Ogun State PDP in another round of crisis over rerun primaries
• Party suspended Lawal, Odunmosun others over illegal primary
• My suspension, a charade, says Lawal
There seems no end in sight to the crisis rocking Ogun State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), following the suspension of one of the governorship aspirants, Otunba Jimi Lawal, for allegedly conducting and participating in an illegal governorship primary election.
The Ogun East born politician and ally of Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State, who defected to the PDP in February this year to contest the governorship primary, was on Monday, suspended along with four others; Bola Odunmosun, the Financial Secretary of the party, Fasiu Ajadi, Kola Akinyemi and Tope Asiru, the party chairman of Ijebu North East local government area of the state.
Following a Federal High Court sitting in Abeokuta that nullified the primary election of the party, which produced Mr. Ladi Adebutu in the state, Lawal and others, had organised another primary on Monday October 16, after the expiration of the 14 days grace granted to the party to organise another rerun primary.
The presiding judge, Justice O.O. Oguntoyinbo in her judgment ordered the party to conduct fresh primaries within 14 days.
The judgment also precluded the national body of the PDP from holding or organising the rerun primary, it rather ordered the state executive to handle it.
The court also barred the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from recognising Adebutu as the governorship candidate of the party in the state.
But the content of the Federal High Court judgment does not go down well with the National Working Committee (NWC) and the State Executive chapter led by Mr. Sikirulahi Ogundele.
Ogundele had on Saturday told The Guardian that the party would appeal the judgment on the basis that though PDP has no issue with the cancellation of previous primaries and the directives to organise a rerun, the bone of contention, according to him is the aspect, which says the state executive should be the one to organise fresh primaries.
According to Ogundele, “The judgment was against the Constitution of PDP, which empowers the national body and not state executive, to organise primaries especially the governorship primary.”
He noted further that if the state executive should go ahead to organise the primaries as directed by the Federal High Court, the outcome of such exercise would be subjected to another litigation because some people would head to the court to say that the state executive does not have such constitutional power, in line with the party’s rule and the Electoral Act 2022, to organise primaries.
“This is what we are trying to avoid, which caused a delay before the 14 days directives expired. But that does not mean all is over because we still have enough time going by the Electoral Act 2022, to resolve the matter,” he said. He disclosed that NWC of the party had appealed the judgment.
But following the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum, the faction of Jimi Lawal staged a factional governorship primary election in Abeokuta, the state capital on Monday.
The Guardian learnt Lawal and his co-travellers went ahead to conduct the court-ordered rerun primaries across the state. While the governorship rerun election took place at the DLK Event Centre, the National Assembly and State House of Assembly primaries were held in the various constituencies.
At the end of the governorship rerun, Lawal emerged the gubernatorial candidate with 456 votes. Announcing the results, the State Financial Secretary, Hon. Bola Odumosu, who led other members of the State Executive Committee to conduct the court-ordered rerun, said a total of 463 delegates were accredited to vote.
Of the number, seven votes were voided. The trio of Honourable Ladi Adebutu, Otunba Segun Sowunmi and Mr. Abodunrin John Abimbola were given zero votes.
Organisers of the rerun primaries said the Federal High Court judgment gave them the power to do what they did. They claimed that the Federal High Court, Abeokuta, had in two judgments delivered on the 27th of September 2022, in Suit No. FHC/AB/CS/87/22 and Suit No. FHC/AB/CS/83/22, ordered the State Executive Committee of the PDP in Ogun State to conduct fresh primaries within 14-days.
However, the defendants filed an application for stay of execution at the trial court in respect of the two judgments, which were determined on Thursday, 13th October 2022.
While the application in respect of Suit No. FHC/AB/CS/87/22 was dismissed, the one in respect of Suit No. FHC/AB/CS/83/22 was withdrawn by the defendants/applicants (i.e. PDP and Adebutu).
Odunmosun, who led a faction of the state executive that conducted the rerun primary, said the development paved the way for the state executive committee to comply with the court order while the judgment debtors pursue their appeals.
