Nigeria: Police shuts ‘New PDP’ office, deploys Armoured Personnel Carrier
*Action violates court order – Baraje faction
*We are protecting status quo – Tukur NWC
By Henry Umoru and Gbenga Olarinoye
The crisis rocking the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) took a turn for the worse, yesterday, after the police sealed off the office of the Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje-led faction.
The police put the office, situated at Plot 3206A, No 4, Oyi River Crescent, Maitama, Abuja under lock and key, just as former President Olusegun Obasanjo was fingered as the brain behind the factionalisation of the ruling party.
The same Obasanjo led some elders of the PDP on a trouble shooting mission on Friday which ended in a deadlock.
A top leader of the ruling party described Obasanjo’s involvement in the truce effort as pretentious.
The PDP broke into two penultimate Saturday after a group of members, led by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and six governors namely, Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Adbdulfatah Ahmed (Kwara), Aliyu Babangida (Niger), Aliyu Magatakadar Wammako (Sokoto), Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), staged a walk out from the party’s special national convention holding at the Eagle Square and, less than one hour later, announced the emergence of their own faction of the PDP and named some members as top officials of the party.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State has since joined the group to make the `rebel’ governors seven.
The Baraje faction, aka New PDP, yesterday, described the siege by the police to its office as a flagrant violation of a court order that stopped the Alhaji Bamangar Tukur-led PDP from interfering with its affairs.
It faulted the police action which it said was executed on the grounds of a non-existent court injunction which the Tukur-led National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP claimed to have obtained on Friday.
But the Tukur NWC hailed the police action which, according to it, was in response to the court order which emphasised the retention of the status quo.
The sealed factional PDP secretariat was said to have been inspected by Baraje and Lamido on Friday ahead of its formal commissioning anytime this week.
When Sunday Vanguard visited the premises at about 3:44pm yesterday, an armoured personnel carrier APC, was positioned at the entrance of the street while armed policemen, numbering about 10, were seen around. Just as some of the policemen stayed around the APC, others were seated in a nearby restaurant.
‘We are not leaving’
Efforts to get close to the gate of the PDP factional secretariat by journalists proved futile as the policemen, who had their eyes fixed on every move, sprang to their feet, threatening to punish them.
One of the policemen, who bragged, said, “We are not leaving here until we hear from the Presidency. We have taken over the place for now.”
The property, as gathered, was the headquarters of the National Democratic Party, NDP, even as the gate of the building was painted in the red, white and green colours of the PDP, while the partially covered signpost on the building revealed an insignia similar to that of the PDP.
Yesterday’s incident came barely twenty fours after Obasanjo led other elders of the party on the trouble shooting mission and met with the leaders of the PDP and aggrieved governors.
The Baraje-led ‘New PDP’, however, wondered why Tukur, who appeared before the elders meeting of the party, on Friday, in an atmosphere geared towards peace in the PDP, could, about 12 hours later, start what it termed a round of acts of impunity.
Though the Obasanjo led-meeting was deadlocked as the issues raised by the elders and the advice given did not go well with the Baraje-led faction as they stormed out, the former president said the meeting became imperative for them as elders to intervene and save the party from total collapse. The elders also met with some pro-Jonathan governors.
Both meetings were inconclusive, though there were assurances from the elders that the two factions will once again come together as one indivisible party members. Obasanjo disclosed that discussions and consultations would continue.
Also at the meeting were former Military President Ibrahim Babangida; Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, BoT, Chief Tony Anenih; two former National Chairmen, Dr. Ahmadu Ali and Senator Barnabas Gemade; even as Obasanjo apologised on behalf of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme and Chief Solomon Lar who were not in the country, and said they were being carried along.
Sunday Vanguard also gathered that after the meetings, the elders went into a closed door meeting to harmonise opinions and issues raised by the groups.
The elders meetings with the groups lasted about five hours as the meetings started around 10am and ended 2.30 pm.
Tukur was accompanied to the meeting by the National Auditor, Adewale Adeyanju, the Acting National Secretary, Aderemi Akitoye; and Governors Henry Seriake-Dickson of Bayelsa State, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State; Jonah Jang of Plateau; Liyel Imoke of Cross River; Idris Wada of Kogi; Theodore Orji of Abia; Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta; Ibrahim Shema of Katsina and Isa Yuguda of Bauchi while Baraje was accompanied by Lamido, Wamakko and Amaechi, the faction’s Secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, Senator Bukola Saraki, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Senator Danjuma Goje.
‘Height of impunity’
Reacting to the closure of the secretariat of the Baraje-led PDP, yesterday, the faction’s National Secretary, Oyinlola, who noted that they were not surprised by the action taken by the Tukur-led PDP, however, described it as the height of impunity, adding that security forces were mobilised to seal the office based on a non-existent court injunction which the Tukur NWC claimed to have obtained on Friday.
In a statement, Oyinlola said, ” The whole world knows that Justice E. Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Friday refused to grant Alhaji Bamanga Tukur’s application for an ex parte injunction against our party’s executive. The judge asked parties to maintain the status quo. His judgment was a reinforcement of an early order of the Lagos High Court which also asked parties to maintain the status quo. Now, should Nigerians conclude that Tukur’s interpretation of status quo is this crude display of naked power and undisguised impunity?”
