South-west crisis: Danger signals for PDP in 2023

For years, the South-west Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been divided, but the pace of the crisis between the former governor of Ekiti state, Ayodele Fayose, and the governor of Oyo state, Engr. Seyi Makinde, shows that the calamity is getting more complex. ABDULRAHMAN ZAKARIYAU examines the brawl and what lies in-wait for the party in 2023.

The strife for control

One of the factors that worked against the PDP in the South-west in the 2019 general elections and the recently concluded Ondo state governorship election was its inability to unite its chieftains in the region. Not long ago, Ayodele Fayose, the immediate past governor of Ekiti state, and Seyi Makinde, the governor of Oyo state who is the only governor elected through the platform of the party in the geopolitical zone.

The duo had been at loggerheads over the control of the party in the zone. Fayose moved against Makinde whom he accused of tampering with the leadership of the party in Ekiti and indeed the entire South-west. Fayose said, “There has been a reasonable cold war of whom and who become the executive of the zone. Governor Makinde has demanded that the zonal executives be sacked, and a caretaker be fostered in the zone, which the party did.

“But, since the caretaker committee came into being, he has not allowed them to function because he produced the chairman. Beyond that, the fact that there is a sitting governor does not say I should go to another man’s state. Nobody should come to my state; if you come to my state, I will face you squarely. I will continue to respect him because he is my brother. I love him so much and I was part of his emergence.”

Though, in line with the party’s constitution, Makinde, the only PDP governor in the South-west, should be the leader of the party and should be given preference when decisions regarding the party are to be taken. However, the in-fighting got so bad that Fayose was attacked by suspected thugs at the PDP rally in Ondo, just three days to the election. While he blamed Makinde for his ordeal, the governor said he would remain focused and not be distracted from his assignment in Ondo.

Prior to Makinde’s emergence, Fayose was the only PDP governor in the zone. He did not only decide what happened, he practically installed all those loyal to him as state, zonal executives and even members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party were handpicked by him. He was accorded his due respects, as such, Fayose’s  move is seen as an affront and disrespect to constituted authorities.

This development has further polarised the party as some state executives, zonal leaders and members of the NWC have queued behind Makinde, while others support Fayose.

Parallel resolution c’ttee

The crisis escalated on November 13, 2020, following the setting up of a parallel zonal reconciliation committee by the Fayose faction in Lagos. The party has two reconciliation panels said to be working at cross purposes in the zone. On November 11, 2020, a zonal faction, led by Governor Makinde, set up the reconciliation committee headed by a former Osun state governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, in Ibadan, which is expected to bring together “aggrieved factions” of the party in the zone.

Adisa said after the meeting, Dayo Ogungbenro, the acting national vice-chairman, South-west, issued a communiqué which partly read, “PDP South-west zone also resolved at the meeting that all zonal executives’ position of the party should be zoned to the South-west.

“The meeting, which was presided over by the governor of Oyo state, His Excellency, Engr. Seyi Makinde, FNSE, discussed the need for unity and cohesion in the Party in our geopolitical zone and across the country and the need to exercise caution on the proposed move to clampdown on social media by the All Progressives Congress (APC-led) Federal Government.

“After a careful appraisal of the political developments in the South-west, the urgent need to unite the PDP in the geopolitical zone and to ensure that all aggrieved members come together to build a great party, we do hereby resolve as follow: That a five-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 Barrister 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 woman leader (Oyo state) and zonal auditor (Lagos state).”

Surprisingly, two days after the Ibadan meeting, rising from a factional zonal meeting at the instance of Fayose in Lagos, the aggrieved chieftains also set up a six-member reconciliation panel headed by Femi Babalola, an engineer, 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.

Also, a separate committee headed by Chief Bola Olu-Ojo was set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the woeful performance of the PDP in Ondo during the recent governorship election within one month. Other members of the second panel are Mike Ogunlade, Dr. Lere Oyewunmi, Otunba Femi Carena and Mrs. Mujidat Balogun.

According to the communiqué at the end of the factional meeting, “this panel must examine all issues relating to election planning, management and prosecution; identify all lapses and make useful recommendations to prevent such shoddy performances in the future.”

“We are aware of the fact that the zonal congress will hold in due course, thus the report of the Committee on zoning of executive positions was received and deliberated upon; therefore positions are zoned as follows; (a) Ondo – national vice-chairman and zonal publicity secretary; (b) Osun – zonal secretary and zonal legal adviser; (c) Ogun – zonal organising secretary and zonal woman leader; (d) Oyo – zonal auditor and zonal youth leader; (e) Ekiti – zonal treasurer; (f) Lagos – zonal financial secretary. All the states will contribute additional ex-officio members to the zonal executive.

“We also wish to encourage the National Working Committee to be ready to discipline errant member(s) of the party that deliberately take any action that may compromise the peace and interest of the party in the South-west; irrespective of position, status and privileges.”

