Specifically, the respondents, Michael Babatunde Ogun, Suleiman Olayinka Saheed and Wasiu Adeniyi Odusan, all PDP members in the state and initiators of the suit, asked the court to determine Obanikoro’s eligibility to participate in the party’s governorship primary fixed for December 8, 2014.
They also asked the court for an injunction barring Obanikoro from accepting what they called “the PDP’s candidacy or nomination” to contest the next year’s governorship election in Lagos State until the matter was favourably disposed of.
However, another group, The Group of Concerned Lagosians, slammed Ogunlewe and George for sponsoring a campaign of calumny against Obanikoro. The group, in a statement by its coordinator, Olayinka Sotade, on Monday, said it was mischievous for them to have brought up the issue of citizenship a few weeks to the PDP primary even though Obanikoro had served as a minister and an ambassador. The statement read in part, “Let it be made clear that Obanikoro is a natural born citizen of Nigeria and nowhere else, not USA, not UAE, not Outer Mongolia. Instead of meeting him at the party primary, desperate individuals are resorting to the same dirty tricks they used in years past to, at the most, frustrate his aspiration, and, at the least, confuse the electorate.
“We are solidly behind Senator Obanikoro and wish to let Bode George and his cohorts know that Obanikoro is a true son of Lagos, who has served Lagos decently all through his public service career without any criminal record, accusation or litigation. He will not be intimidated by half-baked politicians who are already afraid of meeting him at the primary.”
Responding to the crisis within the PDP, a former Minister of State for the Interior, Mr. Ademola Seriki, who was a vice chairman of the PDP in Lagos State, before defecting to the APC, said the disunity in the Lagos PDP was expected and that it would affect the party’s chances next year.
He said, “They have not and cannot win Lagos because they are not united and can never be. They have never had power in Lagos before and don’t know what it is like to have it. So, when power is approaching, all of them will be hungry. It is like putting food in front of people that are not just hungry but starving. You know, when they see the food, they can just start slapping one another because no one would want to be cheated. That is what is happening now.”
In a move seen largely as a bid to unify the party, President Goodluck Jonathan visited the state last month when he reportedly charged the party leaders in the state to come up with a consensus candidate or prune the large number of aspirants to three so that the party could forge ahead.
This seemed to be more difficult than expected as only one aspirant, Dr. Ade Dosunmu, dropped out of the race to contest the Lagos-Central senatorial ticket. Reacting to the crisis, the Publicity Secretary of the Lagos State chapter of the PDP, Mr. Taofik Gani, said the party was aware of the infighting. He, therefore, warned those disparaging George to be careful as they risked being sanctioned by the party. Gani said there was no reason to believe that George was supporting anybody and reaffirmed George as the leader of the PDP in the state.
He said, “The Lagos PDP is reading the Riot Act to all those who are out to foment trouble in the name of any aspirant or group. Issues that are meant to be resolved within the party should not be discussed on the pages of newspapers. Let it be known that the activities of the aspirants and their groups in the open or secret are being noted by the party. Elections are approaching and this is not the time not to be seen as united.
“We are not precluding that people can agitate for rights and privileges but they should not be overambitious. We particularly condemn any aspirant or group that has come to put a bad label on Chief Olabode George, he remains the leader of our party but that is not to say that his opinion will always be final. Anyone that continues to attack him will not only suffer punishment but may lose some privileges and will be labelled a mole of the APC and Tinubu.”