementing the advisory that Onwe should act as the national secretary.
It was after this that Tukur officially wrote to Onwe, who was a former speaker of the Ebonyi State House of Assembly, to commence acting as the national secretary.
In the letter, which he personally signed, Tukur wrote: “Pursuant to the powers conferred on the National Chairman by Chapter V Section 35 (1), 35 (1)(b) as well as Section 36(2) of the Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party, (as amended), the Deputy National Secretary of the PDP, Barr. Solomon Onwe, is hereby directed to assume duties as the Acting National Secretary of the PDP.
“Barr. Onwe shall by this directive conduct all correspondences of the party, issue notices of meetings of the National Convention, the National Executive Committee, the National Caucus and the National Working Committee as stipulated in the constitution of our great party.
“This directive takes immediate effect and is hereby communicated to all the levels and offices of the party.”
But in a bid to reverse the court ruling, Oyinlola Monday urged the Court of Appeal to nullify the judgment of the Federal High Court that removed him from office.
The embattled secretary, in an application prepared by his lawyers, averred that the trial judge had erred in law when he overruled the preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the court, assumed jurisdiction and delivered judgment.
He said the high court did not have the jurisdiction to hear the case because the defendants were not agencies of the Federal Government.
Oyinlola further told the Court of Appeal that the subject matter of the suit was an intra-party dispute, which was not justifiable and that the Federal High Court and indeed no court of law had jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit.
Meanwhile, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has described the declarative order by Justice Abdu Kafarati that sacked Oyinlola as the internal affair of the party that has nothing to do with the commission.
Though the commission said that it was still awaiting the full text of the judgment to know where it concerned INEC, the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, told THISDAY that the commission had no business with Oyinlola’s removal as PDP secretary.
Also Monday, a former Minister of Sports, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, described the court’s removal of Oyinlola as unfortunate just as he assured party supporters that the judgment would not tear the party apart.
Adedoja, who vied for the position with Oyinlola and others, while responding to inquiries from THISDAY, said: “This matter is simply a legal case and Oyinlola being a lawyer has approached the matter from a legal perspective, which is enough to demonstrate that it is a simple matter."
In addition, National Vice-Chairman (South-west) of the party, Chief Segun Oni, has denied reports that he is scheming to replace Oyinlola.
Oni, through his Chief Press Secretary, Lere Olayinka, said: “Last Friday’s judgment has already been appealed against and a stay of execution filed.”
Oni described the media reports insinuating that the party was considering dropping Oyinlola for another candidate from the South-west as part of the mischief of those whose goal was to destroy the party in the zone.