4th May, 2012
A federal high court, last week, in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, set aside the zonal congress of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the geopolitical zone, a ruling that might have rendered the National Vice Chairman of the party in the zone, Olusegun Oni, impotent as well as aggravate the party’s crises in some states in the zone.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, in his ruling, set aside the said congress on the ground that it was held in violation of a subsisting order of court, directing parties to maintain the status quo, pending the determination of the suit.
The suit which predated the emergence of Mr. Olusegun Oni as National Vice Chairman of PDP in the zone had been instituted by the Basorun Dayo Soremi-led faction of the party in Ogun State.
Abang, beside voiding the congress, also set aside the list of delegates sent to the party’s headquarters by the Ogun PDP and nullified the nomination of Tunji Akinosi, Segun Sowunmi and Pegba Otemolu as delegates from the state chapter of the PDP.
Soremi and others had sued the party leadership for querying him and the Secretary to the Harmonised Committee, Pegba Otemolu, on 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, allegedly cancelling those earlier conducted and threatening disciplinary measures against anyone who disobeyed the said directive.
The suit was an anti-climax in the intra-party crisis that had rocked the Ogun PDP for so long, a situation that Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo, Oni’s predecessor, had attempted to resolve but failed.
The judge, therefore, observed that despite the fact that counsel to Oladipo, Mr. Waheed Lawal, undertook certain steps to ensure that his client made no further move in respect of the issues raised by the plaintiff, Oladipo proceeded to conduct the congress and put the plaintiffs in a position of disadvantage.
Abang described the action of the party leaders in the Southwest as “reckless, disgraceful and high-handed,” saying this is a signpost for their disdain for the observance of the rule of law.
The judge further expressed displeasure with Oladipo for going ahead with the congress despite the court order and described him as an individual without respect for the due process of law and the rule of law.
He further held that Oladipo’s action was meant to foist on the court, a state of helplessness by taking a short cut, which now amounts to nullity.
“Any responsible citizen of this country, no matter his position, ought to respect the court’s order, particularly when processes and such orders are served on them. They should allow the court to decide the case one way or the other. I will not allow anybody, no matter how highly placed, to act in a manner that challenges the majesty of the court and likely to bring the court to disrepute. The conduct of the zonal congress by Alhaji Oladipo, despite a subsisting court order, is mischievous.
“Disobedience to court orders is an endemic disease that has eaten deep into the fabric of this country. A court must enforce the law in a manner that will ensure the attainment of social re engineering,” he averred.
Shortly before the court ruling, Oni in his reconciliatory tours to the party formations in the state had asked aggrieved party stalwarts to withdraw all pending cases from the courts to create room for genuine reconciliation in the states.
At the time of the ruling, his advice was just mere words of mouth without any response from the aggrieved elders of the party. An example of the spurning of the advice led to last week’s ruling.
In Ogun state, for instance, there had been disagreement between the combative Dayo-led party executive which secured the ruling and the National Working Committee, NWC, of the party over the approach to settling the crisis in the state.
Overtime, it had also been established that the crisis in the party in the state was between former chairman of the Board of Trustees, BoT, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the radical bloc of the party in the state led by Buruji Kashamu.
It had its roots in the imposition of politicians in the last general elections and even immediately after the elections, in the wake of the composition of the Federal Executive Council, FEC.
The face-off was then seen as one aimed at restoring the pride and authority of Obasanjo in the state and by extension, in the zone while the radical bloc, convinced that it had all along been used, dumped and short-changed by Obasanjo, is determined to extract a pound of flesh, even if such would rubbish the political signposts of the former president.
The court ruling, from all indications, may have also heated the polity in the zone, especially in Oni’s Ekiti PDP. The Ekiti PDP crisis is yet to abate; notwithstanding the NWC recognition of the Ogundipe-led executive committee of the party in Ekiti State.
Battle for the control of leadership of the party has been the bane of its unity in Ekiti State as is the case in other chapters of the party in the zone.
This had aggravated since the ACN ousted the PDP from the Government House on 15 Oct., 2010 but reared its head again during the 18 March state congress.
It was gathered that there were three factions in the party ahead of the congress. Ayodele Fayose, a former governor of the state led those just returning to the party. The Minister of Police Affairs, Chief Caleb Olubolade, who had been in the forefront of various reconciliatory moves in the party prior to the congress had those loyal to him while Oni led a faction that comprised those in the Segun Oni Campaign Organisation, SOCO.
The crises in Ogun and Ekiti states chapters of the PDP are no doubt, a litmus test for the party at all levels.
How the party wriggles out of the ongoing litigation to face the task of reconciliation ahead of 2014 polls in Ekiti State is yet to seen.