There is concern in Southwest Zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over factionalisation and leadership crisis ahead of the 2023 elections, reports ‘DARE ODUFOWOKAN, Assistant Editor.
There are indications that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may be heading back to its troubled past as the party’s chapter in the Southwest zone gradually returns to its inglorious era of factionalisation following fresh disagreements among its leaders over congresses to elect new leadership for the party states. The Nation also gathered that the fresh crises threatening Southwest PDP may not be unconnected with a subtle but fierce struggle among its leading chieftains, for the control of the zone ahead of the 2023 general election.
With plans underway for the conduct of a zonal congress that will produce zonal executive committee members for the region, party sources say the atmosphere within the party is tense as party leaders, including serving and former governors, past and current National Assembly members, as well as other prominent chieftains, have broken into camps as various interest groups, within and outside the zone, scheme to ensure the emergence of their preferred candidates as officials of the party in furtherance of their interests come 2023.
The development, The Nation learnt, is already generating tension within and outside the zone. “Party leaders are scared that a return of the party to factions in the Southwest may cause a serious crisis at the national level,” a source said on Thursday in Lagos. A former senator representing one of the districts in the North-central also confirmed the anxiety currently gripping leaders of the party over the worrisome development in the Southwest when he said the National Working Committee (NWC) plans to meet PDP chieftains in the Southwest soon.
“We are not unaware of some development in the Southwest chapter of the party. But it is exaggerating to say there is a crisis in the party because of that. These are developments that arose as a result of recent elective congresses in some states in that zone. As usual, some people are displeased with the outcome and they are protesting. We have our own way of resolving such grievances and I can assure you that once we do that, the unrest will end. What is happening is not unusual. We are concerned and we are going to meet the stakeholders very soon,” he said.
Failed peace moves
In spite of recent efforts by the Uche Secondus-led NWC to prevent a resurgence of crisis in the zone, leaders of the PDP in the zone appear unable to bury the hatchets and embrace peace. Following lingering disagreement over the composition of the zonal leadership, the PDP last July, announced the dissolution of the Eddy Olafeso-led zonal Caretaker Committee and announced a new Caretaker Committee. The Nation gathered the decisions were the outcome of several peace meetings called by Secondus, pursuant to Sections 29 (2)(b) and 31(2)(e) of the PDP Constitution.
Dayo Ogungbenro emerged as the new Zonal Chairman with Daisi Akinniran as Secretary. Other members of the committee are Taiwo Kuye, Adeola Ogunrinde, Oyebola Awolowo, Prince Olagbegi, Funmi Oguns and Owokoniran Wahab. According to the NWC, the new Caretaker Committee is to pilot the affairs of the party in the Southwest Zone for a period not exceeding three months (90 days) as prescribed by section 32(2)(e) of the PDP Constitution pending the conduct of elective zonal congress. According to very reliable party sources, all interest groups across the zone made input into the new caretaker committee.
There were high hopes that the unrest in the zone will end with the NWC’s intervention. Weeks after the installation of the new interim zonal leadership, Secondus, in a move obviously meant to further reorganise the party in the zone, publicly affirmed Governor Seyi Makinde as the leader of the PDP in the Southwest. He made the statement while announcing the party’s campaign plans for the Ondo gubernatorial election. While it was obvious that not all chieftains of the party in the zone were pleased with the affirmation of Makinde’s leadership, the party went ahead to name him as the helmsman for the Ondo guber campaign.
Expectedly, the Ogungbenro-led exco worked closely with Makinde in the discharge of their duties, especially in preparation for the zonal congress expected to take place at the expiration of their three-month mandate. Although the party experienced relative peace afterwards, in spite of the peace accord, all the interest groups continued in their schemes towards the zonal congress. “While the media war and threats of factionalisation abated, it was clear to all observers that the peace was that of the graveyard as the struggle for the control of the party did not actually stop,” a party chieftain from Ogun State said.
But the problems with the party in the zone were far from over. First, former Governor Ayodele Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi tore the Ekiti State chapter into two when their factions produced two different chairmen after the state congress in Ekiti State. The decision of the NWC to recognise the factional executives produced by Fayose’s group drew the ire of Olujimi and some other leaders of the party across the zone. This further complicated the ensuing confusion. Former House of Representatives member, Hon. Kehinde Odebunmi, insisted that Secondus’ backing for Fayose’s faction won’t preclude the Olujimi faction from existing.
