The loss of President Goodluck Jonathan in the presidential election has worsened the crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party in the South West region. In Lagos and Ekiti state, the state executive of the party have announced the removal of the state chairmen, while Oyo has suspended many of the leaders. Can PDP rediscover itself again? OLUSESAN LAOYE reports
The Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in the South West region has remained a divided party since the past eight years and there is no hope in sight that it will get over the crisis very soon. The party in the South West zone has remained the most disunited of all the six geopolitical zones of the country. It was the crisis in the party that led to the former President Olusegun Obasanjo to withdraw his membership of the party and subsequent tearing of his membership card prior to the 2015 general elections.
In the 2011 general elections, the party in the South West went into the election a divided house in most of the states in the region. The states where the crisis was most pronounced are Oyo and Ogun, which eventually cost the party the governorship elections. Since then, the party has not known peace and it has been balkanized into different factions and leadership. The crisis also affected the zonal leadership of the party as it took the leaders almost three years to resolve the zonal election issue.
Despite the fact that it was resolved after the election of Governor Ayodele Fayose, who waded into the matter to convince the warring factions on the need to come together before the last general election, the zonal election of the party rather than bringing peace further polarized the party and they were unable to achieve the goal it set out to do. The zonal election of the executive could now be described as the genesis of the current crisis going on in the party in states like Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo.
Although the primaries for the last general election made some of the aggrieved aspirants in the party who lost to move to other political parties where they contested the elections, those who remained behind for their own political gains and for the purpose of supporting the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan, are now fighting themselves, after the abysmal performance of the party in the zone.
Even the election of President Jonathan which they had thought would favour the PDP is now worsening the matter, as they no longer have the power and the federal might which could have help them to reunite despite their loss. What has deepened the crisis in the South West of the PDP; Hallmark was informed centered on money meant for the prosecution of the 2015 elections, especially the Presidential. There have been several allegations and counter allegations on how the money was mismanaged and often diverted to private pockets.
The argument from members of the party was that the leaders of the party in the zone caused the defeat of PDP candidates, and the one that was very painful to most of them was that of President Jonathan. According to them if the leaders of the party had spent the money given to them for mobilization, the president could have done far better than the result they got in the zone.
The situation in the zone now is becoming a threat to the existence of the party and the fear now is that if the crisis was not nipped in the bud, it could consume PDP because most of the key players in the party have now joined other political parties and more are expected to defect from the party.
Hallmark was reliably informed that those who are aggrieved and planning to take over the party in the South West are diehard loyalists of President Jonathan. This group of people are said to have lost confidence in some of the leaders of the party in the zone because of their roles in the last elections. It was argued that they believed that the way they could effectively reposition the party is to edge out those they perceived to have betrayed the cause.
The states where the crisis has reached an alarming level are Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos and Ondo states. For instance in Oyo state, the group loyal to the governorship candidate of PDP, Senator Teslim Folarin accused some of the leaders of the party of working against the PDP interest in the last election. It was alleged that they did not support Folarin. While some of them were alleged to have worked for Governor Abiola Ajimobi, others were said to have worked for Engr Seyi Makinde of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Senator Rashidi Ladoja of the Accord Party and Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala of the Labour Party.
Some of those accused by the Folarin’s group are Senator Lekan Balogun and Oloye Jumoke Akinjide. Balogun was said to have refused to give adequate support to Folarin, while Akinjide who happens to come from the same Local government with Folarin was accused of not working for Folarin, despite her position as a minister under President Jonathan. Akinjide, it was observed did not come out to vote during the governorship election and refused to mobilize for Folarin as she did during the presidential election for Jonathan.
One of the prominent members of the party who contested the primary of the PPDP with Folarin, Senator Ayo Adeseun was also accused of not working for the party in the last general elections. The crisis in Oyo PDP is now becoming intense every day, and since the purported expulsion of Akinjide, Adeseun and Balogun, the party is now more divided as the fear of its eventual demise heightens.
Apart from the absence of a towering figure to reunite the party now, there is also the issue of who will make available the resources needed to revive the structures of the party in the zone. Alhaji Yekeen Adeojo, who is backing the group that called for the expulsion of others, is a rich man who was the founder and the first Chairman of the party in the state, but the fact remains that he could not get enough funds now to keep the party running. Many are of the view that he would not want to commit his resources as a business man to a venture where he would not get the reward.
