The National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP has again shown its hands in the enduring struggle in the Ogun State Chapter of the PDP between internal democracy and autocracy.
The NWC’s press release of 9th May 2020, which seeks to derecognize the new leadership of the PDP in Ogun State led by me, is not unexpected but it is disturbing that our leaders in this great party still do not understand (or just don’t care) that all politics is local and that handing over the structures of the PDP to Ladi Adebutu (whose only desire for seeking such control is to guarantee his ambition of being the candidate of the Party for the Ogun State Gubernatorial elections in 2023) is a recipe for depletion of the commitment of members to the Party in Ogun State and defeat at the polls.
However, let it be understood emphatically that we will not allow our great party to suffer such humiliation and will protect the rights of our members to choose their own leaders as specifically prescribed by Sections 223 and 224 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Constitution of the PDP.
This will not be the first time that we will defeat autocracy in our party in Ogun State. Since the contradictions in the Party in Ogun State exploded in the first case (Suit No. FHC/L/CS/347/2012) internal democracy has always won.
In order to restrain the penchant for political impunity the judgments of the courts in that suit and successive cases (particularly Suit No. FHC/L/CS/636/2016) have sought to create a special case for the conduct of congresses and primaries in the Ogun State Chapter of the PDP.
Therefore, in its judgment in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/636/2016 of 24th June 2016, the Federal High Court (echoing its earlier judgment in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/347/2012) ordered (inter alia) in favour of the Adebayo Dayo led PDP Ogun State Executive Committee (OGSEC) as follows:
vii. That an order is granted to the Plaintiff (Adebayo Dayo led PDP OGSEC) restraining the 2nd Defendant (PDP) by itself, its agents, servants, proxies and surrogates from henceforth conducting the affairs of the PDP in Ogun State, including meetings, congresses and/or primaries except through the new officers of the party that have emerged from congresses conducted by the Plaintiffs as listed in the exhibits attached to the affidavit in support of this originating summons.
xii. That an order is granted to the Plaintiff directing the 1st Defendant (INEC) to deal exclusively with the new Ogun State officers of the PDP that emerged from the congresses conducted by the Plaintiffs (as listed in exhibits attached to the affidavit in support of this originating summons) in the conduct of the 2nd Defendant’s (PDP’s) programmes in Ogun state including congresses and primaries of the party until the four years tenure to which they have been elected is spent.
The validity of this judgment has been unsuccessfully challenged all the way to the Supreme Court and the appeals against the judgment were dismissed at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
This is why the affairs of the PDP in Ogun State have been specially and uniquely governed by that judgment up until our inauguration to succeed the Adebayo Dayo led PDP OGSEC whose tenure expired on the 9th of May 2020 in accordance with the specifications of that judgment.
The NWC’s press release also contains misinformation on certain issues and we respond to them as follows:
A. WHICH ORGAN OF THE PDP IS EMPOWERED TO CONDUCT ITS CONGRESSES:
The claim of the PDP NWC that only the NEC of the PDP can conduct congresses may be correct for other State Chapters but certainly not for Ogun State Chapter in view of the express stipulations of the judgment in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/636/2016, particularly the orders set out above.
This is clear beyond contention by the express words of the courts order no. 7 in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/636/2016 that:
vii. That an order is granted to the Plaintiff (Adebayo Dayo led PDP OGSEC) restraining the 2nd Defendant (PDP) by itself, its agents, servants, proxies and surrogates from henceforth conducting the affairs of the PDP in Ogun State, including meetings, congresses and/or primaries except through the new officers of the party that have emerged from congresses conducted by the Plaintiffs (Adebayo Dayo led PDP OGSEC) as listed in the exhibits attached to the affidavit in support of this originating summons.
This specific order no. 7 was challenged by Ladi Adebutu in 2019 in Suit No: FCT/FT/CV/29/2018 when he argued before the FTC High Court (just like the NWC press release is doing again) that only the NEC of the PDP can conduct primaries of the PDP – after claiming that he emerged from primaries conducted by the PDP NEC as the Gubernatorial Candidate of the PDP for the Ogun State Governorship elections.
