The enduring crisis in the South-west chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is a threat to the party’s bid to wrest power from the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the region, writes Tunde Sanni
The news of the factional clash in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State must have shocked the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamangar Tukur. The clash came barely after a week that the PDP boss visited the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, at his Hilltop mansion in Abeokuta, where he sought to make peace between Obasanjo and the sitting president, Goodluck Jonathan.
During the visit, Tukur also endorsed the factional executive of the party led by Senator Dipo Odujirin which has the blessing of the former president.
But the faction recognised by the court is the Bayo Dayo-led executive which has the backing of one of the party’s financiers, Mr. Buruji Kashamu. The two factions have been enmeshed in supremacy battle over control of the soul of the party. At present, the Obasanjo faction led by Senator Dipo Odujirin, is occupying the party’s secretariat since their election in August last year.
The two factions had always disagreed among themselves on the conduct of the last state congress of the party. The Dayo-led executive, in order to prove the legality of its congress, had headed to the court where a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos and presided over by Justice Okon Abang, voided the congresses conducted by the faction loyal to Obasanjo in July.
The trial judge ordered the affected beneficiaries of the state, local government and ward congresses to vacate their offices and surrender affairs of the party to those officials who emerged from the congresses conducted by the Soremi-led committee.
But when Tukur visited, he merely played to the gallery, apparently in an attempt to woo Obasanjo to his side when he declared that the party recognized the Odujinrin-led executive.
Tukur was however believed to be acting the script of the embattled National Vice Chairman of the party, Olusegun Oni, who may want to pay back the former President for supporting his emergence as the zonal head at the zonal congress of the party in Osogbo in July. Another court has also voided Oni’s emergence along with other zonal officers of the party.
In Ogun State alone, there are about 30 cases instituted by PDP officials against the party and its national officers for standing head on the constitution of the party. It has diminished the hope of the party to regain its strength.
However, the Dayo-led executive has said Tukur’s comment during his visit to the former president was a confirmation that the Exco was authentic. A statement by Dayo faulted claims that Tukur endorsed the Odujinrin-led group.
“What our respectable National Chairman said was that whoever the people elected is the chairman of our party in Ogun. We are aware that the sacked National Auditor, Mr. Bode Mustapha, manipulated the remarks of the National Chairman to suit his selfish interest.
“While the National Chairman knows that our exco emerged from the March, 2012, congresses organised by the Dayo Soremi-led Harmonised Exco, under the supervision of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other relevant agencies, the Odujinrin group purported election was not witnessed by INEC representatives.
“Even the Congress Monitoring Committees of the party has declared the purported congresses null and void. Again, the November 16, 2012, judgment of the Federal High Court, Lagos, which sacked the Odujinrin group, confirmed the position of the committees.
What is more, INEC and the several court judgments have also affirmed our Exco. So, if the National Chairman says whoever is elected by the people is the Chairman, then, with all sense of modesty, he could not be referring to any other person but me,” he said.
Dayo hoped that the reconciliation committees set up by the party’s national leadership to settle disputes in the various chapters across the federation would sort out all pending issues and said he was ready to work with “genuine party leaders” to reposition the party.
In Oyo State, uncertainty still hovers on the fate of the executive. There have been pressures on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to dissolve and reorganize the state executive committee in order to accommodate other members and provide space for the home coming of the founder of the PDP in the state, Senator Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja. Ladoja has however ruled out his return to the party and said he preferred to stay back in his Accord Party.
A group in the party by former council bosses had said recently that the dissolution and reorganization of the state executive committee was the best option if the party genuinely means business and wants to win future elections in the state. At present, the State Executive Committee of the party is overseen by former Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, working with Senator Hosea Agboola and Hon. Ajibola Muraina.
They argued that some key members have been left out in the cold by the SEC. Those not reckoned with include the immediate past Governor of Oyo State, Otunba Christopher Adebayo Alao-Akala; his deputy, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja and Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Olajumoke Akinjide amongst others.
The group declared that the executive committee of the party as presently composed was not capable of growing the party and constituted a big hindrance to the reconciliation, repositioning and progressive stance of Tukur.
The group said it took the decision “after a thorough examination of the present position of the party in the state, the future of PDP in Oyo State and the overwhelming demands of the generality of the people of the state for a quick rescue of the state from the hands of the incompetent, oppressive, wicked and visionless government of ACN in the state.”
But a group close to the patrons of the executive committee has faulted the call for the dissolution of the executive, pointing out that Alao-Akala was a signatory to the emergence of the executive while Akinjide opted for a counter congress which produced her own executive. The group urged NEC of the party to ignore the call and threatened to go to the court if the state executive of the party is tinkered with.
