2023:PDP Unity Of Purpose, Stronger Structure In Southwest
The state chapters of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southwest converged on Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, a fortnight ago to demonstrate reconciliation and unity among their warring factions. But, the public show leaves many questions unanswered in most of the six states, write Southwest Bureau Chief BISI OLADELE , RASAQ IBRAHIM (Ado-Ekiti), OSAGIE OTABOR (Akure) and ERNEST NWOKOLO (Abeokuta)
When Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, won his election in March, last year, he instantly became the hero and the light of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southwest. His election was symbolic because he trounced the All Progressives Congress (APC). Makinde was also among the chieftains who abandoned the party in 2014 due to intractable crises. He contested on the platform of Social Democratic Party (SDP) and lost. He later returned in 2017 along with Senator Rashidi Ladoja and other chieftains.
Having been a major player in the party who bore the brunt of schemings by the powers that be at the time, regional and national leaders of the party saw him as a man that can rally all interests together to revive the fortunes of the party in the Southwest. Being the only PDP governor in the zone, and showing signs that he plays a different kind of politics, the leaders thrusted on him the garb of regional leadership with the onerous assignment of uniting all leaders and members in the six states of Oyo, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Lagos and Ekiti. Besides, his state is the epicenter of politics and culture in the region, making it occupying a crucial position in Southwest.
Before Makinde’s election, all was not well with the PDP in any of the six states in the region. In Osun, the emergence of Senator Ademola Adeleke as the governorship candidate in the September 22, 2018 election left the party factionalised. While a major chieftain, Senator Iyiola Omisore abandoned the party to contest on the platform of the SDP, some others stayed put but nursed serious grudges. The control of the party structure is still a hot contest between the two major factions within the PDP in the state.
But, to show a level of success of Makinde’s efforts, some erstwhile leaders were welcomed back into the PDP at the historic Mapo Hall, Ibadan unification rally. They include a former governor of Osun State Olagunsoye Oyinlola; a former Secretary to the Osun State Government (SSG) Fatai Akinbade; a former deputy governor of Oyo State, Taofeek Arapaja; Sen. Gbenga Babalola; Mr Olaleye Gbadamosi (Lagos ADP governorship candidate) and Ladipupo Adebutu Kensington (Ogun), among others. They were welcomed with fanfare, assuring the public that all was now well with the party.
Notable party leaders in attendance include, Governor Duoye Diri of Bayelsa State; PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, who was represented by Gen S. A Akopondu; Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly Hon. Adebo Ogundoyin; Atiku Abubarkar who was represented by his son Adamu; and the Adamawa state PDP chairman, A.T Shehu.
Others are, former Deputy National Chairman (Southwest), Shuaib Oyedokun; former National Vice Chairman (Southwest) Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipupo; wife of former governor of Oyo State Alhaja Mutiyat Ladoja and Mrs. Bosede Adedibu.
Makinde, Oyinlola and Chief Olabode George spoke about the unity that now reigned in the party and how PDP would definitely coast into victory in the 2023 general elections in Southwest.
The governor said: “This rally is important to us, it is the beginning of our unity in the party and the region as a whole. If the Southwest is peaceful, the entire country will be peaceful.
“We now use this opportunity to welcome our brothers and sisters from APC, ADP, ZLP, SDP and ADC.”
Said George: “I remember almost 20 years ago that we came here, the party is ready to sweep the Southwest and I am sure that it will be the same thing all over the country. And this is just the beginning.
“If the leader of their party declared publicly that coronavirus is already in their party, who wants to catch virus? it’s a plague. We have no virus in our party. Let people who are ready and willing come to our own fold.”
In her brief remarks, a former deputy governor of Osun State, Olusola Obada, said: “We are indeed very great full and happy for today’s unification rally. It is the beginning of a new rebirth for the party in the region. In the next election, PDP will reclaim all its lost territories in the entire region. We are reclaiming the Southwest back with the return of the big wigs into the party across the region.”
Yet, in Ondo State, all is not well with the PDP in spite of its fairly good outing in the last general election, where it won two senatorial and three House of Representatives seats. The conduct of its congresses has been a tug of war between factions. They have been unable to overcome their differences.
Ondo PDP is further divided by the slot for the October governorship election. Sharp division over which zone or senatorial district in the state should produce the governorship candidate is yet to close.
From the mere list of those who joined the rally from Ogun State, it was clear that the unending crisis in the party was far from over. The crisis started in 2011 and has become intractable. The faction led by Bayo Dayo and Buruji Kashamu shunned the rally.
Earlier moves to bring Ogun PDP closer to unity ended tearing it further apart. In the build-up to the 2019 general elections when smaller parties such as the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN), Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party(ANRP), Alliance for Democracy (AD), YES party and the African Democratic Congress (ADC) were already at home with their governorship candidates after seamless primaries at the time, PDP produced two factional candidates in Buruji Kashamu and Oladipupo Adebutu. Hence, the fact that Kashamu faction shunned the rally was symbolic.
It has been a Herculean task to unite factions in Ogun PDP. The chapter is struggling with copious law suits amid deep seated animosity and power play which make unity a tough goal to achieve.
The Bayo Dayo-led executive where Senator Buruji Kashamu derives his strength, conducted ward congress on March 7, to elect ward leaders across the 20 local governments, despite a court order secured by a member of the party loyal to Ladi Adebutu camp where Sikirullai Ogundele is the factional Party Chairman in the state.
Ogundele told The Nation that his group had long begun the peace and unification move in Ogun State before that of the Southwest PDP being championed by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.
He said after the general elections, they went into discussion on how to bring all aggrieved members back under the same umbrella but lamented that the Kashamu group did not wish the party well in the state, hence were yet to embrace peace and unity offered them.
He, however, noted that while the likes of the party’s governorship candidate in 2015 general elections, Prince Gboyega Nasiru Isiaka, and his supporters had not returned, former Speaker Dimeji Bankole, he disclosed, has come back to the PDP faction he leads. But Bankole was not at the Ibadan rally.
However, Bayo Dayo, who continued to maintain that he is the authentic party chairman in the state, told The Nation that he was not aware of any peace move being championed anywhere by anybody on behalf of Southwest PDP or that of PDP in the state.
Dayo, who noted that his tenure would expire by first week of April, 2020, said he was not invited for the recent mega rally, and so, wouldn’t know what was the agenda of the convener or those that congregated in Ibadan.
According to him, the concern of the executive he leads is how to elect new executive officers to take the baton of leadership from where he would sign off, stressing that if there was any peace moves, it will be the responsibility of the incoming executive to work on that.
The situation is similar in Ekiti where the party just lost to the APC in 2018. Former governor Ayodele Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujinmi are the two factional leaders driving a wedge into the heart of the party. Both dramatics personae are locking horns over the control of the party’s structure. Neither of the duo is showing genuine willingness to shift grounds for the overall well-being of the party in Ekiti State.
Olujinmi did not attend the Ibadan rally. This speaks volume about the search for unity within PDP in Ekiti State and Southwest at large.
In Oyo State, the party looks good on the surface because it governs the state. As typical of Nigerian politicians, they groan underneath where the party governs in order not to lose out completely in the power game even when all is not well within the party. Dissenting voices only show when next election draws closer.
The most obvious is that Makinde has not successfully managed the alliance that brought him to power. Senator Olufemi Lanlehin and Sharafadeen Alli have taken a u-turn while many members of Unity Forum, the group that broke away from the APC, are lamenting that the governor has abandoned them. Rashidi Ladoja, who mid-wifed the alliance has also tactically distanced himself from Makinde in a sign that the PDP is not 100 per cent healthy in Oyo State.