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2023 elections: Ogun PDP in limbo amid court judgments

By Seye Olumide (Southwest Bureau Chief) and Azeez Olorunlomeru
16 October 2022   |   2:43 am
The Ogun State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may face an uphill task of running against time and being unable to field candidates in any of the elections billed

Ladi Adebutu, Ogun PDP gubernatorial

State Exco Has No Right To Conduct Primary Elections – Ogundele
• Adebutu, Ogundele, NWC Frustrating Party for Personal Gains – Lawal
• Lawal’s Allegations Unfounded, Says Adebutu

The Ogun State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may face an uphill task of running against time and being unable to field candidates in any of the elections billed to hold in 2023, given how the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the state executive are handling the Appeal Court directives to conduct rerun primaries.

In compliance with the court’s judgment, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), while releasing the final list of names of candidates and political parties that will participate in the 2023 general election had de-listed all names of PDP candidates in Ogun State. The electoral umpire insisted that its decision was based on the court’s judgment.
Recall that the Federal High Court sitting in Abeokuta, on Tuesday, September 27, 2022, nullified all primary elections conducted by the various factions of the PDP in the state. The presiding judge, Justice O. O. Oguntoyinbo, called for a rerun of the primaries within 14 days.
The court declared that all the primaries conducted by the PDP in the state were not in accordance with the provisions of the Electoral Act. Justice Oguntoyinbo stopped INEC from recognising Ladi Adebutu, who had been declared the governorship candidate.
On May 25, 2022, the party conducted the primary election, which produced Adebutu as the governorship candidate. But, in protesting the outcome, other governorship aspirants, Jimi Lawal and Segun Showunmi, approached the court to challenge the delegates’ list used during the primary organised by the Sikirulahi Ogundele-led party executives at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library in the state capital.
Three members of Lawal’s group, Taiwo Idris, Kehinde Akala and Ayinde Monsuri, dragged the party, Adebutu and INEC to court, challenging the authenticity of the delegates list used for the primaries.
They argued that names on the delegates list were not democratically elected at the ward, local council and state congresses, hence the panel “cannot unilaterally or arbitrarily impose” the list on the party. They prayed the court to, among others, nullify or set aside the state congress/indirect primary election, held by the first defendant (the PDP) on May 25, 2022, to choose the candidate, that the first defendant intends to nominate/sponsor at the 2023 governorship election in Ogun State based on the list of delegates who were not democratically elected at the ward congress.
The 14-day directive by the court to conduct the rerun primaries elapsed last week. And the development is creating fears and concerns among party members, especially those who have spent their fortunes to participate in the various primaries that the court nullified.
Speaking with The Guardian on the telephone yesterday, Lawal alleged that while other interested parties have indicated an interest in participating in the rerun primaries and are waiting for directives from the state executive, “the leadership of our party seems to be deliberately drag-footing for whatever reasons known only to them.”
He disclosed that he has met with some delegates, adding, “It is the state secretariat that is having some issues with the NWC of the party. It is public knowledge that the NWC is not favourably disposed to the rerun primaries directed by the court because the judge ruled that the state executive, and not the national executive, should supervise the process. But the national body believes that the conduct of primary elections is an exclusive right of the National Executive Council (NEC).

“That is the bone of contention. We have been saying to the state executive, the chairman specifically, that he runs the risk of another legal proceeding for contempt of court if he disobeys the court order. But the state chairman, Sikirulahi Ogundele said he is still consulting before he decides on what to do. 
“These are the grey areas that we are looking at. But as far as we are concerned, we are ready. We’ve been ready from the very day the court ruled that rerun primaries should be conducted.”

Lawal also called on all PDP stakeholders in Ogun to prevail on the party’s leadership to take necessary steps regarding the rerun primaries. He stressed: “The party runs the risk of not participating in the elections next year. This is why we’ve been worried since day one that the court ruled. We are doing whatever we can to get the party to conduct the rerun primary.”
Lawal debunked the allegation that Governor Nasir El- Rufai of Kaduna State, under whom he (Lawal) served before defecting to the PDP to contest the primary is the one instigating him to disrupt Ogun PDP. He, instead, accused Adebutu, whom the court stopped from parading himself as the party’s governorship candidate, as the one collaborating with Ogundele and NWC in Abuja for personal gains.
He said, “My main competitor is Ladi Adebutu; he said he was ready for the rerun after the court judgment. But he has since changed his mind, saying that he was going to appeal the judgment. He is the one holding the NWC to ransom because he has people there working for him to ensure that nobody else becomes the candidate if he doesn’t make it. I don’t want Ogun State PDP to end up without fielding a candidate for the 2023 governorship election. I will do everything possible to ensure that PDP appears on the ballot.”
Lawal also accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) of instigating the crisis in the PDP. According to him, “Governor Dapo Abiodun’s agenda is to prevent a stronger candidate from emerging as the PDP’s governorship flag bearer next year, which is me. Not less than 14 local council chairmen are with me and I can boast of the majority if the authentic delegates list is used for the primary. These are the fears of our party leaders because they don’t want a popular candidate to emerge.”
A loyalist of Lawal, who didn’t want his name in print also argued that the NWC and Ogundele have their sentiments as he also accused them of doing Adebutu’s bidding for whatever gains against the general interest of Ogun PDP and the electorate who are yearning for a change of government in 2023.
Citing the PDP rules, the source said, “It is Article 7 of PDP’s Electoral Guidelines for primary elections that says there shall be a State Gubernatorial Electoral Committee for each State of the Federation… appointed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party on the recommendation of the NWC. So, the question is: between the PDP’s Constitution and its guidelines, which is superior?”
He accused the party leadership, especially the National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, of being the brain behind the Ogun PDP crisis, saying, “The complaints about the delegates list used to conduct the May 25 primary was substantially raised by other aspirants but the national chairman deliberately ignored the outcry then, because he wanted to satisfy Adebutu. Now that the court thwarted their game plans, they are jittery to conduct the rerun primaries as directed. What they cannot do again is to use the concerted delegates list and that is the reason they don’t want to conduct the rerun primaries.”

