The Lagos chapter of the PDP is in the crucible and must address its crisis of leadership to end the APC’s stranglehold in Lagos, writes Segun James
That the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) needs entirely new leadership if it must change its current narrative is no longer subject to debate. It has never been in doubt that it was greed, inordinate ambition, thirst for power and the belief that the party’s future is tied to the future of a particular person or group is responsible for the crisis that has continued to undo the party in Lagos state.
Since 1999, the party in Lagos has been embroiled in one crisis or other, a situation, which at every turn, has led to losses most especially at election times. Right now, the party secretariat has been taken over by a former factional chairman, Mr. Segun Adewale in the crisis that engulfed the party during the Ahmed and Ali Modu Sheriff power struggle.
That the party in the state needs a new leadership is no longer news. In the last three years, there have been three chairmen, who got to the position due to one crisis or another, but unless the process is refined, the party may find itself in yet another crisis when the process is repeated.
Truth is that the party needs new leadership that will shepherd it to the next election, a job which the present leadership is surely not cut out to do.
With leaders such as Chief Bode George and Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe and others at loggerheads over the control of the soul of the party, who is going to be the ultimate beneficiary of the new situation? This is the question as the party struggles to find stability or succumbs to total irrelevance.
However, the situation at the national level is sharply different. After all, the party had a fine showing in the last general election. With Oyo State in the kitty and Osun State likely to fall into the hands of the party, the greatest gains outside its traditional stronghold since the 2003 tsunami, the PDP has hardly had it good. This achievement is in spite of the leadership of the party. But it is at the Lagos state level that it was so bad that the leaders are now at each other’s throat.
But as the dust from the general election settles, the battle for the control and the soul of the former biggest party in Africa has resumed in Lagos. This is more so that in Lagos, there have been accusations and counter-accusations over the candidates fielded during the last elections, which resulted in a bad showing. In Lagos PDP, the situation has always been that of the ‘dog eats dog’ syndrome. The mutual mistrust among the leadership has cost the party dearly.
This was further exposed after the March 9 governorship and House of Assembly elections, where the party was worsted terribly. Not only did it lose all the House of Representatives and House of Assembly seats it won in the 2015 elections, but the margin of loss to the APC candidate was also so wide that it left the party’s leaders wondering how they got it so wrong. That was the situation when a meeting was called recently.
The meeting was called at the Lugard Road office of the state leader of the party, Chief Bode George, for a post-mortem assessment of the performance of the party in the election.
At the meeting, which was chaired by Bode George was the party’s governorship candidate in the election, Mr. Jimi Agbaje; the state chairman, Mr. Adegbola Dominic; state secretary and former chairman, Captain Tunji Shelle, and other party stalwarts.
As soon as the meeting started, it soon turned into a battle and a blame game. The chairman accused Agbaje of being a ‘Lone Ranger’, who was never a team player, noting that the party never had a candidate in Agbaje and the candidate had no party.
He claimed they worked at cross purposes and that the party was doomed to fail from the beginning as Agbaje never worked with them, an attitude he said caused the party to lose the few seats it gained in the past. He told the gathering that Agbaje never met the leaders of the party at the state level let alone at the local government or ward level.
Dominic complained that all efforts to get Agbaje to “carry the party along” in what he was doing towards the elections proved abortive, adding that Agbaje ruined PDP’s chances by running a solo campaign. He also accused Agbaje of having less regard for the leadership structure of the party.
It was at this point that the issue turned to the finance and how monies budgeted for the election were singlehandedly managed by Agbaje to the exclusion of the party’s leaders, the elders, and other candidates. Dominic accused Agbaje of siphoning the money meant for the campaign.
Angered at the accusation, Agbaje stormed out of the venue. He later claimed that he became the subject of growing attacks because he refused to jeopardize PDP’s reputation and leave the structure of the party in the hands of self-centred party chieftains. He also vowed to seek legal redress against those in the party trying to malign him and destroy his hard-earned reputation.
Angered by the claims of Agbaje, it was at this point that the party went for his jugular. Dominic at a press conference accused Agbaje of obtaining funds from Atiku Abubakar, the PDP presidential candidate, without the knowledge of the party elders including George.
According to him, one of Atiku’s aides had called him to meet him at a location in Lagos, because he had some money to give them for the election.
“He told me that he was instructed to hand over the money to the governorship candidate, the state chairman, a representative of the senatorial candidates, and two representatives of our House of Reps candidates. He asked me to call the other people, which I did, and we met at the hotel where he lodged.’’
Dominic said they deferred the meeting because President Buhari was going to make a broadcast to the nation and they feared he might postpone the election. But, when they discovered the election would not be postponed, they got back to the meeting venue, to discover Agbaje left with the money.
According to the aggrieved PDP chairman, Agbaje ran a solo campaign with low regard for the leadership structure of the party led by George. He also said the money was for the election campaign and party leaders were supposed to be involved, but Agbaje personally shared the money the way he liked.
In 2018, as the race towards the general election gained traction, the crisis within the PDP soon consumed the state chairman, Mr. Moshood Salvador, who later defected to the APC with his supporters. Also, the chairman of the Apapa local government council area of the party was killed and several leaders, including Salvador, were arraigned before the courts for murder. They were also remanded in prison custody for several weeks before they freed.
When the time for the primaries to pick the party’s governorship candidate came up, Agbaje emerged the candidate to the consternation of many. He had contested the position two times before under the party and failed. As such, many believed that other persons should be allowed.
From this testy beginning, he never enjoyed the support of the party in the state and he was always at daggers drawn with the leadership. To some of the observers, therefore, the party lost the election the moment it picked its candidate.
In politics as in football, timing counts. It makes the difference between a brilliant tackle and a red card, or a smartly taken goal and a raised offside flag. For the PDP in Lagos, the election was already lost when Agbaje couldn’t convince any party leader to campaign with him. His was a one-man-army; and for the leaders, it was as though they were waiting for him to fail, and fail he did. But this is to the overall disadvantage of the party, which has been condemned to perpetual opposition in the last 20 years.
The battle in the Lagos PDP has been like this since 1999, a situation that had cost the party severely. Even when the party was ruling at the Centre, the mutual mistrust between the leaders was to the advantage of the rival All Progressives Congress (APC).