Main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders are at each other’s throat again with issues relating to zonal congress and subsequent elections in the country. KUNLE ODEREMI and SUNDAY ADEPOJU write on how the factions are digging without let or hindrance.
ABOUT seven months ago, to be precise on March 13, 2020, leaders of main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) converged on Ibadan for what they termed a unification rally at the famous Mapo Hall. The event, which underscored the deep-seated distrust among the main stakeholders of the PDP in the zone, had all the trappings of camaraderie, culture and customs as the leaders gleefully engrossed in infectious back slapping and banters. In an undisguised gusto, speakers after speakers mounted the rostrum proclaiming a new dawn in the PDP in the region.
The arrowhead of the new era of fraternity was Governor Seyi Makinde, the only governor elected on the PDP ticket out of the six states in the zone, who inspired the teeming party faithful at the venue with an emphatic declaration that it marked a new beginning for the PDP in the zone. His words: “Today is the beginning of unity in the South-West region. If South-West is united, the whole country will be united. We are using this opportunity to welcome our brothers and sisters from the All Progressives Congress (APC), Action Democratic Party (ADP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and African Demcratic Congress (ADC). I want you to take two things home. And the first is; they are of the opinion that we should not have staged this rally because of the Coronavirus pandemic but it was one of their leaders who said Coronavirus has already infiltrated their party. We all know that there is no Coronavirus in our own party.”
Similar messages underlined the unification agenda and were made by a former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who was returning to the party after a brief sojourn in the APC. He provided a compass that could make PDP regain the glory that enabled it to be the ruling party in the South-West in the past thus: “I appeal to us not to feel too wise about handling matters within the party, because the end result, sometimes, could lead to failure. Let us be sagacious in whatever we are doing. My second advice is, we must learn to unite ourselves, work together with one another to achieve a common aim. So, I appreciate you all for your support and the massive turnout, which you have all showed to me and my supporters. We thank you for accepting us back to this party. Lastly, I want to pray that the Almighty God will, in his infinite mercy, restore the lost glory of the PDP.”
Eminent politicians at the unification rally included Oyinlola, chieftains of the ADC, including its governorship candidate in the Osun State governorship election, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade; a former deputy governor of Oyo State, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja; a former senator representing Oyo North Senatorial District, Dr Gbenga Babalola. Others included former chieftains of the ADP, ZLP as well as some former members of the Oyo State House of Assembly. Also at the rally were the national chairman of the PDP, who was represented by the national organising secretary, Colonel Austin Akobundu (retd); the deputy national chairman (South), Elder Yemi Akinwonmi; former deputy national chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George; former Ekiti State governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, among other leaders.
The sermon for self-discovery by the PDP was also delivered by the then South-West zonal chairman, Dr Eddy Olafeso. He enthused “I celebrate all our leaders and the rest who are here seated that have taken up the gauntlet; those who have forgiven certain moments that the PDP did not do well with them and are willing to continue the battle with all of us. We encourage unity. Without unity, we are dead. We have been divided and we see the consequences. We have been disunited and we have been lost. The only path to victory and success is to be united. Unless we begin to embrace ourselves at the moment of disagreement, we cannot be statesmen.” While commending Makinde for taking the bold initiative of restoring peace in the PDP, Olafeso added: “This party must continue to show progress. We are blessed to have Governor Makinde as a leader who is willing to lead right in front while we all follow. It is not true that there won’t be challenges ahead. Challenges will come but we should conquer and overcome.”
True to his prophecy, that period of challenges has resurfaced in the party in the South-West. The cacophonies that manifested not too long ago have returned with the major stakeholders in the party split into two camps, when, in the opinion of some of the party faithful and observers, said the party should be consolidating on the Mapo unification agenda.
In an effort to sustain the initiative, the leaders met on June 19 at the Government House, Agodi in Ibadan. Presided over by the deputy national chairman of the PDP, Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, the meeting was attended by Prince oyinlola, Fayose, Mr Segun Oni; a former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, as well as National Assembly members and other stakeholders. Part of the communique of the meeting stated: “The Leaders of the PDP South-West, from the six states of Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and Osun met today, June 19, discussed extensively on various issues bordering on the unity, oneness and togetherness of the South-West-PDP and resolved that the PDP South-West should remain an indivisible, united and strong entity under the PDP’s umbrella; that positions zoned to the South-West should, henceforth, be fairly and equitably shared within the various states/sub-zones of Lagos/Ogun; Ekiti/Ondo and Oyo/Osun to create a sense of belonging in the respective states/sub-zones; that rotation of the various positions among the states/sub-zones will create a higher sense of unity, togetherness, fairness and justice among the various states/sub-zones.” They stressed that the resolutions were “intended to create a sense of belonging, fairness, justice and unity and will be fully implemented as we progress in our programmes in the future to come.”
