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Fresh crisis dampens hope of reconciliation in Southwest PDP

By Muyiwa Adeyemi (South West Bureau Chief)
21 August 2017   |   4:29 am
Despite the Supreme Court judgment that gave a new lease of life to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the seemingly uncompromising position of its leadership in the Southwest has sparked off a fresh row, throwing many members into confusion.

Buruji Kashamu

Despite the Supreme Court judgment that gave a new lease of life to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the seemingly uncompromising position of its leadership in the Southwest has sparked off a fresh row, throwing many members into confusion.

That the 14-month crisis that shook the party to its foundation started from the Southwest, particularly in Ogun State, was no longer news. But that peace is still eluding the party in the zone with the “War Lords” bracing up for a “fight to finish,” is a major concern to members that are doubting the seriousness of the party to challenge All Progressives Congress (APC) dominance in the zone.

Even when the apex court gave victory to the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee, the expected reconciliation between members of the group and members of Senator Alimodu Sheriff in the zone, as expected was not seen.

While the leaders of the Makarfi group in the zone led by Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose, former governor Gbenga Daniel, Chief Bode George, Chief Iyiola Omisore and their zonal executive led by Dr Eddy Olafeso, saw the judicial victory as an opportunity to control the soul of the party, the Sheriff group being sponsored by Senator Buruji Kashamu is ready to give them a run for their money.

Also, while many expected the winning group to extend olive branch to the losing camp, they promised them ‘amnesty’, like criminals adjudged guilty; when the seemingly disadvantaged group ought to embrace peace, they went to town parading court judgments and exuding confidence of being protected by the court against any political moves by the national leadership of the party.

That the warring groups in the zone are not ready to shift grounds and reach a consensus was not in doubt. They did not only engage themselves in a war of attrition but a pig fight that went dirty.

Few days to the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting and National Convention of the party in Abuja, the Ogun State PDP splinter group led by Daniel, announced the suspension of Kashamu from the party for anti-party activities. A day after, the Southwest leaders of the party led by Fayose also met in Ibadan and announced severing relationship with the Senator and recommended that he should be punished by the NEC for his alleged roles in the dismal performance of the party in the governorship elections in Ogun, Edo and Ondo states.

The Ibadan meeting did not leave anybody in doubt that the leaders present did not want to have anything to do with Kashamu who they described as a “Monster and black leg”.

Fayose specifically said that they are not ready to be in the same boat with Kashamu and warned the national leadership of the party to allow them to deal with him as they have had enough of the Senator. The meeting did not start until they identified all loyalists of Kashamu from different states and sent them out of the hall.

The Kashamu group also retaliated in their Lagos meeting where they tongue lashed Fayose, Daniel and George and severed relationship with them.
The PDP Southwest leaders went to the NEC meeting and convention with a divideed house and leaving the national leadership to decide their fate.
However, the convention did not shy away from taking decision and affirmed the leadership of Olafeso for the zone and dissolved State Working Committee in Ogun, Osun and Lagos States for genuine reconciliation and harmonization.

But if the NEC and national convention presided over by Makarfi had thought they have provided acceptable solution to the Southwest crisis, they must have been proved wrong with the legal tussle that followed their decision.

Though many applauded the decision of the national leadership at the convention but Kashamu group that had gone to court to maintain the pre-convention status in the zone, saw everything bad in the decision reached at the convention.

Curiously, the Kashamu group did not wait for the convention to determine its fate as it had approached the Federal High Court in Abuja on the eve of the convention to obtain an injunction that the NEC  should recognize the court subsisting judgment that recognized the Makanjuola led zonal executive council. With the court injunction of August 11, the group was sure of coercing the convention to distance itself from the zonal crisis.

But the national leadership of the party did not see any political wisdom in Kashamu’s group to continue to single handedly control the party in the region. In what looks like a smart political game and to beat Buruji in what many called “court politics”, the NEC was silent on the fate of the Southwest zonal executive council and that of Ogun and Osun but left the decision for the convention to decide.

