The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party deepened on Friday as the Federal High Court, Abuja sacked the National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
His removal was the outcome of a suit filed by a faction of the party’s Ogun State chapter, led by a businessman, Buruji Kashamu.
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Oyinlola’s sacking is the latest in the crises rocking the party, coming on the heels of the threat by some governors elected on its platform to quit the PDP unless its National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, resigns.
The party is also divided over the election of a chairman for its Board of Trustees even as President Goodluck Jonathan and one of his predecessors, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, are embroiled in a crisis of confidence over the BOT issue.
The court, presided over by Justice Abdul Kafarati, took the decision in its judgment in the suit brought by the Ogun State Executive Committee of the PDP, through its counsel, Amaechi Nwaiwu (SAN).
In the suit filed by the chairman and secretary of the state chapter of the party, Adebayo Dayo and Alhaji Semiu Sodipo, respectively, for and on behalf of other officers, the plaintiffs challenged the retention of Oyinlola as the PDP National Secretary, even after a Lagos Federal High Court cancelled the zonal congresses that produced him.
The court agreed with the plaintiffs that the former governor was not fit to hold the position of PDP National Secretary on the grounds that the Lagos FHC judgment had nullified the South-West zonal congress through which he was nominated.
The said South-West Congress of the PDP, which was conducted on March 21, 2012, was nullified by the order and judgment of the Lagos FHC on April 27, 2012, and May 2, 2012, on the grounds that it violated an earlier FHC order of February 16, 2012.
As a result of the development, the plaintiffs approached the Abuja FHC, asking it to sack Oyinlola from office as there was no basis for him to retain the position.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, PDP and Oyinlola were listed as the first, second and third respondents in the suit.
The former governor had argued that the matter was an internal affair of the PDP, and that the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain it.
He also argued that it was an abuse of court process.
But, in his judgment, Kafarati disagreed with Oyinlola, ruling both issues in favour of the plaintiffs.
“The plaintiffs’ suit was not an abuse of court process, therefore objection on that point is overruled. On the whole the preliminary objection of the third defendant (Oyinlola) lacks merit and is hereby dismissed.
“The plaintiff’s suit is not based on an intra-party dispute; rather it seeks to enforce the decision of the Lagos Federal High Court. It is therefore my opinion that they (plaintiffs) have the locus standi to institute this action.
“I hold that the court has the jurisdiction to determine the plaintiffs’ suit.
“The third defendant is not fit to continue in office as the National Secretary of the second defendant (PDP).
“All of the questions raised by the plaintiffs are determined in their favour,” the judge said.
In their originating summons, the plaintiffs had alleged that Oyinlola was not the valid candidate, as he was foisted on the zone by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president.
The plaintiffs maintained that, following the zoning of the office of PDP National Secretary to the South-West, Oyinlola was imposed as the candidate for the position by Obasanjo and the then National Vice-Chairman (South-West), Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo.
But they argued that following the orders of two separate judgments of the Lagos Federal High Court, which nullified the South West zonal congress that produced Oyinlola as candidate, the former governor should no longer be the National Secretary of the party.
As a result, they asked the court to declare Oyinlola’s continued stay in office as invalid, null and void since his candidacy had been nullified.
The plaintiffs also asked the court to compel INEC to conduct a fresh zonal congress in the South-West.
They also asked the court to order INEC to delete Oyinlola’s name and replace it with that of another candidate that would emerge from the fresh zonal congress.
In an affidavit in support of the originating summons, Miss. Abimbola Okuwoga, an assistant in the chambers of Nwaiwu, averred that Oyinlola was foisted on the party by Obasanjo.
The deponent maintained that Oyinlola was elected upon the understanding that he was the nominee of the South-West.
“However, the South-West Congress conducted on 21st March 2012 was nullified by the order and judgment of the Federal High Court on 27th April and another on 2nd May 2012 on the grounds that it violated a Federal High Court order of February 16, 2012.
“The failure to properly nominate Oyinlola at the said congress was fatal to his candidacy,” the deponent said.
However, Oyinlola, who was present in the courtroom, informed journalists after the court session that he would appeal the FHC judgment.
“I want to make it clear that we are appealing the judgment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the former governor risks being committed to prison for criminal contempt for allegedly writing three separate letters, dated June 3, 12 and 25, 2012, respectively, in a bid to overrule the order of the Lagos FHC, which nullified the zonal congress of the PDP.
The plaintiffs had asked the court to commit Oyinlola to prison for contempt of court “for such period it may see fit” for writing the letters, in which he (Oyinlola) also threatened them (plaintiffs) for bringing the suit before the court.
In the judgment, the court held that the letters constituted “willful interference with the administration of justice and subversion of the judicial process.”
At their meeting in Abuja on Wednesday night where 21 of the governors were in attendance, the governors said the party’s National Executive Committee meeting must be convened immediately.
Apart from this, they wondered why the party had refused to abide by its constitution, which says, “The NEC shall meet at least once in every quarter.”
The NEC of the party met last on July 17, 2012.
The governors, it was gathered, are already exploring another provision of the party’s constitution, which says that two-thirds of NEC members could call for a NEC meeting after notifying the “chairman at least seven days prior to the meeting.”
The call for the NEC meeting by the governors is aimed at ironing out other constitutional problems facing the party.
For example, the party does not have a disciplinary committee, which is against the constitution.
Section 21.3 of the constitution says “subject to the provision of this constitution, there shall be a Disciplinary Committee of the party at every level.”
The party at its NEC meeting in July last year had rejected the nomination of a former deputy governor of Lagos State, Mr. Femi Pedro, as the chairman of the disciplinary committee.
Pedro’s nomination was rejected because he has not been a member of the party for long.
Before then, the party had refused to also constitute a disciplinary committee to handle several acts of indiscipline like anti-party activities, which had been levelled against many of its members. The governors are also not happy that the members of the National Working Committee have started implementing the party’s new constitution when it has not been fully accepted a the party.
At its last meeting of July, NEC directed that the drafted copies of the constitution be given to members to study and correct the typographical errors.
The communiqué of the meeting said, “NEC received draft copies of the 2012 amended Constitution of the Peoples Democratic Party.
“The meeting resolved to allow members study the document carefully and make notes on typographical errors and omissions for final adoption at the next NEC meeting.”
However, the governors were sad that the NWC had started implementing the constitution, which it used to dissolve the Adamawa State executive of the party.
The NWC had however, on Wednesday, rescinded its decision on this.
The action of the NWC, led by the party’s national chairman irked the governors, who told the President that Tukur must resign from his position.
Tukur was not their candidate during the party’s convention but was imposed on the party by the President.
The PDP said on Friday that it was not afraid to call a NEC meeting, as demanded by the governors.
The party said that a plan for a NEC meeting was stalled by the death of by former governor of Kaduna State, Mr. Patrick Yakowa, in a helicopter crash.
PDP National Legal Adviser, Mr. Victor Kwon, who spoke with our correspondent on the telephone, said the party’s leadership was aware of the constitutional requirement for the meeting.
He said, “We had a proposal to have the (NEC) meeting before the call by the governors (but) the death of Yakowa, the crash of Dambaba Suntai and others prevented it.
“Things have not been well with the nation. The party is conscious of the constitutional requirement. We are working to have the NEC meeting.
“But the party is not afraid to hold a NEC meeting.”