Irony of Southwest PDP and endless journey from one crisis to another

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If there is any zone in Nigeria where the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been struggling to get its acts together, it must be Southwest. Although, the party has never had it so good in the geopolitical zone even during the President Olusegun Obasanjo dispensation, things went awry after the prolonged leadership squabble between Senators Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sheriff.
In most states of the federation, the crisis split the party structure, but Southwest has continued to reel from instability and crisis, especially in Lagos State, where PDP has never produced the governor.

For instance, when former governor Akinwunmi Amboode conducted council elections in 2016, the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) was confused as to which of the PDP factions was the authentic structure to deal with.

Back then, Mr. Segun Adewale, a loyalist of Modu-Sheriff, and Makarfi camp’s Captain Tunji Shelle-led executive conducted parallel primaries to select candidates for the election. At a point, Shelle was forced to adopt the Labour Party (LP) as platform for the council polls, pending the determination of the leadership tussle by the Supreme Court.

In Ogun State chapter, the former executive, led by Adebayo Dayo, aligned with Makarfi, while Sikirulahi Ogundele’s executive recognised Modu-Sheriff, just as in Ondo the crisis cost the party the 2016 governorship, despite being the incumbent party.

The Osun and Ekiti chapters were not left out. Former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose, could not install a successor in the 2018 governorship poll due to internal fighting in the party. A former National Publicity Secretary of PDP Caretaker Committee, Mr. Dayo Adeyeye, Senator Biodun Olujimi and others disagreed with Fayose over his choice of Professor Kolapo Eleka, his then deputy, as the party’s candidate. Adeyeye eventually defected to APC where he later contested the 2019 Senatorial seat for Ekiti South against Olujimi of PDP and won. However, the court later reversed Adeyeye’s victory in favour of Olujimi. Adeyeye subsequently worked against PDP, which gave APC the opportunity to reclaim Ekiti.

The PDP has been unable to return to Government House in Osun after Aregbesola’s eight years. That opportunity was lost due to internal strife that led to Iyiola Omisore dumping the party and supporting the candidate of APC, Gboyega Oyetola in a re-run.

After the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Makarfi on July 12, 2017, the Southwest zone exploded in another crisis. As a result, the zone could not settle for a consensus candidate in the December 2017 national convention for the national chairmanship. None of the over eight aspirants agreed to step-down to brighten the zone’s chances.

Chairmanship aspirants included former Deputy National Chairman, Chief Olabode George, a former Minister of Education, Professor Tunde Adeniran, 2015 governorship candidate in Lagos, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, a stalwart of the party from Oyo State, Professor Taoreed Adedoja, and former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel.

The many aspirants paved the way for South-South zone, which presented only Prince Uche Secondus. Fayose, the late Senator Buruji Kashamu, former Deputy National Vice Chairman, Southwest zone, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, and others were later accused of betraying the zone.

Fayose was accused of scuttling Southwest’s moves to occupy the position of national chairman in the bid to become a presidential running mate to whomever the party would present for the 2019 presidential election. Pained by the development, Adeniran crossed over to SDP, while Adedoja joined APC.

Between Fayose, Makinde
DEFEATED variously in Ondo in 2016, Ekiti and Osun in 2018 to APC, PDP lost control of the entire Southwest until 2019. Governor Seyi Makinde had entered into a working arrangement with other political platforms and capitalised on the infighting in Oyo APC under ex-Governor Abiola Ajimobi to clinch the state for PDP.

Similar opportunities came calling for PDP in Lagos and Ogun during the 2019 election. The APC leadership in Lagos denied Governor Ambode a second term opportunity, while former Governor Ibikunle Amosun sponsored another candidate against APC’s Prince Dapo Abiodun. But PDP failed to take advantage of those chances owing to internal crises.

The clash between former Governor Daniel and Senator Kashamu worked to the benefit of APC. Again, soon after Makinde mounted the saddle in Oyo, the battle for Southwest leadership of PDP pitted him against Fayose, thereby factionalising the party. While a faction believes that Makinde as the most senior elected official officer in the zone, should lead PDP, Fayose’s supporters insist that a first term governor cannot claim leadership over the two-term former governor.

PDP’s relative poor performance in the 2020 Ondo State governorship poll could be traced to the wrangling between Makinde and Fayose. The same pitfall was also noticeable in the last Lagos East bye-elections.

The Makinde versus Fayose face-off also spurred verbal attacks between Ekiti and Oyo chapters. In Ondo, the party suspended five of its members for attending a function at the instance of Fayose, although a reconciliation committee reversed the suspension.

