The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the leading opposition party in the country, has begun navigating its challenges, ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Campaign activities have fully taken off, with its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, making early forays into some geopolitical zones. Governorship campaigns are soon to follow, in the march to attempt to topple the Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) from government, both at the federal and state levels.
The party’s attempt to reclaim power which it lost in 2015, majorly as a result of fractionalisation of the party at the twilight of the last administration, had made its approach to the coming elections more intense and forceful as a failure could spell its final doom, without any hope of recovery.
However, the PDP seeks to make a remarkable impact in the southwest, which arguably holds all the aces in deciding who will win the next presidential election.
Of concern, therefore, is the fact that all the states of the southwest are APC controlled. This is not minding the fact that there are issues with the ruling party regarding conflicts arising from the party’s primaries in some of these states.
The opposition appears unprepared to take advantage of the crisis rocking the APC at the moment, particularly in Ogun State, where the governor of the state, Ibikunle Amosun, has declared his intention to work against his party in favour of his preferred candidate, Abiodun Akinlade.
Mr Akinlade dumped the party for the Allied People’s Congress, as a result of a prolonged controversy that denied him the ticket of the ruling party in spite of having the backing of Mr Amosun.
The PDP in Ogun has found itself in a protracted self-affliction as two factions of the party, serving two different interests, battle for its soul.
The conflict itself draws from the now rested titanic clash between the Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sheriff’s factions of the party, which tended to annihilate the party and fundamentally affected its performance in Edo and Ondo governorship elections of 2016.
While most of the state chapters of the party successfully dissolved into single entities following the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the authenticity of one of the factions, the Ogun branch is still suffering from the residual animosity of the Makarfi-Sherrif legal battles.
Apparently, the party is torn apart between Sikirullahi Ogundele and Bayo Dayo; both are backed by the National Working Committee of the party and the senator representing Ogun East in the Senate, Buruji Kashamu, respectively.
The bone of contention between these two groups is about who controls the party machinery in the state and with the right to conduct congresses or primaries and produce candidates for the 2019 general elections. This is the question the courts have been trying to answer since the beginning of the legal battles.
The battle for the soul of the party dates back to April 2016, when the party held its ward congresses across the state.
It was, then, a harvest of confusion as the state working committee led by Mr Dayo broke into two.
He and his Secretary, Semiu Sodipo, were on one side while nine other members of the executive were on the other.
The group of nine consisted of the Deputy State Chairman, Sunday Soledolu; Publicity Secretary, Waliu Oladipupo; Youth Leader, Taofeek Osundara; Women Leader, Nike Odutola; Treasurer, Aibinuola Adegoke; Vice-State Chairman, Amusa Isiaka; Organising Secretary, Folasade Filani; Auditor, Chief Ibukun Ojosipe and Legal Officer, Mr. Boladale Sanni.
Since then, both factions have been in and out of the courts.
Most of the judgments had ended in favour of the Dayo-led faction.
On June 24, 2016, Justice Ibrahim Buba of the Federal High Court in Lagos had ruled in favour of the Dayo-led faction, saying that the tenure of Mr Dayo ends in May 2020 and so had the powers to conduct state congresses.
Further litigations on the leadership crisis saw another judgment, delivered by Mohammed Idris, in February this year, upholding Mr Buba’s judgment, nullifying the congresses held in defiance of the earlier judgment, which produced the Sikirullahi Ogundele-led Ogun State PDP executive committee.
The judgment also nullified the Odanye-caretaker committee set up by the national secretariat in view of the June 24, 2016, judgment which affirmed the Dayo-led executive.
It is against this backdrop that the Federal High Court in Abeokuta, on October 2, ordered the INEC and the PDP national leadership to accept the list of candidates and delegates submitted by the Adebayo Dayo-led Ogun State executive committee of the party for the 2019 elections.
A tale of parallel primaries
As expected, the September governorship primaries of the panel in Ogun did not go without a crisis. It ended up in parallel primaries conducted by the factions and produced two governorship candidates. The Uche Secondus-backed Ogundele faction produced Ladi Adebutu, who is representing the Remo North Federal Constituency at the House of Representatives. He was the sole aspirant at the exercise, which was supervised by a five-man Electoral Committee from the National Headquarters headed by a retired captain, Mike Hart.
The Adebayo Dayo-led group, which had no backing from the PDP headquarters, produced Adeleke Shittu as its candidate. Aware that it did not have the backing of the centre, the faction is counting on a series of positive court judgments to upturn the “injustice” of the Uche Secondus-led NWC.
Mr Kashamu, the prime supporter of the faction had earlier been expelled by the party over allegations of misconduct and anti-party activities. That action by the NWC, he had also challenged in the courts.
“The law is on our side until the judgment we had in 2016 is set aside,” Mr Dayo, who leads the Kashamu-backed group, had said. “We have a judgment that compels the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to accept only candidates that emerge from primaries conducted by our group.
“The other faction had tried twice, to set the judgment aside but the Court of Appeal had dismissed their appeal. We do know that the National body does not recognise our group but I am sure that eventually, the rule of law will prevail because Nigeria’s constitution supersedes the party’s constitution.”