“The statement continued, we are not at all surprised at this occurrence given the fact that Tukur issued a statement on Friday evening deliberately seeking to mislead the media and the public that Justice Chukwu granted him an injunction against us. We are happy that the ever vigilant Nigerian press ignored him and his falsehood. Now, he is not only wilfully disobeying the various courts which have made pronouncements on this matter, he is spicing up his love for impunity with this reckless misuse of state power by misleading the police.
” We call for an immediate removal of the siege to our secretariat. We call on the Inspector General of police to order the immediate removal of his men from our office. Doing so, we believe, will serve the interest of justice, rule of law and democracy. Nigeria is a country ruled by law and not by might and force.
“We hasten to say that if this move is aimed at breaking our spirit, that goal is definitely off the mark. We are determined to rescue our party from the lawlessness and crass arrogance that have defined the character of the Tukur leadership since inception. Our party needs that deliverance, its members deserve the change we have brought into it.”
We are protecting status quo – Tukur NWC
In a response, yesterday, the Tukur NWC hailed the closure of the Baraje PDP faction secretariat, stressing that in was in line with a court order.
In a statement by the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the NWC stressed that the injunction granted by the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Friday, clearly affirmed the leadership of the party under the Chairmanship of Tukur.
According to the PDP, ordering that the parties in the dispute maintain status quo ante bellum until the determination of the case, “the court clearly granted the request of the PDP that the group led by Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje should not operate or be recognized by INEC”.
Metuh continued: “The sealing of the secretariat opened by the Baraje group was in line with the order of the court which held that the splinter group should not operate or parade themselves as leaders of the PDP until the hearing of the suit before it.
“Our attention has been drawn to reports by a section of the media erroneously suggesting that the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja did not accede to our prayer that INEC should not recognize the so-called new PDP led by Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje.
“For the avoidance doubt, the position of the Federal High Court is clear. By ordering that the two parties maintain status quo ante bellum, the court has clearly ordered the Baraje group to stop all its activities including operating a secretariat while it affirmed the leadership of the PDP under Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
“By the order of the court, no person is authorized by law to open a secretariat or operate under the name, colour and flag of the PDP other than the one led by Alhaji Bamanaga Tukur. The sealing off of the secretariat opened by the Baraje group under the name, colour and flag of the PDP is therefore in order and in line with the law.”
‘In defence of Oyinlola’
In the meantime, the Osun State leaders of the PDP loyal to Oyinlola have risen in his defence.
The defence is in reaction to the Elders Forum of the party in the state which on Thursday warned PDP members from associating with the former governor of the state for his role in the formation of the new PDP.
But a stakeholders forum of the party in Osun, in a statement in Osogbo yesterday, put its weight behind the factional National Secretary, describing the threat to sanction him by the state chapter of the PDP as empty.
The PDP stakeholders, under the aegis of Osun PDP Concerned Forum, also decried the leadership of the party in the state for taking sides in the current imbroglio within the PDP.
Solution to crisis lies with Jonathan – Fani-Kayode
Also, yesterday, a former aviation minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, said the solution to the PDP crisis resided with President Goodluck Jonathan listening to Obasanjo by dropping his rumoured intention to return to office in 2015.
”The only hope left for the PDP is if President Goodluck Jonathan listens to former President Olusegun Obasanjo and those behind him and drops his 2015 ambition. Failing that the fight in the PDP will never end”, Fani-Kayode said in a statement. He went on: “The truth is that Obasanjo is one of the greatest political strategists that Nigeria has ever known and he is an extremely dangerous adversary. I know him well and his ways are deep. Ori Baba le ga ni. Go and find out what happened to all those that betrayed him or tried to kill him. Their end is never good. Those close to Jonathan would do well to advise him to get on his knees and beg his political mentor. Only Obasanjo, with the help and support of President Ibrahim Babangida and Vice President Abubakar Atiku, has the power, authority and moral gravitas within the PDP to call the dissidents to order and rally their support. Without that, President Goodluck Jonathan is finished and he should just wave goodbye to his 2015 re-election ambitions. The APC, with the support of the PDP dissidents, will form the next Federal Government of Nigeria. That is the way to go. PDP as we once knew her has gone forever. The ship has hit the rocks and she has sunk to the bottom of the sea. She is dead and buried and my prayer is that her soul rests in perfect peace”.
`Elders truce terms for Jonathan’
In a related development, Sunday Vanguard learnt, late yesterday, that the Obasanjo-led Elders’ Committee, which met with the feuding PDP groups on Friday, has listed some conditions that are expected to be tabled before Jonathan on Monday.
Some of the recommendations, it was gathered, include but are not limited to the following:
*That the Adamawa State chapter of the party be returned to Nyako – he was in control before the Tukur-led NWC started issuing conflicting statements, leading to the institution of a new state chapter EXCO;
*That the Rivers State Chapter Exco be returned to Amaechi;
*That there should be a review of some of the perceived anomalies at the Special National Convention, as observed by the aggrieved governors;
*That the suspension of Amaechi be lifted and in accordance with the party’s constitution; and
*That the President should meet with Jang and Amaechi with a view to resolving the crisis in the Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF.
The elders are expected to present their recommendations to Jonathan tomorrow.