In a statement, the Fayose faction alluded to Makinde’s erstwhile membership of SDP and remarked: “It is rather unfortunate that someone like Governor Makinde, who is never a stable member of PDP, could use the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) trial to mock Fayose.”

The party’s Publicity Secretary in Oyo, Akeem Olatunji, criticised Raphael Adeyanju’s statement, saying it does not reflect the true position of Ekiti PDP.

Olatunji said: “It is very regrettable that we are compelled, as the ruling party in Oyo State, to react to a reckless and unguarded statement credited to Ayo Fayose-led faction of our great party in Ekiti State. For the sake of record, we like to state clearly that it is unfortunate that the only time Ekiti State PDP was allowed by Fayose to enjoy relative peace was when the ex-governor was in office, first, between 29th of May 2003 to 16th October 2006.

“In 2011, Fayose, who abandoned PDP in pursuit of his failed senatorial ambition in Labour Party (LP), openly told the whole world about the secret accord he reached with the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the then governor Kayode Fayemi against PDP, when Fayose publicly told Fayemi to honour their secret agreement.

“We are not unmindful of Fayose’s political antecedents, which is legendary for treachery and betrayal, because once Fayose is not the governor, he deploys his entire political arsenal to bring down the PDP.”

Olatunji also accused the former Ekiti governor of aligning with the national leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, despite everything he gained from PDP in the past, stressing, “We understand that since Fayose had completed his second term of office as governor, and realising that he cannot contest the seat again, and worst still, since he stands no chance to represent our great party on a presidential slot, he has gone into another secret agreement with his old political allies, especially in Lagos towards an empty 2023 presidential aspiration.”

But, in a reaction, Fayose’s spokesman, Mr. Lere Olayinka, said the problem in Southwest PDP is all about power, which is normal in politics. He said the major problem is that some people were trying to smuggle in something alien to PDP constitution.

He stated: “There is nothing like leadership in our constitution. Leadership comes by concession. That Makinde is a governor does not confer on him the leadership right of the region; it only comes by concession. For instance, Fayose was instrumental to Makinde getting the PDP’s governorship ticket in Oyo in 2019. As at 2007, Makinde was a member of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) in 2007 till 2011. The governor defected to PDP in 2015 to contest the governorship ticket, but failed. The party begged him to take a Senatorial ticket, but he refused and left to contest the 2015 governorship election under SDP and lost.

“In 2019, Makinde returned to PDP and it was this same Fayose, who supported him to get the party’s ticket, when everybody, including the national headquarters, deserted him. I don’t see how Makinde would have outplayed the likes of former Governor Rasheed Ladoja and other stakeholders if Fayose and Olafeso did not tag along with him. How then would Makinde stand before Fayose to claim he is the leader? The truth is that Makinde has not been a consistent member of PDP.”

Olayinka also accused Makinde of supporting Senator Abiodun Olujimi against Fayose in Ekiti.

“In the last governorship election in Ondo, Makinde supported Eyitayo Jegede while Governor Nyesom Wike and the NWC preferred Agboola Ajayi, because they considered Jegede a liability, since he lost to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu four years ago. Fayose on his part supported Olafeso despite the fact he (Fayose) knew that Olafeso would not win.

“After Jegede won the ticket in Ondo, Makinde, rather than bringing everybody on board, started boasting that though they considered him a ‘baby governor’, his preferred candidate defeated others. That was part of the reasons PDP lost the election, because Wike, Fayose and even the NWC were lackadaisical due to the attitude of Makinde.”

Olayinka disclosed that Makinde suggested that the zone should retain the last zonal executive, led by Olafeso, when its tenure ended last year, adding, “In 2016, when the Olafeso-led executive was elected, Kashamu went to secure a court judgment that rendered Olafeso’s executive non-functional until 2018 when the court reversed itself in favour of Olafeso.

“In 2020, it was Makinde who suggested that Olafeso should stay since his executive only functioned for two years. Everybody including Fayose agreed to the suggestion, only for him to make a U-turn to say Hosea Agbola, who just joined the PDP, should be supported for the zonal vice national chairmanship instead of Olafeso. The same Makinde allotted the zonal secretary position to Chief Bode George’s preferred candidate in Lagos. How do you expect Fayose to fold his arms and allow such a situation unchallenged?”