Ladi Adebutu then sought (on the basis of this argument and his claim) to supplant Senator Buruji Kashamu who emerged from a primary election conducted by the Adebayo Dayo led OGSEC.
The FCT High Court in its judgment (Per A. S. Adepoju J.) delivered on the 14th of January 2019 (page 46 thereof) stated unequivocally as follows:
“In answer to the poser raised by the Plaintiff’s (Ladi Adebutu’s) counsel as to the proper organ of the Party empowered to conduct primary election …… my answer is the National Executive Committee of the Party but the 1st Defendant (PDP) does not enjoy that right under the present circumstance in the light of the subsisting order of the Federal High Court in Exhibit SPBK1 (The judgment in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/636/2016). The order is an albatross on the 1st Defendant (PDP) and will continue to remain so until set aside by a court of competent jurisdiction”
Therefore, the organ empowered to conduct congresses for the PDP in Ogun State is the judicially recognized and protected PDP OGSEC.
Currently, the unassailable position is that congresses have been validly concluded by the outgone, judicially protected PDP OGSEC and new officers (that emerged in accordance with the terms of the orders in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/636/2016 set out above) have been validly inaugurated on the last day of the judicially recognized and specified tenure of the outgone leadership.
My colleagues and I (following that inauguration) have now legally and validly taken over the running of the affairs of the Party in Ogun State.
Furthermore, in recognition of the predictable position of the PDP NWC (which they have now made public by their press release of 9th May 2020) we have, in the tradition of our predecessors, approached the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/AB/CS/44/2020 for protection from acts of impunity and autocracy that are being contemplated against us as the said press release reveals.
That new Suit is currently pending before the said Federal High Court Abeokuta Division and an order made in that suit on April 23, 2020 requiring that parties maintain status quo and refrain from any action that may interfere with the res of that suit, has now been breached by the contumelious publication of the NWC of 9th May 2020.
B. WHETHER THE CONDUCT OF CONGRESSES OF THE PDP IN OGUN STATE WERE RESTRAINED BY THE ORDER ALLEGEDLY MADE BY JUSTICE INYANG EKWO OF THE ABUJA DIVISION OF THE FEDERAL HIGH COURT ON THE 3RD OF MARCH 2020 IN SUIT NO. FHC/ABJ/CS/208/2020.
The allegation, by the NWC press release that there was an “interim order” made by Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on the 3rd of March 2020 in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/208/2020 “directing the maintenance of status quo”, is untrue.
1. Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/208/2020 was brought by some National Officers of the PDP in the name of the PDP (against the authentic PDP OGSEC as established by the judgment of the federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/636/2016) essentially seeking a review of that judgment which had ordered that only the said authentic PDP OGSEC could conduct congresses or primaries of the PDP in Ogun State.
2. The reliefs sought by these National officers were to the effect that the court should decide that because of some Supreme Court Judgments (that allegedly suggest that only the NEC of a political Party may conduct congresses and primaries) the judgment in Suit NO. FHC/L/CS/636/2016 was not valid in empowering the PDP OGSEC to conduct congresses for its successors in 2020.
3. In that action the Plaintiffs had applied for an order of the court to stop the PDP OGSEC from conducting congresses and the court had refused the application and directed that the Defendants be put on Notice.
4. This new suit is evidently illegal and is another cynical abuse of the process of the court. Especially as the FCT High Court had already determined the same questions raised in this fresh action.
5. The new suit presented a blatant invitation to the Federal High Court to sit on appeal over its own judgment delivered in Suit No. FHC/LCS/636/2016 after the appeal against that judgment had been rejected and dismissed at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court in 2019.
6. By March 3, 2020, when this fatally flawed matter came up, a Preliminary Objection had been filed on behalf of the Adebayo Dayo led OGSEC, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the action because the questions raised in the action had already been decided by the same Federal High Court in favour of the OGSEC in 2019 (in Suit No. FHC/AB/CS/1323/2019 brought by some members of the Adebutu Group) and by the FCT High Court in another matter commenced by Ladi Adebutu (Suit No. FCT/FT/CV/29/2018).
