DAUD OLATUNJI writes on the internal wrangling over the Peoples Democratic Party’s control of its structure in Ogun State and the governorship candidacy saga

A big piece of news was released on September 27, 2022, when a federal high court sitting in Abeokuta delivered a judgment asking the governorship candidate of the party in the state, Oladipupo Adebutu to stop presenting himself as the candidate. The bad news was extended to three senatorial candidates, nine House of Representatives candidates, and 26 State House of Assembly candidates. The court, however, ordered that fresh primaries be conducted to accommodate all interests and groups in 14 days.

The PDP held its governorship primary election on May 25, 2022, which produced Adebutu as the candidate for the governorship race in the state.

Everything calmed down in Adebutu’s camp until November 29 and December 2, when an Appeal Court in Ibadan and a Federal High Court in Abuja dismissed the suits filed against Adebutu and others.

Recall that the PDP had been embroiled in internal wrangling over the control of its structure in the state and the governorship candidacy.

Prior to this moment, there were about four factions in the party, thus Adebutu, Segun Seriki/Bamgbose, Segun Showunmi and Jimi Lawal

Each of them was dead set on getting the party tickets before 2023, and they went all out to beat out the competition.

How the crisis started

The crisis reared its ugly head in May this year, shortly after the party held its ward congresses, conducted by representatives of the National Working Committee.

The results of the congress were rejected by aggrieved members of the party, who vowed to challenge the outcome of the congress in court if the national leadership failed to address their complaints.

The alleged failure of the party leadership sparked the legal squabble, which dragged on for a long time and threatened the party’s participation in the 2023 election.

While the party primaries were characterised by protests and boycotts in the middle, other aggrieved members held their own parallel congresses and declared results.

On May 25, 2022, Segun Showunmi emerged as a factional governorship candidate of the PDP in the state.

His emergence, which took place at the Nigeria Union of Journalists office, Abeokuta, a few metres away from the venue of another party’s primaries being supervised by the NWC the same day, produced Adebutu.

Jimi Lawal, another governorship aspirant walked out of the party primaries shortly before Adebutu was declared the winner.

Party failed to participate in LG election

The state held local government elections, which produced the candidates of the ruling All Progressives Congress in all 20 local government areas and the 236 councillors.

The crisis in the PDP denied the party the chance to participate.

The state Electoral Commission, in its claim, rejected the list submitted by the Sikirulahi Ogundele-led exco and took the list from another faction.

Confusion in PDP over court verdicts

A series of legal encumbrances were placed before Adebutu and the party as a result of the legal tussle between him and other aggrieved leaders and members of the party.

Showunmi headed to court, dragging Adebutu, the state executive members, and the party to the federal high court.

While Showunmi was in court, Jimi Lawal also headed to the court, asking for the nullification of the primaries for non-compliance.

Lawal hinged his grouse on the delegate list used during the primaries, which produced Adebutu as the party’s governorship candidate.

While the legal battles were on, the big masquerade emerged and threatened the whole fabric of the party.

Segun Seriki, who is the leader of the Bangbose-led faction, filed a suit challenging the authenticity of the state executive.

The Bangbose-led exco, which reportedly inherited the structure left behind by the late Senator Buruji Kashamu, insisted that with the avalanche of court judgments in its favour, it should be recognised and be allowed to conduct the primaries of the party in the state.

This stance, according to many party leaders in the state who pleaded anonymity, is the biggest threat to the party’s chance to participate in the coming general elections.

Giving credence to the capability of the faction to thwart the efforts of the party candidates ahead of the 2023 election, its suit was upheld.

The court agreed with the faction and cancelled the party primaries. It was gathered that contrary to reports that Lawal’s suit was upheld to cancel the primaries, findings show that the suit filed by the Bangbose-led faction loyal to Seriki caused the cancellation.

Apparently jolted by the development, Adebutu and others intensified their efforts to placate all the aggrieved leaders and members and withdraw their suits to allow the wheel of the party to run.

Fortunately, two out of three other factions agreed to drop their legal matters and support the ambitions of Adebutu and others.

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In fact, Showunmi was the first leader of the party to be dissatisfied and go to court, that soft pedalled on his fight.

