Yemi Akinwonmi: Those Leaving PDP Are Making Mistakes 

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Elder Yemi Akinwonmi is the Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (South). In this interview with Femi Ogbonnikan, he bares his mind on the position of his party in Ogun State where he hails from, the level of preparedness of the PDP in Ekiti and Osun states governorship elections respectively, and many other issues

What is the current state of the PDP leadership in Ogun State?
W am in a very good position to comment on this as a leader of PDP in Nigeria. The leadership of the party has taken shape and our party at the national level has taken a position on the leadership crisis in Ogun PDP. The decision of the party is that Sikirulai Ogundele is the Chairman recognised by the national leadership of the PDP.
The decision of the party has been acceptable to us and it is recognised by us. It is not by accident; the recognition given to Sikirulai Ogundele is done out of the greatest event that took place in the party within the last one year. Ogundele was on the side of the Markafi while Sen Buruji Kashamu was with Sen Amodu Sheriff-Ali group. Following the Supreme Court judgement in favour of  Markafi, the party recognised our crisis in nine states, including Ogun. The then NEC recommended the dissolution of the executives in the disputed nine states at the National Convention and caretaker committees were put in place in these states.

Our own in Ogun State was headed by Barrister Tunde Odanye to midwife another executives from the state to the ward levels. To the best of my knowledge, Buruji Kashamu did not participate. It was Sikirulai Ogundele that complied with that directive of the national leadership and we had the congress with was supervised by INEC at the ward level, the local and state government levels.
The congress was conducted at Wadata Plaza, Abuja, not Ogun State. Since then, the legitimacy of the party has been given to Sikirulai Ogundele. And not just that, the Supreme Court made it clear that it was the party that can decides its leadership, not the court of law, not INEC.
So, following the processes followed by the caretaker committee through the Barrister Tunde Odanye-led caretaker, we were able to put the state leadership of the party led by Sikirulai Ogundele in place and which has since been enjoying recognition of the national working committee of the party. So, as of today, I don’t know what will happentomorrow, Sikirulai Ogundele is our state chairman and also the leader of the party in Ogun State.

You are insisting that Sikirulai Ogundele is the state chairman of your party in Ogun, yet Sen Kashamu’s group, with Engineer Bayo Dayo as the chairman, still occupy the state secretariat. Why?
If you read the Supreme Court judgement, the Supreme Court made it clear that all the shenanigan of window-shopping judgements should be stopped in Ogun State. They are all window-shopping judgements. Then, regarding the occupation of the state secretariat, I think, it is the thinking of Sikirulai Ogundele not to go violent or engage in thuggery because you could see the number of people killed in Ijebu-Igbo when Senator Kashamu held his rally recently. The case is still there now. So, we don’t want to join forces with force but rather we chose to be civil and what is important is the person, not the structure, not the house called secretariat. It is our secretariat the party will recognise as secretariat. What makes the secretariat important are the press men. It is where we call secretariat that we operate as long you have the legitimacy of authority or you have the instrument of authority from Abuja.

So, since Abuja has conferred the leadership on Sikirulai Ogundele and the authority on the executives and they are carrying out their day-to-day activities uninhibited, that issue of secretariat is secondary. If we want to take over the secretariat it would involve violence and it would result to fighting each other and we don’t want the name of the PDP to be dragged into the mud. So, we don’t want to create an avenue for the police to be doing one or two things. Whoever has more money is the one that would win and we are not ready for that.

Where exactly is your party willing to zone the 2019 Ogun State governorship ticket, considering the fact that Ogun West district has never had a shot at the number one seat since the creation of the state in February 1976 and the district needs sympathy?
We have always been sympathetic to the plight of Yewa/Awori people. They are our brothers and sisters. We are together and we sympathise with them and we have continued to identify with them. You could remember that in the history of Yewa/Awori district, the first deputy governor was from the PDP. PDP is the only party that has produced Deputy Governor from there. Two deputy governors have been produced there. One was Mrs Iyabo Apampa in 1998. She was the candidate of the PDP and she couldn’t win that time. But in 2003, we won and Alhaja Salmotu Badru from Tube, in Ipokia Local Government Area was the first person and the only deputy governor ever produced in that region till today. And after that, we had zoned our governorship candidate to that place twice. In 2011, we zoned it there. In 2015, we zoned it there. What we realise is that, each time we zoned it there, we would have about three or four or five persons coming out for it. And that is why we are looking at other regions now. We have not foreclosed Yewa/Awori. We have never foreclosed that. But we are now taking a broader look at where we can win because we had tried them twice, deploying our energy and everything. And it is the hope of my party, my hope, your hope and hope of everybody of every Nigerian that PDP should come back to power. We cannot afford to joke with our governorship candidate in Ogun State this time around. That is why we are looking wider now than that zone alone for who becomes our candidate, but we have not foreclosed that.

As the Deputy National Chairman of the PDP (South), how prepared is your party ahead of the 2019 general elections?
You will agree with me that the only party in Nigeria today that is talking about 2019 is the PDP. Of the two major parties that we have in Nigeria only the PDP that has done its own convention. The APC has been talking of convention for the past two years and they have not done it. We had successfully conducted our own convention and we have started our rallies. We have had rally in Jigawa, we have had rally in Katsina.
We are having another one this Saturday in Osun. So, we are the only party that is ready for 2019 general elections. At least, you can’t prepare for 2019 general elections without rallies. We are the only party in Nigeria today that has been holding rallies, sensitizing people, educating people and dominating the social media and everything convincing Nigerians to cast their votes for us to win again.
We are the one. We are at the stage of getting set for the elections, selling ourselves as a political party and then, making our policy trust known for women and youths for the nation and then, letting Nigerians realise that the three years old of the APC is an aberration. It is a mistake.

In the Southwest where you hail from, what are the prospects of your party in Ekiti and Osun States respectively because they have been enmeshed in one form of crisis or the other?
Whether there is a crisis or no crisis, it is the party, the logo that they are going to vote for. It is the PDP’s umbrella that the electorates are going to vote for. You will find out that, people say, I am in this one, I am in that, but on the day of election, you will see that people will vote for the same umbrella. For example, in 2015, in Ogun State here, these parties have been in existence but the people voted for the umbrella.
We all voted for umbrella and that was how Sen Kashamu was able to win. That was how Hon Oladipupo Adebutu was able to win. We all voted for umbrella and nobody voted for another party except the PDP. So, it has made it so easy that whether there is crisis or no crisis, as long as we remain within the party, we will vote for our umbrella. Now, back to Southwest, as an insider, as a leader within the party, most of what the people call crisis have been laid to rest. Now, you will observe that in Ekiti state, people believed heaven would fall. We had held delegate elections there.

The outcome has been widely accepted by all. And we are preparing for the next stage now which is the local government delegate elections. And the most difficult was the one we have had already. Since all of them have accepted the first one and it means the problem is over.  The Osun, for example, we have had primaries there and the winner has emerged. And the winner has been recognised and they are now getting set for the election. And that is why we are having rallies there next weekend, precisely May 5. It means the Osun case is settled. In Oyo State, for example, next week Tuesday, we are going to have a meeting with our leader, Senator Rashidi Ladoja.