But in a swift reaction, Secretary of the party in the state, Sunday Solarin, announced the suspension of all those that participated in the rerun primaries.
He disclosed that Lawal and the others were suspended for violating the constitution of the party by conducting and participating in an “illegal” governorship primary election which was not authorised by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party.
Solarin disclosed that Lawal and others have been suspended for one month pending the outcome of a disciplinary committee, which would be setup to review their action.
The leadership of the party in the state also condemned the action of Lawal and members of his faction, insisting that PDP would not condone any action directed at putting the party into disrepute.
According to Solarin, “All of these shenanigans will be put to rest and we have resolved that the principal actors of the illegal primary election will be exposed. They have been found to have transgressed the laws of the party and their punishment will be given.
“We were informed that an illegal congress was going to happen today and that history has it as of this afternoon that some people gathered somewhere to carry out an action that is not constitutionally or statutorily assigned to them.
“We have also resolved today that Otunba Jimi Lawal is going to be on suspension with immediate effect because he participated actively in a congress not conducted by the State Executives of the party, an action which has been found to bring the party into disrepute.
“We must also emphasis the fact that in a house where discipline is missing, definitely such a house will not raise good children and they are not going to raise a good ambassador for that family.
“Because PDP is a house that believes in the rule of law, it is a house built by our forefathers, managed by all of us, we are not going to open our eyes and allow some dissidents to destroy the house and therefore we must toe the path of discipline by showing them the way. So, they are suspended for the next one month in which case the disciplinary committee will be setup and they will be invited to come and explain the action they took, the reason their suspension will not be elongated or why it will not translate into expulsion.”
MEANWHILE, the Project Director, Jimi Adebisi Lawal Campaign Organisation, Mr. Austin Oniyokor, has said the purported suspension of the just elected governorship candidate of Ogun PDP, Lawal, was nothing but the case of the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau.
In a statement he issued, Oniyokor said, “To be sure, it is a sad commentary on our democracy and the rule of law that some lawless individuals could gather somewhere under the remote control of one of the aspirants who has just been defeated in the court-ordered governorship rerun to claim to have suspended party stalwarts for complying with subsisting court orders and judgments.
“It is the irony of our political space and system that those who are contemptuous of valid and subsisting judgments and orders of court could turn round to claim that they have suspended law-abiding citizens.
“Clearly, this contemptuous act cannot stand the test of time and the law. All their contemptuous acts will be taken before the court and the full weight of the law will be visited on them in due course.
“Until then, we want to appeal to all our party leaders, elders, supporters and the general public to remain firm in the face of the needless provocation. This political gymnastics will soon pass like others before it.”
But while talking to The Guardian, Lawal wondered how a party could have announced his suspension without following the necessary procedures in the party’s Constitution.
According to him, “I wasn’t issued a query or a disciplinary committee set up to investigate my matter and recommendations made for approval of necessary organs of the party.
“I also wondered why I should be suspended for obeying a court judgment if the NEC and the state executive were dragging their feet after the expiration of the 14-day ultimatum to conduct fresh primaries. In any case I am not the one they will suspend. All those who participated in other primaries across the local government and wards would also face similar action and let’s see how that would be possible?
Lawal said his name would be submitted to INEC as the governorship candidate of Ogun PDP by the state’s financial secretary, who was part of the rerun primary.
Reacting to the issues, Afolabi Orekoya, spokesman to Ladi Adebutu Governorship Campaign Organisation, said the rerun primary held by Lawal and his loyalists was a mere distraction that will never hold. He also dismissed the concern that Ogun PDP may not present a candidate for 2023 elections. “Such cannot happen because the Electoral Act 2022 is clear on the procedure. An appeal has been filed against the Federal High Court judgment and we are waiting for action.
He also disclosed that his boss Adebutu now stands a better chance because one of the strong governorship aspirants has reconciled and crossed to our side.
Immediate past state chairman of Ogun PDP, Prince Adebayo Dayo said the national headquarters should quickly intervene in the matter if PDP actually wants to win the state next year.