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Fresh crisis in PDP over G-5 governors, others

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Fresh crisis in PDP over G-5 governors, others

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There is a fresh plot to expel the immediate past governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, and other chieftains of the Integrity Group by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). This development was learnt during the week. According to reliable party sources, some leaders of the opposition party have commenced a fresh push for the expulsion of Wike, other G5 governors and a number of PDP chieftains who are part of the Integrity Group from the party.

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The Nation gathered that supporters of the presidential candidate of the party, Atiku Abubakar, are determined to rid the PDP of Wike and his allies who they alleged to have worked against the party’s interest during the last presidential election in the country. Allies of the party’s suspended National Chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, are also said to be part of the ongoing move to deal with Wike and his people within the troubled party.

Before the last general elections, there were indications that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party may have plans to expel the then Rivers State governor and his allies for anti-party activities. But in a deft political move, Wike had promptly secured a court injunction stopping the party from expelling him. He filed a motion ex-parte before Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court of Abuja, seeking for an order of the court.

After listening to Wike’s plea, Justice Omotosho granted all the reliefs sought, stating that, “All parties in this suit shall maintain peace and shall not take any action or step or act that may make the outcome of the motion on notice dated and filed on 2nd February, 2023 nugatory and worthless. That any act or step or action made so as to make the outcome of the motion on notice dated and filed on 2nd February, 2023 nugatory shall be a nullity.”

With that Wike and his co-travelers in the Integrity Group escaped the purported plan to have them suspended from the PDP. But amidst unending allegations that they worked against the candidates of the party in the 2023 presidential election, threats of expulsion continued to dog the steps of the G5 governors and their supporters within the troubled oppositions party, especially following the defeat of Atiku at the polls by candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.

Fresh plot

Confirming the no love lost between Wike and the leadership of the party, a member of the PDP’s National Executive Committee, Timothy Osadolor, during the week, insisted that the immediate-past governor of Rivers State is no longer a member of the party. Osadolor, who appears to be giving indications of the fresh push against Wike, added that given his conduct before, during and after the 2023 general elections, Wike cannot be regarded as a member of the opposition party.

He confirmed that the leadership of the party had decided to isolate Wike and render him inconsequential in the affairs of the PDP. His outburst came on the heel of claims that some PDP chieftains at the weekend in Abuja resolved to call on the party to set up a disciplinary committee for the purpose of revisiting the many anti-party allegations leveled against some members of the party before, during and after the last general elections.

 

The Nation gathered that the meeting, which had some NWC members in attendance, deliberated on the future of the party following its loss at the last presidential election. Members present also discussed possible ways to strengthen and reposition the party ahead of future elections. “Some former governors, gubernatorial candidates and ex-National assembly members were also at the meeting,” a source claimed.

“It was agreed that those who worked against the interest of the party should not be allowed to get away without punitive measures. Furthermore, there were concerns that some people are still unrepentant in their grudges against the party and its leaders. Allowing such people to remain in the party was seen as dangerous. Hence, it was resolved that such people should be made to face the disciplinary committee and expelled if found guilty,” our source added.

The meeting reportedly rose with the resolve to impress it upon the various leadership organs of the PDP, the need to sanctions members who sabotaged the party’s chances in the last general election. To supporters of Wike and other Integrity Group leaders, they are the targets of the new move. Recent utterances by prominent PDP chieftains like Osadolor on the matter have been confirming the fears in some quarters within the party.

Osadolor had said Wike anti-party activities have been further confirmed by his recent public outings and utterances which portrayed the former governor as leaning towards the APC. He said Wike’s perpetual craving for the spotlight at all times and regardless of the cost to his image as an opposition political leader has given him away as a disloyal PDP member. According to the PDPNWC member, Wike will remain sidelined in the party.

“The PDP has ignored Wike because the man is no longer himself. There are more ways to deal with people apart from sanctioning them. You can keep someone in isolation. Wike can boast that he is the one that stayed away but is it not better to stay away than come to party activities and nobody wants to associate with you? He has been given a cold treatment because he went to court to procure a judgment that says he cannot be suspended but there is no judgment that says he cannot be avoided.

That is what the PDP has been doing to him and technically, if Wike wants to say the truth, he will tell you that he is no longer a member of the PDP. No PDP leader or member behaves the way he does,” Osadolor had said, making to the High Court order that bars the PDP or its officials from suspending or expelling Wike from the opposition party.