This was just as Fayose and his group vowed to rid Ekiti PDP of Olujimi and her supporters, accusing them of working for the opposition ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election in the state. On her part, Olujimi said Secondus is supporting Fayose to destroy the party in Ekiti State. She said, “The national executive of the party is behind the former governor. If not, why did they allow him to write the list of every delegate during the ward congresses, including those from my senatorial district?
From Ekiti, the renewed crisis in the zone moved to Ogun State where another faction of the PDP, led by Hon. Ladi Adebutu, forcefully took over the state secretariat from the court-recognised leadership and installed it’s factional state executive, under the chairmanship of Sikirulai Ogundele, with the tacit support of Secondus and Fayose. This followed the untimely death of late Senator Buruji Kashamu, the leader and financier of the displaced Samson Bamgbose faction. It will be recalled that the two factions had earlier held parallel congresses to elect new state executive officers of the party.
According to Akinloye Bankole, spokesperson of the Adebutu faction, the secretariat was handed over to the state Chairman, Alhaji Sikirulahi Ogundele, by the Ogun State Commissioner of Police, on the instruction of the Inspector General of Police, in line with the judgement of the Federal High Court, Lagos, in Suit No. FHC/L/CS/636/2016, the PDP Ward, Local Government and the factional State Congresses were held in Ogun State on the 7th of March, 21st of March and 3rd of April 2020 respectively. But Bangbose, who accused the NWC of further factionalising the PDP in Ogun State, frowned at what he termed the “illegal takeover” of the party secretariat on Friday, saying the action will be reversed in due course.
Makinde vs Fayose
Speaking on the developments in the two state, a former Deputy National Chairman of the party from the Southwest insisted that the fresh crises rocking the PDP in the zone, including the re-emergence of factions in Ogun and Ekiti states, is the result of a fierce power struggle between ex-governor Fayose and those opposed to his alleged plot to pocket the PDP in the Southwest ahead of the 2023 presidential election. The elderly politician also accused Fayose of playing the script of a former presidential candidate of the party, in conjunction with Secondus and some other party leaders.
Another party source accused both Makinde and Fayose of creating confusion within the party because of their vice presidential ambitions. “Both Makinde and Fayose are positioning themselves as possible running mates to a northern presidential candidate of the PDP come 2023. That is why they are battling for the control of the zonal structures while also plotting to plant their men as state chairman and zonal executives. Unless the party finds a way of urgently halting these two ambitious young men, PDP will soon be engulfed in a very serious intra-party crisis, and it will start from the Southwest,” our source claimed.
The crisis escalated when Fayose publicly announced that the Oyo State governor has no right to interfere in the local politics being played in each Southwest state, threatening to ‘fight’ him if he dares. Supporters of Makinde reacted, warning Fayose to either recognise the leadership of the Oyo governor in the zone or be prepared to leave the party. Expectedly, Fayose and his backers said they are prepared to show the world who is in charge in the zone. Sources at the national secretariat say the NWC of the PDP is currently divided over its members’ support for the warring leaders.
Interestingly, Fayose enjoys the support of not less than four states chairmen of PDP in Southwest, which include Mr. Deji Doherty (Lagos); Sikirullahi Ogundele (Ogun); Sunday Olatunde Akanfe (Osun); and Bisi Kolawole (Ekiti). His faction is also believed to have the ears of Adebutu, Olafeso, Senator Ademola Adeleke, Secondus and many other party leaders. Makinde enjoys the support of the state chairmen of Oyo and Ondo states, the southwest National Assembly caucus, the zonal caretaker committee and many other chieftains of the party across the zone.
To Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, Busayo Wole Oke, Makinde is the best person to lead the PDP in the Southwest. According to the lawmaker, Makinde’s position as the only PDP governor in the zone conferred on him the leadership position in line with the norms and traditions of the PDP. “Aside convention and practices he brings on board decency, finesse, humility, decorum; he cares and loves his fellow party men. He’s educated, deep, and exposed. He has a lot of experience and core professionals before coming into power. We can gain a lot from him,” he said.
But immediate past National Vice Chairman of the party in the zone, Eddy Olafeso, said former Fayose remained the face of the PDP in the Southwest. He urged party leaders and members to respect the former Ekiti governor for saving the party from total ruin following plots by the opposition to destroy the PDP. “Fayose towers above other leaders in the zone judging from his antecedents and contributions to the PDP’s electoral fortunes. It is unwarranted for anybody to drag leadership with a pathfinder and leading light of the PDP like former governor Fayose in the Southwest,” he admonished.
Read the original article on The Nation