The sack of Oyinlola appears to have shut all doors to peace efforts at resolving the PDP crisis.
Bamanga Tukur, the embattled chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, pulled a surprise punch Monday, swearing in a replacement for the party secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, in a festering party crisis pitting him and President Goodluck Jonathan, against state governors and former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr. Oyinlola, the immediate past Governor of Osun State, was sacked Friday by a Federal High Court in Abuja, which ruled his election violated the party’s stipulated procedure, and flouted two court rulings.
The court said Mr. Oyinlola was never qualified to be elected party secretary, in a suit filed by a factional Chairman of Ogun PDP, Adebayo Dayo.
In a statement he personally signed, Mr. Tukur directed hitherto deputy secretary, Solomon Onwe, to take over as acting secretary of the party. He did not give reasons for the decision, and did not reference the court ruling firing Mr. Oyinlola.
“Barrister 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,” the statement said.
Mr. Oyinlola, a loyalist of former president, Olusegun Obasanjo, who was drafted to the race for the party secretary in the last minutes, rejected the court verdict and filed an appeal on Monday, asking for a stay of execution.
Mr. Oyinlola’s quest for a delay of the execution of the court order, to keep him in his post, had earlier been activated on Monday morning with the PDP National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon, filing same request in court, leaving the impression it was a party-centered position.
But Mr. Tukur overruled the move with the statement, where he announced the party’s decision to comply with the order, highlighting the troubling degree the party’s crisis – pitching Mr. Tukur against governors and other party officials – has attained.
The swearing-in of an acting secretary for the party, signaled the crisis that has plagued the party for months over the Adamawa state executive, and the election of a Board of Trustees Chairman, was far from over.
The decision, party officials said, indicated that Mr. Tukur, who is backed by President Goodluck Jonathan, was striking back at a coalition that has vowed to unseat him.
“This directive takes immediate effect and is hereby communicated to all the levels and offices of the Party,” the national chairman said.
The battle for 2015
Party members, well briefed about the details of the crisis enveloping the ruling party, say the series of fast-paced events since December, are rooted in the race for 2015 presidency, which governors, in alliance with former president, Mr. Obasanjo, insist Mr. Jonathan takes no second shot at.
The president has denied he is considering standing for office, with aides repeatedly saying the president was neck-deep with administering the nation, and will only take a decision in future.
Yet, the president has not categorically made clear he was no future candidate.
“It is the crux of the matter,” an insider said. “It’s all about who takes charge of the machinery.”
With more than a dozen governors in the final terms in office, some declaring interest for the top office, the governors are in no willingness to back Mr. Jonathan’s ambition.
Mr. Obasanjo, too, with considerable strength hinged on a number of loyalists within the party structure, has reportedly made it clear the president must vacate office.
At one his last visits to the presidential villa, officials informed about the meeting said Mr. Obasanjo put that point across to Mr. Jonathan unambiguously.
Same sentiments have been subtly expressed by some governors. But it was the Katsina State Governor, Ibrahim Shema, who also spoke to the president categorically about the matter too.
“Shema and Obasanjo reminded the president that he signed an undertaking for one term, and it has to be one term,” a party official said.
When Mr. Tukur, a loyalist of the president, long scorned by the governors, overhauled the party executive of Adamawa State, it was an opportunity begging for action by the governors and other disgruntled party officials, many of them backing Mr. Obasanjo politically, or in ideology, officials said.
Led by Mr. Oyinlola and the party’s Vice Chairman, Sam Jaja, with support of the governors, Mr. Tukur’s decision was overruled.
The governors have insisted the party chairman leave, a likelihood that will strip Mr. Jonathan of party control.
Last week’s botched election of the Board of Trustees Chairman, expectedly, continued as part of the scheming for the soul of the party.
But in all, the president, party officials, and governors insist the party remains healthy and had resolved its tangles.
“I can assure that like any other family, there may be disagreements but based on principle, not disagreement for anything. We have resolved all our differences,” Mr. Tukur said last week.
But Monday’s decision is said to be a pointer at the failure of any peace deal, a battle line of some sorts that is certain to draw reactions. It is also seen as a strike from the president’s camp.
One official said as final resort, the president is considering jettisoning his ambition should it appear unrealistic; to be able to firsthand, deal with the governors.
The PDP’s usually outspoken spokesperson, Olisa Metuh, has kept mum since Friday when the court sacked Mr. Oyinlola.
Mr. Metuh, who is known for prompt responses to enquiries, still won’t respond to questions regarding the ongoing crisis.