The leadership crisis rocking the Social Democratic Party (SDP) deepened on Thursday as a faction of the party berated Olu Agunloye and Shehu Gabam for allegedly posing as the leaders of the party.
The faction, led by Supo Shonibare, at a press conference on Thursday in Abuja, described the tenures of Messrs Agunloye and Gabam as national chairmen of the party, void and unconstitutional.
He said none of them was duly elected by members of the party at any convention but merely through appointments by “newcomers” who tried to hijack the party structures.
Surrounded by some members of the party’s national executives, Mr Shonibare, who claimed to be the national chairman of the SDP, told journalists that the answers to the contentious issue of the legitimate leadership of the party now lies with the court.
“Following the attempt of the newcomers to appoint a parallel executive, there has been a protracted lawsuit in which the party and its existing elected officers sued the newcomers’ faction led by Professor Tunde Adeniran, although it is now said that his position has been taken over by either Dr. Olu Agunloye or Alh. Shehu Gabam.
“None of them has ever been elected to any position in the SDP, bearing in mind the election guidelines rolled out by INEC. Following the intervention of several well-meaning nationalist leaders, we offered to jointly process the screening of aspirants for the party’s primaries.
“Unfortunately, the matter has dragged on in court even as there is widespread anxiety because of INEC’s political timetable for the 2023 elections,” he said.
The party internal crisis took a new turn late April when the Ondo State chapter of the SDP suspended Mr Agunloye, its national chairman, over alleged anti-party activities and disregard for the party’s constitution.
In a letter signed by his primary constituency, Ward 10 Chairman and Secretary, Ajayi Adediran and Balogun Ojo, respectively, the ex-national chairman was accused of bringing non-party members into the party to hijack the functions of its executives at both state and local government levels.
Few days after the suspension, Mr Agunloye, a former Minister of Power and Steel, resigned from the chairmanship position and assumed the position of acting national secretary of the party.
INEC officers are culprits
Without providing details, Mr Shonibare accused INEC officials of partisanship in the crisis.
He said the some of the commission’s officials have been meddling in the party affairs by supporting some members who joined it in 2018.
He accused the “newcomers” of displaying open sympathies for the ruling administration, thereby undermining the SDP objectives.
“We will continue to do our best and do all that is needed to ensure that no SDP candidate is put into jeopardy,” he said.
“However, all SDP candidates need to be aware, as INEC itself knows full well, that there is a pending action to determine both the legitimate national and state leadership and the primacy of the constitution of the party. This determination is crucial for identifying the legitimate standing of the party and as well as its processes.
“As the matter is sub-judice, I do not intend to go into further details of the action which has been before the Federal High Court here in Abuja, since December 2019 (and is currently fixed for hearing on the 30th and 31st of this month),” he said.
When asked about the status of the party’s primary elections, Mr Shonibare said the it has notified INEC of its activities.
He also confirmed that only two aspirants had obtained the SDP presidential forms and doused the speculations of the APC National Leaders, Bola Tinubu, obtaining the party’s ticket if he failed to win the former’s primaries.
The SDP has fixed its ward, local government and state congresses for May 19 and 20 respectively while its National Convention will hold between 28 and 30 of the same month.
Sounding uncertain, the acting chairman told journalists that only two aspirants had obtained the SDP presidential forms and doused the speculations of the APC National Leaders, Bola Tinubu, obtaining the party’s ticket if he failed to win the former’s primaries.
Agunloye denies Shonibare’s membership
In a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Friday, Mr Agunloye admitted to the legacy rifts noted by Mr Shonibare but denied the membership of the latter.
He said one of the two rifts in the party has been resolved while the other remains in court.
“Shonibare is not in SDP and hasn’t been in SDP for over 5 years, having been expelled by the party. More so, he has a case in court to which he made the SDP a defendant. Three Chairmen have served and left since then. Elections have taken place under various leaderships before ours and we too have fielded candidates in various elections. How does anyone even allow themselves to be distracted by outlandish claims by such a person?” the ex-national chairman said.
He described the faction’s press conference attended by these reporters as “noise” aimed to negotiate for his way into the party leadership.
Against Mr Shonibare’s uncertainty, Mr Agunloye confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES that three aspirants have obtained the SDP presidential forms.
He identified the three aspirants as Adewole Adebayo, Cessnabimilo Akenova and Khadija Okunnu-Lamidi.
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