Fresh rumble in South-West PDP over 2023

Several efforts to reconcile the warring groups in the Southwest Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have failed as both parties refuse to shift ground based largely on lack of trust and considerations for the 2023 general elections, reports Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor of The Nation.

The internal cohesion of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may yet again be put to test in the South-West geo-political zone as its leaders and chieftains are now reportedly locked in a vicious disagreement over the alleged ambition of former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Bode George, to seek the national chairmanship position later this year. The Nation also learnt that the feud between Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and the former governor, Ayo Fayose, of Ekiti State, over the control of the party in the zone, rather than abate, is festering by the day, threatening to factionalise the opposition party ahead of the 2023 General Elections.

The emerging rumble in the Southwest is complicated by the crisis rocking the party in Ekiti State. According to sources, the court victory of the Fayose camp over that of Senator Biodun Olujimi in the struggle for the control of the PDP in the state has further divided the party, pitching many of its leaders in the zone against Fayose and his supporters.

According to a zonal executive loyal to Makinde, “Fayose’s intention is to hijack the party ahead of 2023. What he is doing in Ekiti is the same thing he is doing in Ogun and Osun.

He plans to do same across the zone. But we will resist him.”

Akogun Jide Awotusin, former Organising Secretary of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Ogun State, who is now a chieftain of the PDP, confirmed to The Nation that talks about Bode George’s interest in the national chairmanship is adding to the crisis in the zone. According to the banker-turned politician, many chieftains of the party in the zone would rather support he ongoing clamour for the presidential ticket of the party to be given to the Southwest in 2023.

“It is true there are issues surrounding alleged plot by Bode George and some people to settle for the national chairmanship of our party ahead of the 2023 general election. While this is unconfirmed as neither George nor any of his close allies have come out to speak on this issue publicly, you know we are all politicians. Moreover, every ambition usually starts as a rumour. That is why nobody can tell you it is either true or not.

“But one thing I know that is true is that there is a strong agitation for the south to produce the next presidential candidate of our party. So, any talk to the contrary is usually a big problem,” he explained.

Our correspondent also gathered that some leaders of the party have recently reached out to Governor Makinde to warn him against backing George’s alleged chairmanship ambition.

This was just as a group of state PDP chairmen petitioned the national leadership of the party on the same matter, calling on the leadership to investigate their claims.

Fayose wins, Olujimi kicks

Last Wednesday, the Bisi Kolawole-led Executive Council of the PDP in Ekiti State got the nod of the Appeal Court sitting in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, as it dismissed the suit filed by supporters of the senator representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Biodun Olujimi, against Kolawole’s emergence as the state chairman of the party.

The suit challenged the legal validity of Kolawole-led State Executive Council on the ground that the Congresses that produced the leadership were faulty.

Earlier, Justice Uche N. Agomoh of the Federal High Court, sitting in Ado Ekiti had last year dismissed the suit, describing it as ‘unjusticeable’ given that it is an internal affair of the PDP.

On Wednesday, the Appeal Court upheld the decision of the trial court and resolved all issues against the appellant, Oladimeji Samson Olalekan. Justice T.N Orji-Abadua said the appellant’s case was not justifiable since it was centered on internal affairs of a political party.

Olujimi’s camp had filed a motion ex-parte, seeking an order of the court, restraining the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) from announcing, publishing, and recognising any list as result of election of Ward Executives and three ad-hoc delegates held on March 7, 2020, as well as an order restraining the party from acting on, or making use of the names of winners of the Congresses for the purpose of the local government, state and zonal congresses.

Reacting to the judgement, Fayose urged all PDP members to see the verdict as a victory for all. “No victor no vanquished. We are in deep talks to reconcile all. We should refrain from provocative languages. These issues will be resolved as a family,” the former Governor assured.

But, in her response, through her media aide, Chief Sanya Atofarati, Senator Olujimi, said: “We would only take it as the judgement of man which does not represent that of Almighty God. However our lawyers are reviewing the judgement and at the appropriate time we will take a position on the matter.”

Makinde, Fayose and the NASS caucus

Apart from the Ekiti face off in which Makinde and the National Assembly caucus of the PDP are openly supporting the Olujimi group against Fayose, who obviously enjoys the support of the Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee of the party, the Oyo governor and the former Ekiti governor are also at loggerheads over who should lead the party in the Southwest zone. Party leaders and chieftains told The Nation that this development is yet another source of a serious intra party crisis in the zone.

Zonal elections for party positions are due soon. Fayose has openly expressed his support for his age-long ally, Eddy Olafeso, immediate past PDP national vice chairman for south-west, as the man who should return to the position.

Last June, Olafeso vacated the position to contest the party’s primaries ahead of the governorship election in Ondo State. Following his loss of the ticket, a disagreement prevented him from returning to his position. “That was the beginning of the current crisis in the zone,” a party leader claimed.

Fayose and his allies, including four State chairmen, are working round the clock to ensure the victory of Olafeso at the zonal poll. “We in Fayose’s camp have the majority. We have four State PDP chairmen with us. We are the majority. We stand on the agreement reached earlier to support Eddy Olafeso.

Being the only PDP Governor in Southwest does not make Makinde the leader of the party. He was part of the earlier agreement that Olafeso should return. In fact, he mooted the idea,” Lere Olayinka, Fayose’s spokesperson said.