Falegan’s advice

Meanwhile, a chieftain of the party in Ekiti, Opeyemi Falegan, has called on Governor Makinde, ex-Governor Fayose, and other leaders of the party in the region to close ranks. Falegan, in a statement in Ado-Ekiti, recently, said it was imperative for the leaders and members of the party in the region to unite “if PDP is serious about taking power from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023.”

He said, “The time has come to reposition the PDP and make it stronger than how it was; in order to face the future electoral challenges from the ruling party, APC, in the country. It has, therefore, become an imperative and unavoidable step to allow peace to reign supreme within the PDP’s family – especially in the Southwestern states of Nigeria. South-west is the only region in Nigeria as of today with only one PDP sitting governor. This development calls for great concern, and not any form of selfishness anymore.

“The only way we can achieve greatness, wax stronger and bounce back to the winning spree of the past, is for all, especially the leaders in the zone, to come together by dropping their egos and make all necessary sacrifices when needed. This move will not only boost the morale of all party supporters, but will also drive in more of the estranged and new members into the PDP and make it become a party to beat in Nigeria again.

“Therefore, the Constitution of a new reconciliatory committee, which is headed by a former governor of Osun state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, with other notable leaders as members is not only timely, but highly desirable, in order to end all the crises affecting the unity and progress of the party in the region.”

Falegan charged the Committee to pursue reconciliation with sincerity and vigour, saying, “No problem is insurmountable, especially when justice and fairness to all parties are not being compromised.”

Fayose’s admonition  

Fayose said for peace to reign in the South-west PDP, everybody should function and oversee their territories. Fayose, who spoke through his media aide, Lere Olayinka, told this reporter in a phone chat that what is happening in South-west PDP is all about power struggle and at the end of it, all members and leaders of the party will come together. According to him, “There are many years ahead. We have 2021 and 2022; so nothing will affect PDP’s chance for the 2023 general election in South-west.”

“Some of these things that are people those who are not schooled in politics will think is a major issue. It is not a major issue. Is like a game of football, in football people will kick and even push themselves at the end of the game they will still embrace themselves.

“Is a struggle for control; like I said, Fayose is not fighting Governor Seyi Makinde. I can say that categorically, but I cannot say categorically that Governor Seyi Makinde is not fighting Ayo Fayose. So, it is a struggle for political control, even among animals they also struggle for control.

“There is a lot of misconception, there is no zonal leadership position for Seyi Makinde in the PDP. According to the party constitution, there is a party structure, National Convention, National Executive Council (NEC), National Working Committee (NWC), State Working Committee, Zonal Working Committee, Local Government and Ward.

“So, all what people are saying is that as the only PDP governor in the zone, the leader of the party is by concession. There is nowhere in the PDP Constitution, where the governors are said to be the leaders of their zone. It is not constitutional. When Fayose was the only governor of the PDP in the zone, from Ekiti he was not coming to Oyo to determine who will be the chairman of PDP, He never went to Lagos, Ogun and Osum to determine who will be the PDP chairman as at that time.

“Fayose is not contending the fact that Seyi Makinde is the only PDP governor in the South West. When Seyi Makinde was elected as governor of Oyo state, Fayose attended the PDP zonal meeting at Ibadan. At what point did things chachangehen you have a governor that thinks and behaves like the governor general of the PDP and whatever you say is law.”

Ogun chair’s take

The Ogun state chapter of the party is supporting Governor Makinde. The acting state chairman, Mr. Bolade Sanni, and the secretary, Prince Adeleke Shittu, recently expressed confidence in the leadership of Governor Makinde, describing him as “the one with the temperament and leadership qualities to move the party forward in the South-west.”

According to them, “It is evident that Governor Makinde has what is required to move our party forward in the South-west west. As the only PDP governor in the South-west, he is automatically the leader of the party in the zone.

“Ahead of the forthcoming South-west congress, we are declaring our support for Governor Makinde and the Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola-led reconciliation committee. This decision was unanimously taken at an extraordinary meeting of the state executive committee of the party.

“Leaders and stakeholders of the party in Ogun state, including the chairman of the Apex Caucus, Dr. Remilekun Bakare; secretary of the Elders Committee, Chief Kola Sorinola; member, Ogun state House of Assembly, Mr. Sylvester Abiodun; members of the state executive committee who are automatic delegates to the zonal congress, including state working committee  members, local government party chairmen and others endorsed the choice of Governor Makinde as the leader of the party in the South-west.”

NWC to the rescue?

On the fracas between Fayose and Makinde led factions, Blueprint Weekend’s investigation revealed that the party “is worried and disturbed.”

Sources that attended the party 90th National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, Thursday said members of the NEC expressed concerns about the issues in the South- west of the party.

According to a source who does not want his name in print, “The NEC expressed concern that, if left unsettled it may affect the party’s performance in the zone.

“Some members of the NEC deliberately play the issue down. They don’t want it discussed at NEC meetings. They asked the National Working Committee (NWC) to set up a committee to reconcile the aggrieved members.”

When contacted, the party’s national publicity secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, excessively informed this reporter that “it will be resolved.”

According to him, “It will be resolved and it will not affect the chances of the party in the Osun 2022 governorship election and the 2023 general elections.”

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