Between Monday and Tuesday this week, the leadership of the Lagos State PDP broke into two warring camps with one sacking the other and the other insisting on the status quo. Paul Yovo in this report captures the sight and sound with a prognosis that the old factional fight that humbled the past may resurface
Fresh crisis is rocking the Lagos Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as the 34 members of the State Executive Council moved against the party’s state Chairman, Capt. Tunji Shelle, on Tuesday and announced his sack on prime time TV. Next morning, it was the supposedly embattled Chairman that called a press conference to call the bluff of the other warring half of the state exco. Now there is a stalemate. But trouble is brewing, big trouble. In the background of it all is the painful outcome of the governorship election that it came close to winning.
In a press conference held by a faction of the exco and addressed by the state party secretary Mr Wahab Owokoniran, the group said that after taking a critical look at the recommendation of the disciplinary committee instituted to investigate the allegations leveled against Tunji Shelle after the general elections, there was no need why Shelle should not be decalred a persona non grata.
The secretary of the party, Mr. Wahab Owokoniran, who read out 14 allegations against Shelle, accused Shelle of mismanaging the campaign funds of the party and taking some decisions that were detrimental to the interests of the party in the state.
According to him, “He (Shelle) unilaterally rendered the party structure inactive before, during and after the 2015 elections without the approval of the state executive committee.
He said: “We members of exco have all agreed that the way the party is being run should not be allowed. You will all agree with me that this party is not well run before, during and after the elections. There is need for restructuring. If we want restructuring, there is no way the Chairman can continue in office.”
Owokoniran said the Disciplinary Committee set up by the party had recommended expulsion or impeachment of Shelle having found him guilty of all the allegations levelled against him. While disclosing Shelle’s refusal to appear before the panel, the party chieftain said the party resolved to “impeach” the PDP chairman.
Outlining some of the allegations, Owokoniran accused the party chairman of unilaterally rendering the PDP structure inactive before by allegedly allocating “funds to various party members and officials according to his wishes without seeking the approval of the State Working Committee.”
Accusing Shelle of hijacking the functions of treasurer and the party secretary, he alleged that “the money received by the party was outsourced to a third party who keeps it in his bank account and disburses from it.”
In addition, he said “he (Shelle) calls party official meeting without consultation. Lawful duties were neglected especially refusing to consult with the State Electoral Commissioner until four months after he was deployed to the state. Party guideline on payment for nomination form was breached by allowing his favoured aspirants to collect forms without payment.” It was learnt that some aspirants in the party in the last party primaries of the party raised alarm of how Shelle collected some amount of money from them assuring them of the party’s ticket while he personally spent the money without reaching out to other stakeholders who could influence the party’s primaries in the favour of the aspirants he collected huge amount of money from. It was revealed that the cause of the crisis in the party, which later resulted to the sack of the party Chairman, is not unconnected with the crisis rocking the party at the national level
There areindications that the battle in the national level of the party also conduction Shelle’s removal because of his closeness with the Former national deputy Chairman( South West), Chief Olabode George, who had been in loggerhead with the National Secretary of the party, Professor Wale Oladipo.
Sources in the party told The UNION that the undue rancor between the two national leaders of the party following the call by Bode George for the sacking of Oladipo, has not gone down well with Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who is a close ally of Oladipo and a strong antagonist of Bode George in Lagos PDP.
The UNION learnt that Obanikoro was part of those that are engineering the investigation of Shelle because of alleged involvement of Shelle in the governorship primaries that favoured Mr Jimi Agbaje as the party’s governorship candidate in the April 11 poll. It will be recalled that the governorship primaries of the party degenerated into crisis after Senator Obanikoro claimed to have been rigged out at the primaries, accusing the party leaders and leadership of manipulating the primaries election against him.
Interestingly some of the party’s executive council members who initiated and carried out the removal of Shelle are strict loyalists of Senator Musiliu Obanikoro
Shelle, who was also alleged of mismanaging campaign funds by the executive members during the campaign, did not release some of the funds giving to him by the party leadership at the national level for the candidates of the party in the state.
Some leaders in the party believed that Shelle’s refusal to release fund as at when due during the electioneering was a ploy to make sure the party could not achieve victory at the polls.
One of the party leaders who spoke with The UNION under condition of anonymity that they would not want the national leadership to interfere in the matter as it is purely a Lagos PDP issue which they would handle in their own way. He stressed that the party in the state is heading towards restructuring by sacking Shelle who did not carry them along in the financial administration of the party during the election. “Shelle was running the party like his domestic home forgetting that it does not belong to him alone. We are all stakeholders in the party and we built it together to this level, why is it that one person would see it as his own estate”, said the PDP Chieftain, adding “He would never consult anyone of us before taking decision and all these affected our performance at the governorship poll. He summed up the PDP to be a group while he knows that we have different groups making up the party. How can one group be controlling the party? Shelle could not mobilise properly during the election because he was just mobilizing only one group of the party. It is time to restructure the party towards 2019 and we are going to remove more old legs in the party to restructure the party”, said the PDP Chieftain
Speaking on why it was Alhaji Kamal Owolabi Olorunoje that was picked to replace Shelle, the party leader explained that the constitution of the party stipulates that the party Chairman’s replacement must also come from the same Senatorial district, adding that both Shelle and Olorunoje came from Lagos Central Senatorial District.
Speaking with The UNION, the financial sectary of the party, Chief Taiwo Kuye, stated that what Owokoniran and his group did was illegal and not binding on anybody in the party in the state. He stressed that few people in the party cannot come to the conclusion on a non-existent matter and remove the party Chairman for personal interest, stressing further that Shelle has been a performing chairman long before the elections was conceived, fixed and executed.
Yesterday afternoon, Captain Tunji Shelle took the stage and restated his control of the party. Addressing a press conference at the state office in Ikeja he said that “it’s a pity we find ourselves in this situation and it’s uncalled for but that’s politics for you, we have to move on”.
“The people acted illegally on Monday and they went too far, they went to the extent of driving the staffs of the party out of their offices.”
“I m in the office now, I am in control, I am in-charge, the idea to impeach me was noted long before the party primaries to elect our candidate took place, effort was made to rig the primaries and I stood my ground to prevent the illegalities, up till the now the so called opposition within the system has not accepted the defeat of the primaries. I have tried enough to contain their excess so that their action will not affect our changes in the general election and this I was able to do up to Monday when they did their coup which eventually failed.”
“The exco is made up of 49 members and I control the majority at all times. It is unfortunate that few members with their arrow head, Mr. Wahab Owokoniran and Alhaji Kamal Owolabi Olorunoje eventually struck, now that they have failed, the wages of sin is death and they will be sent back to their sponsors.”
Speaking with The UNION, the Publicity sectary to the party Barrister Gani Taofeek added that the State’ working Committee does not have the prerogative power to remove the party Chairman, stressing that the removal cannot stand. “There is no removal of our Chairman in Lagos PDP because the few people that came together to take the decision were not constitutionally empowered to do so, so Captain Tunji Shelle remains the Lagos PDP Chairman”, said Taofeek “Captain Shelle has been a performing Chairman and well behaved Chairman so those that organized the Press Conference did that for their own personal interest not in the interest of the party”, said Taofeek. Stalemate? Beginning of another round of crisis that undid the party in the previous elections before the recent that made them look larger than life?
The coming days will say which is which.