Politics

S’West PDP: Gladiators return to the trenches

The reported tiff between chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-West may decelerate the move for a united front for the party ahead of the Ondo State governorship election and the 2023 general election, WALE ELEGBEDE reports

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-West geopolitical zone is not alien to crises. While some of the crises got solutions, others defied any known political prognosis. Since 1999, the party in the zone has definitely seen the good, the bad and the ugly parts of politicking. Interestingly, all have come to the party in a similar proportion.

No doubt, the party in the zone didn’t have it rosy at the 2019 general election despite the mouthed confidence it exhibited prior to the polls. After the polls, the party’s anticipated victory in the presidential, gubernatorial and legislative elections didn’t come as expected in the zone.
The six states that make up the South-West include Lagos, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun.

Courting voters in the zone at the flag-off of his campaign in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was the PDP presidential candidate, said: “Let me tell you that today, I said before you that within six months, we shall start the process of restructuring of this country. Ladies and gentlemen, I have lived here, so I am not a stranger.”

Following up in the same breath, the party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Seconds, said: “With what we have seen here today, it is sure that our people in the South-West want a change in government and Atiku is the only candidate who can rescue Nigeria at this time.”

Atiku, a former vice president, has been vying for the office of the president since 1993 although he had been on the ballot only twice (2007 and 2019).
Few months after the Mapo Hall rally , the people of the South-West spoke with another voice and it was averse to what Atiku and the party, both at the national and zone wanted to hear.
After the keenly contested presidential election, the APC candidate and incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, was declared winner after polling 15.1 million votes against Atiku’s 11.2 million votes thereby returning to Aso Rock with a margin lead of 3.9 million votes.

In the South-West, Atiku lost to Buhari with a margin of 259,780 votes after polling 1.7 million votes against Buhari’s 2.03 million votes. However, the PDP candidate won in two states of the zone, namely, Oyo and Ondo.

At the gubernatorial level, the PDP contested for the three vacant seats in Ogun, Oyo and Lagos. While it was able to secure the Oyo State seat, it lost in Ogun and Lagos states, respectively to its perennial albatross, the APC.

In the senatorial election, the main opposition party won four out of the 18 seats in the zone. The PDP won two senate seats in Ondo and one each in Osun and Oyo states. The party also got one seat via the court as the election tribunal gave it one of the seats won by the APC in Ekiti State.

While some analysts largely considered the performance of PDP in the South-West in the 2019 general election as not too woeful, especially with its reclaiming of Oyo State through Seyi Makinde, others expressed the belief that the party didn’t manifest its potentials due to protracted internal crises across the states in the zone.

Those in the latter school of reasoning cited some of the unresolved crises from its election primaries as the bane of the underperformance. They also highlighted traits of betrayal, conspiracy, greed, inordinate ambition, thirst for power and personal interests as the reason for the party’s loss in states like Lagos, Ogun and Ekiti.

Across the states that make up the zone, protracted internal crises became the order of the day and traits of betrayal, conspiracy, greed, inordinate ambition and thirst for power and personal interests were proffered as reasons for the party’s loss in states like Lagos, Ogun and Ekiti.

Expectedly, the managers of the party in the zone, led by Dr. Eddy Olafeso, who hails Ondo State, went to work to see how it can evoke the good old days of the PDP in the zone. Recall that between 1999 and 2007, the PDP was on cruise control in the zone, especially during the 2003 general election, when it won five out of the six states in the zone.

To return the party’s fortune, the only PDP governor in the zone, Makinde, has been serving as the middleman in all the crisis-ridden state chapters. The governor held a stakeholders meeting of leaders in the zone at the government house, Ibadan and it was from there that it was agreed that a unity rally held the capital of the zone. He also visited Lagos and Ekiti in an attempt to unite leaders in the respective state chapters.

But regardless of his efforts, the situation of the parties in the zone continues to deteriorate, thereby forcing some members to adopt the Biblical “To your tent oh Israel” style.
Except for Oyo State, where the party is enjoying a relatively peacefully ambiance because the state has a sitting governor, the other five states have been groaning under the age-long crisis that has been bedeviling the zone.

However, Makinde’s effort to initiate a common front for the party in the zone appears to be the current subject of division among leaders of the party. Interestingly, the once cordial relationship between Makinde and the exco in the zone is already severed.

Two weeks ago, Makinde conveyed a stakeholders meeting at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan. The meeting which excluded zonal executives of the party, resolved to embrace the principles of equity and fairness in the distribution of positions due to the zone henceforth.

The Deputy National Chairman of the party, Elder Yemi Akinwonmi, who presided over the meeting which was also attended by three former governors on the platform of the party, said the leaders resolved to build “an indivisible, united and strong entity under PDP’s umbrella.”

