South-West PDP’s House of Cards

Against the backdrop of the face off among some leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-West zone, DARE ADEKANMBI looks at the avowed promise of the party leaders to kick-start its resurgence with the return of the party to power in Oyo State amid the crisis in the various state chapters.

A combination of zonal leadership tussle, scheming for 2023 and intra-party conflicts in almost all its state chapters is once again tearing the umbrella in the South-West zone, leaving the biggest opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), aching in all joints and convulsing seriously.

Unless nipped from spreading and growing, the current schism in the party imperils its chances of success in off-cycle governorship elections coming up in Osun and Ekiti states in 2022, two years hence.

But is the fault in the star of the party or in the seeming selfishness of its leaders? That is a million naira question.

There are reports of a bitter contest for the leadership of the party in the zone between its only governor, Seyi Makinde and former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose. In the middle of the crisis, a good number of the PDP Caucus in the National Assembly, recently issued a statement, declaring support for Makinde as the right person to lead the party in the zone, being the only governor from the party.

This came only two months after leaders of the party in the zone, including its former deputy national chairman, Chief Bode George, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Chief Segun Oni, Fayose, Honourable Ladi Adebutu, met in Ibadan and resolved to build an enduring structure and return the party to winning ways in the zone.

The party’s National Working Committee (NWC), determined to strengthen the party in EKiti, saddled Governor Makinde with the task of ensuring a vibrant PDP in the state. Makinde nominated one of his allies, Senator Hosea Agboola, a former Senator Deputy Whip, to chair the caretaker committee to midwife the conduct of fresh congresses and enthrone new party officers.

One report says Makinde’s view is that the structure be shared between Fayose, the undisputed leader of the party in the state and Senator Abiodun Olujimi to end factional crisis in the party. But Fayose considers the view expressed by Makinde as an affront on his commitment to the party.

Following the resulting impasse, Makinde’s nominee, Agboola, stayed away, as the NWC sent officials who conducted the congresses that ushered in Fayose’s loyalists as the new party officers of the party.

The development led Fayose to issue a warning to Makinde against tampering with the party structure in Ekiti, saying each state’s leaders should be allowed to determine the structure in their respective states.

“There has been a reasonable cold war of who and who becomes the executive of the zone. Governor Makinde has demanded that the zonal executives be sacked and a caretaker be fostered on the zone which the party did.

“But since the caretaker committee came into being, he has not allowed them to function because he produced the chairman. Beyond that, the fact that he is a sitting governor does not say he should go to another man’s state.

“Nobody should come to my state. If he comes to my state, I will face him squarely. I will continue to respect him because he is my brother. I love him so much and I was part of his emergence,” Fayose was quoted to have said.

 

South-West PDP through history lens

At the height of its glory and splendour, PDP won 28 of 36 states in the 2003 general election. And in the party’s chequered history, it has turned out that the epoch (2003-2007) has remained what can be referred to as the golden years of PDP’s 16 years rule in the country.

As of today, PDP has been reduced to 16 states, with the danger of losing one of the states or another golden opportunity to add to its stable, depending on the outcome of the governorship elections in Edo and Ondo states.

During the epoch in reference, not only did the party consolidate its control of the states it won in the 1999 general election, which ushered in the current Fourth Republic, it also made bulldozing incursions into the South-West zone where it had hitherto been rolled back by the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) which held sway in the most politically dynamic zone during the transition that sent the military back to the barracks, leaving politics and civil administration for men and women who have the breeding for it.

Five out of the six states of the zone – Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti – were won by PDP at the 2003 elections. Only Lagos State, which had to literally deploy all the water in its rough rude seas as a bulwark, could stop the PDP from overrunning it.

But no sooner had the umbrella party taken control of the five South-West states than it began to show early signs of distress which grew with time, leaving the party seriously dented.   The seed of the schism that led to a plummet in the fortune of the party in the zone was sown with the impeachment of two of its five governors, Rashidi Ladoja in Oyo and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti. Their removal was said to have been aided and abetted by the then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Although the Supreme Court in 2006 annulled the impeachment of Ladoja and returned him to office, he dumped the party after his deputy, Adebayo Alao-Akala, had been handed the flag to run as the party’s standard-bearer for the 2007 election. Fayose also lost out in Ekiti as Chief Segun Oni was fielded for the election.

But the governors of the remaining states, Dr Segun Agagu (Ondo), Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola (Osun) and Chief Gbenga Daniel (Ogun) all sought re-election and were returned elected for a second term. The opposition Action Congress (also defunct) and the Labour Party challenged what they regarded as electoral heist in the victories of the PDP governors.

