BAYO AGBOOLA in Ibadan writes on the various steps to restore peace in the Peoples Democratic Party in the South West zone, especially Oyo state as 2023 general elections draw near
The peace move
Recently, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised a reconciliation committee led by the newly elected PDP National Vice Chairman, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja to appease aggrieved leaders and straying members of the party to ensure that they come back into the fold.
Certain individuals in the party have hailed the composition of the team which is presently moving round the South West states to sue for the olive branch as well as persuading aggrieved members to see the political “sting of the previous night as the bite of a mosquito” and therefore forgive and forget.
This, according to certain stakeholders, is viewed as a welcome development as it was aimed at making the PDP formidable in the zone preparatory to the 2023 general elections.
Peace of the graveyard in Oyo PDP
It is not in doubt that all is presently well in the PDP in the entire South West states, particularly, in Oyo state, where the party produced the incumbent governor, Engineer Seyi Makinde, as the only PDP governor in the six states of the region and the perceived sidelining of some stakeholders who made it possible.
The present political situation in Oyo state PDP according to political observers could best be described as peace of the graveyard as major stakeholders in the party are now poles apart with Governor Seyi Makinde, his administration and those that belonged to his camp.
It is no longer news that the recently held PDP Zonal Congress in Osogbo which produced Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja as the PDP National Vice Chairman stood out as a clear confirmation of the protracted internal war rocking the party in the zone which pitched the former governor of Ekiti state, Mr Ayodele Fayose against Governor Seyi Makinde-led camps.
Emergence of Arapaja committee
Though the SW zonal congress has gone, the fact remains that its smoke is still taking its tolls on the party in the region, a development which gave birth to the reconciliation team headed by the newly elected PDP National Vice Chairman, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja presently moving round the South West states to appease aggrieved leaders and members of the party to come back home.
Governor Makinde’s 2 term at stake
A critical look at the internal wrangling rocking PDP in the South West will reveal clearly that the prolonged internal fight is more pronounced in Oyo state than in any of the other states in the region considering the calibre of politicians outside Governor Makinde’s camp in Oyo state which to many may signal doom to the actualisation of second term bid of Makinde.
Though the governor is yet to make his second term bid known to the public, but if the body language of his loyalists and admirers in Oyo state PDP are anything to go by, the second term ambition is as good to go with the governor himself expected to signify his second term ambition immediately after the second year anniversary, to like other Nigerian politicians be able to complete “his good works in office ” in the overall interest of the state and its people.
The peace mission
Apparently seeing the handwriting on the wall and being a politician from the fold of the late strongman of Ibadan politics, High Chief Lamidi Adedibu, Ambassador Arapaja and his team embarked on intense fence-mending mission realising that continuity of the on going internal wrangling in Oyo state will surely not augur well for PDP in a politically volatile and sensitive terrain such as Oyo state.
However, Governor Makinde and his loyalists mostly technocrats, and not politicians, are basking on what they termed as “landmark achievements” of the governor so far.
For core politicians like Ambassador Arapaja, the achievements of the Governor Makinde will not be enough to sway 2023 general elections in the state particularly the governorship election, in PDP’s favour.
Makinde’s ladder to office crumbled
Moreso, that the alliance/coalition that championed Makinde’s election as Oyo state governor in 2019 have crumbled and collapsed with most of the actors in the coalition then now ready to take their pound of flesh from Makinde.
They have vowed to ensure his exit from the Agodi Government House come May 2023. To many of the aggrieved politicians that were active in the collapsed coalition both within the PDP and in other political parties, Engineer Seyi Makinde is not among major contenders in the 2023 general elections despite what they called his populists style of administration.
Ambassador Arapaja and his reconciliation team on sensing the situation are now moving from one point to the other in Oyo state pleading with the aggrieved politicians, especially, those in the PDP but reportedly fenced out of the PDP government in the state led by Engineer Seyi Makinde with the purpose of mending the party’s umbrella before it finally tears into pieces.
The mission proper
The Arapaja-led reconciliation team during the visits to aggrieved PDP leaders and members in Oyo state, minced no words in preaching the need for unity among the party members if PDP must continue holding the sway in Oyo state.
Specifically, Ambassador Arapaja during a visit to a former Deputy Governor of the state, Alhaji Azeem Gbolarumi, said “the party cannot afford to lose Oyo state to internal wrangling come 2023 general elections as losing Oyo state in the next general elections will spell doom for the party in the state and even beyond.
To avoid this, the PDP National Vice Chairman emphasised that “the time has come for all aggrieved leaders and members of the party to unite and forge ahead as a strong team by putting the past behind them.”
He stressed, “We should not let this allow us to lose this government of the state like it happened in 2011 which resulted into 8 years of suffering. Let us all believe that there would be a positive change if we all work together to make things work out for good, with this alone we can all benefit. We are facing more than enough challenges in Southwest PDP and it would be a big slap on myself and you if I fail to reconcile with my own people at home because they say, charity begins at home.This is a big task for everyone of us and I would continue to seek for your support on this”.
Time against peacemakers
With the visits and other underground moves by the reconciliation team aimed at getting PDP back as one formidable political party, observers in the state are of the view that the gesture even if it ever works, would be so short-lived considering the nearness of next governorship election in the state.
Though fixed for 2023, but the real politics and the attendant scheming and other manoeuvring games have started in earnest. Those who hold this view believe that stakeholders with genuine concern for peace should have commenced the peace overtures earlier than now. But as they say, it is better late than never.
There is no doubting the fact that the motive behind the setting up of the reconciliation team was to get the party (PDP) on track and prepare it fully for the challenges ahead, particularly, the 2023 general elections for the party to keep its hold on Oyo state, but the issue according to political observers is whether the birth of the reconciliation team will bring the much needed unity and oneness into the party or will add more to the factional crisis engulfing the party by pitching stakeholders against one another the more.