Those who attended include a former governor of Osun State, Prince Olugunsoye Oyinlola; former Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose; his predecessor, Engr Segun Oni as well as former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, National Assembly members and other stakeholders.

The communique issued at the end of the meeting read: “The Leaders of the PDP South-West, from the six states of Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and Osun met today, 19th June, 2020, discussed extensively on various issues bordering on the unity, oneness and togetherness of the South-West PDP and resolved as follows:
“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 amongst the States/Sub-zones will create a higher sense of unity, togetherness, fairness and justice among the various states/sub-zones.”

But taking a swipe at the meeting, the zonal leadership dissociated itself from a meeting held at the instance of Governor Makinde, saying the meeting was unconstitutional. They declared that they were left with no other choice than to report the development to the national secretariat, which will determine the appropriate response to such matters of impunity.
In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Ayo Fadaka, the party’s zonal leadership described the meeting as just a gathering of friends of Governor Makinde.
The statement also declared that any resolution made at the meeting is not binding on the party in the South-West as it affirmed that the meeting was held without any recourse to the zonal leadership.

The statement read in part: “We declare that the zonal executive is constitutionally empowered to drive the affairs of the party in the South-West, and this is a responsibility it cannot delegate. Therefore any zonal meeting not convened by the zonal executive is a direct affront on the party’s constitution and an unlawful repudiation of same.

“This action signals the beginning of anarchy within the party in the zone and it will be absolutely irresponsible of the zonal executive to just ignore it. We are, therefore, left with no choice other than to report this development to the National Secretariat, which will determine the appropriate response to issues of impunity like this,” the publicity secretary wrote.”
But miffed by the zonal executive’s response, a group, Concerned Elders and Stakeholders in the South-West in an open letter to the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, described the letter from the zonal exco as untidy, reckless and malicious.

“We read with dismay and alarm the alleged comnunique written by the South-West Zonal Caretaker Executive Committee which was a purported response to the elders meeting summoned by Governor Makinde.
“The communique rankles with untidy, reckless dripping of a venomous pen. It pours with anger, malice, hate, stripped of the Ọmọluabi moral of our Yoruba heritage.

“The caretaker committee, in uncouth, breathless oafish diatribe describes Governor Makinde and the leading lights of the Yoruba leadership as agents of impunity and abettors of anarchy simply because they attended a meeting whose purpose is to reclaim the dignity of our people and restore confidence, fairness and equity to our zone without the intrusion of extraneous forces.

“But the caretaker committee would have none of this. Their fixity is about personal interest, the crude protection of an unearned partisan relevance, the continuous diminution of the esteem of our people, the crass trafficking in mercenary selfishness, the odious resolve on latching to the bidding of those who harbor secretive agenda at the detriment of the fortunes of Yorubaland.
“Governor Makinde remains the undisputed political leader of the South-West today. That is a settled affirmation. His position as the only PDP governor in our zone gives him this privilege. His generous financing of the activities of the six states and the zonal structure itself doubly assures his leadership primacy.

“He is a meek, humble, thoroughbred Ọmọluabi, who wishes the best for the South-West and the party at large. His humility should not be taken for weakness.”
The group said the inference of the Olafeso-led exco that Governor Makinde committed an act of impunity and that his action may cause anarchy in the South-West is impudent, gratuitous, disturbing, vile, vindictive and outrightly unjust.

Making a veiled reference to a former governor in the zone, whom it accused of being the brain behind the crisis, the stakeholders said: “After losing his state and later shamelessly cavorted with the same opposition, he was eventually discarded and he crawled back to our fold without remorse.

“Alas, this character keeps forgetting he is a yesterday’s man whose sun has set, whose former prominence has been displaced by a new order. Our yesterday’s man is deliberately bent on disruptive, rivening, fractious totality. He seems happiest in sowing discord, maneuvering in dark conspiracies, provoking divisions, instigating turmoil, envious of the subsisting power.
“But he has failed. Like his minions at the zonal structure who he has recruited to smear and antagonize Governor Makinde and the South-West leaders in reckless indiscipline, they have jointly pitted themselves against a cul de sac.

“We emphasize for the umpteenth time that the national leadership of our party must align with the majority of the PDP members in the South-West who ask for justice, equity and fair play in the distribution of elective offices.

“This is not a hard task. The South-West has three sub-zones: Ondo-Ekiti, Osun-Oyo, Lagos-Ogun. There are equally three positions for the same zone in the National Working Committee (NWC). We do not need a mathematician to distribute these positions.