He accused Makinde of intruding into affairs of other state chapters in the zone outside Oyo. Dismissing allegations that Fayose was working for Tinubu and APC as unserious, Olayinka added: “Fayose is the most consistent member of PDP in the Southwest and he has contributed immensely, more than anybody. When he was given soft-landing after his tenure in 2018 so that EFCC would not probe him, the former governor refused and on the third day of exiting office, he went straight to the commission’s office for the probe.”

On the Lagos East bye-election, he said the rift between Fayose and Makinde had nothing to do with it. “There is no way PDP could have won the bye-elections against the ruling party in Lagos, whether Fayose and Makinde were in agreement or not.”

Mr. Adetokunbo Pearse, the director general of Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi Lagos East Election Campaign Organisation for the bye-election disagreed with Olayinka, even as he blamed Fayose for creating crisis in the zone and accused Olafeso of playing double standards. “Looking at the antecedents of Olafeso, no right thinking person in the zone would venture to support him. Makinde has been wonderful,” he said.

Olafeso’s imprints
AS a former deputy national vice chairman, Olafeso is seen as a significant part of the issues in Southwest PDP. Before the party’s 2017 national convention, Olafeso had romanced Chief George, with the hope of supporting the aspiration of the former Ondo State Military Administrator for the national chairmanship position. Olafeso and Kashamu tacitly endorsed George’s aspiration, but Fayose wasn’t keen on it. Olafeso used his relationship with George to bring Kashamu close. The newfound amity between Olafeso, George and Kashamu was ostensibly in the expectation that they would bring other Southwest stakeholders and across the country to support George’s ambition.

Surprisingly, however, few months to the national convention, Olafeso, who had attended the inaugural campaign of Chief George at Lagos City Hall, suddenly switched camp with Fayose to pitch tent with Governor Wike, who was supporting Secondus. George was miffed, but there was nothing he could do when even Agbaje, whom he (George) nurtured in Lagos against Musiliu Obanikoro, indicated interest in the national chairmanship.

Olafeso and Fayose were accused of betraying other Southwest chairmanship aspirants after Secondus had won. Fayose was accused of nursing a running mate ambition, which had been zoned to the Southeast, just as Olafeso allegedly dumped George and other aspirants from the region for some gestures supposedly from Wike at the convention.

Olafeso’s ambition to contest for Southwest national vice chairmanship in the forthcoming convention is said to be stoking another crisis. Makinde and Fayose had initially agreed to support Olafeso to compensate his (Olafeso) defeat in the last Ondo State governorship primary. But, Makinde is said to be considering Hosea Agboola, to Fayose’s chagrin.

Recently, it was widely circulated in the zone that Olafeso had been endorsed, as its sole candidate for the post of national deputy chairman of Southwest. But the chairman of PDP Reconciliation Committee in the zone, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, quickly debunked the story, saying nothing like that happened or is in consideration.

Oyinlola’s reaction was a response to a report that Oyinlola, Fayose and others had adopted Olafeso as the next Southwest National Vice Chairman of the party. In a personal message, Oyinlola wrote that: “There was no affirmation of anybody at the meeting, affirmation of any kind was never part of our mandate.”

It would be recalled that the issue of Olafeso re-presenting himself for the position alongside his Secretary, Reverend Bunmi Jenyo, is the reason for a major crisis between Fayose and Makinde.

But while speaking with The Guardian via the telephone, Olafeso said the fact that he contested the Ondo PDP governorship primary ticket and lost should not exclude him from aspiring for an executive position in the zone. He also debunked having issues with anybody in the party or zone.

“We are all working towards the same goal, to reposition our party for the next general elections,” he said. “I’m very close to Makinde and Fayose. The former governor of Ekiti and I supported Makinde to win the Oyo State governorship ticket in 2019. The issue between them is not about ego or tussle for power. What Fayoose is saying is that because Makinde is a governor in Oyo does not confer on him automatic leader of Southwest. I’m appealing to the media to help the party to resolve its crisis.”

One of the reasons some major stakeholders of the party are miffed with Olafeso’s ambition is due to the role he played against his zone (Southwest) at the party’s 2017 regards to national convention held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

Olafeso denied that he jettisoned his zone for money at the national convention.

Meanwhile, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbodiyan told The Guardian that the NWC was doing everything possible to ensure that peace returns to the Southwest zone, because it is key to the party’s success in the coming election.

According to Ologbondiyan; “We have set up the Bukola Saraki National Reconciliation Committee and I want to assure our party faithful that the committee will address all the issues affecting our party in the Southwest region.”

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