One party, many voices
Five months thereafter, the mutual agreement and understanding is a breaking point. The leaders have gone back to the trenches, creating parallel organs to gain supremacy in the ongoing intrigues. The widening gulf between the tendencies crystalised in the separate zonal meetings held in Ibadan and Lagos last Thursday and Friday with disparate decisions on fundamental issues affecting the party in the South-West. The communique of the meeting held at the Government Office set up a reconciliation committee headed by Oyinlola and announced the power sharing formula for the conduct of a much-talked about zonal congress to elect new executive committee members. The communique read: “That the leadership of the Oyo State Governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde is sacrosanct and leaders of the party in all the six states of the South West geo-political zone agree to work with him to move the party forward; that all the leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-West zone agreed that there is evidence of division among individual states which is making it difficult for us to come out victorious in recent elections in the region with specific reference to Ondo State governorship election despite the rejection of the ruling party in the South-West by the electorate; that all leaders agreed that a concrete and positive steps be taken on the need for unity and cohesion in the party, stating that the zone remains strategic to the PDP if it must win presidential and other national elections in the country; that a five-man committee be set up to be known as the South-West PDP Reconciliation Committee to be headed by the former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, with the following people as members: Dr Saka Balogun; Chief (Mrs) Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele; Ambassador Omolade Oluwateru and Olayinka Kukoyi, a lawyer.’
In the communique, which was signed by the PDP caretaker chairman for the zone, Honourable Dayo Ogungbenro, he stated further: “That the leadership of the party in the South -West led by Oyo State governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde should call on the national leadership of the party to bring all aggrieved factions in the party together by ensuring that whatever we agreed upon at the zonal level should be the final decision that will be approved by the national leadership of the party without any interference whatsoever from any individual or group of people; that the leadership of the party decided to decide the zoning of the zonal offices of the party to various states which was democratically debated and agreed upon as follow: zonal chairman – Oyo state; zonal secretary – Lagos State; zonal publicity secretary – Ekiti State; zonal organising secretary – Ondo State; zonal financial secretary – Osun State; zonal youth leader – Osun State; zonal legal adviser – Ogun State; zonal treasurer – Ogun State; zonal women leader – Oyo State and zonal auditor given to Lagos State. The meeting also resolved that, in the spirit of fairness and equity, additional slots of ex-officio members be given to Ekiti and Ondo states in view of the fact that they would occupy only one office each in the zone.”
To repudiate the resolutions of the Ibadan meeting, the other faction of PDP leaders hosted by ex-Governor Fayose in Lagos set up a six-member parallel zonal reconciliation committee headed by Femi Babalola, with a mandate to unite party stalwarts in the zone within a reasonable time. Other members of the committee are Chief Kolapo Ogunjobi, Ahmed Okandeji Mustapha, Chief Idowu Odeyemi and Chief Tunde Akindehin. The camp also set up a separate committee headed by Chief Bola Olu-Ojo, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the woeful performance of the PDP in Ondo during the recent governorship election within one month. The other members of the second panel are Mike Ogunlade, Dr Lere Oyewunmi, Chief Femi Carena and Mrs Mujidat Balogun. The communique of the Lagos meeting added that the “panel must examine all issues relating to election planning, management and prosecution; identify all lapses and make useful recommendations to prevent such shoddy performances in the future. The panel’s report will be submitted to National Working Committee (NWC) for further actions. The communique was signed by Bisi Kolawole (chairman, Ekiti State), Sikirulai Ogundele (Chairman, Ogun State), Deji Doberty (chairman, Lagos State) and Elder Sunday Akanfe (deputy state chairman, Osun State), and zonal caretaker committee members – Dayo Akintan, Mustapha Sikiru Banana, Martins Abiloye, Prince Nekan Olagbegi, Mrs Funmi Ogun, and Wahab Owokoniran, Mrs Fadeyi Ayo Awolowo.”
The division within the PDP in the state is a reflection of the intrigues that predate the conduct of primaries for the October 9 governorship election in the state. Instead, the outcome of the primaries exacerbated the hide and seek among the major leaders of the party in the state, with them pitting their tents separately over the current spilt in the PDP in the South-West. So, Dr Eddy Olufeso and a number of PDP stalwarts are in the camp of Fayose. The former commissioner in Ondo State, while meeting with the delegates on his PDP vice-chairmanship aspiration for the coming zonal congress of the party, reportedly extolled the virtue of the former governor of Ekiti State. He was addressing the Honourable Bisi Kolawole-led faction of the party loyal to Fayose. Olafeso said: “Fayose rescued the PDP from those who wanted to ruin the party when the late Senator Buruji Kashamu took the party to court. It was Fayose as a governor that saved the party from total ruin. We are very sure that we will reposition the PDP in this zone.”
Both Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi are at daggers drawn over the soul of the PDP in Ekiti State chapter. They have separate executives, though the PDP national leadership made a frantic effort to broker peace between Fayose and Olujimi. The latter once accused the national leadership of the PDP of partiality. She had been quoted to have said: “The national executive of the party is behind the former governor. If not, why did they allow him to write the list of every delegate during the ward congresses, including those from my senatorial district?”
