Ahead of the 2015 general election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is making frantic efforts to reconcile warring factions in the South-west chapter of the party. But how far can the party go? NDUBUISI ORJI writes
Less than two years to the 2015 general election, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South west is still embroiled in crisis. Across the zone, it is one problem after another. It is this intra-party squabbles that contributed greatly to the dismal performance of the party in the zone in the last general election.
Out of the six states in the zone, it is only the Ondo and Osun State chapters of the party that are relatively crisis free for now.
In Oyo State, there have reportedly been pressures on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to dissolve and reorganize the state executive committee in order to accommodate others interest people in the party. The party structure is said to be presently controlled by former Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, while excluding the immediate past governor of the state, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala and other party leaders in the state.
Similarly, in Ekiti State, a proposed governorship zoning formulae that is purportedly aimed at edging out former governor of the state, Mr Ayodele Fayose from the 2014 governorship race on the party’s platform has set the party on edge. Fayose has already declared his intention to contest the election on PDP ticket.
In Lagos State, the battle for supremacy between former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, and former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe is far from over. Though George has taken control of the party’s machinery in the state, the former Minister and the Union Group, an assemblage of party elders opposed to George, have kept away from the activities of the party in the state.
Ogun is the hotbed of the intra party crisis in the zone. The party has broken into two major factions. While one of the factions owes allegiance to former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, the other group is loyal to a party financier in the state, Mr Buruji Kashamu. In recent time, both groups have been engaged in a titanic battle for the control of the party’s apparatus in the state. In Ogun State alone, there are about 30 court cases instituted by PDP officials against the party and its national officers.
It is the crisis in the Ogun PDP that resulted in the removal of the National Secreatry, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, National Auditor of the party , Mr. Bode Mustapha and zonal executives of the party led by National Vice Chairman of the party in the zone, Mr Segun Oni recently. Stalwarts of the party in Ogun had obtained a court judgement against the affected party officials leading to their removal.
The removal of these party officials who are known loyalists of the former president has heightened the division in the party in the state and across the zone.
And with the next general election fast approaching, the national leadership of the party is seemingly making frantic efforts to reconcile aggrieved members of the party in the zone with a view to avoiding the fate that befell it in the 2011 general election. Recall that it was internal crisis that cost the party Ogun and Oyo States in 2011.
But, so far, these efforts to reconcile the parties have not yielded much desired fruits. Instead it has exacerbated the problems.
As part of this peace initiative, members of the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) recently met with stakeholders of the PDP in the South west. The meeting which held in Ibadan, Oyo State capital obviously failed to reunite the feuding groups in the party, as it was boycotted by most of those who one way or the other are critical to the peace moves. Among those conspicuously absent were Obasanjo, who was also former Board of Trustees Chairman of the party, and by his position and status should be the leader of the party in the zone.
Also absent were the former Speaker House of Representative, Dimeji Bankole, former Governors Gbenga Daniel, Oyinlola; Oni and Adebayo Alao-Akala of Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Oyo respectively. In the list of absentees also include, George, former Minister of State for Finance, Dr Jibril Martins-Kuye, and the Minister of State for FCT, Ms Jumoke Akinjide, amongst others.
The absence of these party bigwigs most of whom are loyal to Obasanjo is indicative of the depth of the crisis in the party across the six states of the zone.
However, the National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr Olisa Metu, told journalists at the end of the peace parley in Ibadan that the absence of some prominent PDP figures from the meeting did not diminish its success as representatives from all the six south west states were in attendance.
Just like Metuh, the acting South west publicity secretary of the party, Mr Waheed Lawal told Daily Sun in a telephone interview that the Ibadan meeting was a huge success. He said the notice for the meeting was advertised less than 48 hours to the meeting hence many party leaders across the zone could not attend.
Besides, he said the former governors who could not attend the meeting were represented by a former governor of Ondo State, Mr Segun Agagu. “It was a huge success. Many people who were not on talking terms before the meeting sat together and discussed,” Lawal stated.
However, apart from the failure of the Ibadan peace parley to restore peace to the beleaguered South west PDP, efforts by a committee set up by the PDP governors to broker peace in the zone also hit the rocks. The committee was headed by the Katsina State governor, Ibrahim Shema.
The zonal publicity secretary who insists that the party is making progress in its reconciliation efforts noted that “ Reconciliation is not done in one day. We are going to start going round the states to talk with the people.”
The concern of the party in seeking to reconcile all aggrieved in the zone is the 2015 general election. The PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Bamagar Tukur while addressing party members pleaded for understanding among party men to give peace a chance, and contribute effectively to the on-going reconciliation and re-building to re-capture all the states in the South-West zone in the next general elections. “I am here to appeal to members of this great party to maintain ownership of the party by contributing to the reconciliation and rebuilding processes so that it will be the platform of governance in the South West states. Let’s make this the last time the south west will be under any party other than the PDP,”
He told the party faithful to “reconcile and rebuild the party. You are the rightful people that should be in governance in your respective states.
Underscoring the need for peace in the party in the zone, a chieftain of the party in Lagos State, Mr Willy Akinlude said if the party must make any impact in the next election, particularly in Lagos, it must reconcile.
He told Daily Sun in a recent interview that it is not enough to be contesting election every year with nothing to show for it.
“We need to reconcile now. As it is now, we are not one, because it ( the state executive of the PDP) is one sided. Some of the people have taken the position of the party by their groups. And we have other groups; and we say that cannot augur well for the party. But if we are united, then we can now confront our opponents because we are very many in Lagos,” he stated.