The former Atiku Abubakar campaign spokesman was seen meeting and reconciling with Adebutu and others.

It was gathered that Adebutu had made a series of overtures to Showunmi about the need to sheathe his sword for the sake of the party.

The Bamgbose-led faction also reconciled with the Adebutu faction led by Sikirulahi Ogundele as the party chairman in the state.

The new songs in PDP

On December 9, 2022, the PDP held a show of force in Abeokuta, where some roads were shut down for hours.

This development happened after some aggrieved leaders and members withdrew their suits before the courts.

Our correspondent gathered that, on December 5, the PDP sang a new song in the state following the withdrawal of suits filed by the Bangbose-led faction.

The faction announced that it has collapsed its structure into the main party ahead of the 2023 election.

The faction, in a statement titled “The time for purposeful unification of Ogun PDP is now,” said there had been multiple infractions in the polity of the party that had culminated in recent litigation.

The statement signed by Seriki read, “With the approaching February 2023 general election and after the recent Appeal Court judgments on the Ogun PDP imbroglio, I’ve been besieged with a lot of advice and tenable admonitions.

“As a consequence, I’ve consulted widely and meditated extensively, very genuinely. My humble deduction therefrom and conclusion therefrom are that the time for purposeful unification is now if it is to be of meaningful essence, no matter the pain and concessions required.

“We believe that any litigation into next year, regardless of the desirable justifications, would unfairly place our throngs of supporters at avoidable disadvantages too great to be worthy of whatever logic is advanced.”

“To this end, an interactive meeting of party elders, exco members, and candidates that emerged under the Bamgbose-led state exco was held today, December 5, 2022, where the above position of unification for electoral victory was discussed and resolved to enable the emergence of the widely sought-after change into a PDP government by the good people of Ogun State.

“Consequently, we hereby decide to discontinue all litigations in which my people and I are involved, effective immediately. We shall therefore recognise all PDP candidates as declared by the NWC of our great party and work assiduously for their victory.

“As a result, the constructive engagement with the Ogun State PDP governorship candidate, Hon. Oladipupo Adebutu, which he also desired through some emissaries, has been promptly initiated. Our decision is sincerely aimed at ensuring that PDP, as the close-knit political family that we are should win this war to liberate the good people of Ogun State from current avoidable public administration adversity into enhanced socio-economic emancipation and progressive governance.

“We seek not to be part of anything that would ever make the Ogun PDP lose again, as in victory there are benefits for all and sundry.

“It is therefore hoped that necessary lessons would have been learnt on both sides for mutual exploitation of the areas of our comparative advantages to enhance the beauty of our unity in diversity.

“This would undoubtedly strengthen our massive electoral victory in the upcoming elections.”

Seriki, a founding member of the party, however, spoke exclusively with our correspondent on the genesis of the crisis and the reason he sheathed the sword.

He said the step taken by his people went beyond withdrawal, saying they resolved to discontinue the matter before the Supreme Court because it would put the party at a disadvantage for the litigation to go into January.

He lashed out at Lawal, saying, “The other people who are talking about going to court, these are the people who don’t know; they might not have the same sentiment for the party not to collapse.

“He just joined us in March; he has no stake in our party, and that’s more reason why I just let go; I cannot be fighting as a landlord the way the tenant is fighting.

“We did our mass rally yesterday because there’s nothing about Jimi Lawal that can bother us anymore; the only case that can bother the party is my own, and I have decided not to continue because there’s more at stake.

“He doesn’t have his executive committee; he doesn’t have anyone; he only has delegates for anything he wants to do now.”

“Even if we give the party to Jimi Lawal, does he know us? So, he would just exploit regulations to take over somebody’s property; that’s why I just let it go.

“If we continue to fight, two brothers would fight, and a stranger would just take our legacy away.

“How can you be fighting and let Jimi Lawal, if he loses again, just leave the party and go away again?

“So many people talked to me, and I reasoned with them that, at this level, I have won at the high court, I lost at the Appeal Court, and the reasonable thing to do is to go to the Supreme Court.

“But that is not a reasonable thing to do; by the time we return from the Supreme Court, there will be nothing for us to share or do.”

“Because our entire house of assembly and representative will be unable to campaign, it is better for me to realign with the national, even though they are wrong.”