On two fronts Thursday, the splinter group in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the New PDP, suffered setbacks in its quest to wrest control of the party from the mainstream group, led by Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
On the political front, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declined to recognise the New PDP, led by the ruling party’s former acting National Chairman, Alhaji Kawu Baraje, and having in its fold seven governors as well as former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, among others.
The New PDP was formed in August as the crisis in the ruling party reached a head during its special national convention in Abuja with Atiku and others walking out of the convention to announce the birth of the faction.
On the legal front, a Lagos High Court struck out a suit brought by the New PDP against Tukur and three others, for want of jurisdiction.
But in a swift reaction, the New PDP said it would re-file the case in Abuja since it was struck out only on technical ground as the court did not consider the merit or otherwise of the suit.
INEC, in a letter dated October 2, a copy obtained yesterday, the commission affirmed its recognition of Tukur as the authentic leader of the PDP’s National Working Committee (NWC).
The letter, signed by INEC’s acting Secretary, U.F Usuman, was a response to an earlier correspondence from the New PDP in which it sought recognition for Baraje as PDP national chairman, among others.
It was addressed to the suspended PDP National Secretary, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who holds the same position in the splinter group.
The letter, with the title “Notification of change in the leadership of PDP and request for formal recognition,” read: “The commission acknowledges the receipt of your letter dated September 1 and 23, 2013 respectively wherein you requested the commission’s recognition of the Abubakar Baraje faction of the newly elected National Working Committee.
“You will recall the commission monitored the national convention and the special national convention of the PDP held on March 12, 2012 and August 31, 2013 respectively which took place at the Eagle Square Abuja, after notices to the commission. A National Working Committee was elected at the two conventions wherein Alhaji Bamanga Tukur emerged as the national chairman.
“The commission will not withdraw recognition from the leadership of the PDP elected at the election duly monitored by the commission”.
Also in Lagos yesterday, Justice Oludotun Adefope-Okojie of the Ikeja High Court, struck out the suit filed by the Baraje PDP faction against Tukur and three others, for want of jurisdiction.
The breakaway faction of the party had asked the court to stop Tukur and other officers of the party from parading themselves as national officers of the PDP pending the determination of the case.
The plaintiffs in the suit are Baraje, New PDP Deputy National Chairman, Dr. Sam Sam Jaja, Oyinlola and the PDP, while the defendants joined alongside Tukur are the Deputy National Chairman, Mr. Uche Secondus; Women Leader, Dr. Kema Chikwe and National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Olisa Metuh.
Tukur and his co-defendants had in their preliminary notice of objection filed through their counsel, Chief Joe Kyari-Gadzama (SAN) and Mr. Emeka Etiaba, on September 18, asked the court to strike out the suit for want of jurisdiction.
The lawyers had also argued that the writs of summons did not comply with the mandatory requirements of Section 97 of the Sheriff and Civil Process Act because they were not signed.
But counsel to the claimants, Mr. Robert Emukpaeruo, had argued that the court had jurisdiction to entertain the suit contrary to the objections being raised by the defendants.
Ruling on the application yesterday, Justice Adefope-Okojie held that the Lagos State High Court had no power to assume jurisdiction over a matter which originated outside its territory.
She said the applicants had averred in their affidavit that the course of action, which was the special convention of the PDP, arose in Abuja.
The judge said they had also averred that the PDP had its registered office in Abuja and that none of the defendants was resident in Lagos State.
According to her, the doctrine of enforcement of judgments was not relevant to the suit before the court.
“I hold that with the defendants not resident in Lagos and the subject matter originating in Abuja, the High Court of Lagos State has no power to assume jurisdiction over this suit,” Justice Adefope-Okojie said.
Reacting to the judgment, the New PDP in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Eze Chukwuemeka Eze, assured its members that there is no cause for alarm.
It said: “We wish to assure our teeming members and Nigerians in general that there is no cause to worry. This is because the ruling has nothing to do with the merit of the case but the place of filing. As advised by His Lordship, we shall hasten to re-file the suit, this time in Abuja, as we are convinced about the merit of our case. Our determination to sack the usurper, Alhaji Tukur, and rescue our great party from his misrule has never been stronger.
“Finally, we urge all our supporters and members not to despair or exercise any atom of fear and should continue to support the leadership of our great party under the able leadership of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje as we are getting closer to freeing our party from the enclave of undemocratic elements currently holding us to ransom and doing everything within their powers to ruin all that our founding fathers struggled to build.
“With today’s (yesterday) court ruling, we are now very determined to restore PDP to the path of honour particularly now that we have lost our great first National Chairman, Dr Solomon Lar, to the cold hands of death. Let us reiterate that nothing, and we repeat nothing, will stop us from implementing the visions of both Dr Solomon Lar and all the founding fathers of our great party to the letter and keeping all undemocratic elements at bar from leadership of our great party.”