By Henry Umoru
Last Wednesday the Court of Appeal affirmed Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola the National Secretary of the Bamanga Tukur-led mainstream of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Oyinlola is also the National Secretary of the Kawu Baraje-led faction of the party. Yesterday, the intrigues became more bizarre after the nPDP served notice on Tukur to swear in Oyinlola as National Secretary of the main faction latest by next Monday!
The battle for the control ofthe soul of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP last Wednesday took a dramatic twist with the judgment of the Court of Appeal which re-instated Prince Olagunsoye Onyinola, as National Secretary of the party.
The three-man panel sitting in Abuja and chaired by Justice Amiru Sanusi upturned the January 11, 2013 judgment of the Federal High court, Abuja that declared Oyinlola’s nomination and subsequent election as the National Secretary of PDP as invalid, null and void and ruled that Oyinlola should be sacked. The appeal court verdict said that the High Court lacked the jurisdiction to meddle into issues bothering on domestic affairs of a political party.
The High Court declaration was based on the order and two separate judgments of the Federal High Court, Lagos, which nullified the South West zonal congress that produced Oyinlola as candidate for the position of national secretary in the March 24, 2012 national convention in Abuja.
Prior to the convention, other candidates for that office including Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Chief Olusola Oke; Professor Tunde Adeniran; Dapo Sarumi, among others had openly complained that they were forced out of the race in favour of Oyinlola.
However, not long after the Bamanga Tukur led National Working Committee, NWC was inaugurated on March 24, 2012, trouble broke out between him and most members of the NWC with Oyinlola, the national secretary as the arrow head of the opposition against the national chairman.
It was not difficult to understand the nature of the trouble. Tukur was essentially positioned by President Goodluck Jonathan while Oyinlola was the candidate of the governors.
As the crisis intensified within the national secretariat Tukur was accused of taking opportunity of Oyinlola’s troubles at home to push his national secretary out of the NWC.
Indeed three days after the January 11 judgment by the Lagos Federal High Court presided over by Justice Abdul Kafarati that Oyinlola was not qualified to contest the election, Tukur took the issue to a meeting of the NWC where it was resolved that Oyinlola should be replaced by his then deputy, Barrister Onwe Solomon Onwe. Onwe, remarkably was just one of about three persons in the NWC that Tukur could count on for support within the NWC.
The emergency meeting of the NWC which took the decision had the following in attendance: Tukur; former Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja; Deputy National Secretary, Onwe; former National Auditor, Bode Mustapha; National Organising Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha; former National Treasurer, Bala Bawa Kaoje; and National Financial Secretary, Elder Bolaji Akpan Anani.
Following the meeting Tukur issued a statement saying thus: ”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.”
Not happy with the development at the party and when the opportunity came for him to fight back, Oyinlola, joined the splitter group led by Abubakar Kawu Baraje and he was made the National secretary August 31 st.
Prior to his pitching tent with the Baraje led group, Oyinlola had approached the Appeal Court in January and insisted that the subject matter of his suit was purely a domestic affair of the PDP which he said was clearly non-justiciable, just as he stressed that the plaintiffs failed to maximize the internal remedies provided by the party for adjudication of disputes, adding that the crux of the matter was such that neither the Federal High Court nor indeed any court of law, has jurisdiction over the subject matter of the suit.
Besides, he submitted that the trial judge erred in law when the court disregarded the ruling of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal in CA/35/12 delivered on June 25, 2012, and held that the entire action does not constitute an abuse of court process.
Oyinlola consequently asked for an order reversing the judgment given by Justice Kafarati and substituting thereto, an order striking out and or dismissing the entire action with substantial cost.
Meanwhile, the party had also become ensnared on account of reservations raised by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC that the election of many of the executive officers at the March 2012 national convention was irregular.
Hence, a special national convention was ordered for August 31, 2013 to regularize the elections. Prior to that election, members of the NWC affected by the INEC report were compelled to resign from office leading to the emergence of Remi Akitoye as acting national secretary before Prof. Wale Oladipo was sworn in as substantive national secretary following an extraordinary congress in July by the South West zonal chapter of the party.
Meanwhile, when push came to shove at the special national convention last August, Oyinlola teamed with the G7 governors to form the parallel faction of the PDP. He was promptly designated as the national secretary. With last Wednesday’s court judgment, Oyinlola is now secretary of both the mainstream faction of the PDP and the Baraje led faction.
It is an ambiguity that the Tukur mainstream is very bothered about. Reacting to the judgment, Victor Kwon, National Legal Adviser of the Tukur faction said it was studying the judgment and would react and take action at the appropriate time.
Also reacting to the judgment in a text message to Vanguard, the National Coordinator of PDP Stakeholders Forum, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere hailed the judgment as a big victory for democracy.
“This is a big blow to the imposters whose attempt to hijack the soul of our party has now back fired. Today’s victory is a motivation for us all to finish the ongoing crusade including the support to the legal process to sack Bamanga Tukur which is at advanced stage.”
In his own reaction, the incumbent office holder, Prof Oladipo vowed that he would remain in office pending when the Supreme Court takes a final decision on the issue.
“Nothing has changed. I remain the National Secretary of the party. Supreme Court will have the final say. No cause for alarm.” According Section 36 of the PDP constitution “there shall be a National Secretary who shall be the Chief Administrative and Accounting officer of the party and whose functions shall be to supervise the day- to- day activities of the party; issue notices for NWC, NEC, Caucus and National convention meetings, in charge of all correspondence and staff issues and he is the custodian of the common seal of PDP and many other powers.
What it means is that if Tukur fails to get a stay of execution, the party may be operating illegally as no NWC, NEC meetings or administrative work will take place at the national secretariat of the embattled party. Remarkably, the Baraje faction of the party yesterday issued a notice on the Tukur faction to swear Oyinlola in as National Secretary by next Monday putting fresh pressure on an already embattled party!