By Henry Umoru & Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The battle in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP hardened, yesterday, after the National Chairman of the party Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, planted his only loyalist in the National Working Committee, NWC, Solomon Onwe as acting national secretary. The governors, who are opposed to Tukur in a riposte, vowed that any action injurious to the continuation in office of Chief Olagunsoye Oyinlola as national secretary would also mean Tukur’s exit from office.
Tukur citing provisions of the PDP Constitution said he had appointed the Deputy National Secretary, Onwe as acting national secretary with full powers.
The development nonetheless, the substantive National Secretary, Oyinlola, who was sacked by an Abuja High Court last Friday took his case to the Court of Appeal for the reversal of the judgment.
Oyinlola is a loyalist of the PDP governors who are pitched in battle with Tukur over several issues including the PDP structure in Adamawa State. The removal of Oyinlola was seen as a setback for the governors who remarkably, got the NWC last week to reverse the dissolution of the Adamawa State executive of the party.Oyinlola was not at the PDP national secretariat in Abuja yesterday, a place he had regularly operated from since he was appointed the scribe of the ruling party last March.
An aide of Oyinlola was, however, spotted at the national secretariat yesterday ferrying some files away.
He was also not present at the brief meeting of the NWC that was chaired by Tukur.
Tukur appoints Onwe as scribe
It was in the course of the emergency meeting, that the Deputy National Secretary, Onwe was asked by Tukur to immediately step into the shoes of Oyinlola in an acting capacity to avoid any vacancy that could be created.
The meeting which was to deliberate on very salient issues as gathered could not agree on any decision due to the inability of those present to form a quorum. Only the decision on Onwe to take over as the acting national secretary was resolved, it was learnt.
Present at the meeting were the National Chairman, Tukur; Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja; Deputy National Secretary, Onwe; National Auditor, Bode Mustapha; National Organising Secretary, Alhaji Abubakar Mustapha; National Treasurer, Bala Bawa Kaoje; and National Financial Secretary, Elder Bolaji Akpan Anani.
The Youth leader, Garba Umar Chiza; National Legal Adviser, Victor Kwon; National Woman Leader, Amb. Kema Chikwe were said not to be at the meeting, so also is the National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh who is out of the country. 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.”
Vanguard also gathered that members of the NWC and the governors elected on the platform of the party will meet on Thursday as part of moves to end the lingering crisis in the party.
Following the meeting of the NWC and the governors, those present are expected to shift base to the Presidential Villa where they will meet with President Goodluck Jonathan.
Oyinlola goes, Tukur goes — Govs
Tukur’s action was met with outrage in the camp of the governors last night. A source privy to one of the governors marshalling support for Oyinlola vowed that the governors were resolved that Tukur would go if Oyinlola goes.
Oyinlola heads to Appeal Court
Meanwhile, Oyinlola, yesterday, told the appellate court in Abuja that Justice Abdul Kafarati who ordered him out of office erred in law when he assumed jurisdiction over a dispute he said bothered on intra-party affair.
He argued that not only did Justice Karafati overreach his powers, but went ahead and sacked him from office “against the weight of evidence.”
According to him, “the learned trial Justice erred in Law when he overruled the preliminary objection to the jurisdiction of the court and assumed jurisdiction and delivered Judgment.”
It will be recalled that Oyinlola was ordered to vacate his office after the high court held that there was merit in a suit that was entered against him by chieftains of the PDP in Ogun State.
The state chapter of the party led by its Chairman and Secretary, Chief Adebayo Dayo and Semiu Sodipo, had in their suit, alleged that Oyinlola emerged as the national scribe of the party through a kangaroo process they said was perfected by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former National Vice Chairman, PDP South West, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo.
They argued that in view of two separate judgments of a Federal High Court in Lagos that nullified the South West Zonal congress that produced Oyinlola as candidate, his continued stay in office was illegal, null and void since his candidacy was annulled ab-initio, contending that “something cannot be built on nothing.”
Consequently, the plaintiffs had through their counsel, Dr. Amaechi Nwaiwu, SAN, asked the court to determine: “Whether the candidacy of Oyinlola as a nominee of the South West Zonal Chapter of the PDP and his consequent election to the office of National Secretary at the National Convention in March 2012 were not invalid, null and void by reason of the order and judgment of the Federal High Court made respectively on April 27, 2012 in suit no FHC/L/CS/282/2012 and May 2, 2012 in suit no FHC/L/CS/347/2012 nullifying the South West zonal congress of March 2012 from which Oyinlola emerged or ought to have emerged.”
Besides asking the court to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to delete Oyinlola’s name from its records and replace same with another candidate that will emerge from a fresh zonal congress to be ordered by the court, the plaintiffs, further sought “a declaration that the candidacy of Oyinlola as a nominee of the South West Zonal chapter of the PDP and his consequent election to the office of National Secretary in March 2012 were invalid, null and void by reason of the order Federal High Court made on the April 27, 2012 in suit no FHC/L/CS/282/2012 nullifying the South West zonal congress of the PDP conducted in March 2012 from which Oyinlola emerged or ought to have emerged.
