A Federal High Court in Abuja has ruled that the expulsion of Senator Buruji Kashamu and leaders of his Ogun State faction of the Peoples Democratic Party was unlawful.
However, the same court affirmed the party’s power to expel an erring member of the party.
The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, apparently had not fully read the judgment in the suit marked FCT/HC/CV/0303/2017 before rushing out a statement to commend the judge and also interpret it to mean that the verdict validated the nomination of Ladi Adebutu as the governorship candidate of the party in Ogun State.
Kashamu claims that he is the legal candidate of the party for the 2019 governorship election.
On Tuesday, he, along with his running mate, Dr. Reuben Abati, launched their campaign in Ijebu-Igbo as the authentic, court-endorsed governorship candidate of the party.
According to a report posted on Kashamu’s Twitter handle on Thursday, the court did not grant the PDP all the prayers it wanted.
Rather, it only got affirmation for its right to discipline members.
And this came with a caveat: the sanctioning must follow due process and the rule of law.
Justice Valentine Ashi maintained that though the PDP was empowered by its constitution to discipline, reprimand, bar or expel recalcitrant members from its fold, it held that due process must be followed in the exercise of such powers.
Justice Ashi had in a previous ruling on October 10 nullified the suspension in August of Kashamu and other members of the party on the premise that the action was carried out without regards to due process and in total disregard to a pending suit on the matter.
He held that the PDP took the action in flagrant disobedience of a subsisting order the court made on December 7, 2017, which was restated on January 9, 2018, directing parties not to do anything to jeopardise the hearing of the pending case brought against Kashamu; the factional State Chairman of the party Bayo Dayo; and two others by the party.
The court scolded the party for resorting to self-help by suspending its affected members despite the pendency of the legal action they instituted against it.
The judge trod the same path on Thursday.
The judge did not validate the expulsion of Kashamu and the others.
Justice Ashi held: “The decision to suspend the defendants was nullified because it was taken during the pendency of the suit, which suspension this court had reversed in an earlier ruling.
“That the plaintiff’s first and second reliefs succeed is not to say that the suspension has been reversed.
“Parties are to revert to the status quo before the suspension.
“The plaintiff is at liberty to exercise its disciplinary powers, but with due process.”
Justice Ashi declined to pronounce on the plaintiff’s other reliefs, which included prayers for restraining injunctions against Kashamu and the Dayo-led faction to prevent them from taking steps to disrupt the last non-elective convention that was held by the PDP.
The judge said the reliefs were overtaken by events since the said convention had been held.
The PDP had through a letter dated August 1 announced its expulsion of Kashamu, who is representing Ogun East Senatorial District, and Dayo.
The victims rushed to court for protection.
In an obvious misinterpretation of the judgment, Ologbodiyan urged the Independent National Electoral Commission to copiously take note of the development and the conduct of the governorship election in Ogun.
He said: “The PDP invites Nigerians, the people of Ogun and particularly the INEC to take copious note of the judgment of the court.
“The judgement, in suit no: FCT/HC/0303/2017, delivered today, Dec. 13, 2018 affirmed the powers of the PDP, as provided in her constitution, to discipline and punish any member who contravenes any of the provisions of its constitution.
“By this judgment, it is clear that Kashamu is not a member of the PDP, and cannot, under any circumstance whatsoever, claim to be the governorship candidate of the party in Ogun, moreso, when he never participated in any of its nomination processes.”
Ologbondiyan said going by the expulsion of the senator from the PDP in August, Buruji lost his membership of party and as such did not partake in any of the party’s nomination processes.
He said: “He did not purchase the PDP governorship nomination form and did not participate in any way whatsoever in our Ogun governorship primary. Yet, he had continued to cause confusion and parade himself as PDP candidate.
“Finally, the PDP commends the people of Ogun for standing steadfast with its governorship candidate, Adebutu, who is already coasting to victory in the 2019 polls.”