By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the removal of the National Secretary of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, from office forthwith.
The court sacked Oyinlola yesterday and asked that he be put in prison for criminal disobedience of court order, following a suit against him by the party chieftains in Osun State.
The state chapter of the PDP led by its Chairman and Secretary, Chief Adebayo Dayo and Semiu Sodipo, had in their suit, alleged that Oyinola emerged as the national scribe of the party through a kangaroo process they said was perfected by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former National Vice Chairman, PDP South West, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo.
They argued that in view of two separate judgments of a Federal High Court in Lagos that nullified the South West Zonal congress which produced Oyinlola as candidate, his continued stay in office was illegal, null and void since his candidacy had earlier been voided.
According to the plaintiffs, “something cannot be built on nothing.”
Counsel to the plaintiffs, Dr. Amaechi Nwaiwu, SAN, had formulated three questions for determination by the court among which was: “whether the candidacy of Oyinlola as a nominee of the South West Zonal Chapter of the PDP and his consequent election to the office of National Secretary at the National Convention in March 2012 were not invalid, null and void by reason of the order and judgments of the Federal High Court made respectively on April 27, 2012 in suit no FHC/L/CS/282/2012 and May 2, 2012 in suit no FHC/L/CS/347/2012 nullifying the South West zonal congress of March 2012 from which Oyinlola emerged or ought to have emerged?”
Besides asking the court to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to delete Oyinlola’s name from its records and replace same with another candidate that will emerge from a fresh zonal congress to be ordered by the court, the plaintiffs, further sought “a declaration that the candidacy of Oyinlola as a nominee of the South West Zonal chapter of the PDP and his consequent election to the office of National Secretary in March 2012 were invalid, null and void by reason of the order of the said Federal High Court on April 27, 2012.
In an affidavit deposed to by one Miss Abimbola Okuwoga, an assistant in the chambers of Nwaiwu, the plaintiffs told the court that Oyinlola was foisted on the party by ex-President Obasanjo, consequent upon which he (Oyinlola) was unanimously elected on the understanding that he was the nominee of the South West.
They said: “however, the South West Congress conducted on March 21, 2012 was nullified by the order and judgment of the Federal High Court on April 27 and another on May 2, 2012 on the ground that it violated a Federal High Court order of February 16, 2012.
“That the failure to properly nominate Oyinlola at the said congress was fatal to his candidacy.”
They further maintained that the PDP however, refused to comply with the various prohibitory and mandatory orders of courts of competent jurisdiction by allowing Oyinlola to remain in office, an action they said was capable of ridiculing the judiciary.
Oyinlola and the PDP had in separate preliminary objections, urged the court to dismiss the suit on the ground that it bothered on internal affairs of a political party which they said was non-justiceable, even as they challenged the locus-standi of the plaintiffs to institute the action.
Arguing that the suit did not disclose any reasonable cause of action, Oyinlola, further challenged the jurisdiction of the high court to entertain the matter.
In his judgment yesterday, Justice Kafarati, held that Oyinlola was not fit to continue in office as the National Secretary of the PDP, saying, his action amounted to a criminal conduct capable of attracting prison sentence for flagrant disobedience to subsisting court orders.
Kafarati then ordered Oyinlola to vacate the office, adding that, there was merit in the suit.
According to Justice Kafarati, Oyinlola, the third defendant in the case could not have emerged as the nominee of the PDP in view of the two subsisting court orders restraining the South West zone of the party from conducting the congress where he purportedly emerged.
The judge who relied on the provision of section 251(R) of the 1999 constitution insisted that he had jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter, noting that an order of a court must be obeyed whether valid or not, adding that any action taken by Oyinlola as the National Secretary of the PDP amounted to nullity.
Dismissing the contention of the defendants that the subject matter of the suit bothered on internal affairs of a political party, Justice Kafarati, said the suit did not arise from an activity of the PDP but aimed at enforcing a valid court order.
He said: “It is my opinion that the plaintiffs have the locus-standi to institute this action and I hold that the suit disclosed a reasonable cause of action. Therefore, the two preliminary objections filed by the second and third defendants are hereby dismissed. The election of the third defendant (Oyinlola) was a breach of valid court orders. All the three questions raised by the plaintiffs are hereby answered in the affirmative and reliefs four and five are granted as prayed.”