Crisis: Not yet Uhuru for Southwest PDP
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southwest is still deeply troubled notwithstanding current moves to resolve power struggles among chieftains and interest groups in the party’s state chapters, reports ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor
IN SPITE of several efforts on the part of the national leadership of the party and other concerned stakeholders to resolve the many political and legal crises rocking the various state chapters of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southwest geo-political zone, there are fresh indications that the party is still far from finding lasting solution to the many unending crises tearing its chieftains and members apart in the zone.
Following the party’s shocking defeat in the 2019 General Elections, and the loss of Ekiti, the party’s state in the zone, to the ruling APC later same year, the PDP in the Southwest have been thrown into one crisis after the other. While the state chapters became riddled with power struggles among chieftains and interest groups, the party in the zone also suffered from an intense leadership struggle that left the PDP without direction in the Southwest.
Before the 2019 General Elections, notable party leaders in the zone like Chief Bode George, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Otunba Gbenga Daniels, Elder Wole Oyelese, Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Ishola Filani, Ambassador Dare Bejide, Chief Makanjuola Ogundipe and many others have either been sidelined by new Tsars in their various states or have resolved to maintain dignified silence over the affairs of the party in their states and in the zone, especially on account of their dissatisfaction with the outcome of the December 2017 national convention of the party that denied the zone a chance to produce the national chairman of the party.
Cracks had crept into the party within the zone between the only PDP governor in the zone at the time, former governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and most of the elders of the party in the Southwest over the former’s support for the aspiration of Prince Uche Secondus, at a time the chieftains of the party are insisting that the Southwest should be allowed to produce the national chairman of the PDP. Secondus won the election and many of the Southwest PDP leaders withdrew into their shells, leaving the party to its fate.
The face-offs over the various primary elections held in the various states to select candidates for the 2019 elections also added to the confusion within the PDP in the Southwest. The national leadership of the party and other concerned stake-holders have since been trying to mend the cracks within the party in the zone but it appears not much has been achieved. From one state to another, echoes of the lingering crises resonate, confirming the fact that in spite of claims by party leaders that the party is being repositioned in the zone, the bitterness among its chieftains persists.
RECENT CALLS FOR ACTIONS
Worried by the state of the party in the zone, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, had called on members of the PDP in the Southwest geopolitical zone to unite and focus on improving the fortunes of the party in the zone. The governor, who spoke while addressing a gathering of PDP leaders in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital, offered to play his part in ensuring a united front for the PDP in the zone. He said that all hands must be on deck to ensure that the PDP wins more seats across the zone in future elections.
The governor equally pledged to carry all the PDP leaders in Southwest along in his administration so as to give them the sense of belonging. Party leaders in attendance at the meeting include National Deputy Chairman (South), Elder Yemi Akinwonmi; National Vice Chairman (Southwest), Dr. Eddy Olafeso, and all chairmen of the party in the zone.
Also present at the meeting were former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Prof. Olusola Eleka, PDP Southwest Zonal Secretary, Rev. Bunmi Jenyo, National Treasurer, Hon. Adewale Aribisala and Former Lagos Deputy Governor, Chief Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor and the 2019 PDP governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr. Jimi Agbaje.
Not too long ago, while chairing a peace meeting in Lagos, Olafeso also called for unity among party members in the Southwest, saying that peace was crucial to the electoral success of the party across the region. “The Southwest is at crossroads, but this is a time for a new beginning indeed and with peace in Lagos State, is the beginning of a new thing in the Southwest. The challenges in the country today are enormous; there is need for all of us to be united, and I appeal for that unity,” Olafeso said.
But in spite of all efforts of the national and zonal leaderships of the PDP at making peace, the party in Lagos is currently enmeshed in leadership crisis, which has become subject of litigation between two chairmen, namely Adegbola Dominic and Deji Doherty. Dominic is being backed by a group led by Olabode George while Doherty enjoys the backing of the national leadership of PDP. While Dominic emerged as acting chairman following the resignation of Salvador as the PDP chairman in the state, Doherty emerged as state chairman after an election ordered and supervised by the NWC of the party.
Supporters of Chief Bode George have refused to accept Doherty as party chairman in the state, fuelling a new round of disagreements that threatens the chances of the struggling party in future elections. Speaking on the lingering crisis, national vice-chairman of the party, Olafeso, said though there was an election which brought in Doherty as the state chairman, that politics was about numbers, stressing that the zone was ready to resolve all issues that could lead to peace in the Lagos State chapter.
Few days ago, some leaders of the party, including Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and former governor of Delta State, James Ibori, met with Bode George as part of moves to broker peace among warring members of the party in the state. The meeting also had in attendance Buknor-Akerele, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, former national secretary of the party, Dr. Remi Akitoye and Dr. Adegbola Dominic. Makinde, who spoke at the end of the meeting, expressed satisfaction with the outcome, saying the reconciliation is in progress.
