2023: The PDP challenge to the APC in South-West
Deputy Editor, DAPO FALADE writes on the various efforts by the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to restrategise in its efforts to bring the party back into reckoning ahead the 2023 general election, even as its leadership held the unification rally at the historic Mapo Hall, Ibadan, on Wednesday.
IT is an indubitable fact that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), at the height of its glory, dominated the political landscape since the advent of the current democratic dispensation, especially between 1999 and 2011. Its sphere of, though gradually waning particularly in the South-West and some parts of the North, still extended up to 2015 when it eventually lost out to the All Progressives Congress (APC), a merger of four political parties that came together to form a critical opposition, in the last general election.
Beginning from 2010, following two landmark judicial interventions, the PDP fortunes took a further turn for the worse as it lost Ekiti and Osun states to the then opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The losses laid the foundation for the weakening of the once-upon-a-time ruling party in the South-West. From thenceforth, the PDP, which was in control of the entire South-West zone, except Lagos State, from 2003 to 2007, became an orphan as it lost the whole states in the zone to the APC in the 2015 elections.
Before then, the party was able to gain some visibility in 2014 when its candidate, former Governor Ayodele Fayose, defeated the then incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi of the APC in the Ekiti State governorship election to have a second term stint in the state. It was a case of sadness and joy for the party as it, on one hand, again lost its hold on Ekiti in 2018 when Fayemi made a return to his office by defeating Professor Olusola Eleka of the PDP. On the other hand however, the party was able to retain its foothold in the zone as its candidate, Seyi Makinde, roundly defeated his APC counterpart, Bayo Adelabu, to emerge as the governor of Oyo State in the 2019 elections.
Ever since his assuming office, Makinde has left no one in doubt about his intention to foster unity in the divided house of the PDP in the South-West. Addressing a PDP zonal stakeholders’ meeting held at his behest in Ibadan, Thursday last week, the Oyo State helmsman declared his readiness to unite all the party members in the zone. Buoyed by his quest to achieve his aim, he said then: “If the South-West can be orgnaised, then Nigeria will be organised…I am for unity in the South-West and I have donated myself to pursuing unity in our region. The only message from me is that of unity for the South-West. I am harping on unity for our zone because, if we go down the memory lane, we will know that when the South-West is thriving, unified, the entire country is unified and thriving.”
The import of lack of unity was also not lost on the governor, as he attributed the PDP loss in the 2015 governorship election in Oyo State to a divided house, urging that the party leadership in the zone to work tirelessly towards uniting all the divisive tendencies in the party ahead the 2023 general election.
It was against this background that Governor Makinde took it upon himself that the attempt at unification must transcend the South-West Stakeholders’ meeting held at Ibadan. Towards that end, he was in Lagos and Ekiti states in the efforts at ensuring unity among the party leaders in the overall interest of the party in the zone.
In view of the above, the South-West PDP Unification Rally was held, on Wednesday, at the historic Mapo Hall, located at the heartbeat of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital. Expectedly, the rally ostensibly held to welcome back into the party its erstwhile leaders who had defected into other political parties, especially the APC, was a gathering of who-is-who in the PDP camp in the South-West, and even beyond.
The roll call of the PDP chieftains present at the rally included the host-governor, Seyi Makinde; Governor Douye Diri of Bayelsa State; PDP national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, represented by the national organising secretary, General Austin Akobundu (retd); former Governor Fayose; former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State; former deputy national chairman (South), Chief Olabode George; deputy national chairman (South-West), Eddy Olafeso; two other former national leaders, Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun and Tajudeen Oladipupo; wife of a former governor of Oyo State, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, Mutiat; PDP presidential candidate in the 2019 elections, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, represented by his son, Adamu; Oyo deputy governor, Raufu Olaniyan; Honourable Ladi Adebutu; Speaker of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Debo Ogundoyin and the chairman of Adamawa State chapter of the PDP, A. T. Shehu.
Also present at the rally included deputy national chairman (South), Yemi Akinwonmi; former deputy governor of Oyo State, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja; a former member of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Ademola Ige; Mr Femi Babalola; governorship candidate of the African Democratic Party, Remi Oseni; former Secretary to the Osun State Government, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade; secretary, Oyo ADC, Wasiu Emiola; ADC governorship candidate in Lagos State, Olalere Gbadamosi; a former senator representing Oyo North, Gbenga Babalola; former deputy governor of Osun State, Erelu olusola obada and Otunba Oyewole Fasawe.
The top shots also comprised were PDP deputy national publicity secretary, Diran Odeyemi; zonal publicity secretary, Ayo Fadaka; senator representing Oyo South, Kola Balogun; Dr Saka Balogun; lawmaker representing Ibadan South-West/North-West in the House of Representatives, Stanley Olajide; former Osun PDP governorship candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke and spokesperson of the Atiku Presidential Campaign Organisation, Segun Sowunmi.
After kick-starting the rally with a prayer by Dr Saka Balogun, Olafeso, who was the compere, left no one in doubt about the determination of the PDP ahead the 2023 elections as he declared: “All our leaders here today, you are all welcome to Mapo Hall, Ibadan, the seat of politics in the South-West, nay Nigeria. The event of today marked the beginning of the end of the APC in the South-West and the country.” He acknowledged that Governor Makinde initiated the unification rally, noting that the governor had been channeling the path to reconciliation and giving party members a sense of belonging.
Taking over the microphone form Olafeso, the host-governor said the rally marked the beginning of unity in the South-West and, by extension, in the country, disclosing that the rally held against the expectations of some naysayers. The governor took a swipe at the ruling party as he said the APC is a party that had been invested by the dreaded Coronavirus and urged the people not be part of such a political party.
“I want to talk about two things here. Firstly, some people said we should not hold the rally because of the Coronavirus. This is admittance by the leaders of the other party that there is coronavirus in their party. But we don’t have Coronavirus in our own party, the PDP. Secondly, I want to condemn here those protested against Operation Amotekun in Lagos and those who protested in Ekiti State. I want to say it here that they are not true and authentic Yoruba. But either they like it or not, Amotekun has come to stay with us here in the South-West,” he said.
Former Governor Oyinlola, who was one of the prominent former PDP leaders who returned the party, apparently stole the show with his speech at the rally. Speaking in Yoruba, he took a swipe at his former party, describing it as a party of deceit which lied to Nigerians on restructuring, adding that the party lacked the wherewithal to govern for the good of the people.
Oyinlola, who led several other chieftains from Osun State, including a former Secretary to the State Government during his administration, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, welcomed politicians from the South-West who returned to the PDP, even as he further alleged that the APC was characterised by lopsided political appointments, adding that it would meet its waterloo in the country, especially in the South-West before the 2023 general election.
He said: “When I told my people that I am going to Ibadan where I will be formally joining the PDP, some people asked me why. I told them that Ibadan is the source of politics in Nigeria. And also about politics in Nigeria, things are not properly done by those in power now. I know about how these people got to power. We went into the APC because we talked about restructuring. But they got to power and they said they don’t know anything about restructuring. This is all deceit.
“We are all concerned about the ongoing lopsided appointments into public offices. When Kemi Adeosun was removed, she was replaced with one of their own. When the former Director General of the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayodele Oke, was removed, he was replaced with one of their own and now, when they removed Dakuku Peterside as the DG of NIMASA, he was replaced with one of their own,” he said.
The former governor also said the time had come to reorganise politics in the South-West, even as she admonished the leaders and members of the PDP to be circumspect in their approach to political activities in the zone and assured that the party would regain its lost glory.
The unification rally was interspersed with musical interludes by the popular Ibadan-based Fuji music act, Taye Currency. But beyond the fanfare are silent issues underlying the essence of the rally. It is a known fact the South-West PDP leadership, from Lagos, to Oyo, through Ogun, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti states, is groaning under some issues bothering on ego and individual interests which are negatively impacting on the much-desired unity in the party. The party, indeed, made a statement with the coming back into its fold some of its former prominent leaders. More so, the rally is an indication of the party’s agenda for the 2023 elections, with the forthcoming Ondo State governorship being its first major litmus test. It is the contention of many observers that the outcome of the Ondo election would provide a further insight into how united and how prepared is the umbrella party in its journey into the 2023 general election.