NewsEndless Drama in Edo PDP

Endless Drama in Edo PDP


March 24, (THEWILL)- Wracked by post-party primary blues, the Edo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is heading into electioneering in April almost a divided house.

The days between March 19 and April 15, 2024 hold the key to the party’s fate in the September 21, 2024 governorship poll in the state as intra-party issues of law and politics will have to be resolved amicably. Those days are a long time for Governor Godwin Obaseki and his Deputy, Philip Shaibu to settle their differences with the emergence of a winner.

That testy period arose from two fronts, both dealing with the party primary, which Asue Ighodalo won and had been crowned the party’s governorship candidate.

On the one hand is the Tuesday, March 19, refusal of Justice James Omotosho of a Federal High Court in Abuja to grant an ex-parte motion filed by Shaibu, seeking an interim order to stop the impeachment process by the Edo State House of Assembly.

On Wednesday, however, Justice Omotosho heard another motion ex-parte brought by the plaintiff seeking substituted service on the defendants due to his inability to serve them. And then fixed the hearing for April 15.

On that same day, the Edo State House of Assembly directed the state Chief Judge, Daniel Okungbowa, to set up a seven-man probe panel to investigate allegations against Shaibu.

As of press time on Friday, THEWILL learnt that Shaibu and his camp are struggling to serve the defendants the substituted service. While that process is going on, the party’s governorship candidate has a suit against him fixed for hearing on April 30, before Justice Inyang Ekwo at the Federal High Court in Abuja.

The suits are two, both challenging the PDP’s primary election that produced Ighodalo as the party’s candidate. One of the suits is by Adizetu Umoru in suit No FHC/ABJ/CS/195/2024 and another marked FHC/ABJ/CS/196/2024 filed by Moses Alabi and Christopher Oboarer.

The three suits, which have the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC; PDP Acting National Chairman, Umar Damagun, PDP National Working Committee, NWC and National Executive Council, NEC, as defendants, seek an interim order of the court to restrain the defendants from using the list of ward congresses held on February 4, 2024 for the purpose of conducting the February 22, 2024 primary or any other one lending the hearing and determination of the main suit.

Counsels to the defendants, namely I. S Mohammed for INEC; Adeyemi Ajibade, SAN, for Damagun; Kehinde Ofunwumiju, SAN and Robert Emukpoeruo for PDP NWC and NEC urged the court to dismiss the suit as a notice of preliminary objection has been filed by INEC, the judge fixed May 2, 2024 for ruling on motion seeking for a change of counsel for the 4th defendant.

Efforts to get reactions from both the local and national leaders of the party and the deputy governor failed as calls were unanswered and messages not returned.

Investigation however shows the court cases have thrown a spanner in the works for the PDP ahead of electioneering. For one, the pending suit against impeachment proceedings would likely prevent the Chief Judge from going ahead with the directive of the House of Assembly to constitute a seven-man probe panel for allegations against Shaibu.

Although examples abound in the past where the impeachment procedures had gone ahead in seeming content of court injunctions, recent developments in jurisprudence, following a directive from the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Kayode Ariwoola, has put judges on the alert.

The past example is presented by Kogi State, whereby on October 17, 2019 Deputy Governor Simon Achuba was impeached in a process which the High Court in Lokoja on February 27, 2020, found to be illegal and contrary to section 188, sub section 8 of the Constitution, which stopped the House of Assembly from further action having discovered that Achuba was not found wanting by the panel.

Even so, the deputy governor was neither reinstated nor paid the compensation he sought. Edward Onoja, his replacement, remained in office until the governorship poll on November 11, 2023. The recent example involves Mr Lucky Aiyedatiwa, who as Deputy Governor was stopped from being impeached by A Federal High Court in Abuja. The court on September 26, 2023 restrained the Ondo State House of Assembly from impeaching Aiyedatiwa over an alleged gross misconduct. Justice Emeka Nwite, made the ruling shortly after Aiyedatiwa’s counsel, Kayode Adewusi, moved the ex-parte motion.

Explaining the developments, a constitutional lawyer, Mr Napoleon Ene told THEWILL that after the court has ordered that a substituted service on the defendants in Edo State, the High Court Judge would likely not constitute the seven-man probe panel because “after service, the suit will be brought back to court and put on motion; the defendants were served in the interest of fair hearing. The constitution of the probe panel will have to wait till the day the motion is heard.”

Nonetheless, the Chief Judge Justice Okungbowa, on Friday went ahead to heed the directive of the Assembly and constituted a seven-man probe panel.

The panel was constituted on Friday via a statement, with reference number: CR/4837 /Vol. I/131, endorsed by the Chief Registrar of the Edo State High Court, B. O. Osawaru.

The panel is headed by a retired justice, Justice S.A. Omonua with the following members; Professor Violet Aigbokhaebo, Professor Boniface Onomion Edegbai, Professor Theresa Akpoghome Oghogho Ayodele Oviasu, Andrew Oliha and Idris Abdulkareen.

At any rate, there is a general thinking in the PDP camp in Edo State that with or without Shaibu the party is going ahead with its campaign and like all politicians do, will retain Osadebe Government House come September 21, 2024.

Party stakeholders say they have fulfilled all political righteousness regarding fairness and equity as required in a representative democracy. To meet the March 24 deadline for the online submission of names of candidates as directed by INEC, the party has concluded its choice of Asue Ighodalo as its governorship candidate and former Secretary to Government, Bar Osarodion Ogie as its deputy. Considering that the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Blessing Agbebaku hails from Edo North, Ighodalo hails from Edo Central and Ogie from Edo South, dependable party sources say the power sharing formula has been met and the party is in a strong position to kick-start the April 24 campaign across 192 wards across the state

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Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

Amos Esele, THEWILL
Amos Esele is the Deputy Editor of THEWILL Newspaper. He has over two decades of experience on the job.

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