Appeal Court justices found merit in the cases brought before them by Dr Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party in Ondo and Rauf Argbesola of Osun and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti. Thus, PDP, which had controlled five states, was left with only Ogun, which it also lost to internal crisis, gifting Ibikunle Amosun of AC the state. Alao-Akala of Oyo could not rally enough support on PDP platform which had been seriously weakened with the exodus of members who joined Ladoja to populate his Accord Party.

Thus, the PDP lost all the five states until Fayose came back in 2014 as Ekiti governor. This was followed by Mimiko who defected to the PDP. In 2018, when hopes were high in the hierarchy of the party that would succeed itself, Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) got his second coming as governor.

 

The Buruji Kashamu Intervention

The entry of Prince Buruji Kashamu into party politics before the 2011 transition changed the dynamics and the fortunes of the party alike in the South-West. Prince Kashamu, now late, was welcomed into the party by the then Ogun governor, Chief Daniel, who also introduced him to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Quickly, Kashamu floated a non-governmental organisation called the Omo Ilu Foundation, a platform he deployed to massively mobilise support for the party in the state and beyond. Aided by Obasanjo, Kashamu was soon to take over the structure from Daniel who had to dump the PDP for Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN) when the candidate he anointed to fly PDP’s flag was denied such by the former president who fielded General Adetunji Olurin.

His sphere of influence soon grew and Kashamu, supported by some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party at that time, ousted, through the court, former governors of Ekiti and Osun, Chief Oni and Prince Oyinlola who had been elected South-West zonal chairman and national secretary of the party respectively who were supported to party offices by Obasanjo.

The ensuing crisis in the party in the zone partly led to the exit of former President Goodluck Jonathan, as Oyinlola and Oni, including other aggrieved leaders in other zones and states, under the banner of the New PDP, teamed up with the APC leaders to birth the Buhari presidency in 2015.

The crisis that later played out at the national headquarters when Ali Modu Sheriff was in charge as the national chairman of the party had its roots in the crisis in the South-West where Kashamu once held sway with his loyalists in charge.

 

Crisis in State Chapters

Whilst the current crisis plaguing the party is festering, there is no peace in virtually all the state chapters of the party, from Lagos to Ondo.

In Osun, it has been a tale of deep-rooted crisis, which has threatened the unity and peace of the party shortly after it lost the 2018 governorship election in the state to the APC candidate and the incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola. Though, there had been cracks within the party before the conduct of the poll, the division degenerated to major fragments, thus culminating in several factions within the PDP.

Findings by Sunday Tribune indicated that factions and major blocs within the party include that of Senator Ademola Adeleke, Dr Akin Ogunbiyi, an insurance magnate, who was one of the gubernatorial aspirants of the PDP during its primaries election in 2018.

Another major faction is peopled by members of the party loyal and sympathetic to the suspended chairman of the PDP in Osun, Honourable Soji Adagunodo and another group in the camp of the acting chairman of the party in the state, Elder Sunday Atidade.

But, some political analysts are of the view that the struggle for who clinches the ticket of the party ahead 2022 governorship poll is the major factor precipitating the crisis, which is inadvertently tearing the party apart in the state. Credible source within the party informed Sunday Tribune that the camp of Adeleke is insisting that their ‘principal’, who hitherto represented Osun West Senatorial District in the National Assembly and the party’s candidate during 2018 governorship poll should also automatically fly the PDP’s flag in 2022 gubernatorial election.

But, before his suspension, Adagunodo was said to have maintained that the party should create a level playing field for any member, who is interested in contesting for the party’s gubernatorial ticket in the spirit of democratic tenets. His position on the conduct of primary election and the entrenchment of internal democracy within the PDP was said to have ruffled some feathers, thus leading to filing of petition against him to the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party headed by Prince Uche Secondus.

Though, members of his camp believed that the petition was sponsored by Adeleke’s group, the major kernel of the petition focused on the need by the PDP national leadership to scrutinise Adagunodo on how funds deployed to prosecute 2018 governorship election were expended.

While the national leadership of the party had sent a fact finding team to Osun over the allegations raised by the petitioners against Adagunodo, no decision had been taken apart from directive by the party to the embattled state chairman to step aside. After his suspension, the PDP national leadership constituted another interim state executive for Osun, which is currently headed by Elder Atidade, who was the vice chairman to Adagunodo.

Succinctly put, it is an understatement to state that the PDP in Osun is currently engulfed by distrust and confusion as the party struggle to save its troubled ship from capsizing ahead the crucial 2022 governorship poll in the state.

Some PDP stakeholders are, however, not leaving any stone unturned to harmonise and reposition it  ahead of future polls, but their resolve and commitment to turn the tide and restore the effective navigation of the party through its self inflicted squabbles would show if the party can spring any positive surprise in the nearest future.

