After intense politicking, the South-West zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) now has a new executive led by former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Taofeek Arapaja. In this report, WALE ELEGBEDE and Anayo Ezugwu highlight the dramatis personae in the highly contested zonal congress election in Osogbo, Osun State
The zonal congress of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-West may have come and gone, but the memory and feedback of the April 12 poll will continue to linger. The pre-election feud, which pitted Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, came to a fleeting halt at the venue of the congress, Women and Children Development Initiative Foundation (WOCDIF), in Osogbo, Osun State, on Monday, when the Fayose declared Makinde the leader of the party and promised to work with whoever emerged winner at the congress. Fayose said, “Governor Seyi Makinde is our leader.
Our supporters and lovers should not continue to put a wedge in between us. Either way, this election goes, I will accept. “Even though Arapaja has abused me so much, I will be the first person to visit him in Ibadan. Nobody has offended me and if I have offended anybody, I sincerely apologise. Seyi Makinde remains our father come what may.”
Fast forward to after the counting of votes from the 684 accredited voters, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, the candidate backed by the camp of Governor Makinde, got 343 votes to emerge new South-West Zonal Vice Chairman. Announcing the votes scored by the candidates, the Chairman of the congress committee and deputy governor of Benue State, Dr Benson Abounu, declared that Dr Eddy Olafeso, the candidate backed by the camp of Fayose got a total of 330 votes. He said that 684 voters were accredited and that 674 votes were cast, while 10 votes were voided. In his speech, Olafeso conceded defeat, saying he gave the contest his best efforts.
“The storm is over; there is a new beginning for our party. We have to thank God that despite odds, there is a new beginning for our party. The time is now. I thank everybody who supported me,” Olafeso said. Also speaking, the Vice Chairmanelect, Arapaja, promised to reposition the party. Arapaja said, “We thank Governor Seyi Makinde and former governor Fayose. We will work together and move the party forward. We want to reposition the party.
I will work with my brother Olafeso to achieve our aims.” The leadership tussle between Makinde and Fayose over the control of the structure of the party in the zone had been on for a while and also generated verbal confrontations. Expectedly, the leadership wrangling created a wedge among its members in the zone and two clear camps emerged. Regardless of the purported amity expressed by both camps after the outcome of the election, the losers are still licking their wounds and the winners are relishing their victory. With the congress won and lost, these are some of the winners and losers from the congress
The greatest loser from the zonal congress battle is undoubtedly Fayose, the former governor of Ekiti State. His squabble with Makinde was faulted in many quarters but he insisted that the lone PDP governor in the zone was not his leader until he eventually ate the humble pie on Monday. Aside from taking some of the elders in the party in the zone to the cleaners for not supporting him against the Oyo governor, he also called to question the leadership maturity of Makinde by labeling him ‘baby governor’ at a point. More than the zonal crisis, Fayose was also battling for influence in Ekiti State PDP where his one-time ally, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, is seeking to edge out of the party. Of course,
with the guber election in the state taking place in 2022, he has to fight for his relevance as a two-term former governor in the state. How the former governor, who had earlier threatened to mobilize against the second term of Governor Makinde in Oyo, will navigate this postcongress episode is left to be seen. But if there is anything to take home for the outspoken Fayose, it is that he has been politically deflated again after the Ekiti governorship election loss in 2018. Will Fayose fully align with Makinde or explore other options other than that? What will happen to the PDP structure in Ekiti State and how will the feud between him and his former deputy, Olujimi, be resolved? What future for the embattled politician? Answers to these posers lie in the belly of time. Dr. Eddy Olafeso On his right, Olafeso is a brilliant and decent politician. From his time as a cabinet member in the Ondo State government, he has displayed himself as a refined gentleman in the forest of politics. But this time, he got his calculation wrong and found himself on the losing side of the party he had painstakingly served. As the immediate past zonal chairman of the PDP, it was within his right to seek reelection and he did but narrowly lost by 13 votes. Perhaps, the journey to Monday’s defeat started with his decision to resign as national vice chairman of the party and contest the governorship primary election of the Ondo State PDP. He lost the primary to Eyitayo Jegede. With his rich experience in party politics administration, Olafeso, will still be a relevant figure in the affairs of the opposition party in the days to come. For him and his supporters, the future appears brighter.
