The friction in South West PDP has defied series of peace moves, weakening the party’s stance ahead of 2023, ADEBAYO WAHEED writes.
The crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in South West took a new dimension recently as the contenders for the soul of the party in the region, namely Oyo State governor Seyi Makinde and former Ekiti State governor Ayodele Fayose, presented parallel executives ahead of the now postponed zonal congress.
PDP national leadership postponed the South West congress by 30 days, alongside those of North West and North Central zones. By implication the tenure the incumbent party executives was extended from March 10, 2021, being expiry date of their tenure.
Makinde and Fayose have been locked in a battle of wits over control of the party in the South West. While Makinde’s faction produced former Oyo State deputy governor, Ambassador Taofiq Arapaja as the zonal chairman, Fayose’s faction projects Dr. Eddy Olafeso.
In a bid to stamp his authority as party leader, Makinde had led some other party stakeholders to adopt Ambassador Taofik Arapaja during the PDP Zonal caucus meeting held at the Government House, Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
The meeting had in attendance Senator Abiodun Olujimi representing Ekiti South in the National Assembly, all PDP lawmakers at the National Assembly from Oyo State, the candidate of PDP in Ondo State in the 2020 governorship election, Eyitayo Jegede; Senator Olu Alabi, the caretaker committee zonal chairman, Dayo Ogungbenro; former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Segun Oni, former Deputy Governors kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor (Lagos), Olusola Eleka (Ekiti), Olusola Obada (Osun) and others.
Makinde at the meeting said Arapaja’s nomination was made after consultations with party leaders in the state.
He said, “To lead that charge, in Oyo State, many have come to meet and asked me who is our candidate for the chairmanship position zoned to our state. I asked them to consult all our leaders. The feedback they gave was that if we want South West to play a critical role, we need depth and experience, because the Zonal Chairman is a member of the National Working Committee. We need someone who is honest and truthful. They went round the state and the name they brought to me is that of Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja.”
Also, a member of PDP Board of Trustees (BOT), Senator Olu Alabi who was the governorship candidate of PDP in Osun State in 1998 election, said: “It is necessary for us to build a very strong party base. Our party is not as strong as it should be”.
While Olujimi noted the need for the party to use its members in the National Assembly to become formidable, Oyinlola stressed the need for unity if the party must achieve its objectives.
But the quest for party unity was elusive as Fayose’s camp had its own plans for the zonal congresses. The camp endorsed the return of the Dr. Eddy Olafeso-led Zonal Exco, calling on delegates from the zone to elect into office.
Rising from their meeting, the members issued a communique which convey their resolve to stick with resolutions reached at an Ibadan meeting on March 12, 2020, affirming the return of Dr. Eddy Olafeso as zonal chairman, Rev. Bunmi Jenyo as zonal secretary, among others, “believing that as matured and sincere Party members, resolutions and agreements are sacrosanct and must always be respected.”
The communique added, “That sequel to the above, we are committed to respecting the zoning agreement, as conclusively agreed to at the meeting and furthermore endorsing the candidature of Dr Eddy Olafeso and all other members of his Executive or new additions injected into the list by leaders of the respective States.”
They also called on the Oyo State governor, Engr Seyi Makinde to stop acting like governor general of the zone and desist from causing division in the party by setting up parallel state executives in some states.
The stalemate heightened prospects of parallel congresses, emergence of different executives and widenedgulf I the party. The party’s national leadership was not spared as some party leaders from the zone accused the national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, of taking sides, a claim he has denied.
Makinde’s rage over the national leadership’s stance on the matter manifested with the drama that trailed the postponement of the congresses. The governor lambasted the party’s national legal adviser, Barrister Emmanuel Enoidem, of scheming to postpone the exercise. Although Enoidem refuted Makinde’s allegations of plots to undermine the party in the South West, the PDP reconciliation and strategy committee led by former Senate President Bukola Saraki was forced to intervene.
With the exercise eventually postponed, supporters of Makinde claim that he is unfazed by the antics of the Fayose camp. For one, “he has bent backwards a lot to accommodate the former Ekiti State governor who seems not to consider the interests of other party leaders in his state and the zone.”
That scenario, it would seem, is beginning to manifest with the upsets in the former governor’s camp ahead of next year’s governorship election in Ekiti State. It was gathered that Fayose’s plan to back the factional state chairman, Bisi Kolawole, as PDP governorship candidate ahead of the 2022 election in Ekiti State might have caused upset within his camp.
There are indications that former deputy governor, Prof. Kola Olusola Eleka, whom Fayose supported in the 2018 governorship election, is poised to join the race for the forthcoming election which might further negatively impact the former governor’s political family in the state.
More so, while the battle for party control in Ekiti State between Fayose and Olujimi continues, the governorship ambition of Segun Oni, a former governor, is heightening the political intrigues in the state.
But all is also not well in Makinde’s PDP in Oyo. The unfolding backlash trailing the party’s recently primaries for local government election has put the governor in a tight spot.
Series of attempts by party leaders, including Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and Oyinlola, to resolve the current crisis, have remained futile so far. The focus is now on the Saraki-led committee.
“This crisis won’t just go away like that considering the intense ego tussle and intricate issues that are now involved,” said a political analyst and lawyer, Mike Obiekwe. This view was echoed by another commentator, also a lawyer, Biodun Akindeji, who argues that “it would require a lot of compromises on both sides to address the issues in the party.”