 

Fayose, Olujimi’s supremacy battle in Ekiti

Less than two years to the next governorship election in Ekiti State, PDP is locked in a deep crisis which many observers say might affect the chances of the party’s quest to reclaim power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2022 governorship election.

A former governor of the state, Fayose and the lawmaker representing Ekiti South, Senator Biodun Olujimi are at the centre of the leadership tussle polarising the party.

The supremacy battle between the duo, which could be traced back to 2018, took a different dimension in the build up to the 2019 general election when Fayose went on a private radio station in the state to campaign against the reelection of the former Senate minority and candidate of his party. Olujimi lost at the February poll, but reclaimed her mandate in November last year through the court and returned to the senate.

Olujimi, being the highest political office holder in the party, assumed leadership after the tenure of Fayose in 2018. The former governor has repeatedly rejected the argument that Olujimi is the leader of the party in the state, saying he as an ex-governor is the leader.

Being in the opposition and coupled with the manner at which the party lost power to the APC in 2018, many party members believe the duo with their towering experience in politics would have embraced the various internal mechanisms within the party in resolving issues between them. But events in recent times are putting the party at a precarious situation.

The gulf within the party widened after the March 7 ward congress where both leaders disagreed on the conduct and outcome of the congress. The feuding party leaders saw the congress as an opportunity to capture the party structure and advance their political aspirations without much hindrance.

To Fayose, producing a party structure loyal to him will obviously offer him the ample opportunity to control and influence the candidate of the party for the 2022 governorship election, while Olujimi had argued repeatedly that the impunity in the party and alleged high-handedness of Fayose cost the party’s chances at the 2018 poll and must be stopped for the PDP to stand a chance of winning the 2022 poll.

After sponsoring candidates for the ward congress, the two camps inaugurated parallel executives. While the Fayose-led group conducted swearing for the ward executives on April 30th supervised by a notary public, Niyi Idowu , Olujimi-led group inaugurated its parallel ward excos on May 1st.

The two chieftains› quest to control the sole of the party brought a stalemate to the conduct of congresses in electing officials that will run the affairs of the party in the state before the lockdown declared by the stage government as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

To avoid a vacuum and the need to restore peace to the state chapter, the national leadership of the party constituted a seven-member caretaker committee headed by a former Senate Chief Whip, Senator Hosea Agboola, from Oyo State.

Speaking on the decision of Senator Agboola to boycott the congresses, the secretary of the caretaker committee, Mr Diran Odeyemi, who monitored the Fayose’s group congresses, said the two warring groups failed to agree on the position canvassed by the chairman of the caretaker committee, adding the party had no other option but to conduct the election for the party to move forward in the state.

According to him, “Governor Seyi Makinde nominated the chairman (Senator Agboola) while I was nominated from the party in Abuja by the national hairman, Prince Uche Secondus. If for one reason or the other, Senator Agboola believes that what the party should have done is to allocate the position between Olujimi and Fayose that is his personal opinion.  That is his belief, probably because he was nominated; he is not a party man. When I say party man, I come from Wadata and I represent the interest of the party. He was nominated by a governor. He can obey anybody and I can obey the party.

“The party’s understanding is if you are going to share positions among these warring parties, there must first be an agreement. The party cannot force anybody; the constitution says it is either by consensus or election. If the two of them cannot agree among themselves, then the consensus option is closed. Except if they agree among themselves, but in this case, they didn’t agree among themselves. The chairman has sympathy towards having the party to share the positions and the party said no, we can’t be sharing position because we are not father Christmas. This is politics and democracy, if they agree, good for them. The caretaker committee cannot continue to be there.”

As it stands, Ekiti PDP is like a house divided against itself which requires the urgent attention of the leaders of the party in the South West and the National Working Committee (NWC) before it will be too late. While it appears that the national headquarters are clandestinely in support of the Fayose-led group, the Olujimi faction, which also have senator Duro Faseyi should not be push aside if the party so desire to launch a comeback to the government house in 2022.

Another twist in the crisis is the suit in court over the ward congress which is the foundation for all other congresses. The Olujimi group are holding up to the case in court now at the Appeal court as the only way to put the feud in place. Knowing the unpredictability of the nation›s judiciary, the decision of the court which will get to the apex court on the authentic faction could spell doom for the party ahead of the 2022 governorship poll.

 

Makinde managing Oyo

Even in Oyo State where it has the only PDP governor in the zone, the party cannot be said to be one big family. In fact, Governor Makinde in June set up a seven-member elder reconciliation committee to look into the grievances of the leaders and offer suggestions on how such could be addressed. The committee is headed by Dr Saka Balogun, former Presidential Liaison Office to former President Shehu Shagari.

 

Reprieve in Ogun?