Adebutu is an integral part of the chequered story of PDP in Ogun State. The state chapter party has been in the throes of factional crisis with rival members always fighting for control of structures. At a point, the crisis in the state snowballed into the zone causing crisis within the six states of the region. The former lawmaker had a longrunning battle with the late Buruji Kashamu for the soul of the party in the state. Upon the demise of the former Ogun East senator, Adebutu perhaps had an air of relief in the PDP crisis. However, his alignment with Fayose for the zonal politics didn’t fare well going by the outcome of Monday’s congress. Interestingly, some associates and loyalists of the late Kashamu cleared all the four positions zoned to Ogun State. While Taiwo Shote was returned unopposed as the National Ex-Officio representing Ogun State at the National Executive Committee (NEC), Chief Monsuru Ola Kukoyi (a.k.a Kosigiri) was elected as the Zonal Legal Adviser. Also, Ogunse Omotoyosi was elected as the Zonal Treasurer and Olugbenga Idowu as Zonal Ex-Officio. After Kashamu ‘s death on August 7, 2020, there have been moves from political gladiators within the PDP and other parties to poach his associates. Some had already identified with Adebutu. Although he has a deep pocket and still interested in the governorship ticket of PDP in the state, Adebutu still has a lot of catching up to do in terms of political leadership and direction for his loyalists. At the 2019 elections, he wrongly aligned his supporters to a losing team as well. How fast he picked up tutorials on reading and mapping political games, will decide what height he can attain in politics.
The former senator representing Osun West also ate the humble pie after the congress. He was part of those checkmated by the Makinde’s influence in the zone. If not properly reintegrated into the party’s affairs, his ambition of running again as PDP candidate in the Osun governorship election in 2022, may have gone with the wind. How feasible his relaunched bid will turn out is left to be seen. Other major losers from the zonal congress are the PDP deputy national spokesperson, Diran Odeyemi, Rev. Bunmi Jenyo, Engr Adedeji Doherty, Alhaji Bisi Olopoeyan, among others.
Governor Makinde came, saw, and conquered in Osogbo. By the feat, he has justifiably positioned himself as the leader of the party in the zone. The only thing left for him is to consolidate his victory alongside his loyalists. No doubt, going to the 2023 race, his influence will loom large among the delegates for the PDP presidential primary from the six states that make up the South-West zone. Regardless of the political jibes, GSM, as he is fondly called, is a politician with tact and strategy who never sleeps on guard. Ahead of the congress, he left nothing to chance and it wasn’t surprising that his anointed candidate won. Before the zonal congress, Governor Makinde had insisted that it is the turn of Oyo State to produce the next zonal chairman of the party. “We can’t sell our birthright. Since 1999, Oyo State has not produced the zonal chairman (National Vice Chairman). This is our golden opportunity. The only way a game can be balanced is when each participant enjoys equal opportunity. Why not Oyo State this time? Anyone working against this agenda is working against Oyo PDP’s interest,” he said. After the congress on Monday, April 12, Governor Makinde achieved his desired target. The Governor and Fayose had been at loggerhead over who is the leader of the party in the zone. Normally, as the only governor of PDP in the region, Makinde ought to be the leader of the party, but his leadership met resistance from Fayose, who insisted that the Oyo State Governor can never be his leader in the zone. Even though Fayose acknowledged that Makinde is a zonal leader of the party but he refused to accord him that respect. With the triumph of Makinde’s camp at the zonal congress, the Governor State has now established himself as the authentic leader of the party in the southwest.
He faced an intense challenge from Olafeso but at the end of the zonal congress, he emerged victorious. The former deputy governor of Oyo State and ex-Nigerian envoy to Jordan and Iraq has shown that he has political clout not just in Oyo State but across the region. As a diplomat, many people would be expecting Arapaja to use his wealth of experience in public service and administration to unite PDP in the zone and also position it ahead of the 2022 governorship election in Ekiti as well as the 2023 general election. As expected, he has promised to take the party back to winning ways. He also noted that he would reconcile all genuinely aggrieved persons in the party. “We need to go back to the drawing board and pacify those that are genuinely aggrieved and not those who have their own agenda somewhere and working for someone somewhere else from another party.”
