In a rather audacious move, the executives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Nasarawa state led by its chairman, Hon. Francis Orogu, suspended three prominent, foundation members that are considered as elders in the party, for “anti-party activities”. They are the state’s first deputy governor, former minister and senator, Solomon Ewuga; former minister and House of Representatives member, Barrister Musa Elayo; two-term Speaker of the State House of Assembly and also two-term House of Representatives member, Hon. Ogoshi Onawo, who was also running mate to David Ombugadu, the PDP governorship candidate for the 2019 general election. The suspension letter signed by the party’s secretary, Alhaji Adamu Bako Ninga, read, “After due consultation with elders in the Elders Forum meeting of the party and sequel to the decision reached at the State Executive Committee meeting, I am directed to convey to you a letter of suspension for violating section 58(1) B, H of the party constitution, as amended in 2017. I quote “Any member who says or does anything likely to bring the party into disrepute, hatred or contempt shall be liable to disciplinary action. (H) Any member that engages in any conduct likely to cause disaffection among members of the party or is likely to disrupt the peaceful, lawful and efficient conduct of the business of the party is liable to disciplinary action. Note that you will be invited by the standing disciplinary committee in accordance with the party constitution. Accept the assurances and esteem regard of the party”.
Barr. Elayo, like the others, took exception to the letter. In a reply to the chairman, he made the following observations, “You consulted the State Elders Committee by inviting them to an emergency meeting you called on the 24/3/2020 by your text messages and WhatsApp messages of 23/3/2020. You know that I am a member of the committee but you refused to extend an invitation to me to attend the said emergency meeting; the state executive committee meeting of 24/3/2020 is solely to suspend me which implies that the chairman, secretary and publicity secretary have information about the allegations against me and by who. Fair hearing and rules of natural justice require that I be invited so that I will have the opportunity of seeing my accusers or hearing about the allegations and to have the opportunity to respond to the allegations even if it will not be satisfactory to you, before suspending me. This was not done. Your letter did not even mention one wrong act I have done that warrants my suspension. You finally said I will appear before the Disciplinary Committee without mentioning when”.
Concluding, Elayo remarked in the letter, “Mr. Chairman Senator Solomon Ewuga, Hon.M.O. Onawo and Musa Elayo are not the first persons you suspended from this party in your four years of stewardship without hearing. You have done it to many party members but it is important you know that a party is a voluntary association of people whose aim is not to fight and quarrel with one another but to organise, unite for the purpose of winning election. I don’t know how suspending party members at the slightest opportunity by you will endear you and the party to the citizens and electorate”.
Senator Ewuga, similarly, described his own letter of suspension as non specific, ambiguous and confusing. He intimated that he had long had hint that he was going to be suspended for which he confronted the chairman for confirmation at elders and caucus meetings. “He always said ‘no’, that it is not true he wanted to suspend me” However, Hon. Orogu, in a telephone chat with this writer, dismissed Barr. Elayo’s submissions. He stated that they appeared before a disciplinary committee, which found them culpable. According to him, the committee to which they were not invited was the one meant to give a disciplinary verdict.
The current crisis within the party had been simmering since the party’s primary election to pick its candidate for the 2019 general elections. The PDP had zoned its governorship ticket to the northern senatorial zone, the first in history of party politics in Nasarawa state. PDP officials maintain that this forced the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to also zone its gubernatorial slot to the zone. The zone comprises Nasarawa Eggon, Akwanga and Wamba local government areas. Among the many persons that sought the PDP’s ticket were Senator Ewuga, Senator Patricia Akwashiki, who, it was gathered, was persuaded to step down by some traditional rulers, and Hon. David Ombugadu, then House of Representatives member, who eventually clinched the PDP ticket to the surprise of some.
Senior party executives that spoke to this writer justified his choice which they said was on merit. According to them, factors that helped him was his youthfulness, his constant support to the party both financially and otherwise as well as his performance in terms of the many projects he executed in his constituency. It eventually lost at the polls to the incumbent, APC’s Engr. Abdullahi Sule. Then began accusations and counter-accusations with top party officials, accusing some of its senior members from the northern zone and others of not doing enough to rally support for its flag bearer, while they in turn accused the party of fielding an “inexperienced” candidate. In a telephone chat with this writer, Senator Ewuga stated, “Is it not because of the fact that they denied me that PDP lost? I have never lost election in my constituency …do you know that virtually all persons who won election in the House of Assembly was because of my intervention… I intervened in Karu, in Jenkwe, even in Obi (Adokwe’s constituency) … the returning officer wanted to give it to APC, I refused. They had to call me several times”. Political observers opine that the fact that the APGA governorship candidate, former Information Minister, Labaran Maku, is from same zone and tribe as the PDP flagbearer helped in no small measure to split the votes that could have accrued to the PDP and also contributed to its defeat.
The ward and local government congresses that started in March only served to bring to a boiling point, the burgeoning ripples within its fold. Before restrictions brought about by the coronavirus pandemic put a hold on political gatherings, some aggrieved party members had faulted the ward and local government congresses, alleging that it did not hold in some wards and did not follow the party’s guidelines. Some 25 of them wrote petitions against the congresses while some others went to court seeking to restrain the party from going ahead with the congresses. This then led to suspension of aforementioned trio who are challenging their suspension. Hon. Orogu dismissed all allegations against him in conduct of the congresses, insisting that they followed due process. He equally denied accusation of being arrogant and dictatorial, adding that though he is amenable to dialogue, he would not allow the party to be “humbled” by anyone.
Ikeano, a journalist, writes from Lafia via [email protected]08033077519