How shopping for court injunctions may scuttle Edo PDP’s chances at Nat’l convention

It seems there is no end in sight to the crisis rocking the Edo State chapter of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) despite the reconciliation committee set up by the national leadership of the party to resolve the internal squabbles tearing the state’s chapter apart.

The past one year has been Governor Godwin Obaseki’s men versus loyalists to Dan Orbih, the South-South national vice chairman of the party; a cohort fight that political observers dubbed as the new PDP against the old PDP.

The duo at the state level have been involved in altercations on several occasions over internal party affairs, particularly the sharing of appointments between those that held the fort, prepared the pathway for Obaseki to drive through to Edo State seat of power, and those that joined him from the All Progressives Congress on the way to victory.

This time, the issue on ground is apparently shaking the party’s pole on which its flag is attached, and ripping the fabric of the governing party in the state which took them eight years in opposition to mend before it was hoisted at the Dennis Osadebey House in 2020.

Beyond disagreements over political appointments, the fight, at the moment, boils down to electing delegates to participate in the Presidential primary of the party.

The past few days, the media have been awash with aggrieved members of the party shopping for court injunctions and publishing advertorials in newspapers ahead of the primaries scheduled for the various positions being jostled by aspirants for the 2023 general election in the state.

The order of interim injunctions came on the back of controversies that trailed the outcome of the ad hoc delegates who emerged from the party’s ward congress conducted on Saturday, April 30, 2022.

Prior to the commencement of the ward congress, Kingsley Emu, chairman of the Edo PDP ward congress electoral committee, while addressing the State Working Committee at the party secretariat in Benin City, said the ward congresses would produce 576 ad-hoc delegates from the 192 wards ahead of the party’s primaries.

Emu explained that each ward is expected to produce three ad hoc delegates in line with the party guidelines.

“The process starts from the ward. We have 192 wards in Edo State and 18 local government areas, and the congress is expected to produce 576 delegates for the election with one national from every local government area.

“When we say the processes start from the ward, it means that there shall be congresses in each ward as every ward is expected to produce its own ad hoc delegate. The report is then forwarded to the local government monitoring committee and sent to the State Secretariat, where the final collation is done,” Emu said.

Dissatisfied with the result of the congress to elect the delegates for the state and National Assembly primaries, some sections of the party approached the federal high court to restrain the PDP; its National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu; Samuel Anyanwu; Umar Bature and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) from allowing Edo State delegates to vote at the forthcoming national convention.

In the suit, with reference number: FHC/ABJ/CS/ 598/2022, the plaintiffs, who are five in number, sought an ex-parte order, and claimed the suit was filed on behalf of the 576 ad hoc delegates elected on April 30, 2022.

Justice Inyang Ekwo, the trial judge, granted the order restraining PDP, others from Edo delegates vote at the national convention slated for Saturday and Sunday, May 28 and 29, 2022, respectively or any other date of which it may be rescheduled, unless such delegates were elected by the plaintiffs and the other 571 ad hoc delegates, pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice.

This order came after an Edo State High Court refused to grant an interim injunction seeking to restrain the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, from allowing the ad hoc delegates that emerged from the party’s ward congress to participate in the party’s primary election.

The defendants in the case with suit number HAB/46/2022 are the Peoples Democratic Party, Iyorchia Ayu, Tony Aziegbemi, and Governor Godwin Obaseki. The court sitting in Abudu had refused to countenance the ex-parte application but deferred hearing in the matter to May 12, 2022.

To address the grievances that arose from the congress held across the 192 wards in Edo State to elect 576 adhoc delegates ahead of the party primaries as well as to forestall disagreements between members of the party, a three-man Electoral Appeal Panel was set up by the national leadership of the party.

The panel led by Chukwuka Utazi, arrived Benin City on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, and promised to ensure justice for all aggrieved parties.

Utazi said: “I am here this morning with other members of the ward congresses electoral appeal panel of PDP for Edo State to interact with any aggrieved individual following the ad-hoc delegates election conducted on Saturday. We urge party members with issues of any sort and complaints as a consequence of that election to approach this panel to look into the matter.

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“The bedrock of our party politics is fair hearing; fair hearing means that if somebody is aggrieved, he or she will approach the party appeal panel to look at his or her matter and at the end of the day, we will find a lasting solution to that and make sure everybody is happy.

“We, as members of the PDP, are conscious of the challenges facing us. We are also conscious of the expectations of Nigerians of this great party and are rising to that occasion by making sure that we put our house in order so as to face those challenges.

“So, on behalf of the electoral appeal panel that is here today, we want to assure all party members in Edo under the PDP umbrella that we are here to listen to you and make sure that we ensure justice for all and at the end of the day, everybody will be happy.

“We want a united PDP in Edo, and that is why the PDP National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, on behalf of the National Working Committee, sent three of us here from different backgrounds and states to look at those issues. We are waiting to receive petitions, put it in writing, and bring them to the Edo PDP secretariat.”

The panel chairman, while reassuring the timely hearing of the petitions, noted: “When we collect this petition today, if you are timely about the submission today, we will commence listening to the petition today with a view to address those issues. Once we tidy everything here today, we will give our report to the national headquarters of our party in Abuja.

“We hope that by the time we are through, the party here in Edo will remain united, solid, and indivisible.”

But, in a distress call letter titled, ‘Save Edo State from becoming another Zamfara’, that was published last Thursday in one of the national dailies and addressed to Iyorchia Ayu, the national chairman of the PDP, the State Working Committee members who signed the letter excluding, Anthony Aziegbemi, the state chairman of the party, claimed the committee was yet to sit and receive petitions from aggrieved delegates since the day they arrived.

Hillary Otsu, state secretary of the party, however, allayed fears of crisis in the party ahead of the primaries, saying that the publication endorsed by the state working committee and the 18 local government chairmen of the party was to put the national chairman on notice as regards the recent incidents that had transpired and for him to call relevant individuals to order so as not to ruin the chances of the party.

“We heard about the ad-hoc congress appeal committee came to the secretariat, spent about five minutes, took photographs, and left. The petitioners wrote messages to the chairman on how to reach him, and after much pressure, he later sent a message that he would go back to the secretariat the following day to sit and receive petitions, but none of them showed up,” Otsu said.

The party’s scribe in Edo State told BusinessDay Sunday that the three ad-hoc delegates’ congresses were organised in accordance with the Electoral Act and monitored by INEC but alleged that the PDP ward congress electoral committee were not seen to collate the results.

He maintained that the list of delegates that must be used would be the one the party generated from the congresses that were organised.

“Our congress were organised based on the Electoral Act, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) came, monitored the process and when we didn’t find the committee to collate the results, the legal adviser of the party and I collated them and I sent the results to Abuja.

“When we did the ad hoc delegates’ congress, we had an issue in the sense that we didn’t see the committee sent from Abuja to monitor; they came to the secretariat once, left and said they will come back that they wanted to visit some congress venues and that was it, they didn’t return till tomorrow.

“Before we knew it, we saw different court orders. But, eventually, we also got a court order in Abuja as regards the ad-hoc congress.

“All the delegates who are eligible to vote in the congresses/primaries are clearly spelt out in our constitution and guidelines. So, there is no reason for conflict or disagreements; the constitution of the party and the Electoral Act 2022 are there to use,” Otsu said.

Efforts to get responses from the state chairman of the party, Anthony Aziegbemi, were not successful as calls placed across his cell were left unanswered while Short Message Service (SMS) sent was not replied.

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