The peace initiatives of the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party appear to have recorded some success in Kwara State, as the party’s warring factions have agreed to bury the hatchet and work together, writes Hammed Shittu
After the Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the leadership of Senator Ahmed Makarfi as the authentic national caretaker chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the party leadership commenced series of reconciliatory moves among some state chapters of the party so as to reconcile all frictions that emerged while Makarfi and Ali Modu Sheriff battled for the control of the party.
Among the committees set up at its non-elective convention held in Abuja recently was a reconciliation committee.
The reason is not farfetched. The party was so fractured that many feared then that it might go into extinction. In some states there were as many as three factions struggling to control the party. There was therefore an urgent need to bring all the factions on board. This, the party leadership believed was necessary in mobilising members for all elections including the 2019 general elections.
The party also intervened in states where there were divisions by puttIng in place caretaker committees to reconcile all factions.
One of such states where a caretaker committee was put in place is Kwara state. The party in that state had been enmeshed in leadership crisis following the stalemate that resulted from the last state congress held before the 2015 general election.
The congress which was marred by disputes produced two factional chairmen of the party in Kwara. One of the factions was led by Chief Iyola Oyedepo as its state chairman while the second group was led by Prince Sunday Fagbemi. With their followers, each group tried as much as possible to outsmart each other to take control of the party. Sometimes, the dispute led to breakdown of law and took the intervention of law enforcement agencies to restore peace.
During the crisis, the faction led by Oyedepo held its state congress at the Stella Obasanjo hall, along Ajase-Ipo road, Ilorin while that of Fagbemi held its state congress at the Bekadims hotel, along University of Ilorin, road, Tanke, Ilorin. While the crisis lasted, each faction produced separate executive council of the party for the state.
Expectedly, the seemingly intractable crisis affected the electoral fortune of the party in the state during the 2015 general election especially that of the govenroship election in which the party performed woefully and lost to the All Progressives Congress. The party could also not win a single seat both at the state’s house of assembly and at the National Assembly.
Instead of the party to work in unity during the said election, the factions worked against each other which eventually affected the electoral success of the party in the state.
Sometimes, the party secretariat located along Asa dam road was turned into a war zone as followers of both groups openly attacked themselves with machetes and other dangerous weapons. Only timely intervention by the police saved the situation from escalating further.
Even the decision of the Supreme Court which upheld the claim of the Makarfi-led caretaker committee as the organ that should be in charge of the party did little to calm fray nerves as each group maintained its claim to be the authentic exco of the party in Kwara.
While Oyedepo insisted that he was the one recognised by Makarfi as the party chairman in the state, Fagbemi also said that he was the one entitled to lead the party in Kwara.
Saddled with the responsibility to reconcile the two groups was the committee led by Chief Tunde Akindehin.
On the day he assumed office, Akindehin said that he was in the state to bring peace to the members in order to ensure electoral victory of the party in the state in the forthcoming general elections in the country.
The caretaker chairman assured that the party will be undergoing what he called “re-engineering” in order to restore people’s confidence.
He appealed to the media to support the party in the rebuilding process, saying without the media whatever the party is doing amounts to an exercise in futility.
He said: “PDP is a changed party. We have come with a bang, a lot of activities, a lot of renovations, a lot of re-engineering and impunity of the past is a gonner. So, Nigerians should have confidence in our ability to now bring robust, civilized political activities to the state.
“We would also appeal to you (media), at any time, don’t hesitate to either get to any principal officers of the party at the state level, to inquire anything that is not clear to you, either by the activities of this party or individual or whatever that may happen.
“But we can assure you, we have come here to address all the misgivings of the past, to ensure that peace, unity is returned permanently to this party. No more cleavages; cleavages of the past will be a thing of the past. We will ensure that everybody is carried along in the decision making process of this party and recruitment of members.
“You know the feelings in this country. Before you own a party, you own Nigeria. We don’t know and we don’t like the way the Nigeria ship is being directed, and for those who are conscious of our future; the future of our children, we must wake up from our slumber to ensure that we enthrone good governance and democracy.”
He immediately called a meeting of stakeholders of the party in order to commence the reconciliation process. At the meeting, which was held at the state secretariat of the party, were the former governorship candidate of the party during the 2015 general election, Senator Simeon Ajibola, the leaders of the two factions Oyedepo and Fagbemi, former Special Adviser to National Assembly, Senator Ajadi Suleiman, former chairman, Federal Character Commission, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, former pioneer chairman of the party, Alhaji Kunle Sulyman, former deputy governor of the state, Chief Joel Ogundeji, former Speaker of the state house of assembly, Hon. Tunde Mohammed among others.
Addressing journalists after the stakeholders meeting of the party, the caretaker chairman, Akindehin said: â€œWe are just emerging form a meeting of the stakeholders here. The leadership of the party in the state are all here with us. Those who are not, are with us in the spirit..
“We deliberated on so many issues that will move the part forward. PDP has come back robustly in Kwara state. There is no doubt that we are having a new rebirth in the state. PDP leadership in Kwara state has come together and resolved that the party has become one family. Seeing is, believing.
â€œYou can see very, very, senior members of the party here with me. The animosities of the past are all gone; they have a new rebirth now. We have deliberated on some programmes which we have tabled before our people. They are all internal to us but soon we shall make them known to the peopleâ€.
He added that, â€œBut first of all we are ready, battle ready for the local government election. And we have discovered some anomalies, so much anomalies, where the Kwara State Independent Electoral Commission (KWSIEC) is now giving a different law where a councillorship candidate, chairmanship candidate will have to pay a different tax in order to obtain form and to make him contest election.
â€œIn modern Nigeria I donâ€™t think the electoral law of Kwara state is bigger than the electoral law of Nigeria. I donâ€™t think so. So, we also discovered that the exorbitant price asked from aspirant is on the high side.
â€œWe in the PDP are not happy about this because we believe that people should not be turned into slaves before they can contest election. We will fulfil all requirements but not abnormal, obnoxious tax which is no longer in tandem with modern lawsâ€.
He stressed that, â€œWe are saying that we in PDP in all circumstance we have rejected the idea of giving different tax to aspirants, not only in PDP as it affects aspirants in other parties, I know it will also affect their own members but we know they will play around it. We understand politics, we have been in government and we know how it works. They should go into the records; PDP has never done this kind of thing. We are ready for the elections anytime any day.
â€œYes there have been some factions in the past in the PDP but those who were responsible are all gone. PDP is now a new baby; we are ready to do the biddings of Nigerians, we are willing to listen to Nigerians; we are ready to remove the pains all over Nigeriaâ€.
Mocking the ruling APC he said: â€œWe will not promise you one naira to one dollar; we will not. If God gives us the ability to achieve that we will do it but the reality is that we must work very hard to remove the pains and the pangs which Nigerian are going through and that will be in the 2019.”
By and large, with this ongoing peaceful resolutions of PDP crisis in the state, the stage is now set for the party to work as a team so as to challenge the ruling APC in the subsequent elections. Will members of the party give this peace initiative a chance?Time will tell.
We will ensure that everybody is carried along in the decision making process of this party and recruitment of members.