“The current distortion where Ondo-Ekiti alone occupies two positions at the detriment of the other sub-zones is the very wrong that we seek to rectify. As the party prepares for the upcoming gubernatorial election in Ondo State, the NWC of our party should reflect carefully on the nuances, the orchestrated maneuverings of people with veiled, hidden mission that may negatively affect our fortunes at the polls.

“In this wise, we note that the South-West Caretaker Committee has become heavily compromised, stripped of balanced, leadership neutrality, weighed down by the incredible burden of vice and corruption, disruptive of the general harmony across our land.
“Truth be told: The South-West Caretaker Committee is now the hot-bed of greed and avarice. It has outlived its usefulness. We urge that this diseased outfit should be exorcised, dismantled in its entirety for a new , more polished, more productive and more progressive set of morally upright leadership,” the statement said.

Just as the concerned elders finished making their points, four state chairmen of the PDP in the zone, namely, Lagos, Ondo, Ogun and Osun states accused Governor Makinde of neglecting the South-West leadership of the party and prodding Chief Olabode George and Senator Hosea Agboola to become the national and zonal chairmen, respectively.

In a joint letter to Secondus, the state chairmen took exception to the meeting held in Ibadan, accusing Governor Makinde of unilaterally calling a zonal meeting without recourse to the leadership.
They described the alleged actions as capable of destabilizing the party in the zone and called on the NWC to take immediate actions that will stem the potential crisis.

The letter, dated June 19, was signed by Hon. Deji Doherty (Lagos), Engr. Clement Faboyede (Ondo), Dr. Sikirulai Olawale Ogundele (Ogun) and Elder Sunday Akanfe (Osun).
It read: “We the undersigned are party chairmen in states of the South-West and we feel duty bound to alert you on the need to forestall the festering of any crisis in the zone of the party.
“This action becomes necessary in view of the new schism rearing its head in our zone. It is our immediate concern to ensure that all hands are deck to halt the growth of needless crisis that will negatively affect the health of our party in the South West.

“In this respect, we take due notice of the invitation to a purported South West Zone meeting which held on Friday, 19th June unilaterally summoned by His Excellency, Engr Seyi Makinde, with no recourse whatsoever to the zonal executive. This development if not arrested may signal the beginning of terrible developments in our zone.
“We are also aware that factors propelling the simmering crisis include the bid by Chief Olabode George to become national chairman at all cost and also that of Senator Hosea Agboola, current caretaker chairman of Ekiti State to become national vice chairman.

“These two men are exploring their closeness to Governor Seyi Makinde to prosecute inordinate ambition at the expense of the existing amity and understanding within the South West, which is currently being disrupted for this reason.

“We urge the National Working Committee to take immediate action actions geared at forestalling unnecessary crisis in our Zone by calling the aforementioned men to order and educate them on the need to play by the rules and not create any trouble in the zone.”

However, George not only refuted the claims but called for sanctioning of the party chairmen for undermining him. He said it is idiotic that some people can believe only Makinde can make him the party’s national chairman of the party.

“It is the most senseless statement that could be ever credited to this party. The governor of Oyo, His Excellency, Governor Seyi Makinde called a meeting of elders and stakeholders, where he was pleading for unity in the party and the complete lopsidedness in distribution of party positions. South-West has six states, sub-divided into three zones. Lagos/Ogun is one zone; Oyo/Osun is second zone and Ekiti/Ondo is the third zone.
“There are three positions who are members of the National Working Committee (NWC). In a saner manner, each zone is supposed to take one each. During the period of Ayo Fayose as Ekiti State governor, he distributed these three positions in a manner that two positions went to one zone, and then another zone had nothing.

“If these state chairmen understood the dynamics of politics, they won’t make the baseless allegations they made because the issues are very clear. We are concerned because we don’t want people outside to see the inadequacies of the managers of the party because issues like these are also important to the electorate,” George said.

The national leadership of the PDP, also in its response through a statement by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the claim that Governor Makinde is scheming to displace Secondus and make George the national chairman is utter nonsense and falsehood.

“It is libelous; an outrageous fable, a reckless assassination of character sponsored with the sole aim of tarnishing the hard-earned image of Governor Seyi Makinde and Chief Olabode George,” Ologbodiyan said.

Although there are accusations and counter-accusations, the issues begging for answers include, what is the position of Governor Makinde to the governorship bid of his ex-ally, Olafeso in the forthcoming Ondo guber primary? Could that be the fulcrum of the crisis between the duo? How cordial is the relationship between ex-Governor Fayose and Governor Makinde? Who is the Ekiti PDP caretaker committee reporting to and whose interest is it serving? When is the zonal election to usher in a new executive going to take place?

These and many more are questions begging for answers. Until these posers are rightly addressed, it might still be a long walk to unity for the main opposition party in the South-West.

 

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