State secretary of the party in Ogun State, Mr Sunday Solarin, told Sunday Tribune that with the death of Kashamu saw the return of peace to the state chapter. He said the party prayed for the repose of his soul, just as scars of the damage he did to the party have begun to fade into the past. According to Solarin, Chief Bayo Dayo and other notable had seen the selflessness of the current leadership of the party and had joined the mainstream before the passage of the late Senator. We have been receiving people from other parties into our fold. Old wounds are being healed and new partnerships are being forged ahead of the 2023 race which we are very confident our party will win.

 

Lagos and its ocean of crisis

Ahead of the zonal congress of the party to elect new leadership for which former chairman, Dr. Eddy Olafeso and others, who served with him during his two-year tenure before they were removed from office, had indicated interest, the zonal leadership crisis has become heightened with the Olafeso group aligning with Fayose, Honourable Ladi Adebutu and others to return to office.

Just a few days ago, the Lagos State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairmaned by Deji Doherty played host to the Eddy Olafeso campaign team, where the party chapter rallied support for the party chieftain and his team to return to office, in order to lift PDP in the zone to greater heights, more particularly to enable the party in South-West zone to win more states, come 2023 elections.

Speaking at the event, which took place at Oregun area of the state, and attended by Dr  Olafeso, Honourable Bunmi Jenyo, Mr Kazeem Deji-Ogunsakin, Dr Bimbo Ogunkelu, a former minister; Chief Bisi Kolawole, Honourable Soji Adagunodo, Honourable Sunday Adekunle, as well as party delegates from Lagos, among others, Doherty, affirmed the decision of 90 per cent of Lagos delegates to vote for Olafeso and his team, stressing that the decision was taken based on the track record of the leaders in the zone while they were in office for just two years.

Doherty, who noted that PDP had always followed democratic norms, pointed out that only Olafeso and his team sought the support of Lagos delegates for the forthcoming exercise, adding that the support was well deserved, based on Olafeso team›s contributions in its first two years in office in liberating Lagos from what he called slavery.

“They deserved the endorsement. Olafeso and his team helped to unite the party in the region. That is why you can see 90 per cent of the delegates seated here.

“We had successful primary elections on Saturday for Lagos East senatorial zone and Kosofe Constituency 2 bye elections, which were rancour free. These are some of our achievements in seven months,” Doherty said.

“We are bringing the Eddy Olafeso exco back to come and stabilise the party in South-West. I congratulate your team in advance, we shall meet at the congress ground,” he added.

Olafeso, in his own remark, stated that he was contesting the exalted seat because of his concern about uniting the party in the region, stressing that he had an unfinished project of strengthening the party and winning more states for the platform in the region, just as Oyo State had been brought under PDP control.

Olafeso, while commending the delegates and members of the party for their resilience and support, declared that the governorship of Lagos was now, charging the leaders to ensure that such dream was made possible.

“The governorship of Lagos is now, this must not elude us. You are the leaders of our party, we are supposed to serve you,” he said.

“We are committed to serving with humility and ensuring that our people get whatever they are seeking from the party, not only at the zonal level but across the country,” he added.

At the event, which took place last Thursday, what became quite apparent was that the Lagos State chapter of the party is not one, united platform, as quite a number of leaders and party faithful, who were later contacted, claimed that they were not in the know of the visit by the Eddy Olafeso team. The event did not hold at the party secretariat, but at a private venue, belonging to the party chairman, while a party faithful, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he came on the information passed across that Oyo State governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde, was visiting.

Currently, it would be quite wrong to say that the Lagos State chapter is rocked by factional crisis, where two chairmen were found in the past laying claim to the leadership of the party. But what is really happening within the fold and very apparent is that the current leadership of Deji Doherty appears not to be in good terms with the former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, and some other leaders of the party, for reasons which cannot be easily ascertained.

The current situation is such that Chief  Segun Adewale popularly known as Aeroland, who was former factional chairman of the party, and one with very strong opposing view of Chief George, together with Dr Adegbola Dominic, former chairman of the party, and some party exco in the state, were at the Lugard Street, Ikoyi office of George, where the party chieftain recently received the PDP candidates for the coming bye-election in Lagos East senatorial and Kosofe Constituency II.

This and other development are what a serving member of the current leadership in the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity, expressed disgust at, saying he found it disturbing why anyone would feel comfortable sidelining Chief George and other leaders from the affairs of the party in the state, and would think the party can function properly.

“I don’t know what you people want me to say about South-West PDP, I don›t have any information on it.

“It is what you people know that PDP in Lagos has its own problem, but how does that concern Eddy Olafeso? Eddy Olafeso can move around and solicit support.

“So what happens is that if he comes to Lagos and does not seek the right people and he ignores Chief Bode George and some other leaders, he is only being deceived. They are just deceiving him,” he said.

  • Additional reports from Bola Badmus, Oluwole Ige and Yomi Ayeleso.

 

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