My appointment not justiciable — Oyinlola
Meanwhile, Oyinlola, in the Appeal he filed yesterday, insisted that the subject matter of his suit was purely a domestic affair of the PDP which he said was clearly non-justiciable.
It was his contention 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.
Consequently, he asked for an order reversing the Judgment of trial Justice Kafarati and substituting thereto an order striking out and or dismissing the entire action with substantial cost.
The plaintiffs had in an affidavit that was deposed to by one Miss. Abimbola Okuwoga, an assistant in the chambers of Nwaiwu, SAN, informed the trial court that Oyinlola was foisted on the party by ex-President Obasanjo.
They said he was unanimously elected upon understanding that he was the nominee of the South West.
They said: “However, the South West Congress conducted on March 21, 2012 was nullified by the order and judgment of the Federal High Court on April 27 and another on May 2, 2012 on the ground that it violated a Federal High Court order of February 16, 2012.
“That the failure to properly nominate Oyinlola at the said congress was fatal to his candidacy.”
They maintained that despite the order and judgments of the Federal High Court, PDP refused to comply with the various prohibitory and mandatory orders of courts of competent jurisdiction by allowing Oyinlola to remain in office, an action they said was capable of making the judiciary a subject of ridicule.
However, Oyinlola and the PDP had in separate preliminary objections urged the court to dismiss the suit on grounds that it bothered on internal affairs of a political party, even as they challenged the locus-standi of the plaintiffs to institute the action.
Arguing that the suit did not disclose any reasonable cause of action, Oyinlola, further challenged the jurisdiction of the high court to entertain the matter.
The court ruling
In his judgment, Justice Kafarati, held that Oyinola was not fit to continue in office as the National Secretary of the PDP, saying his action amounted to a criminal conduct capable of attracting prison sentence for being a flagrant disobedience to subsisting court orders.
According to Justice Kafarati, the 3rd defendant (Oyinlola) could not have emerged as the nominee of the PDP in view of the two pending court orders restraining the South West zone of the party from conducting the congress where he purportedly emerged.
The judge who relied on the provision of section 251(R) of the 1999 Constitution to insist that he has jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter, noted that an order of a court must be obeyed whether valid or not, adding that any action taken by Oyinola as the National Secretary of the PDP amounted to nullity.
Dismissing the contention of the defendants that the subject matter of the suit bothered on internal affairs of a political party, Justice Kafarati, said the suit did not arise from an activity of the PDP but aimed at enforcing a valid court order.
He said: “It is my opinion that the plaintiffs have the locus-standi to institute this action and I hold that the suit disclosed a reasonable cause of action. Therefore, the two preliminary objections filed by the 2nd and 3rd defendants are hereby dismissed. The election of the 3rd defendant was in breach of valid court orders. All the three questions raised by the plaintiffs are hereby answered in the affirmative and reliefs 4 and 5 are granted as prayed.”
Specifically, the plaintiffs had in reliefs 4 and 5, sought for “a declaration that the 1st Defendant cannot in the circumstances of the ineligibility of the 3rd defendant for the office of National Secretary of the 2nd defendant and his acts of criminal contempt continue to recognize and deal with the 3rd defendant as the national secretary of the 2nd defendant.
As well as, “An order committing the 3rd defendant to prison for such period as the court may see fit in the circumstances of his commission of criminal contempt consisting of three letters written by the 3rd defendant (the fist dated the 3rd of June threatening the 1st plaintiff in suit No. FHC/l/CS/347/2012 for commencing the suit and two others respectively dated 12th and 25th of June 2012 in a bid to over-rule an order of the Federal High Court in suit No FHC/L/CS/1248/2012 (nullifying the South West Zonal Congress of the PDP of 1st March 2012) and the judgment of the same court in suit No FHC/L/CS/347/2012 which barred the PDP from acting in Ogun State except through its Ogun State Executive Committee consisting of the plaintiffs) in willful interference with the administration of justice and subversion of the judicial process.”
No order to arrest Oyinlola
Though the court granted the order for committal of Oyinlola to prison, however, there was no express order for his arrest, though lead counsel to the plaintiffs, Dr Nwaiwu, SAN, disclosed to Vanguard that his client may likely return to court to seek an enforcement of the order granted against the embattled ex-governor.
Among the questions posed for the determination of the high court included: “Whether the candidacy of Oyinlola as a nominee of the South West Zonal Chapter of the PDP and his consequent election to the office of National Secretary at the National Convention in March 2012 were not invalid, null and void by reason that he was not a valid nominee of the South West zone.
As well as, “Whether the candidacy of Oyinlola as a nominee of the South West Zonal Chapter of the PDP and his consequent election to the office of National Secretary at the National Convention in March 2012 were not invalid, null and void in the combined circumstances of the said order and judgment of the Federal High Court.”