By OMONIYI SALAUDEEN
Crisis, like cancer, is difficult to detect at its early stage but easy to cure and vice versa. When the crisis of confidence now rocking the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) initially began to rear its head, its national leadership didn’t leave anyone in doubt that everything was alright. Rather, they dismissed the insinuation as a figment of imagination. They even told the cynics peddling the rumour to mind their business, boasting that the party has an in-built conflict resolution mechanism to deal with its internal problems. And so everyone became an onlooker until the intrigues of BoT chairmanship recently threw the lid open. But this time, the crisis has literally snowballed into a full-blown war. Two attempts had been made to fill the vacant position of Board of Trustees (BoT) chairmanship but the stakeholders could not reach a consensus on who should step into the shoes ‘vacated’ by former President Olusegun Obasanjo early last year.
Last week, things took a befuddling dimension when an Abuja High Court ordered the National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, to vacate his office based on a petition filed by some members of the Ogun State chapter of PDP led by Chief Adebayo Dayo, challenging his election into the national office. The action of the group was predicated on the position that South-West zonal congress which brought him to office had been nullified by two court judgments. And on the strength of this argument, Justice Abdul Kafarati held that “the conduct of the defendants constitutes flagrant disobedience to a subsisting court order and also constitutes a criminal contempt of court and any step taken thereafter by the PDP secretary is null and void.”
Intrigues of Oyinlola’s replacement
The height of power play intrigues among the National Working Committee of the party was the order of the Chairman, Bamagar Tukur, directing the Deputy National Secretary, Solomon Onwe, to assume responsibility as the National Secretary, following the sack of Oyinlola by a Federal High Court. This has expectedly precipitated a lot of reactions from different interest groups. On one hand, there are those who claim that the national chairman may have acted beyond his powers as allowed by the PDP’s constitution. There is, therefore, suspicion that the action must have been predicated on an underground move to amend the present constitution to give legitimacy to the conspiracy. Some people are also curious of the latest action of the chairman because of the perceived crisis of confidence between him and Oyinlola, which though had been dismissed by the party.
Beyond that, Tukur and the party appear to be working at cross purposes in the scenario. While the party had pledged its support for the former governor and resolved to file an appeal at the Court of Appeal, Tukur took a different turn and ordered the Deputy National Secretary to assume responsibilities of the National Secretary. To justify his decision to ‘remove’ the secretary, Tukur had cited some sections of PDP Constitution. According to Chapter V, Section 35 (1) of the PDP constitution (as amended), “There shall be a national chairman who shall be the Chief Executive of the party while Section 35 (1), (b) the national chairman shall “provide firm and effective leadership and direct the activities of the party under the overall supervision of the National Executive Committee.” Section 36(2) of the constitution, which spells out the functions of the national secretary, says that the secretary shall “conduct or direct the conduct of the correspondence of the party and cause to be issued, notices of meetings of the National Convention, the NEC, the National Caucus and the NWC.”
The NWC, in a similar reaction, also dismissed the allegation of a rift between Tukur and the embattled Secretary. A released statement by the committee reads: “What happened was nothing more than obedience of a court judgment and the consequential application of the relevant sections of the party’s constitution under the circumstance”.
It further quoted section 45(1&2) of the party’s constitution which states that “ If a National Officer of the party is removed or resigns from office, he shall immediately hand over to the National Secretary all records, files and other properties of the party in his or her possession. In the case of the National Secretary, he shall hand over to the Deputy National Secretary.”
There are mere intrigues of power play. And, of course, there are more questions than answers here. One, why has the legal team of the party decided to challenge the ruling of the High Court asking for a stay of execution on the judgment, if the action of the NWC was by a popular decision? Two, why was the body so much in a hurry to see to the execution of the judgment knowing full well that the defendant has the right of appeal under the constitution? In whose interest is the NWC acting? Although the body has assured that “the Party would, in the same way as it did in the case of the Federal High Court ruling obey the appeal decision, it no doubt raises suspicion that some interested individuals are out with some funny games. It is said that NWC meetings now hold at personal residence of the chairman. That leaves you with more guesses than actual answers.
Tukur and conspiracy of PDP governors
If the old alliance between Oyinlola and the forum of PDP governors is anything to go by, then trouble is far from being over for Tukur. The governors form the major force in PDP’s NEC and NWC and Oyinlola emerged secretary of the PDP through the support of the governors and Obasanjo at the party national convention in March, 2012. Beneath all these intrigues is the scheming by different interest groups for the 2015 power game. In recent times, Tukur has been having running battles with the governors, especially with regards to his decision to dissolve the Adamawa executive committee. There are also rumours of conflict of interests between the chairman and the governors over the ongoing reconciliation and the move to readmit those who had left the party. While Tukur is disposed to granting pardon to those old members and readmit them back into the fold, the governors are uncomfortable with the decision, fearing that they might hijack the machinery of the party from them and ultimately truncate their 2015 ambition.
Therefore, with the emerging scenario, they may want to take their own pound of flesh. So far, efforts by President Goodluck Jonathan to intervene and resolve the crisis of confidence between them have been to no avail. And in view of the overwhelming influence of the governors, Jonathan may be compelled to look for a replacement for Tukur, if the move to reconcile them fails.
There is also a sense in which the removal of Oyinlola is seen as fallout of the face-off between Jonathan and former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Jonathan’s ambition for the 2015 general election has not received the blessing of Obasanjo. And because Oyinlola is a loyal supporter of Obasanjo, his removal from the national office is seen as part of the strategy by Jonathan’s camp to weed out ‘disloyal’ members of the party.
Either way it is looked at, the obvious thing is that all is not too well within the party. And for the inability to resolve its crisis, the so-called largest party in Africa is already at the risk of splintering. And as key actors in this game, there is no doubt that the faith of Oyinlola and Tukur is hanging in the balance. While Oyinlola’s faith is going to be determined by the Court of Appeal, Tukur is at the mercy of the governors.