To further take the battle to a new level, Mr Shittu stepped aside as the candidate of the faction, allowing Mr Kashamu to become the party’s candidate. In a recent interview, Mr Kashamu claimed that his faction remained the authentic PDP in Ogun State and the courts would eventually eventually decide in their favour.
Contending lists of candidates
Following the outcome of the parallel primaries, INEC received two lists for the governorship and the National Assembly elections from both factions, and that set the race and series of lobbying for acceptance.
However, in October, INEC wrote a letter to the PDP addressed to Mr Secondus, stating that it had accepted the list of candidates for governorship and National Assembly elections submitted by the Kashamu-backed executive.
In the letter dated October 25, 2019, signed by the acting secretary to the commission, Okechukwu Ndeche, the commission stated that the decision was based on the various Federal High Court cases on the true position of the State Executive Committee of the party.
He said INEC would abide by the court rulings until they were set aside by a higher court.
“The Federal High Court in the matters ordered the commission to recognise Adebayo Dayo-led State Executive Committee of the PDP in Ogun State and receive a list of candidates for the 2019 governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections from the said committee,” the letter read in part.
“Recall that the commission vide a letter dated 12th April, 2018, informed your party of the Commission’s compliance with the judgements of the Federal High Court in Suit Nos. FHC/L/CFS/636/2016 -Engr. Adebayo Dayo & Anor vs INEC & 5 Ors. and FHC/L/CS/1856/2017Alhaji Adewole Adeyanju, (Member, PDP National Working committee) and 6 Ors. vs INEC and 30 Ors. , which affirmed the decision of the Federal High Court in Suit Nos. FHC/L/CFS/636/2016, which is subsisting until it is set aside.
“Further to the above decision, the Federal High Court, Abeokuta Division, on 2nd October, 2018, in Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CFS/636/2016 Engr. Adebayo Dayo (State Chairman) and 8 Ors. vs INEC & 3 Ors., also ordered the commission to recognise Adebayo Dayo-led State Executive Committee of the PDP in Ogun State and receive a list of candidates for the 2019 governorship, National Assembly and State House of Assembly elections from the said committee.”
The NWC-backed faction is now at the appeal court seeking to upturn the judgment of the lower court directing INEC to accept the list of candidates submitted by the Kashamu faction.
In furtherance of its rejection of the court orders, the party recently presented the party’s flag to Mr Adebutu as its governorship candidate for Ogun State in the 2019 general elections.
While doing so at the party’s secretariat in Abuja, Mr Secondus said the party would be victorious in the legal tussle on its governorship candidate in Ogun, saying that Mr Adebutu was duly elected in the primary that produced him as the PDP candidate.
“You cannot come and bend the process. It is criminal for one person to print form and sell the form to himself, conduct congress by himself and submit names to INEC in his signatory,” he said.
While the legal tangles continue within the PDP, other political parties have started to woo voters.
The dilemma of two candidates, one party, is a situation capable of obliterating any goodwill the party currently enjoys in the state.
With a series of adjournments, there is no assurance of when the final judgment will be made and the actual candidate made known. By the time the dust finally settles and the dropped baton is picked up, the race might be over.
The Ondo Experience
This was the same scenario in Ondo State PDP in the run-up to the 2016 governorship election, which was won by the APC, at the detriment of the PDP. It was then a fight between two factions – one promoted by Olusegun Mimiko as the then incumbent governor and the mogul, Jimoh Ibrahim, the other.
Mr Ibrahim favoured the out-of-favour Ogunye-led faction, while the Clement Faboyede-faction had the blessings of the governor. Both were running on the fault lines of the Modu Sheriff/Ahmed Makarfi factions at the national level.
While the court judgments favoured Mr Sheriff, the name of Jimoh Ibrahim was on the list of candidates approved by INEC. But that judgment was not upturned by the Supreme Court until the last minutes of the election itself.
Eyitayo Jegede, the governorship candidate of the PDP only had a few hours to campaign before the curtains on campaigns were drawn.
PDP supporters were in quandary as to who to vote for while the confusion lasted.
Resources for campaigns could not be deployed early for fear that the judicial pendulum could swing in the opposite direction.
The posters remained on the billboards and on the streets, but the candidates could not speak to the people confidently that they were truly representing the party. Some party men actually crossed to other parties out of frustration.
It eventually lost the election it would have won so easily.
Maybe the Ogun scenario is slightly different. But it displays the trimmings of a self-inflicted tragedy waiting to be concluded by an impending election defeat at the hands of parties who are better prepared for the election, both at the governorship and legislative levels.
The party is already bleeding from the conflict already, with many of its members, crossing over to other political parties. Notable among them is the governorship candidate of the party in the last election, Gboyega Isiaka. He said he left the party because of its “intractable” crisis.
It is the view of many stakeholders in Ogun politics, that, should Mr Kashamu emerge victorious at the end of the day, the other factions may decide to work against him at the election, and that could also be taken to be the likely posture, should Mr Adebutu and his group upturn the current status quo.
Whichever way the pendulum swings, the journey is ill-fated and the gladiators will have everything to lose.