BUT the spokesman of Ladi Adebutu Governorship Campaign Organisation, Afolabi Orekoya dismissed Lawal’s allegations against his principal. He said there is no way the NWC would have complied with the court directive that the state executive should conduct rerun primaries against the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022 that vested such right in the national body of a party. According to him, “Lawal’s allegation is unfounded and dismissible.”

Also reacting to the development, a former state chairman of Ogun PDP, Adebayo Dayo, expressed concern that the party would need to act fast due to the traps in the Electoral Act 2022, which many politicians are yet to study critically.  
On the issue of time-lapse, he said Ogun PDP may be racing against time by not factoring the fact that INEC has shown determination to follow court judgments regarding the electoral process(es) to the letter. “For instance, based on the Appeal Court judgment, the commission delisted all our candidates in its final list but we still have the grace of 90 days or more to the elections if necessary things are done.”
On the allegation that Adebutu is conniving with some people in the NWC to hold Ogun PDP to ransom, Dayo said such claims may not be justified and there are no reasons Adebutu, who has been a consistent member of the party, would have done that. He also said there are no morons in the NWC that could be easily used to destroy the chances of PDP “when we all understand that we have a good contest in the next governorship poll, especially in Ogun State. My appeal is that every party involved should place the party above personal interest.”

OGUNDELE in a telephone conversation debunked the insinuation that the state executive has the right, under any law, to organise primaries and or the governorship primary.

He also debunked Lawal’s claim of issues between the state executive and the NWC, saying, “There is nothing of such. It was a misinterpretation of ideas to say the state can conduct governorship primary.”
According to him, “The Federal Appeal Court’s judgment that rerun primaries should be conducted is one issue but that the state executive should conduct it, is contestable. The judgment was not properly delivered and if we go ahead to implement it, another person will go to court to challenge the outcome of the rerun primaries, that the state executive has no right to conduct it. That is what we are avoiding. The contents of the judgment contradicted PDP’s Constitution and the Electoral Act 2022.”
Ogundele disclosed that the judgment has been appealed and we also carried NWC along.
On the possibility that Ogun PDP may not field candidates in next year’s election, Ogundele explained: “The party had conducted primaries and someone had emerged as a candidate, so the Appeal Court may ask us to uphold his election or we go for a rerun. We still have enough time, like 90 days, according to the Electoral Act 2022, to resolve that.

“What is happening in the Ogun State Chapter of PDP is not a crisis, it is a mere political exercise by some persons but would soon be laid to rest as the highest political organ of the party is already intervening with a view to resolving the issue.”
The state chairman flayed Lawal for saying he (Ogundele) has been bought over. He said, “I am too informed educationally, politically and socially, having held a PhD degree and undertaking my second PhD, to be bought over. None of the NWC members, to the best of my knowledge, is bought over. What some people fail to realise is that politics is all about money, influence and power; I can use the three to out-stage my opponent.”

MEANWHILE, investigations revealed that one of the grouses against Lawal, among leaders of Ogun PDP and the national body, is being bankrolled by some elements in the ruling party to disrupt the party. And to this end, they tagged him ‘a, trouble maker.’

Further findings, however, show that Governor Abiodun does not really want Lawal or Adebutu to contest against him next year because of their capacity and popularity.

Sources said the incumbent would prefer one of the governorship aspirants, Segun Showunmi, who is from Ogun Central and an allegedly weaker candidate in the race. The source said the closeness of Lawal to the palace of Awujale and his acceptability within Ogun East, coupled with his level of philanthropism, is a cause for concern to the opposition. But Adebutu also possesses all the attributes. His popularity across Ogun State is second to none.