Indeed, Ogun state delegates led by the splinter chairman of party Engineer Bayo Dayo that left the state on Friday evening by road to attend the convention on Saturday turned back in Kogi state when they got winds of what would happen to their exco at the convention. Their group leader, Senator Kashamu who was said to be in Abuja did not attend the convention. He, however, vowed to contest the decision reached at the convention which he said “would not stand”.

The Senator had argued that the decision ‎was a violation of a court order, adding that the judgement recognising the executive councils in Ogun and Southwest was never appealed and therefore subsisting.

He said, “While it could be argued that the congress in Lagos State was inconclusive, the dissolution of the state executives in Osun and Ogun states was a clear travesty of justice. The congresses of these states were affirmed by the NEC before the May 21, 2016 botched convention in Port Harcourt.

“At its 74th NEC meeting held on the 17th of July, 2017, the NEC resolved to reinstate all the state excos that were elected at the April 2016 congresses but later reversed after the February 17, 2017 judgement of the Court of Appeal. Ogun and Osun states were not listed as part of those states.

“So, what has changed? Why were the state executives in Ondo and Ekiti states left untouched? Are these executives not also dogged with issues? In Osun State, Seantor Iyiola Omisore wants to perpetually hold on to the party structure, at the detriment of the over 90 per cent of the stakeholders, in order to push through his governorship ambition even when he has failed twice.

“In Ogun State, former governor Gbenga Daniel and Hon. Ladi Adebutu are fomenting trouble in the party, all because of their senatorial and governorship ambitions in 2019.

“In Lagos State, Chief Bode George seeks to hold on to the party structure even when he has not been able to win his polling booth since 1999! In Ekiti and Ondo states, the party is divided 50/50.  Now, Ekiti is left in the hands of one man. No one is talking of harmonisation in Ekiti and Ondo state.

“The supremacy of any party’s constitution is subject to the provision of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as clearly stated in Chapter 1, section 2 of our party’s constitution.”

And to make good his threat of fighting the party to a standstill, his group during the week again, filed another suit to nullify the decision of the  NEC and national convention of the party.

The suit numbered FHC/ABJ/732/2017 has the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the PDP, Ahmad Makarfi and Ben Obi, Eddy Olafeso, Bunmi Jenyo and the Inspector-General of police, as defendants.

The zonal committee loyal to Kashamu had prayed the court to nullify the adoption of the special non-elective national convention of the party which held last Saturday in Abuja.

The suit which was filed by Pega Otemolu, zonal secretary of the group, also asked the court to nullify the dissolution of the PDP Southwest executive committee and the appointment of a zonal executive committee in replacement thereof.
Also in another suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/701/2017, Ogun PDP under the leadership of Adebayo Dayo, the group is praying the same court to set aside its

“purported” dissolution of the NEC and the national convention.

In his suit, Otemolu argued that the PDP deliberately defied the order and judgment of the court in the suit marked FHC/L/CS/605/16, delivered on the May 17, 2016, and June 24, 2016, respectively and also contravened the terms and purpose of the interim order made on August 10, by the court.

Specifically, the Ogun PDP is praying the court for “an order nullifying the ratification by and/or affirmative resolution of the special non-elective national convention of the first defendant/respondent of the 12th day of August 2017 sanctioning, approving or effecting the dissolution of the PDP Ogun state executive committee and the appointment of a state caretaker committee in replacement thereof.

“An order nullifying the decision or resolution of the PDP special non-elective national convention of the 1st defendant/respondent of 12th August 2017 directing or approving the conduct of a state congress for the election of new members of the PDP Ogun state executive committee.

“An order restraining the 1st Defendant from setting up a caretaker committee to take over the functions of the Plaintiffs as members of the executive committee of the PDP in Ogun state.”

The Ogun PDP is also seeking an order restraining INEC from supervising any congress in the state.

While the Kashamu group has decided to go for another round of legal tussle with the party, the Olafeso led exco is forging ahead to restructure the party in the zone and has appealed to members to join hands to rebuild the party to regain power in the future elections in the zone.

The zonal leaders on Wednesday began a peace and reconciliation meeting in Ekiti Government House at the instance of Fayose which Kashamu group has vowed never to attend.