September 27, 2022, is a day many members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State would not forget in a hurry because of the indelible court judgement delivered that day. Earlier on the said day, members of the different PDP factions had thronged the Federal High Court in Abeokuta in anticipation of a favourable judgement.
Some aggrieved leaders of the party had gone to court to challenge the primary elections that produced Ladi Adebutu and others as the candidates of the PDP in Ogun State.
Delivering judgement, the Abeokuta Federal High Court, in Suit No: FHC/AB/CS/83/2022, between Prince Adesegun Seriki and Ors v INEC and Ors, as well as Suit No: FHC/AB/CS/87/2022, between Taiwo Olabode Idris and Ors v PDP and Ors, nullified all PDP primary elections in Ogun, ordering the State executive to conduct a rerun in 14 days.
The judgement immediately rendered the PDP ‘candidateless’ as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released its final list without the names of those nominated by the PDP in Ogun, citing court order.
The judgement was a soothing balm to Adebutu’s opponents within the party and members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). But for those who are in the PDP for real contest, Justice O. Oguntoyinbo’s pronouncement was a clog in their wheel of progress.
It was not news that supporters of the APC had said in their calculations that the Ogun PDP would continue to battle court cases till the 2023 general elections. The reason for this is not unconnected with the fact that the PDP alone is battling a plethora of court cases in different courts across the nation. With this, other political parties continued to woo Adebutu’s supporters, telling them that the PDP would not be on the ballot for the 2023 polls.
DAILY POST reports that loyalists of former Governor Ibikunle Amosun, who are now with Biyi Otegbeye in the African Democratic Congress (ADC), saw the September 27 court decision as an opportunity to lure back their people, who decamped with Adekunle Akinlade to the PDP. Little did they know that a similar treatment was awaiting them in the same court, until November 25 when Otegbeye and all the 26 ADC Assembly candidates were sacked.
For two months, political activities of the PDP in Ogun State were in a halt. The party could not flag off its campaign, even as followers were living in fear of not having candidates for the election.
Our correspondent recalls that the actions of Jimi Lawal, Segun Showunmi, Segun Seriki and others pointed to the insinuation that Adebutu might not survive the legal battles confronting him from different angles.
It could be recalled that after the PDP National Working Committee had appealed Oguntoyinbo’s judgement, Jimi Lawal had quickly gathered a few members of the State Working Committee to conduct an illegal primary, in which he declared himself winner and governorship candidate of the party.
Despite being expelled from the party, Lawal had approached the court asking that he be declared the candidate of the PDP based on the said rerun primary. But, Justice Akintayo Aluko described the primary as illegal, unconstitutional and void.
Justice Aluko declared that the rerun primary election purportedly conducted by Lawal on October 17, was not in compliance with the orders made by the Federal High Court, Abeokuta on September 27.
Solace after two months of tension
Reprieve came the way of Adebutu and his followers on November 28, when the Appeal Court sitting in Ibadan set aside the ‘excruciating’ September 27 judgement sacking all PDP candidates.
Delivering judgement, Justice Nimpar Yargata said the trial court fell into error by nullifying the Ogun PDP primaries, having been conducted by the NWC of the party.
Yargata said those who instituted the case at the lower court were not aspirants of the party and consequently had no locus standi to challenge the outcome of the primaries.
The judgement of the appellate court removed the stumbling block before the PDP and cleared the way for its contestants.
However, Lawal, as at the day of the Appeal Court ruling, still had a case pending before the Abuja Federal High Court, which was also challenging Adebutu’s candidacy.
In his ruling on December 1, Justice Inyang Ekwo dismissed the suit for being incompetent and lacking in merit.
Justice Ekwo held that Lawal failed to prove that the PDP breached its laws in selecting its flagbearer, calling him a spoiler.
Though Jimi Lawal has threatened to appeal the two judgments, the PDP is at the moment working on how to settle all grievances and go into the elections as one indivisible entity.
APC gets jittery, claims PDP
Meanwhile, the PDP in Ogun State has described the judgments as “victory over the individual shenanigans and reckless arrogation of powers by some fifth columnists” within the PDP in the State.
The party’s spokesman in Ogun, Akinloye Bankole told DAILY POST that the judgments were a testament to the legitimacy of the party’s resolve that the people of Ogun “will never be subjected to another years of hardship, maladministration and mindless looting of state resources to pay personal debts, expand businesses and settle family members, friends and concubines.”
According to Bankole, members of the APC, who have been rejoicing during the setback period have come to terms with the reality of their looming defeat.
“While we understand the overwhelming jittery that must have enveloped them currently, we want to assure them of a much worse feeling during the governorship election,” he said.
To all members of the PDP, Bankole urged them to “come together under the big accommodating umbrella as we prepare to liberate the people of Ogun state.”
Otegbeye, who is also a leading candidate in the election has also assured that he would challenge the judgement of the lower court at the Court of Appeal.
If he succeeds, the Ogun 2023 governorship race would be keenly contested by Dapo Abiodun, Adebutu and Amosun’s Otegbeye.