SOUTH-WEST Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders, on Monday, re-zoned the position of national chairman to Lagos and Ogun states, in a deliberate move to avert acrimony over national offices zoned to the geopolitical zone.
A former PDP deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George and its governorship candidate in the 2015 governorship election in Lagos, Mr Jimi Agbaje, both of whom are from Lagos State, had indicated interest in the position.
Incidentally, a former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran and another former minister, Professor Taoheed Adedoja, had also earlier announced their interest in the chairmanship position.
It was not clear if the new arrangement might settle the initial mutual suspicion that trailed the zoning of the chairmanship position to the South-West by the PDP national caretaker committee.
However, the South-West leaders set up a six-man reconciliatory committee headed by a former PDP national vice chairman, Alhaji Yekeen Adeojo, which was mandated to speak with all the aspirants jostling for the post of national chairman.
Under the new sharing formula adopted at the end of a meeting of the PDP leaders on Monday, held in Akure, the Ondo State capital, Ondo and Ekiti states are to produce the national treasurer while Osun and Oyo states are to fill the position of national deputy publicity secretary.
Briefing newsmen on the outcome of the meeting, PDP deputy national chairman (South-West), Eddy Olafeso, gave a detailed account of the new sharing formula, which he said was meant to forge a united front by the zone ahead of the party’s national convention.
According to him, leaders drawn from all the six states in the region resolved to re-zone the chairmanship position to Lagos/ Ogun; treasurer to Ondo/ Ekiti and the national deputy publicity secretary to Oyo/Osun.
“As of this moment, the leaders zoned the chairmanship of the party to Lagos and Ogun states, and we have mandated a six-man committee of reconciliation to speak with everybody so that the South-West zone will have a common focus at the convention coming in Port Harcourt.
“We have zoned equally the treasurer to Ekiti and Ondo axis while Osun and Oyo will pick the national publicity secretary of the party.
“The key issue is the unity among our leaders and the teeming followers of the PDP, in view of very difficult situation and for us to provide quality opposition to the APC government at the centre, so that Nigerians would not be schemed out.
“Subsequently, you will be hearing from us as we continue to ensure that the Yoruba race becomes united in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Our concern at the moment is to ensure peace and unity and come out with a candidate at the national convention in Port Harcourt,” he said.
Olafeso assured that the leaders of PDP would come out strong to speak in one voice and to reposition the party in the South-West.
But, Professor Adedoja expressed displeasure over the outcome of the meeting and vowed to forge ahead with his aspiration, despite the decision of the leaders to zone it to Lagos and Ogun states.
Adedoja said all aspirants should be left to test their individual popularity before delegates at the convention.
Similarly, Professor Adeniran expressed his desire to contest at the convention, as he had obtained forms at the PDP national secretariat in Abuja.
His media aide, Mr Taiwo Akeju, told newsmen that his principal obtained his form in Abuja on Monday and intentionally avoided the meeting to consult with some party leaders in the North for the realisation of his aspiration.
Akeju, who is the former secretary of the party in the zone, said all the aspirants should be allowed to test their popularity rather than the consensus arrangement reached by the meeting convoked by Governor Olusegun Mimiko and his Ekiti counterpart, Mr Ayodele Fayose.
“What we are saying is that they should allow all the aspirants that have obtained the forms to go and test their popularity, which is democracy. We don’t want impunity again in the party,” he said.
He specifically said he would not accede to the arrangement, lamenting the impunity in the party which he pointed out had been the crux of its calamities.
“We are still battling with the Sheriff thing now, we know the consequences and we know the people that brought us to this level. But what we are saying is that we need to turn a new leaf. Let anybody that purchase form be allowed to contest.
“There is no point zoning anything, it won’t work,” he protested, reiterating that “it is not possible. You have to open up for the best material to emerge, that is our position. We want the best material to emerge at the convention.”
Akeju noted that there were a lot of factions in the South-West PDP, claiming that Senator Buruji Kashamu walked out of the meeting with a promise to announce his preferred candidate on Thursday.
“We are the founding fathers of the party. I was the spokesman of this party in 1999. These people that are destroying this party were not with us in 1998/1999. We don’t want anybody to zone it, we must be democratic,” he insisted.
However, there was a mild drama at the venue of the meeting as the senator representing Ogun East senatorial district, Senator Buruji Kashamu, angrily walked out of the venue.
It was gathered that Kashamu came to the venue with his supporters in three buses but they were not accredited for the meeting, because the convener requested for two delegates from each state.
A leader of the party in the region, however, said the matter had been resolved by Governor Mimiko, who called to appeal to the lawmaker.
Meanwhile, the ousted zonal executive of the party has said the meeting of the leaders was not constitutional.
Speaking on behalf of the executive, Makanjuola Ogundipe said the national caretaker committee led by Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi should not hearken to whatever decision reached at the meeting.
Ogundipe described the action of the conveners as executive rascality as he and members of his executive were the legally recognised executive of the party at the zone.
According to him, members of the zonal leadership led by Mimiko should be brought to book as they had violated the constitution of the party by excluding critical stakeholders of the party from the meeting.
However, the meeting, convened by Governor Mimiko and Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State, was attended by Senator Iyiola Omisore, Dr Eddy Olafeso and members of the zonal executive.
Others at the meeting held at the Banquet Hall of the Governor’s Office included Senator Teslim Folarin, Chief Bode George, Professor Adedoja, Chief (Mrs) Olusola Obada, Chief Ebenezer Babatope and Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo.