As South-West PDP holds unification rally in Ibadan
As leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-West converge on Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, today for a unification rally, KUNLE ODEREMI and DAPO FALADE write on some issues plaguing the party that might require more than a rally to be sincerely addressed because of their deep-rooted nature within the party.
THE period from 1999 to 2007 can be regarded as the best period the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ever had in the south-western part of the country. Then, the party could boast of some influential political leaders with diverse experience and professional background. The party in the zone leveraged on the fact that it produced President Olusegun Obasanjo to alter the shape and form of the politics of the zone, nay the country. Choice ministries came to the zone for being part of mainstream politics. This translated to some positive effects that culminated in the empowerment of members of the PDP in the zone and the party making a serious and major incursion to the zone, when it ‘snatched’ almost the entire South-West from the hitherto vibrant Alliance for Democracy (AD) that formed government in the six states in the zone on May 29, 1999. Apart from President Obasanjo securing a fresh mandate in 2003, his party won all, but the Lagos State in the governorship in a major political upset.
The tide, however, began to change in 2007 when the PDP began to suffer some serious electoral misfortune, largely because of internal contradiction occasioned by lack of party discipline, cohesion and spirit of sportsmanship. Gradually the gains the PDP had made over time began to be eroded; its ranks became depleted by defections by some key stakeholders, while the court room rather than internal conflict resolution mechanism became the popular avenue for aggrieved party members to seek redress. So, a party that once controlled Ondo, Osun, Ogun and Ekiti now has just one state, Oyo, in its kitty, with Lagos State remaining a hard nut for it to crack.
In the last few weeks, the governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, has been doing a yeoman’s job on the issue of reconciliation in the PDP. Evidence of his trouble-shooting mission includes a stakeholders’ meeting he hosted last Thursday in the Government House, Ibadan. The effort is what has culminated in the unity rally holding today. As a prelude to last Monday’s parley, he visited Lagos and Ekiti states in an attempt to unite the leaders in the overall interest of the South-West PDP. The supremacy tussle among the main power brokers in those states has defied several interventions from the PDP national leadership over the years.
Against this background, the PDP rally for unification represents an acid test for the party, especially as the governorship election in Ondo State draws near. Though some PDP stalwarts in that state claimed that the party was ready for the election, even if the poll was to hold today, there are some outstanding issues which the vested interest in the poll have raised. One of them is power shift, with most of the gladiators not being on the same page.
Makinde’s yeoman’s job
Before now, several attempts were made to reconcile all the aggrieved members. Some of the efforts came from among the PDP leaders, especially elders in the zone, while other peace initiatives emanated from the national secretariat of the party in Abuja. Apparently most of the efforts had some salutary effects because many of the people involved were themselves party to the crisis. Other efforts could not go far enough because of the fear of demystifying some powerful and influential party members. In this political dispensation, Governor Makinde of Oyo State decided to pick up the gauntlet to reunite the party in the zone. It is that Yeoman’s job that culminated in the unification rally taking place at the historic Mapo Hall located in the heart of Ibadan. He set a clear a clear agenda for all PDP faithful on the occasion and beyond.
At the South-West PDP Stakeholders’ meeting, Makinde said he was ready to do all that was necessary to unite all the party members. He said: “If the South-West can be organised, then Nigeria will be organised. I am not a saint, neither am I a devil. What we are dealing with is a game of number and we have to accommodate one another. Let us not assume some people are bad because they have their own roles to play in this too. So, I am for unity in the South-West and I have donated myself to pursuing unity for our region. The only message from me is that of unity for the South-West zone. I am harping on the 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. So, we have to work extremely hard to unify all the tendencies. In Oyo State, we have experienced disunity before and we know the implications. After the 2015 general election, we came back together and we said to ourselves that we must not tread on that path again. I try to be frontal because I believe we have to play a different brand of politics.”
Makinde was of the belief that the zone could set the pace for other zones by making sure that issues concerning power sharing at congresses were not compromised. His words: “I believe we will set the tone for the rest of the country if we get it right without any external interference. If we can do it within this zone, then we can echo it that we have the capacity to sort out our own internal grievances. We are not putting names in there right now. Once we have an agreement on what is zoned to a particular state, then everybody will go back to their states and give us the individuals they have agreed to nominate. There are benefits in government and I believe it will be a fruitless effort if we cannot work diligently as a party to clinch the government. I pray that all our states in the South-West, including Lagos that has not produced PDP governor since 1999, will produce candidates of this party in this dispensation.”
The issue of ego among some of its stalwarts is seen as the bane of the PDP. Some find it difficult to accept the reality that others should be on the front roll, based on their proven and widely acknowledged prowess, expertise, pedigree, experience and capacity. Thus, they insist on clinging to the status of self-styled kingmakers or godfathers who must determine the fate of candidates and anoint their proxies and foot soldiers for appointive and elective offices and positions.
For every opportunity, others believe their personal interest should be number one. Despite having failed in the past when they had opportunities to contest, they have remained resolute in their individual inordinate ambitions to run for elective offices during major elections-governorship, senatorial and the House of Representatives’ seats. A related problem is the propensity by some elements for crass impunity. Their major concern is to fortify their personal business and political empire. Where they are not lobbying to secure choice political appointments for themselves, they tend to push their siblings forward, instead of recommending more competent party faithful who have worked assiduously for the overall success of the PDP.
Because they can boast of the necessary financial muscles to compromise the process, they tend to deploy all logistics to the cause of hijacking the process of all major political contests. This was often at the detriment of other persons better equipped to serve the PDP at different critical levels and sectors. They are like sacred cows. Though elections in the country are no longer about ideology and programmes but more about money factor, the role of due process cannot be underscored because of global practice and standard.
Perhaps, the albatross of the PDP in the zone is the utter disregard and disdain for the mechanism for conflict resolution in the party by majority of the main stakeholders in the party. At every slightest opportunity, an aggrieved party member resorts to litigation without exploring the available internal mechanism to seek redress. This has led to the weakening of the PDP structures in the zone as many of the litigants have snubbed overtures for them to opt for internal peaceful resolution organs of the party.
Although the PDP still has a huge number of powerful and influential politicians, but it lacks the kind of father-figure that former President Obasanjo represented, even after he completed his eight-year rule in 2007. Each of the six chapters of the PDP in the zone has distinguished politicians to rally others for the party. However, the absence of compromise among a few major stakeholders constituted the main obstacle to evolving a well-knit house. Some of the party chieftains seem to prefer sole administration as opposed to the ideal namely, collaboration and consensus. Thus, the fallouts of the last national chairmanship contest created a lot of bad blood. It will be recalled that the politics of the December 2017 national convention of the party left a lot crevices in the South-West PDP due to the way the zone was schemed out of producing the national chairman; it is the only zone that has never occupied the exalted office.
Nothing less than 17 members were reported to have indicated interest in the governorship ticket of the PDP for the forthcoming election in Ondo State. The leaders of the party at the state level have, for the umpteenth time, claimed they were fully ready for the election. But if the experience of the past is anything to go by, post primaries contestations, acrimonies and conflicts constitute a major issue and often degenerate into court cases that ended tearing political parties apart in the country. Notwithstanding the large number of aspirants, the chairman of the PDP in the state, Honourable Clement Faboyede, said there was no cause for alarm, assuring that due process would be followed.
The crisis is more about hegemony and resistance in Osun State. One camp is accused of being all out to hijack the machinery of the PDP, while the other is insisting that due process must be followed and the division is said to have caused the recent invasion of the state secretariat of the party, allegedly by suspected thugs loyal to those opposed to due process and popular path. Elders of the party are leading the stiff resistance against the plot to hijack the party machinery by the other camp which boasts of a heavy war chest.
It was leant that the elders had initial plan to meet with Governor Makinde over the issues. A member of the PDP Board of Trustees, Senator (Dr) Olu Alabi, told Nigerian Tribune that leaders of the party in state wished Makinde could intervene in the crisis like he did in Lagos and Ekiti state chapters of the party. Many are of the view that the planned return of former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola may bring about the resolution of the thorny issues affecting the party in the state.
Lagos has remained elusive to the PDP for more than 20 years of civil rule in the country. One of the major obstacles in the bid by the party to take over government in the state is the protracted power game among the major power centres in the party. Makinde underscored this when he met with all the tendencies at the office of a former deputy national chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, preparatory to the unification rally. Is it yet Uhuru in Lagos PDP where there were two claimants to the chairmanship position prior to Makinde’s intervention and rapprochement? However, the views expressed by Chief Bode George after the Makinde effort appears refreshing to many Lagos PDP faithful. He said: “We have the solution that we have all agreed on. Unless you want to deceive yourself, there will always be issues but it will take the grace of the Almighty for you to be able to resolve whatever differences we have. And we spoke brilliantly; they spoke and we proffered solutions we would come out and accept so that we can work together.”
The disunity in the PDP in Ogun State has defied almost all forms of interventions. The two camps remain adamant in their battle for supremacy, with the concomitant effects on the structures of the PDP in the state. The situation is exacerbated by a rash of litigation, contradictory court judgments and flagrant disregard for court order. Virtually all the concerned parties over the crisis seem frustrated in the quest to restore sanity because of the caliber of the forces involved in the battle for the soul of the PDP in Ogun State. The party has lost some of its notable figures to rival political parties because of lack of compromise, even as others defected because of pecuniary interests.
Despite the peace initiative of Makinde, the cold war between the two rival camps in the Ekiti State chapter of the PDP persists. The love lost between the loyalists of former Governor Ayo Fayose and the allies of Senator Biodun Olujimi has not diminished, with claims and counter-claims among party leaders and stakeholders over the conduct of congresses.
The third leg in the peace initiative in the Ekiti chapter of the party is another former governor of the state, Chief Segun Oni. Though the former deputy national chairman of the APC is yet to make a formal declaration of his intention to return to his former political party, he had disclosed to Nigerian Tribune, on Monday that he was not going back on his resolution to leave APC, along with members of his political group.
Governor Makinde is the rallying point for all the tendencies in the Oyo State chapter of the PDP. Having elected to be the chief reconciliator in the party in the entire South-West, he has the arduous task of sustaining the conviviality among PDP stakeholders in the state to set the pace for the other five chapters in the zone to emulate.
Beyond the rally are questions in respect of other PDP stalwarts who dumped the ‘umbrella’ as a result of irreconcilable differences with those accused of high-handedness in the past, but who are currently sojourning in rival political parties. There are others, who left and became ‘sworn enemies’ of the party through vitriolic verbal attacks. If they choose to become repentant prodigal sons, will they be regarded as free born?
Through the unification rally, the South-West PDP will be setting part of its agenda for the 2023 general election. That agenda will first go through a sort of test-run with the 2020 governorship poll in Ondo State. Thereafter, the impact of the effort will form part of the basis for political negotiation for higher stakes within the PDP in the gradual journey to the next to the general election in the country.