7. In the face of this preliminary objection the court (Coram Inyang Ekwo J.) could not and did not entertain any application to stop the conduct of PDP congresses in Ogun State; the Supreme Court has directed that in such circumstances the Court whose jurisdiction is being challenged cannot make any order against the interest of the party challenging its jurisdiction. (See the Supreme Court decision in NDIC V CBN 2002).
8. It was whilst adjourning the case for hearing of the preliminary objection and other applications that the judge on his own volition made the remark that “parties should refrain from doing anything that will tamper with the res of the action”.
9. This was not an order restraining conduct of congresses or for maintenance of status quo as misrepresented in PDP NWC’s press release.
10. Immediately after the court proceedings on March 3, 2020, the National officers went on the media falsely claiming that the court had made an order restraining the conduct of PDP Congresses in Ogun State or for maintenance of Status quo.
11. Perceiving the mischief inherent in this misinterpretation of the Court’s remarks we decided to take ourselves outside possible allegations of breach of the “order” or of contempt of court by appealing against the order and filing an application for its stay.
12. Every lawyer knows this as the exception to the rule in Hadkinson V Hadkinson (applied by the Supreme Court in many cases including Governor of Lagos State V Ojukwu, FATB V Ezegbu, amongst others).
13. This rule admits of an exception to the perception that a party is in contempt of court when he disobeys an order he has appealed against and filed an application to stay.
14. The appeal and the motion for stay essentially neutralize the application of the order appealed against to the Appellant (the authentic OGSEC of the PDP in this instance).
15. Therefore, the idea being bandied around that the congresses were conducted in defiance of a restraining order or an order for maintenance of status quo is clearly unfounded and completely false.
16. Similarly, any plan being harboured about complaining to Justice Inyang Ekwo that the congresses breached the remarks of the court that “parties refrain from doing anything to tamper with the res of the action” will find no leg to stand on in the context of our appeal and application for the stay of the application of the “order”.
17. Clearly, the plan of the National officers was to obtain a restraining order that could be dragged beyond the 9th May 2020 tenure of the authentic PDP OGSEC.
18. BY the 9th of May 2020 these National Officers would have been claiming that there was no subsisting PDP OGSEC to conduct the congresses in line with the dictates of the judgment of the Federal High Court in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/636/2016.
19. The conduct of the congresses, by the outgone judicially recognized and protected PDP OGSEC, on the 7th, 21st March and 3rd April 2020 foiled that strategy, which now lies wasted and useless.
20. This is the reason for the erroneous refrain (repeated by the PDP NWC’s press release of 9th May 2020) that the congresses were conducted in breach of a restraining order or in defiance of an order for maintenance of status quo, when no such order exists.
Clearly, the National Officers of our great Party deserve our respect and we would always accord them that.
The current position of the Party (as opposition party) at the Federal level and in many States (including Ogun State) signifies a need to consolidate its existing membership through efforts at reconciliation of aggrieved members before mobilizing for more members.
We have always been amenable to such overtures and (notwithstanding the unassailability of our legal position) welcome genuine moves to bring feuding groups together.
Most of our current leadership who have remained in the Party despite electoral setbacks are good examples of what is required for a resurgence of the PDP.
Many others who selflessly support the Party in the State, particularly Senator Buruji Kashamu, have indicated that they have no ambition for governorship or senatorial office in 2023 and wish only to support a resurgence of the PDP in Ogun State to ensure victory for all the candidates the Party democratically chooses to fly its flag in 2023.
In order to bring all hands on deck we must ensure that the Party is run for all aspirants and that a level playing field is provided for all who have political ambition so that we may be able to pick winning candidates rather than be stuck with a deep pocket with little or no electoral value.
SAMSON KAYODE BAMGBOSE
CHAIRMAN, PDP, OGUN STATE