After the just concluded congress of the Peoples Democratic Party in Kwara State the party has been factionalised, writes Hammed Shittu
The just concluded congress of the opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara State has come and gone but the fallout of the congress will linger for some time because of the way it has polarised the party into two factions in the state.
Before the ward, local and state congresses, some members of the party had maintained that the PDP in the state should be exempted from electing officials into affected levels in view of the fact that the present executive council has just spent two years in office, but the national leadership of the party ordered that congresses must take place in the state.
With the development, the state chapter of the party put machinery in motion to conduct the congresses but at the end, it turned into crisis which eventually produced two factional groups in the Kwara PDP.
The first faction being led by those tagged as “Hijackers” is led by Chief Iyiola Oyedepo while the second faction that comprises some members of the party that brand themselves as “Foundation” is led by Chief Sunday Fagbemi.
Members of the Oyedepo group held their congress at Stella Obasanjo hall, along Ilorin- Ajase-Ipo Road, Ilorin with two of the seven members of National Panel Electoral Committee of the party from Abuja attending. The Fagbemi camp also held a parallel congress at Benkadims Hotel, Tanke area – along University of Ilorin road, Ilorin on the same day.
Reports from the 16 local government councils of the state on the conduct of the ward congresses indicated that they were hijacked by factional groups and thereby denying members of other groups from having access to the party nomination forms meant for the various positions in the ward level and this was said to have caused a lot of acrimony among members of the party.
THISDAY investigation revealed that, the strategy of denying members nomination forms at the ward level was perpetuated in order to impose certain individuals as ward executives, even where they don’t have the support of majority of members.
The story was not different at the local government congress of the party as nomination forms meant for contestants of various local government executives were hijacked by powerful leaders of the party and this led to disharmony and also conduct of parallel congresses in some local government councils.
The national panel electoral committee of the party from Abuja, according to sources, was said not to have helped the matter as the result sheets were given to the power that be in the party so as to allow their favoured candidates to be filled and signed before the real congress and this also caused acrimony in the party.
Party chairmen at the local government level simply filled the names of those they feel would work with them during the state congress of the party so as to ensure the return their favoured state executive council members.
The event that led to the parallel state congresses happened on Tuesday, May 10, 2016, when the intrigues that have been characterizing the past congresses of the party over who will lead the party snowballed into full crisis during the state congress of the party scheduled to hold at Stella Obasanjo Hall, Ilorin.
On that day, as early as 8am, delegates from all the 16 local government councils were at the venue to get accredited for the congress and armed policemen, state security service men and men of the State Civil Defence Corps were at the venue of the congress to maintain law and order but the congress was unacceptable to many of the members.
There and then, about 10 suspected gun men who were in police uniform were arrested. They claimed to have come from Offa in Offa local government council of the state to lend support for the emergence of a particular candidate as one of the officials of the party.
During the accreditation of delegates for the congress, the chairman of the panel from Abuja, Chief Niyi Oyeleye allegedly decided that all local government council areas in the state with parallel congresses would not be allowed to participate in the state congress.
Trouble erupted following the announcement as elected delegates from the four local government councils namely; Ilorin East, Ilorin South, Asa, Ilorin West that made Kwara Central senatorial and one local government from Kwara North district, Moro local government council, were not allowed to be accredited over alleged conduct of parallel congresses in the affected councils. But aside affected local government councils mentioned, three other councils like Offa, Isin and Ekiti had their delegates accredited in violation of the agreed resolution.
It was further gathered that during the accreditation, the authentic lists from the councils were said to have been doctored to favour one of the groups at the expense of the other group.
The development led to the elimination of over 50 per cent of the delegates and all efforts made by the aspirants to address the matter was not accepted by the panel committee and this also caused a lot of chaos at the venue of the congress. It took the quick intervention of the security agencies to restore normalcy.
Alleging haphazard conduct of the election, Fagbemi complained to the panel members and the chairman, alleging shoddy misconduct of the whole exercise and advised the panel committee to look into the development but that was to no avail.
It was at that point that some aggrieved members called out their delegates and moved to Bekadims Hotel, Tanke area, Ilorin where a new accreditation was conducted and election was held with the presence of five out of seven panel committee that came from Abuja to conduct the election. It was at that venue that the Fagbemi-led executive emerged and they were subsequently sworn-in into office.
On the other hand, the Oyedepo camp remained at the Stella Obasanjo Hall where they held the election and its executive council members were returned unopposed.
In his acceptance speech, the chairman, Oyedepo extended hands of fellowship to all members of the party to move the party forward.
“We need each other. I am ready to work with everybody in order to bid the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) farewell from the Government House in 2019”, he said, adding that “A brand new PDP to be known throughout the country has been born with the renewal of the mandate of the new executive members.”
Other officers returned unopposed were; Deputy chairman, Abdulkadiri Atahiru; Secretary, Abdulwaheed Yusuf; Publicity Secretary, Chief Rex Olawoye; Assistant Publicity Secretary, Femi Yusuf and the Women Leader, Hajia Tundun Babatunde-Alanamu while the three Senatorial Vice Chairmen were Chief Gbenle Adeyemi, Chief Sunday Oyebiyi and Alhaji Mustapha Salman for South, North and Central senatorial districts respectively.
