Today is the D-day for the much anticipated South- West zonal congress of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in what political analysts believe is a test of popularity between Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose. The duo have been at loggerheads over the leadership position of the PDP in the South- West and efforts by the national leadership of the party to reconcile them have proved abortive.
While Makinde is rooting for Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja a former PDP Deputy Governor of Oyo State, for the position of zonal chairman, Fayose is backing Dr. Eddy Olafeso, the former occupant of the office from Ondo state who resigned to contest the party’s governorship primary (PDP) in the last Ondo State election, which he lost to Eyitayo Jegede (SAN).
756 delegates are expected to decide the new set of executives of the South West PDP in a congress billed to hold in Osogbo, the Osun state capital today.
Though some PDP members have criticised Fayose for trying to usurp the powers of Makinde as the leader of the party in the zone by virtue of his position as the only elected PDP governor, others have also blamed the governor for reneging on the agreement reached by the party leaders on the emergence of the new executives.
Speaking in an interview with Daily Independent, Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the party who blamed Fayose for the crisis said “At the south-west, we have a culture of sharing positions. Lagos/Ogun zone one; Oyo/Osun zone two and Ekiti and Ondo zone three”.
“If they now give you three positions from the national, you don’t need to be a professor of Mathematics to know that each zone will take one; just the way it is at the national level where the six geo-political zones rotate the six key positions which are President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and national chairman of the party. Six zones; six positions”.
“The national treasurer of our party today comes from Ekiti. When Fayose was governor, he gave the national treasurer to Ekiti and national vice-chairman to Ondo. Osun got deputy national publicity secretary Oyo is the biggest in size with 33 local governments but got zero position. What means is that Ekiti/Ondo which is one zone has taken two key positions which are members of the National Working Committee”.
However, a chieftain of the party Sen. Nicholas Tofowomo, representing Ondo South Senatorial District at the National Assembly said the inability of Governor Makinde to honour an agreement made for Eddy Olafeso to retain his position as the National Vice-Chairman of PDP in the South-West was responsible for the crisis.
He said that an agreement was reached by party executive members that Olafeso would retain his position if he lost out in the Ondo 2020 governorship primaries which he later lost to Eyitayo Jegede.
“Olafeso left the position to contest the Ondo governorship primaries which, he later lost to Jegede, but it was agreed that if he loses, he will retain his position”.
“But Gov. Makinde as the leader of the party in the South-West did not want to honour that agreement and that was the reason for the feud between him, Fayose and their supporters.
NWC Assures Of Fairness
Makinde had wanted the congress to hold in Ibadan, but the Fayose faction rejected the proposal, saying it should be moved to a neutral venue as the Oyo State capital was not safe for it and its supporters.
Speaking an exclusive interview with Daily Independent, Fayose said what he and his group is frowning at is the attempt by some people to disobey a lawful court order by fixing April 10 for the congress when the case is billed to come up on April 16th.
“Some side wants them to disobey a court order while we are saying it is inordinate to disobey a court order. So, it is not whether our side is the one in court, it is about the obedience to the rule of law for which is an opposition party. Whatever they do today, will await them”.
“Let us say they have issues with the injunction as they have claimed, but this matter is before the court. The court was supposed to sit on the 29th of March; the party appointed a lawyer and he has appeared. The national chairman is a party in the matter; the national legal adviser is also a party in the matter”.
“We have all joined issues and they are before a court. The court in their presence gave a date but because of the vacation for the Federal High Court, it was shifted to the 16th of April. What is the hurry within this space?” Even the party itself had waited. Even the national reconciliation committee asked them to wait and they waited. So, when the court is in a matter, what is their hurry about? What agenda do they have?”
On why his group is rejecting Oyo as the venue, Fayose said the state is prone to violence, adding that the Makinde camp can sponsor thugs to disrupt the congress.
“The reason why we don’t want Oyo state is very simple. It is because of violence. There is no other reason other than violence. By the antecedent of Oyo state, it is violence and violence and violence. You can be doing the congress and they will come and create violence there. That is not the kind of democracy that we want to be part of anymore. That is in the past”.
Despite Makinde’s threat that the date and venue of the congress must not be shifted, the Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) last Thursday shifted the congress earlier scheduled for April 10 till today (April 12th) and also moved the venue to Osogbo, the Osun state capital.
The party hierarchy said that after further comprehensive deliberations on issues of concern in the South-West zonal chapter, it has decided to conduct the exercise on Monday, April 12, 2021 in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.
In a statement issued by Kola Ologbondiyan, its National Publicity Secretary, the PDP national leadership assured of working with all stakeholders to achieve a seamless and unifying congress of the party in the South-West zone.
“The PDP urge all leaders of our party, critical stakeholders and teeming members of our party in the South-West and the nation at large to be accordingly guided,” it said.
The party commended also added that it commends “the spirit of understanding, unanimity and selflessness exhibited by our leaders and critical stakeholders in the South-West in the deliberation of issues related to the zone.”
However a fresh concern was raised when a former Senator, Dino Melaye, was named as the head of the committee to screen all aspirants for the congress.
According to a statement issued by the party and signed by its National Organising Secretary, Colonel Austin Akobundu (retd), the screening is scheduled to hold on Saturday, April 10, in Osogbo.
Other members of the committee are Senator Shetimma Danjuma Laar, Honourable Ekeleme Chima Ikieje, Mr Egede Ogo Israel and Dr (Mrs) Emilia Ezude, who will serve as Secretary.
However, this did not go down well with the Fayose camp as they rejected the choice of Melaye and insisted on Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, earlier agreed upon by both parties. They said “the sudden emergence of Senator Dino Melaye is suggestive of a planned hatchet job.”
A joint statement by Fayose, PDP governorship candidates in Osun and Ogun States, Senator Ademola Adeleke and Hon Ladi Adebutu respectively as well as the immediate past zonal chairman and aspirant in the next Monday Congress, Dr Eddy Olafeso, said: “What the party told us was that Senator Abaribe will be chairman of the screening committee.
“To us, this sudden use of Senator Dino Melaye is suspicious and we will not accept it. If Senator Abaribe is not available, there should be someone acceptable to the two parties to replace him, not Dino Melaye. Therefore, for equity, fairness and transparency, we call on the National Working Committee to replace Senator Dino Melaye with someone that is acceptable to both contending parties as Chairman of the Screening Committee.”
Few hours later, the group withdrew its objection, saying that Melaye has assured them of fairness, equity and transparency.
In a statement by the Ogun chairman, Dr Sikirulai Ogundele, it said that Fayose had spoken with Senator Melaye on phone and convinced that the committee will do its job with fair mind.
“We write to withdraw our objection to the appointment of Senator Dino Melaye which was as a result of some misinformations. Our group leader, former Governor Fayose has personally spoken to him expressing confidence in his nomination. He remains one of the pillars of our party and we will cooperate with him and the party to make a success of the Southwest Zonal Congress,” Sikirulai said.
On its part, Prince Uche Secondus, the party’s national chairman also said that the national headquarters of the party would remain neutral in the election, just as he vowed that none of the party members would be treated as an outcast in the PDP’s quest to wrest power from the All Progressives Congress.
He said, “We know how important the South-West is in the political calculation of the country. We know how sophisticated the people are and we also have to say that as a political party, the PDP respects them so much. The South-West is a zone that would always want to be under the umbrella of our party. We are therefore treating them with utmost respect. That is why we are doing what we know how to do best in the zone by holding a transparent congress there”.