The Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti has sacked the Ekiti state working committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, led by Gboyega Oguntuase, and declared the faction led by Williams Ajayi as the authentic one.
Mr. Oguntuase’s faction is loyal to the state governor, Ayodele Fayose, while Mr. Ajayi’s group is loyal to Buruji Kashamu, the PDP senator representing Ogun East.
The court asked members of the Oguntuase-led committee to vacate office because their election was not approved by the National Working Committee of the party.
Mr. Ajayi, had in a suit number FCH/AD/CS/21/2015 filed on May 16, 2016, urged the court to recognize his own faction and the congresses conducted in all the 177 wards, 16 local governments and the state on April 30 and May 4 and 5, 2016, respectively.
While praying the court to pronounce him the authentic Chairman of the party, he also sought an order declaring the Oguntuase faction an impostor and directing the Independent National Electoral Commission to grant him and his executive recognition.
Joined in the suit were INEC (1st respondent), PDP (2nd respondent), Ali Modu Sheriff (3rd respondent), Wale Oladipo (4th respondent) and Gboyega Oguntuase (5th respondent).
Presiding judge, Taiwo Taiwo, said the motion on notice pending at the appeal court over attempt by the 2nd, 3rd and 5th respondents to change their lawyer and appoint Mike Ozekhome (SAN) as the lead counsel was not enough to delay the judgement.
The lawyer to the aforementioned respondents, Bimpe Olatemiju, had called the attention of the court to a letter dated January 19, and deposited with the Registrar of the court to the effect that the court should set aside the proceeding of December 8, 2016, when the written addresses were adopted and to stay action on the court’s proceeding pending the determination of the motion on notice at the appellate court filed against the October 12, 2016 ruling of the court.
The ruling was delivered against the 2,3, 4,5th respondents on their request to appoint Ozekhome as their lead counsel.
“A political party must operate within certain guidelines and when there is a crisis of this nature in a party, we use the party’s constitution and the 1999 Constitution to remedy the situation”, the judge said, citing the case of Ugwu Vs PDP to substantiate this claim.
“It is not in dispute that 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th respondents were jointly represented, and not in dispute that 2nd and 3rd respondents are members of the PDP.
“It is not also in dispute that 3rd and 4th respondents were still acting as the chairman and National Secretary when this case was filed.
“So, going by the PDP’s guidelines, the power to conduct congresses at the wards, local governments and state levels can only be directed by NWC and since these people were still in charge at that time, any other directive or parallel congress by any other body is null and void.”
Earlier, there was a fierce exchange of words between the Judge and the respondents’ counsel over the perceived attempt to arrest the judgement.
When the court was set to deliver the judgement, Mr. Olatemiju said the court could not proceed because of the pending case at the appeal court.
But the judge maintained that the 1999 Constitution forbids the arrest of judgement.
Although Justice Taiwo listened to Mr. Olatemiju’s argument and the of the plaintiff’s lawyer, Niran Owoseeni, he then returned to dismiss the argument to pave the way for his judgment.
Mr. Olatemiju, not satisfied with the judge’s position, sought the court’s permission to leave before the judgement was delivered, but his request was turned down, with a warning from the judge that he would be reported to the Nigerian Bar Association’s Ethics and Privileges Committee should he refuse to stay for the judgment.
Reacting after the court session, Mr. Oguntuase said his client would appeal the judgment of the court.
“We will appeal the judgment. I plead with all the PDP members in the state to remain calm. In that judgement, I saw humour and I didn’t see honour and candor,” he said.
“How will you call yourself a chairman when the governor is not behind you, when all the National Assembly members and state assembly lawmakers are not behind you? So, this is not the last court.”