Ondo 2016: As PDP Goes Towards Controversial Primary

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The Ondo State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party may witness some hiccups in the forthcoming primary to choose its candidate for the November governorship election following the emergence of a factional chairman. James Sowole, in Akure, reports

“When the head is rotten, the entire body will likely be affected,” is a popular statement to illustrate the likely impact that a stormy situation at the apex of a family, organisation or an institution may have on the rest of the group. This saying can be used to describe the situation that is raging within the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party. The party is bedevilled by crisis at the national level and this is already having a negative effect on the structure of the party in some states.

National Leadership Crisis
The crisis at the national level whereby two persons, Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu Sherrif, are laying claim to the national leadership of the party has split the hitherto most powerful political party in Nigeria into two factions. The two factions are laying claim to different legal instruments to support their positions. Apart from the ugly impact that the crisis is having on the efforts of the party leaders to reposition it for future general elections, the situation now is already causing serious concern among leaders and members in the two states of Edo and Ondo that have governorship elections in September and November, respectively.

In Edo State, while the Makarfi faction held its primary on June 20 and elected Osagie Ize-Iyamu as its candidate for the September governorship poll, the Sherrif faction later claimed that its own candidate, Matthew Iduoriyekwemwen, was the authentic one.

The Sheriff faction claimed that Iduoriyekwemwen was the right candidate purportedly based on the judgement of Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, that said the Independent National Electoral Commission should accept governorship candidates from Edo and Ondo from its faction.

This situation prevailed until the INEC deputy director of voter education and publicity, Nick Dazang, made a clarification that the commission had accepted the Makarfi’s faction candidate, Ize-Iyamu, based on a court judgement and the fact that it was the primary that produced Ize-Iyamu that was monitored by INEC officials.

That pronouncement by INEC seemed to resolve the imbroglio and cause the matter to die a natural death. But not in politics. The matter is not over until after the completion of the whole electoral processes, including the when issues emanating from the real election had been settled by the tribunal and other judicial institutions.

Like Edo, Like Ondo
The issues that dogged the Edo State PDP primary are already manifesting in Ondo State ahead of the November 26 governorship election. To the Ondo State governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the leadership tussle in the party at the level of the state has been settled after the election of Hon Clement Faboyede as the party’s candidate at a congress witnessed and certified by INEC

A fresh dust was, however, raised after a statement signed by one Biyi Poroye, who claimed to be the PDP chairman for the state from the Sherrif’s faction. In the statement, Poroye directed all the PDP governorship aspirants for the November 2016 election to pay an administrative charge of N500,000 to the party’s account. He also directed all the aspirants and members to await further directives from Sheriff, whom he described as the party’s national chairman, on guidelines and timetable for the primary election.

Poroye stated, “We wish to implore our patriotic members to remain calm as PDP is one united family and our leaders are striving very hard to bring all members on board. PDP members must, please, remain law abiding and shun any act that is capable of causing disaffection or thwart the peaceful initiatives of our national leaders.”

Commenting on the situation, the PDP director of publicity, Mr Ayo Fadaka, described the statement of Poroye as a ranting that should not be taken seriously by the public, members of the party, and aspirants. Fadaka said, “PDP in Ondo State does not know any factionalisation. Truly, we have aspirants some of who are complaining of one thing or the other. Individual aspiration is not the same thing as party’s aspiration.

“The major aspiration of the PDP in Ondo State is to win the forthcoming election by all legal means. Our aspirants are disciplined and none can do anything contrary to the position of the party. As far as I do know, there is no Modu Sherrif faction in Ondo State. We have only one PDP. If anyone parades himself as the chairman, apart from Hon Clement Faboyede that was popularly and legitimately chosen by all members, such person is on a picnic.

“When we held our congress that was supervised by INEC team led by the Resident Electoral Commissioner himself, we moved and elected our officers and those that were elected as our executive are by popular choice. So the basis for factionalisation does not exist.
“Everybody knew what happened at our congress, which was monitored and certified by INEC because it was witnessed by the REC himself.”

However, apparently acting on the statement of the factional PDP chairman, a businessman, Mr. Jimoh Ibrahim, obtained a nomination form to contest the primary of the party under the platform of the Sherrif faction of PDP.
It was learnt that Ibrahim wanted to take advantage of the rumbling in the Ondo PDP and complaints by aspirants over the insinuation that Mimiko had anointed the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, as the party’s candidate.

Grievance
The main grudge against Jegede was that he is from Akure, the headquarters of the Ondo Central senatorial district that produced Mimiko, who is on the last lap of his eight years tenure as governor of the state.
However, the stats chairman of the PDP, Hon Clement Faboyede, had assured all aspirants that the party would conduct a free and fair primary to choose a candidate that is capable of winning the important election.

Apparently, to demonstrate their annoyance over the rumour that Mimiko had anointed a person for the ticket of the PDP, two former commissioners, who resigned from the cabinet only last month, obtained nomination forms from the Poroye, who is loyal to Sherrif. The two men that took the nomination forms were the former Commissioner for Environment , Chief Sola Ebiseni, and former Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Mr Bamiduro Dada.
Speaking after he was presented with the form, Ebiseni said he had studied various court judgements and processes and found out that the Sheriff faction was where he should belong, as he is the authentic chairman of the party.

“As a lawyer, I had studied various judgements related to the national chairmanship tussle between Sheriff and Makarfi and had found out which one is authentic and I know it is Modu Sheriff. So there is no need to waste my time staying in the other faction,” Ebiseni said.

Ebiseni said Ondo State belonged to all citizens of the state and the PDP belonged to all members, but the situation whereby one person wanted to dominate everybody must not be allowed. “I have summoned the courage to take my destiny in my own hands and anybody that failed to take his own destiny in his own hands would be oppressed by his mate. I cannot allow myself to be oppressed by an indigene of the state like myself,” he said.

However, the believe of many people is that the Sheriff faction cannot go far because the electoral umpire, INEC, is not aware of any process that brought Poroye into office as the chairman of the party in the state.
Despite this, the unfolding controversy has revealed one thing, which is that all is not well with the PDP in Ondo State ahead of the November 26 governorship election.