PDP convention: The battle for delegates’ slots

With the rescheduled national convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) less than three weeks, there is increasing power play over the slot for delegates, writes KUNLE ODEREMI.

The countdown to the rescheduled PDP national convention has begun in earnest. Major gladiators in the party have stepped up horse-trading for the exercise coming up in Port Harcourt on August 17, 2016, to elect substantive national officers to restore life into a party that has been gasping for breath after it was humbled in the 2015.

One nagging issue to be resolved by the convention is the struggle for the national chairmanship of the PDP. So, no fewer than eight eminent members of the party from the three zones in the Southern part of the country are believed to be warming up for the position, and three of them have hit the ground running. A former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, Professor Tunde Adeniran and business mogul, Chief Raymond Dokpesi are among those that have emerged as contenders. Seasoned political leaders like Chief Ebenezer Babatope, are believed to be leading the campaign for George, whose tenure as PDP deputy national chairman saw the party made a remarkable impact in the South-West by winning five of the six governorship seats in the zone. There are speculations that such PDP stalwarts as a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Gbenga Daniel; a former Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Professor Taoheed Adedoja; Austin Opara and Chief Uche Secondus are also interested in the job.

Following a directive from PDP headquarters in Abuja, , last Friday, PDP leaders from the South-West tried to restore peace in the state chapters in the zone. The exercise became necessary because of serious infighting among the leaders, which culminated in parallel leadership structures, with the scenario most pronounced in Oyo, Lagos, Osun and Ogun states, owing to disputations over the conduct or otherwise of state congresses conducted earlier in the year. While the incumbency factor appears to have allowed PDP governors to reign in party faithful and peace in Ekiti and Ondo states, the major gladiators in Osun, Oyo and Lagos states have been at each other’s throat. It was learnt that at the Lagos meeting, the leaders had a hectic time while trying to broker peace.  The leaders had to be at their wit’s end in order to save the day, especially over the crisis in the Osun State chapter of the PDP as the session almost resulted into fisticuffs following a sharp disagreement among members of the two factions in the state. Trouble started when one of the factions came with a huge number of representatives, contrary to a directive of the Reconciliation Committee that each camp should send only five representatives.

When the situation was gradually becoming rowdy, Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State and his Ekiti State counterpart, Mr Ayodele Fayose, and Senator Kashamu Buruji, had to retire to ante room of the Eko Hotel, venue of the meeting, to consult on how to save the day. The bone of contention was a call to share 50:50, which the Adagunodo opposed, hinging its position on the conduct of state congress. However, the Omisore faction said it was deliberately denied the opportunity to participate in the congress, just as there was a court injunction concerning the conduct of the exercise.

Later, members of the two factions were reportedly asked put down their names in the midst of claims by members of the Adagunodo faction that a state congress supervised by representatives of the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) held. Therefore, they kicked against the proposal by the reconciliation committee that the factions should share the number of delegates from the state fairly, and faulted the insinuation that Omisore was no longer a factor in the politics of PDP.

Elsewhere, the committee only it advised the leaders from Oyo State to go back home and resolve their difference, which bothered  on power tussle among the leaders. They claimed that there was no serious crisis among them but the issue of egoowing to the large number of PDP leaders in the state. They are to harmonise their structures and decide on ways to select delegates to represent the state at the Port Harcourt convention, while a committee will be set up to conduct a state congress of the party after the convention.

To save the meeting with the Osun PDP members ending in a possible deadlock, Mimiko recalled that the factions were asked to send only five representatives each to the meeting, noting that the Adangunodo camp flouted the directive. Fayose, along with Mimiko and Kashamu reportedly expressed concerned about the reprehensive conduct of the representatives, saying the meeting was primarily designed to broker peace and prepare ground for PDP national convention. Fayose was particularly not happy about the conduct of the belligerent camp from Osun, advising the members to take a cue from him and Buruji, who have decided to close ranks after engaging serious verbal war over the affairs of PDP. The three leaders claimed that Omisore remained a major factor with Kashamu wondering if a former deputy governor of a state, Senator could ever be regarded as a spent force. According to a source at the meeting, a party leader,who is a lawyer, said the issue at hand bothered on law, since there was a state congress supervised by INEC, thus there was no basis to now advocate the allocation of delegates on equal terms with the Omisore group.  Fayose faulted said the matter was not about law but on the need to restore peace in the PDP and that there was no way they could discountenance the Omisore camp in the quest for reconciliation, a point  Kashamu, on his part, stressed saying he visited Omisore in Abuja a few days ago after he was granted bail from detention.

A man said to the driver of a party leaders reportedly threatened to physically assault another party stalwart, a development that did not go down well with Fayose. The governor  had to be prevailed upon by Mimiko from walking out of the venue in anger over the conduct and attitude of members of a faction of the Osun PDP But, realising that the factions were not ready for compromise, Mimiko announced that the Reconciliation Committee would refer the Osun matter to the PDP national headquarters for adjudication, as the members of the factions stepped out of the meeting, they resorted to hot verbal exchanges, even though Kashamuhad earlier cautioned them against deceiving themselves that Omisore was no longer relevant   in  the scheme of things. He advised them to embrace peace by accepting a sharing formula that is based on equity and justice.

Fayose subtly underscored what transpired at the closed door session. He was quoted as saying that the emphasis on the three states for reconciliation was because “our findings clearly show that cases of groupings and sharp divides exist in the three states and this is what we addressed in the meeting. We have to learn from the past.” Meanwhile, the fate of the warring factions in Osun might be decided this week at a crucial meeting of the PDP top hierarchy. It will also confirm if the factions in Lagos and Oyo have she embraced peace, the swords, as the South-West makes desperate bid for the chairmanship for first time in 17 years of PDP? But, the quest has already come under serious threat as the South-South through Dokpesi is making efforts to worm himself into the heart of South-West party leaders, especially prospective delegates to the convention, over his chairmanship aspiration.