He said with the positive outcome of the meeting, the ruling APC in Lagos should expect surprises in 2023 elections. For his part, Bode George expressed optimism that the crisis rocking the Lagos PDP chapter would be resolved. “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,” he said.
But just as many were beginning to look forward to the return of peace to the troubled state chapter, a chieftain of the party in the state, Segun Adewale, dismissed the meeting, saying any meeting held in George’s house will not be acceptable to his camp. “The only reconciliation that is needed has been done by the Chief Ben Obi, Senator Biodun Olujimi and Engr. Muktar committee, who came to the state before the election in 2019.
“Bode George is an elder, but what he has done is an affront on the power of the national leadership of the PDP, which should be meted with appropriate sanctions; his action is a calculated attempt to rubbish all the efforts of the national leadership that is working very hard to bring peace and stability to Lagos PDP, so that it can have a good outing in 2023. For those of us who understand Lagos politics to a large extent, the state cannot be won by merely making noise in the media, but rigorous activities at the grassroots, which we have done before and will still do better again,” Adewale said, signaling signs of more troubles ahead.
The PDP in Ogun State is also at war with itself as its chieftains are locked in a fierce leadership struggle that has divided the party into two factions and chased many prominent figures, including former Governor Gbenga Daniels, out of the party while Senator Buruji Kashamu remains suspended by the national leadership of the party. Unending court cases have also remained the lot of Ogun PDP as the two factions continue to revel in allegations and counter allegations in their struggle for the control of the party.
Last weekend, the Bayo Dayo faction, loyal to Kashamu, introduced a new twist into the chaos within the PDP in the state as it held congresses of the party in defiance of a federal high court’s order. The exercise was also not supervised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The move, pundits say, has deepened the PDP leadership crisis in Ogun State. A federal high court last week had stopped the conduct of the PDP congress in the state until the determination of suit filed by the National Working Committee of the party.
Dayo had also been having a running battle with other members of his faction’s working committee, including state secretary, Alhaji Semiu Sodipo, who recently pledged their loyalty to the national secretariat of PDP. To further compound the crisis in the state chapter, the leadership of the PDP in the Southwest said it has affirmed the suspension of Dayo from the party. This was announced in a statement signed by Olafeso and its Secretary, Rev. Bunmi Jenyo, last week. The party said it acted on a recommendation letter duly signed by Sodipo and other nine members of the State Working Committee.
“Engr. Bayo Dayo’s conducts as regards the forthcoming party congresses were found contrary to the provisions of the party constitution in Sections 31 (2) (3) and 49 (3) and the guidelines for the conduct of ward, local government, state, zonal congresses and national convention, which is a punishable offence. The recommendation was also as a result of other several conducts of Engr. Bayo Dayo, including anti-party activities, engaging in conduct likely to cause disaffection among members of our party in Ogun State and likely to disrupt the peaceful, lawful and efficient conduct of the businesses of the party,” it said.
Earlier, Dayo’s faction had suspended its secretary, Semiu Sodipo, for ten years over allegations of anti-party activities and nominated Labre Balogun as his successor. The faction accused the National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, of complicity in the leadership tussle in the state chapter of the party. In his reaction, Sodipo said his suspension was illegal and of no substance as he remains the state secretary of the PDP.
Contrary to the expectations of many stakeholders within and outside the state, confusion has continued to trail the ward congress of PDP in Ekiti State as the exercise was marred with accusations and counter-accusations among party leaders and stakeholders, who had before now been at loggerheads over the control of the party which descended into crisis immediately it lost to the ruling APC at the last governorship election in the state. Two rival camps loyal to former Governor Ayodele Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi respectively, have been locked in a fierce battle.
Olujimi’s supporters went to town with claims of victory shortly after the congress. But allies of the former governor have debunked the claims of victory by the Olujimi camp, accusing the other group of hijacking voting materials and forcing collation officers to declare “phantom results all in a bid to acquire victory without working for it.” Speaking with newsmen, Olujimi alleged that the members of the committee, led by the Deputy Governor of Taraba State, Engr. Haruna Manu, by their actions compromised to manipulate the process for Fayose’s aspirants. But Fayose’s media aide, Lere Olayinka, said “it was those who came from Abuja for the congresses that lodged at Petim Guest House. They are the ones that conducted the congress.”
With the current situation in the state chapter of the party, it is obvious that the PDP in Ekiti State is back in chaos as its two frontrunners, Fayose, a former governor, and Olujimi, a serving Senator, resume hostilities. Observers of the politics of the state posit that while Olujimi’s desire is to position her people in charge of the party so as to make it easy for her to clinch the PDP gubernatorial ticket in future, Fayose’s quest for the control of the party is to stop Olujimi, his former deputy, from emerging as the PDP gubernatorial flag-bearer in future.