It is the threat to litigation that made Ladoja stay away from the party and continues to nurture his party. Already, he has been receiving stalwarts from the PDP into his party while speculations that Alao-Akala was planning to defect to the Accord Party to pursue his senatorial ambition have been debunked by both the former governor and Accord Party
Cohesion in Ekiti PDP is being threatened by a zoning formula which seeks to edge out former governor Ayodele Fayose from the governorship race in the party. Both Fayose and his wife have indicated interest in the governorship race. But the party has zoned the governorship to Ekiti South senatorial district.
Fayose hails from Afao Ekiti in Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government, which is in the Central Senatorial District. Governor Kayode Fayemi is from Ekiti North Senatorial District.
The former governor described politicians advocating zoning to determine who represents the party in the 2014 governorship election in the state as “weak” and rationalized that instead of zoning, the popularity and experience of candidates should be the yardstick to determine who represents the party in the election.
“In Oyo State, all the governors, with the exception of Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, are from Ibadan. In Kogi State, all the governors are from Kogi East Senatorial District. So this thing does not work. Anybody agitating zoning in Ekiti PDP now is a weak vessel. If they are serious about it, tell them to step down for just one of them from Ekiti South Senatorial District and you will see their reactions.”
He therefore urged PDP leaders in the state to unite and work for the success of the party.
The PDP in Ondo State is still torn between heeding the advice of its national leaders and National Assembly members on the outcome of the last governorship polls won by Governor Olusegun Mimiko.
National leaders of the PDP had advised the party and its flag-bearer in the election, Olusola Oke, to allow the polls result rest and refrain from challenging the outcome. But Oke has literally ignored the advice as he is still in court, seeking to puncture the outcome of the polls.
Ahead of the polls, the party was sharply divided leading to suspension and counter suspension of leaders for anti-party offences. But since the next election in the state is still four years away, the party would have put its house in order.
Osun State however appears different in the zone. Here, the party stalwarts are still basking in the harmony within their ranks and file which has remained a cause of worry and concern for the ACN. The party took a step further recently when it organised civic reception for the National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. It was symbolic because the present executive of the party, led by Alhaji Ganiyu Ola-Oluwa, was not supported by Oyinlola during the congresses.
In his remark, visiting Akwa Ibom State Governor, Chief Godswill Akpabio, urged the people of the state to rally around the leadership of the party as the stage appeared set for the party to form government in the South-west and that the state would not be an exception.
“Let me state here without mincing words that the state and the good people of Osun State are looking up to you for leadership and it is my hope and belief that with the calibre of people in the party, the stage is now set for the party to form government in this state and other South-west states,” he said.
That aside, Osun PDP has been a thorn in the flesh of the ACN, taking the ruling party to the cleaners each time the opportunity provided itself.
Recently, former deputy governor of the state and former Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Iyiola Omisore, has described the two years of Governor Rauf Aregbesola as a failure. Omisore who spoke with journalists in Ile-Ife said the physical and human developments of the state were low compared to the allocation that has accrued to it from the federation account in the past two years.
Omisore who many fear might clinch the PDP ticket and give the ACN a run for everything said: “There is no development in Osun under Aregbesola. The government has collected N219 billion in federal allocation; N100 billion in loans through stock exchange and banks; N15 billion through deductions from local councils and with all these money, there is nothing on the ground to show for it.”
He claimed the governor has been parading himself around Federal Government projects like roads as part of his achievements.
“There is the Osogbo-Ilesa Road, the dualisation of the Osogbo-Erin-Ile Road; the Sekona-Gbongan Road and the Ibadan-Ife Road. All these are projects of the Federal Ministry of Works but which Aregbesola has been taking photographs and claiming them to be his achievements.”
He hinted that the human capital development drive of the ACN-controlled government has been fraught with lies and deceit. He also faulted government’s claim on the employment of 10,000 YES-O volunteers, whereas only 4,000 were hired and later laid off after they had been used.
Observers believed that the fate of PDP in South-west, especially in the 2014 and 2015 polls would be determined by how the National Executive Committee of the party manages the crisis in the party. As things are, the party could be out of reckoning in Ogun for any poll. The sour relationship played itself out during the council polls when the warring factions could not agree on candidates for the elective council positions.
Oyo, from a gradual hopeful situation is again sliding into a state of hopelessness with the factions. Contending leaders have refused to shift ground for themselves in the battle for the soul of the party. It is making the ruling ACN ride roughshod in the state since there is no solid opposition to counter and critise actions and policies of the ruling party.
The zoning formula in Ekiti could prove too hot for the party and thence, rob it of anticipated success in the 2014 election.
With the exception of Osun which appears poised for a good fight as well as Ondo which appears safe with Mimiko, other states are in deep crisis which only the NEC of the party can resolve through justice and fairness.