The Treasurer, Alhaji Adebayo Ahmed; Organising Secretary, Alhaji Bolaji Jimoh; Financial Secretary, Rasaki Alabi; Legal Adviser, Otman Abubakar; Auditor, Sunday Ibitoye and Mrs. Dorcas Afeniforo and Mr. Idris Jamiu and Babatunde Jonathn, who are ex-officio members were also returned.
Meanwhile, the Fagbemi group, in a press conference to counter the purported election of Oyedepo, described his election and his executive council members as illegal and that they should stop parading themselves as the leaders of the party in the state.
Fagbemi said: “Out of seven panel members that came to conduct the state congress of the PDP in Kwara, five members endorsed my election while two endorsed that of Chief Oyedepo”.
During a press conference in Ilorin last Thursday, Fagbemi said his leadership of the party was poised to move the party forward so as to help the party control the governance of Kwara, come 2019 general elections.
According to him, “I am a legally elected chairman of PDP in Kwara State because the processes that produced me and other members of the state executive council was free and fair devoid any imposition”
He denied stepping down for Oyedepo, insisting that the congress that produced him was credible as it was conducted by five out of the seven electoral officers sent to the state from Abuja.
Relating why his leadership became exigent, he said the other congress that produced the Oyedepo faction was illegal, noting that “The panel chairman illegally gave result sheets of the LGA congresses to the then incumbent chairman, Iyiola Oyedepo, who in turn distributed same to the local government party chairman who filled the forms at their discretion and it became clear that the result of the state congress was pre-determined,” he stressed.
Fagbemi, who was flanked by the pioneer former chairman of PDP in the state, Mr. Kunle Sulyman, former National Assembly Special Adviser to former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonthan, Senator Suleiman Ajadi and Senator Ayinla Folorunso, further pointed out that “As night was drawing closer, the security situation became precarious, sporadic gun fire were heard outside the premises of the venue and the police was having difficult time containing the situation.
“At this point, I, Sunday Fagbemi, a contestant for the post of the state chairman approached the panel chairman in the presence of other panel members and the already accredited delegates seated in the hall and complained bitterly about irregularities and bad conduct of the process. Indeed, some of the panel members were not happy with the conduct of the panel chairman and the secretary,” he claimed.
He said the decision to move to another location was taken in consultation with stakeholders, elders and panel members. “We decided to move to another location for the congress. We therefore moved to Bekandims Hotel along University of Ilorin road, Tanke, to hold our congress.
“The congress was peaceful and orderly. It was supervised by five of the seven panel members. The evidence is there for all to see. Out of the seven panel members only two signed the purported fake congress while the majority five endorsed our congress.”
He promised to be fair and upright. He also assured the people that he would not waste the mandate given to him and that he will take the party to greater height.
Other members of the state executive council in the Fagbemi-led group include; Alhaji Isiaka Alao, (Secretary); Alhaji Muhammed Sanni (vice chairman); Alhaji Saka Ajao (Assistant Secretary, Central); Alhaji Sulaiman Abubakar (Assistant Secretary, North); Mr. Agboola Adewumi (Assistant Secretary, South); Mr. Gabriel Olatunji (Treasurer); Mr. Abdulrasaq Amode (Assistant Treasurer), Mr. Moses Ibiyemi (Legal Adviser); Mr. Salaudeem Giwa (Asstistant Legal Adviser); Mr. Anthony Idowu (Financial Secretary); Mr. Adamu Usman(Assistant Financial Secretary); Alhaji Ganiyu Alawo (Publicity Secretary); Mr. Lanre Jolayemi (Assistant Publicity Secretary) and Alhaji Mukaila Kamal (Auditor).
Others are; Mr. Kamarudeen Olatunde(Assistant Auditor); Alhaji Abubakar Kangi (Organising Secretary); Mr. Afeez Alonge (Assistant Organising Secretary, Central); Mr. Ebun Oyeleye (Assistant Organising Secretary, South) Mr. Emmanuel Sule(Assistant Organising Secretary, North); Alhaja Fatimah Gegele (Woman Leader); Alhaji Haliru Muhammed (Youth Leader); Mr. Olu Abogunrin (Vice Chairman, South); Alhaji Atanda Alaya (Vice Chairman, Central); Alhaji Duba Leramo(Vice Chairman, North); Mr. Dele Popoola (ex-officio); Alhaja Muinat Ibrahim (ex-officio); Mr. Rasidi Sogo (ex-officio); Mr. Ajadi Alakara(ex-officio); and Alhaja Fatimoh Audu (ex-officio).
By and large, with this crisis of leadership in the PDP in the state, the desire of the party to provide an alternative platform for the people of the state in the next general election in the state may be a mirage as it may not be easy for them to correct the abysmal electoral performances that greeted their outings in the last general elections.
The only way out for the leadership tussle is definitely for the warring factions to close ranks and bring their differences before a round table discussion so as to enable them resolve them ahead of future election and Kwarans are waiting to see if this will ever happen.