By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
An intense power-play and game of wits in the South West chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) over the sharing of party positions zoned to the zone is threatening to tear the party apart.
The party’s zoning committee chaired by the Enugu State governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, it would be recalled, had on September 30, zoned its chairmanship position to the North.
Ugwuanyi also disclosed that the committee, in line with the constitution of the party, resolved that all positions occupied by the South in the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) would go to the North, while positions occupied by the North would be filled by southern candidates at the October 30 and 31 National Convention.
Based on the zoning arrangement, the North will also produce the deputy national chairman 1, national organising secretary, national youth leader, national legal adviser and national treasurer, asides the national chairman position.
The South on the other hand, will produce the deputy national chairman II, national secretary, deputy national secretary, national publicity secretary, national woman leader, national financial secretary and national auditor.
The positions for the South were further micro zoned, with the South West to produce the deputy national chairman, the South East to produce the secretary and national auditor and the South South to produce deputy national secretary and national woman leader.
The zoning committee’s recommendations were subsequently ratified by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP.
Business Hallmark gathered that unlike their counterparts from the North who have successfully without rancour, micro zoned its assigned positions among the three zones of North East, North West and North Central, chieftains and party leaders of the party in the South West zone are presently at each other’s neck over who gets what.
For instance, while a former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, has emerged as the consensus candidate of the North as national chairman, Senator Samuel Anyanwu also emerged as the consensus candidate of the South East for the position of national secretary.
However, all efforts made by leaders of the party in the South West to produce consensus candidates for the positions zoned have failed, with competing camps demanding the adoption of their candidates.
In a clear manifestation of the collapse of consensus deals, three strong candidates, Taofeek Arapaja, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Prof. Wale Oladipo have all picked and submitted forms to test their popularity for the position of deputy national chairman (South) at the PDP national convention.
Also, a former national vice chairman (South-West) of the PDP, Eddy Olafeso and a former House of Representatives member, Debo Ologunagba have also indicated interest in the party’s national publicity secretary position.
Business Hallmark reliably gathered that the zone’s inability to come together is fueled by the distrust and feud between the two leading camps in the party led by Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Ayo Fayose on one hand, and Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State on the other.
The camps, impeccable sources informed BH, have not been able to reconcile their positions despite series of reconciliatory efforts initiated by the leadership of the PDP owing to deep animosity among them.
The bad blood, the sources claimed, was caused by Governor Makinde’s domineering and unaccommodating posture, as well as his refusal to carry other party leaders in the zone along in decision making.
“Since he (Makinde) became governor, he has turned to an emperor. The matter is made worse by the decision by the PDP to hand over party affairs in the South West to him because he is the only PDP governor from the zone.
“He has sidelined all party members, especially from the other five states of Osun, Ondo, Ekiti, Ogun and Lagos, in making decisions for the party.
“The role he played in the recent zoning of party national offices to the detriment on his zone is the last straw that broke the camel’s back”, the source disclosed.
It was learnt that Makinde played a major role in ensuring that the positions of chairman and secretary of the PDP went to the North and South East against the general wish of his zone.
“Makinde is at the centre of the crisis in the party. He has been working against the interest of PDP in the zone because of his ambition to get the 2023 presidential or vice presidential ticket of the party.
“The governor initially made a strong case for the party’s chairmanship position to be micro-zoned to the South West but changed his mind after meeting some northern governors who gave him some concessions to betray his people.
“We were shocked when we learnt that it was the Oyo State governor that instigated the decision of taking the position of the national chairman of the party away from the South to the North.
“This is a clear act of betrayal. It was Makinde that convinced Prince Oyinlola to vie for the position of the national chairman. It was also him that engineered the zoning of the same position to the North”, the source stated.
The Oyinlola camp, it was also gathered, is aggrieved by Makinde’s ceding of the National Secretary to the South East in an attempt to pave way for his political ambition.
“Owing to the disagreement, the two camps have been divided. They have been going in opposite directions on virtually every decision needed to be taken on behalf of the South West zone and have been taking conflicting positions on issues that concern the zone”, another source stated.
With the failed move to produce a consensus deputy national chairman candidate, two out of the three candidates from the zone, Oyinlola and Arapaja will now slug it out at the national convention in Abuja.
The crisis in the South West PDP also deepened at the weekend, when the third candidate, Prof. Oladipo, was disqualified from the race, alongside Dr. Olafeso Eddy, who expressed interest in the position of National Publicity Secretary.
Announcing the disqualification Friday, the PDP Screening Sub-Committee said the aspirants were disqualified for taking the party to court to stop the convention without fully exhausting the internal conflicts resolution mechanism as provided for in the party’s constitution.
BH gathered that stakeholders of the party in the zone at a meeting convened by Governor Makinde, had micro zoned the position to Osunstate because the current occupant of the position hails from the Ogun/Lagos sub zone and the outgoing national officer from Ondo/Ekiti sub zone, leaving only Oyo/Osun sub zone to be taken care of. Oyo was later ruled out because it had once produced the zonal chairman.
Meanwhile, Governor Makinde, despite being involved in the process that gave birth to the zoning arrangement, threw his weight behind Arapaja from Oyo State, it was learnt.
Oyinlola, meanwhile, is banking on the support of the older generation of party leaders in Osun State who form the bulk of the party delegates, as well as major stakeholders in Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos and Ogun States to realise his ambition.
“The fact that the entire South-West leaders have adopted Prince OlagunsoyeOyinlola as the region’s consensus candidate for the Deputy National Chairman of the party makes the adoption of Oyinlola by his state party leaders a good and sensible decision”, said the lawmaker representing Osun East in the Senate, Francis Fadahunsi.
Apart from backing Arapaja, Governor Makinde, informed sources told our correspondent, is rooting for a former house of assembly member from Lagos State, Rita Orji, to clinch the position of deputy national secretary.
Makinde’s decision to back Orji, said to be from Abia State for a position exclusively reserved for the South West, is also causing ripples in the party.
“This will not be the first time that we will have a sole PDP governor in the South West, but we have never seen this kind of governor who does not consult with anyone before taking key positions.
“We have had sole PDP governors like SegunMimiko of Ondo and Ayo Fayose of Ekiti at different times. But neither of them behaved as if the whole of the structures and machinery of the party is their birthright.
“With the way he goes around with decision-making about the forthcoming national convention, he no doubt kill the PDP in the South West”, a party leader opposed to the governor warned.
Speaking on the crisis in the party in the zone, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of PDP, DiranOdeyemi, said the South West would once again lose out completely unless something urgent is done to address the problem.
“It will be a shame on the leadership of our party in the South-West if we cannot unite and reach an agreement as was done in the north, especially on the issue of the national chairman.
“It will be unfortunate if we become the only zone that will produce three, four or five aspirants to contest for votes for the deputy national chairman.
“This was how we lost the position of national chairman in 2017 when 10 Yoruba sons came out and we lost. I think we should have learnt a lesson”, Odeyemi warned.
Also speaking, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, a former National Vice Chairman (South West) of the PDP who has been disqualified from contesting in the convention, fears that the dispute might linger and affects the zone’s chances in the October 31 national convention holding in Abuja.
“The South-West is divided into two tendencies and there have not been efforts to reconcile them. Is one tendency going to look on while the other takes all positions?
“Be rest assured that with this situation, the South-West may present two candidates in all the positions unless there is equitable and fair distribution of what is zoned to us,” Olafeso said.