But Makinde has not hidden his objection to the return of Olafeso as zonal chairman of the PDP. Sources close to the Governor said he strongly believes that Oyo State should produce the next national vice chairman of the party. “His argument is that it should be the turn of Oyo to hold the position. Our State has actually been marginalized a great deal in the zone and our Governor wants to change that.

Aside that, as the only PDP Governor of the zone, he is the automatic leader and he should be given such privileges,” our source added.

The Nation gathered that Senator Hosea Agboola, Makinde’s political mentor, may be the Governor’s choice for the plum zonal job.

According to very reliable sources, the Oyo state helmsman is under pressure from both pro-Oyo for zonal chairman agitators and his political family to deliver Agboola as the next zonal chairman. “In addition, the National Assembly caucus of the PDP in the Southwest is opposed to Olafeso’s return.

To them, Olafeso’s victory will further embolden Fayose in his rivalry against Makinde.
“It is not only Makinde and George that think Fayose is unnecessarily overbearing. Many of our leaders feel the same way too. So, most of those opposing Olafeso are doing so because of Fayose. It is obvious that Fayose is backing Olafeso because he believes he can always influence him to do his bidding and spite other leaders in the zone. Go and ask other people across the zone, Fayose is the problem and electing Olafeso again is retaining the problem in the party,’ another source said.

Speaking on the crisis surrounding his ambition, Olafeso said his desire is to unite the party. “Governor Makinde and former Governor Fayose and are leaders in their own right and I believe that at the appointed time they will come together. I want to appeal and encourage others to let us find a way to unite them. By believing that Oyo State should produce the national vice chairman does not make Governor Makinde to be opposed to me. We are going to go into a congress and if he wins, we will all celebrate and work together and if I win, I know Governor Makinde will work with me too. So, I don’t see it as a personal issue. We are brothers and we remain brothers.

“The truth is that at the end of the day, brotherhood would still have to prevail. We all need to sit at a table and discuss this matter. All this grandstanding about this and that cannot help us or take us anywhere.

We are moving towards 2023 and the idea is for us to be united, to carry everybody along because politics is not something you do alone. It is consensus in building a united front, creating a vision and continuing to push the same vision that can develop the society and improve on lives and create prosperity for the majority of our people.

Failed reconciliations

Several efforts to reconcile the warring group in the zone failed as both parties refused to shift grounds based largely on lack of trust and considerations for the 2023 general elections. “All these tussle is just about who gets what in 2023. The gladiators are working hard at positioning their own people everywhere ahead of the party congresses in 2023. That is exactly where it has been difficult to reconcile them. To make matters worse, the national leadership is taking sides in the tussle,’ a source said in Lagos on Thursday.

Rather than abate, the crisis escalated last November following the setting up of parallel zonal reconciliation committees by the two factions. As part of efforts towards resolving the crisis, prominent leaders of the party within and outside the zone had suggested the setting up of a reconciliation committee to look into the issues causing grievances and reconcile party members.

But the party ended up having two reconciliation panels that are not on the same page.
First, the Makinde faction set up a reconciliation committee headed by former Osun Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Taiwo Adisa, chief press secretary to Seyi Makinde, Governor of Oyo, in a statement, said the decision was taken when party leaders met at the Oyo state government house, Ibadan, Oyo state capital.

Adisa said after the meeting, Dayo Ogungbenro, acting national vice-chairman of the PDP, south-west, issued a communique. “PDP South-West zone also resolved at the meeting that all zonal executive positions of the party should be zoned to the South-West. That a 5-man Committee be set up to reconcile all aggrieved and warring factions in the South-West PDP in order to bring about peace and unity in the Party.

“The Committee is to be chaired by former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, with Chief Saka Balogun, Chief (Mrs.) Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele, Ambassador Omolade Oluwateru and Barr. Olayinka Kukoyi as members.

“That the 10 Zonal Executive Posts be zoned to all states of the South-West as follow: Zonal Chairman (Oyo State), Zonal Secretary (Lagos State), Zonal Publicity Secretary (Ekiti State), Zonal Organising Secretary (Ondo State), Zonal Financial Secretary (Osun State), Zonal Youth Leader (Osun State), Zonal Legal Officer (Ogun State), Zonal Treasurer (Ogun State), Zonal Women Leader (Oyo State) and Zonal Auditor (Lagos State).

But before then Oyinlola committee could commence its assignment, Fayose’s men, rising from a factional zonal meeting in Lagos, announced another zonal reconciliation committee and urged it to pursue reconciliation with vigour and sincerity. The six-member reconciliation panel headed by Femi Babalola, an engineer, was mandated to unite party chieftains in the zone within a reasonable time. Other members of the committee are Chief Kolapo Ogunjobi, Ahmed Okandeji Mustapha, a lawyer, Chief Idowu Odeyemi and Chief Tunde Akindehin.

The dualisation of the reconciliation panel put paid to what many saw as the brightest opportunity to end the face-off in the zone. Oyinlola, a respected party leader, was believed to have what it takes to bring all the warring Factions to the table, especially as someone who had not taken sides in the melee. But the counter move of Fayose’s camp and the surprising silence of the Secondus-led NWC dashed whatever hope of peace there was. And so it happens that today, Southwest PDP is still in search of peace.

Source: The Nation

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