Another factor which could hinder Adeojo from providing money for the party is the fact that he had in the past, spent so much money without any return having contested the governorship three times under the platform of the NRC and the PDP. The last time he attempted was during the impeachment of former governor Rashidi Ladoja, when Adedibu promised him the PDP ticket, but disappointed that ticket went to Alao Akala.
Adeojo was also said to have spent so much money on the impeachment of Ladoja, based on the understanding that he would be picked to contest the governorship of the party. What is now baffling the people of the state and other members of the party is the role Adeojo is now playing against what is expected of him. Many people think it is not politically expedient for Adeojo to support the move by Folarin to expel some leaders of the party, especially Senator Balogun who has been a rallying point for members in the state.
The former factional chairman of the party, Alhaji Kunmi Mustafa, was suspended from the party for anti-party activities while other PDP leaders suspended in Ogbomoso, include Chief Saka Balogun, a former House of Representatives member; Dr. Maroof Akinwande and others believed to have either pitched tent with Ladoja’s Accord Party or Labour Party’s Alao-Akala in the state, during the April 11 election.
In Lagos state, loyalists of the minister of state for Foreign Affairs, Musliu Obanikoro removed the Chairman of the party in Lagos this is even as the removal is generating controversy in the party. It has led to a big division in the state chapter of the party with the group loyal to Olabode George and Tunji Shelle denouncing the removal of Shelle and pledged their loyalty to him as the rightful chairman of the party.
What political observers noted about the Lagos PDP crisis was the fact that Obanikoro has not forgiven George over the role he played during the governorship primaries that led to his (Obanikoro) defeat by Jimi Agbaje. To compound the problem the PDP eventually lost the governorship election in Lagos to APC’s Akinwunmi Ambode. The plan is for Obanikoro to retrieve the control of the party’s structure from the hands of George. It was even alleged that the money provided for the elections in the state was not properly disbursed by the chairman and George.
The latest of the crisis rocking the PDP in the South West is in Ekiti state where Governor Ayodele Fayose is in control of the party structure. The state Exco of the party had met to remove the Chairman of the party, Chief Idowu Faleye, who is said to be loyal to Fayose. He was replaced by Mr. Olatunde Olatunde. Some of the allegations against the former Chairman were that he was wrongly appointed and that his appointment was faulty because the constitution of the party did not give room for two officers to come from the same ward.
They argued that the youth leader of the party is from the same ward with the ousted chairman. The issue is now causing serious disharmony in the state and is said to be sending wrong signals to the government of Fayose that all is not well in the Ekiti PDP.
Hallmark gathered that the crisis in the South West PDP is generating concern in the party at the national level and the leadership has intervened.
A prominent member of the party in Lagos state, Chief Olopeyan condemned the suspension of the party chiefs by the state exco of the party. He made specific reference to the way Shelle’s case was handled. He had moved against the alleged removal of the party leaders in the state, saying that the state exco has no such powers.
He, however, called for the warring factions to sheathe their swords and work assiduously for the resuscitation of the party, in order to give the APC a good fight as the main opposition party in the next political dispensation.
With less than a week to his exit from power, President Jonathan was said to have expressed concern over the polarizations of the PDP across the states of the country. He was said to have been more worried about the South West, especially the crisis in Oyo and Lagos states.
The Presidency has however invited some key members of the PDP Board of Trustees, National Working Committee and Elders Caucus to a meeting aimed at resolving the raging crisis in the party.
“The meeting is critical because time is going. If we leave issues until after May 29, nobody will show up for any meeting. It is not a matter of a witch-hunt. The important thing is to reposition the party. If there are strong arguments to sustain and retain anybody, we will accept. But they cannot say we should not meet. This will be the first meeting since the elections.’’
Despite the efforts geared at resolving the lingering crisis in the party, the meeting convened by the Presidency is also causing problem as some of the leaders who were excluded are protesting. They are also against the meeting called at the instance of the PDP BoT chairman. Hallmark gathered that only Adeojo from Oyo state and George from Lagos, who were invited to the meeting.
One of the members of the Exco in Oyo state, Hon Seyi Alape told Hallmark that the suspension or expulsion of people from the party was not necessary at this period when the party is expected to start thinking on how to reposition for the future. He was however optimistic that the party would get out of the present situation in the South West.
Meanwhile, the suspended Chairman of PDP in Ekiti state informed Hallmark that he is still the Chairman of the party and that the exco of the state had no right to remove him. His position was however supported by the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Olisa Metuh who said that the removal of the chairmen of the party in some states, especially in Lagos was a nullity. He said that the chairmen are members of the NWC and only the national body of the party has the right to suspend or expel them.