A twist

But last Wednesday’s judgement by a Federal High Court in Abuja appears to have changed the narratives within the party as the restraining order ceased to exist. The court, in plain language, told Wike that the PDP has the right to suspend or expel him if the action is done in accordance with the law. Justice James Omotosho stated this in a judgement he delivered on the suit filed by Wike seeking a court order to stop the PDP from taking action against him without a fair hearing.

 

The former Rivers governor had sued the PDP, its National Working Committee (NWC), and its National Executive Committee (NEC) as 1st to 3rd respondents. Wike, in the suit (FHC/ABJ/CS/139/2023) dated and filed Feb. 2 by his lawyer, Joshua Musa, SAN, also joined the National Chairman of PDP, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, National Secretary of PDP, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, and the Independent National Electoral Commission as 4th to 6th respondents, respectively.

 

He had prayed for an order directing all parties to maintain the status quo and stay all actions in the matter relating to the threat to suspend or expel him by the 1st to 5th respondents pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion. Wike asked the court to enforce his fundamental right to freedom of association, which was allegedly about to be breached by the respondents. But the PDP, through its lawyer, Johnson Usman, SAN, disagreed with Wike’s submission.

 

Usman argued that the case was only based on speculation, as Wike had failed to provide any evidence to substantiate that the respondents intended to suspend or expel him from the party. He said the party had not contemplated suspending or expelling members of the G5 Governors or the Integrity Group, despite engaging in anti-party activities. Usman said Wike and four other governors engaged in anti-party activities by forming the Integrity Group and campaigning for another presidential candidate in the Feb. 25 election.

 

The senior lawyer argued that a member who voluntarily joined an association must abide by its rules. Usman, who argued that the ex-governor must have exhausted the internal mechanisms of the party first, said the court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter, which, he said, was only within the realm of conjuncture. He further argued that it was not enough for Wike to institute the suit on fundamental rights enforcement grounds.

 

Delivering judgement on Wednesday, Justice Omotosho said the court had considered the processes filed by parties and the arguments of counsel. He held that suspending or expelling the applicant without affording him the right to defend himself would breach his fundamental rights as enshrined in the party’s and Nigeria’s constitutions. Omotosho said that though the party had the right to suspend or expel its members, this must be done in compliance with its own laws.

 

The judge said that though Section 46(1) of the law vested jurisdiction on the court if one’s rights had been breached, he said the court would not dabble into the internal affairs of any political party, except where the rights of a member had been violated by the party without recourse to its own laws. According to him, fundamental human rights are rights enshrined in the Constitution of Nigeria and are sacrosanct.

 

“Where this right ought to be enforced, the court will do everything within its reach to ensure this. However, as fundamental and sacrosanct these rights are, they are not absolute,” he said. Justice Omotosho, therefore, agreed that any member of a political party who appeared before a disciplinary committee should be given the opportunity to defend himself. “If not, any decision taken shall be null and void,” he said.

 

He added: “This court is convinced that the applicant is entitled to a fair hearing and that the respondent also has the right to discipline its members in accordance with the law.” The judge further said that Wike had the right to associate and that the threat to dismiss him without inviting him to defend himself contravened Article 57 (1) (2) of the party. He said that the party and its agents were bound to promote constitutional democracy.

 

But in a swift reaction to the developments, a chieftain of the PDP and immediate past Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Chris Finebone, said Wike is unmoved by the ongoing brouhaha as he remained a bona fide member of the opposition party. Wondering where Osadolor got the power to speak on behalf of the PDP, he described the latter’s comments as wishful thinking.

“We can’t identify who he represents, but I think it is wishful thinking. It is wishful thinking and the man who is; said to have said that is inconsequential as far as we are concerned. And so, whatever he has said is; of no effect. His Excellency, the former Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, is; 110 percent a member of PDP, and nothing has changed. And nothing can change it.”

On the accusation that Wike has been; hobnobbing with Tinubu, he said it was; petty and frivolous. He insisted that the former governor cannot be stampeded out of the PDP, a party he labored with many others to build.

Earlier in the year, Wike himself had declared that nobody, including those abusing him, can drive the G-5 Governors from the (PDP, noting that they built the party and have the right to remain as members. Wike also said abusing members of the Integrity Group of the PDP will only complicate the lingering crisis in the party, and cautioned those who are issuing threats of possible punitive action against the G-5 Governors to perish the thought. (The Nation)

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