Deji Doherty, whose tenure as Chairman, Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was cut short by a Lagos High Court judgment, in this interview with BOLA BADMUS, speaks on the issue. Excerpts:
There are discordant tunes over the leadership of your party in Lagos State against the backdrop of a recent court judgment. What do have to say on the tug-of-war?
It is a common knowledge that in any democracy, there has to be fair hearing and I believe that if you are a member of any political party and you are not happy about something, it is better you exhaust the conflict-resolution machinery that is in the party before even thinking of taking the party to court. You don’t go to court with a friend and then you come back, it will never be the same. I believe that in this instance, Dr Dominic has just erred, erred completely because, you don’t need to force yourself to become a chairman. If you want to become chairman, you know what to do. You know you have to go and ginger the support of the people and those that are your supporters within the party because if you are being imposed as chairman, then you would have a situation whereby a lot of people would not support you. When you call meetings, they will not come; they will shun you, and which is happening to him now.
Anyway having said that, the court judgment was quite simple and explicit and I will like to read a certain portion of the court judgment (to you) so that our people will understand that the judgment did not install Dr Dominic. Let me read from the enrolment order written and signed by Justice Oyinka Abdulahi. She said that: ‘It is hereby ordered that the State Executive Committee of the party shall do the proper thing in accordance to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the party’s Constitution.’ So, she has given the burden to the State Executive Committee of the party to go and do the right thing. There is nowhere in this whole judgment where she said Dr Dominic should go back and become chairman of PDP.
That as it maybe, it is also there that who are those that are involved in this case, do you see Deji Doherty there, even as a defendant or as a plaintiff? My name is not there; it’s the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ben Obi, Senator Olujimi, Engineer Muhammed Muktar, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), among others. There is no Deji Doherty there; there is no chairman of Lagos PDP there, so are you now going to join me in a case that I am not even a party to? I am not even a party in this case, and even if they are taking any decision and it is going to affect me rightly or wrongly, I must be joined in the case. That is the reason I have instructed my lawyer, apart from the appeal that is being served by the National body of the PDP, I would personally file an appeal for a stay of execution on a judgment on a case that I know nothing about.
Let me say that again, on July 2, 2021, the national secretary of the party signed a letter that notified all the security agencies and the agencies that work for all the political parties in the state, and the letter reads: ‘Notice of Appeal of the Judgment of the Peoples Democratic Party’s leadership in Lagos State: ‘The National Working Committee of our great Party, Peoples Democratic Party, acting on the advice of the National Legal Adviser, has resolved to write and notify you of our Appeal in the suit no: LD3600DCL 19 as follows: 1- That the judgment has been appealed and we are waiting for the determination of the Appeal Court; 2- Accordingly, the status quo is maintained pending the determination of the Appeal which Deji Doherty is the chairman; 3- That the Executive Committee of the Party, that’s the NEC of the Party in the State under the chairmanship of Engineer Deji Doherty remains the one to oversee the affairs of the party until the determination of the Appeal; 4- All the official correspondences with our party should be communicated to and received through and from the EXCO led by Engineer Deji Doherty until the determination of the Appeal. We attach here with notice of our Appeal please. While counting on your confidence of the chairman, kindly accept the assurances of the PDP NWC highest regard.’ Isn’t that explicit enough? So please tell me, if you are saying that you want to be the chairman, do you want to be the chairman of chairmen, local government chairmen that are not subjecting themselves to you? Or you want to be the chairman of National Working Committee that does not recognise you as chairman? You will need to ask Dr Dominic.
But Dr Dominic has already taken over the party secretariat and holding meetings there. He even said that the judgment said Deji Doherty was never the chairman of PDP in Lagos State and that the congress that brought you in as chairman of PDP was not properly conducted.
That is for him to interpret; anybody can interpret a judgment to suit him. And what is the secretariat? Have you seen me in the secretariat since I became the chairman? I don’t go to the secretariat because it is inconsequential; it’s inconsequential. That’s number one. Number two, the last time there was fracas and crises, what he was trying to do? I am not desperate. Even if he sits at the secretariat, all the meetings he has called, has he seen anybody there? I mean anybody that is worth his salt, has he seen any EXCO member there, has he seen local government chairman there? We don’t have anything to do with the secretariat. That’s number one. Number two, the secretariat is being maintained by me. It is my administration that pays the salaries of those in the secretariat; it is my administration that has the security and everything, I just don’t go to the secretariat because I have my own address. I don’t need the secretariat for me to perform my duties as chairman. The secretariat he is talking about, when did they pay the rent last? They are owing 15 years rent on the secretariat. What are they talking about? He doesn’t even know what is happening. For the 90 days he was there, did you see any letter making Dominic the chairman? Did you see any letter conferring chairmanship on Dr Dominic? Did you see that? This is a letter from the national headquarters of PDP again, dated February 11, 2021, titled: ‘Communications and Correspondences with INEC in Lagos State: ‘This is to politely stress to your Commission that all communications and correspondences to our Lagos State chapter should be from and through the office of the chairman of the state chapter. All the official matters affecting our party in the state should be signed by the state chairman, Engineer Deji Doherty or persons authorised by him.’ What else do you want?
But the concern of people in Lagos is that PDP is always in crisis, especially whenever elections are approaching.
My reaction is this: there is a fifth columnist in PDP. I can’t say more than that. We know the people and as we go along, we would handle them. We would definitely do.
How do you want to handle them?
Why do you want to know? Is that your business?
The people will like to know.
The people don’t need to know. The people need to know there is peace. There has been relative peace in PDP, so why is it now that they tried to create problem? We have already gone past that. We have done what we need to do; we had our primary election to pick candidates for the councillorship and chairmanship for local government elections in the state; they did not participate in it. We raised 57 chairmanship candidates and 57 deputy chairmanship candidates and we had 376 councillorship candidates across the state, which PDP has never done before.
But there was a kind of controversy over the list.
They are the ones trying to create it, but it has not worked.
The other group, I mean those on the side of Dr. Dominic, says that within the period of 20 months that the crisis lingered, the party suffered so much under your reign and has not done well, despite the fact that the ruling APC is also facing its own challenges.
Listen now, if it did not do well, how did it come up with candidates for the local government poll? When the thing was doing well, when it was in their hands, how many candidates did they produce; didn’t they take all of us to the Labour Party or Accord Party? When it was doing well in their hands, how many candidates did they field; how many candidates were interested? They should tell us.
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