With Governor Makinde camp emerging victorious at the recent zonal congress of PDP, the former deputy national chairman of PDP is among those who stand to gain from the victory. The victory reconfirms his leadership position in the zone as one of the elders of the party in the southwest. But the question is, with Makinde and Fayose during the congress, would George be magnanimous enough to accept back his estrange political-son, Deji Doherty, chairman of the party in Lagos State. Also, would this victory brighten George’s chances of getting his aspiration of becoming the national chairmanship of the party? Chief George was one of the first chieftains of the party that endorsed the candidacy of the zonal chairmanelect. “Having served as the first National Vice Chairman of our zone and having graduated to the secondhighest position of our party as the Deputy National Chairman, I believe I am in a position to offer you some guidance. When you mount the podium of leadership, let the constitution of our party be your guide like a constant northern star. Respect it.”
Senator Biodun Olujimi
Since the emergence of Makinde as the Governor of Oyo State, Olujimi is among those who consider him as the leader of the party in the zone. And she never shy-way from recognizing the governor as such. Her firm belief in Makinde’s leadership at the zone pitched her against Fayose, leading to the two leaders fighting over the party structure in Ekiti State. For instance, in Ekiti State, PDP is divided against itself with the Senator representing Ekiti South and Fayose organizing a parallel congress in the state. The crisis started when some aggrieved members of the party who worked with Fayose deciding to team-up with Senator Olujimi, who they see as a rallying point. Would this be the process of her being anointed as the candidate of the PDP in Ekiti State ahead of the 2022 governorship election? To what extent would the outcome of the election ameliorate the tension between her and her former boss, Fayose?
Adedibu is the wife of the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu and a prominent leader in the politics of Oyo State. She is one of the female leaders of the PDP, who stood solidly with the Makinde. Many political watchers in the state believed that her emergence as the zonal women leader of the party would enhance the visibility and influence of women in the zone.
Since his return to PDP, the former governor of Oyo State has been working with Makinde to build the party in the zone. He so much believed in the leadership of Makinde that the governor appointed him chairman of the zonal reconciliation committee. Oyinlola worked assiduously to reconcile Makinde and Fayose in the zone but failed.
Prof. Kolapo Eleka
Despite being a deputy governor to Fayose, Prof Eleka believes that Governor Makinde is the leader of the party in the zone. Fayose even ensured that he emerges governorship candidate of the party in 2018, where he lost to the incumbent governor of Ekiti State but Eleka choose to pit his tens with Oyo State Governor. With Eleka’s refusal to support Fayose against Makinde in the zone, many of his supporters believe that his former boss may not support him if he intends to contest again for the governorship in 2022, even though many of them are rooting for him.
The former deputy governor of Lagos State is among the strong supporters of Makinde in the zone. She believed that the Oyo State Governor has the capacity to lead the zone to victory in the region. And throughout the power tussle between the governor and Fayose, the former deputy governor stood with Makinde and supported every contestants in the governor’s camp.
The former Governor of Ekiti State, who has already declared his bid for the Ekiti governorship race on the platform of the PDP, may have enhanced his chances for the opposition party’s ticket. Oni, who has a cult-followership in the Fountain of Knowledge state, is no pushover when it comes to the politics of the state. How his latest affinity with Makinde will produce him as the party’s flagbearer in the 2022 election is left to be seen. He believes that southwest PDP should rally around Makinde as the leader of the party in the zone. In his congratulatory message to the party, he lauded the successful conduct of the congress in the zone. “The outcome of PDP South-West congress and the spirit of sportsmanship demonstrated by stakeholders was a testament to the resilience and determination of the party’s leadership and members to forge a new and purposeful beginning,” he said.
Chief Taiwo Kuye
A grassroots politician with immense influence and knowledge on party politics, Kuye is one of the strategists behind Arapaja’s victory. As a prodigy of Bode George, he is a repository of political strategy and organization. He is among those who believed that Makinde is the leader of the party in the southwest and he worked assiduously to ensure the triumph at the recent zonal congress. As a member of the Caretaker Committee of the party in the zone, Kuye on many occasions insisted that the Oyo State governor is constitutionally the leader of the party in the southwest and there is no two way about it