Senator Kashamu Buruji, who died not too long ago and a former member of the House of Representatives, Honourable Ladi Adebutu, formed the face of the battle to control the PDP machinery in Ogun State. Their loyalists had stuck to their guns to the point that it dovetailed into the general election last year, with a string of court cases initiated in the contest to wrest the PDP machinery in the state. Thus, the struggle for power at the zonal level seemed to have impacted on the loyalty of a number of PDP members in the state. The Adebutu faction has Honourable Sikirulahi Ogundele as its state chairman, while the Kashamu faction is headed by Honourable Samson Bamgbose. A concerned stakeholder in Ogun PDP and former spokesperson, Atiku Campaign Organisation, Chief Segun Sowunmi, once appealed to the combatants to sheathe their swords in the overall interest of the party. “PDP in Ogun State now is in a mess; there is a need for politicians in Ogun PDP to change their orientation; we are making politics too toxic, for decent people to participate,” Sowunmi stated.
A member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the PDP, Chief Olabode George, remains a major factor in the party in Lagos chapter. The former deputy national chairman is against any attempt to create division in the party in the zone. However, Carena Doherty belongs to the Fayose group. Chief George had hosted and urged the interim zonal leadership of the party to be a neutral arbiter, impartial role model and must be seen to be guided by fairness, truth, sincerity, with balanced justice and firm honesty. He said: “To serve in this very crucial role, you have earned the trust of all our leaders and elders. The challenge given to you is of great responsibility and seriousness.” He also used the opportunity to commend the selfless leadership of Makinde because “he has demonstrated tremendous humility, matured leadership and genuine resolve to bring peace to our party. Let us all support and strengthen Governor Makinde by our collective insistence on ensuring that truth, equity, fairness, justice, tolerance and goodwill prevail in all our undertakings.”
Makinde constantly reassures members of inclusiveness and even set a reconciliation committee some time ago with Dr Saka balogun as chairman. In his reaction, the state publicity secretary of the party, Mr Akeem Olatunji, dismissed the insinuation that there was crisis in the PDP in the state, stressing: “Yes, those in the opposition party still marvel that our party is waxing in the state. The party is more or less a rebranded one and our government is giving it back to the people. We want to make Oyo PDP a model of traditional party. In any system, there are times that you need to re-gig efforts and we are doing that. Let me tell you that those people that many people may think are aggrieved are the ones championing the cause of the party here and there. You talk of the likes of Alhaji Olopoeniyan, Honourable Akande-Adeola, and so on.”
However, in a recent interview, a chieftain of the PDP, Olopoenya on insinuations relating to political patronage for members of the coalition, after the election, said: “Those who are claiming to be part of us now came after the election had been won. After I spoke angrily in the video, I saw a comment from someone on a social media platform talking about the issue of money I mentioned. I know exactly what I am saying. It is not because I am hungry or I needed money to finance my family. I am not a poor man; I have built houses in this city of Ibadan even before joining active politics. When I said some people are suffering, I was not referring to myself. If you worked for somebody to achieve his or her dream; they should be duly compensated. All those people that we worked together during the election are always in my house; they need to be compensated for their efforts.”
The crisis in Osun PDP once took a frightening dimension when suspected thugs invaded the party secretariat. The chairman of the party in the state, Chief Soji Adagunodo, was suspended from office by the national headquarters of the PDP over alleged infractions. But he later got reprieve from a court of competent jurisdiction. In seeming replay of a similar intra-party crisis in the past, the state secretariat had been sold, leaving the party in dilemma. Some key stakeholders are not just fighting dirty; they are also exhuming old wounds and grave allegations bordering on impropriety, indebtedness, voodoo, perjury and other forms of character assassination. 2022 governorship ticket, control of the PDP structures and liquidation of some political forces and establishment appear to be the bone of contention, with money politics playing a key role.
At the centre of the simmering crisis are the issues of ego, dislike, political ambition and control of party structures. The degree and spate of issues among the various tendencies and power centres in the states making up the zone vary. But one of the immediate causes of the frictions surround the composition of an interim executive to run the affairs of the party in the zone. The constitution of the interim executive followed the dissolution of the Eddy Olafeso-led Zonal Caretaker Committee by the PDP national leadership in July. The current Caretaker Committee. comprised Dayo Ogungbenro as the zonal chairman with Daisi Akinniran as secretary. The other members are Taiwo Kuye, Adeola Ogunrinde, Oyebola Awolowo, Prince Olagbegi, Funmi Oguns and Owokoniran Wahab and the committee was to be in place for a period not exceeding three months (90 days) as prescribed by section 32(2)(e) of the PDP Constitution pending the conduct of elective zonal congress. However, the two camps in the PDP have engaged in claims and counter-claims of the committee being the stooge of the group that met in Ibadan last week. Besides, the camps are involved in accusations and counter-accusations of a ploy to railroad the emergence of certain individual as members of the next executive of the PDP in the South-West.
In summary, the battle for the soul of the South-West PDP may have just begun, in view of the underlining reasons. One is the zonal congress and the power sharing formal to be adopted for the exercise. Coupled with that is subsequent elections, starting with the Osun governorship poll in 2022. The choice of candidate is believably tied to which among the two tendencies in the PDP is able to control the machinery of the party. The other reason being adduced for the crisis by some main stakeholders in the party is the alleged wave of inducements being carried out by some elements with big war-chest in the nerve-cracking, queer contest for power.
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