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How loss of Lagos East bye-election sets PDP against self

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Tokunbo Abiru


• Makinde, Fayose rift looms in background

The December 5, 2020 Lagos East bye-election continues to generate negative impact within the Lagos chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party’s senatorial candidate, Mr. Babatunde Gbadamosi, lost to Senator Tokunbo Abiru, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
  
The loss led to the the controversial suspension of the state’s chairman, Mr. Adedeji Doherty, last Friday. The Secretary, Mr. Muiz Shodipe and the Publicity Secretary, Mr. Taofik Gani, alleged that the chairman is guilty of financial mismanagement and anti-party activities. Doherty’s suspension followed a vote of no confidence passed on him.

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Interestingly, the crisis following the December 5 defeat of PDP is nothing new to the party. There are usually consequences anytime the party suffered embarrassing defeat in the hands of the well-oiled and organised APC.
  
For instance, in 2011, when the PDP governorship candidate, Mr. Adde Tokunbo lost to former Governor Babatunde Fashola, the defeat created cracks, leading to the defection of many Lagos PDP faithful to the ruling party on the ground that the party lacked internal cohesion and democracy. Back then, the former National Chairman, Chief Olabode George, was accused of highhandedness and imposition of a weak candidate as the party’s flag bearer.
 
A similar development occurred in 2015 and 2019 when Mr. Jimi Agbaje won the PDP primary and was presented as the governorship candidate, but lost to Fashola and later Governor Akinwunmi Ambode. The party could not manage its post-election defeat, which led to several of its members, including a former senator, Musliu Obanikoro and former Minister of Works, Prince Adeseye Ogunlewe to ditch the party for APC.
 
In the interval between 2015 and 2019, one of the party’s prominent chairmen in Lagos, Mr. Moshood Salvador, was also forced to exit due to irresolvable internal crisis.
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Following the defeat in the last bye-election, Shodipe and Gani, who were said to have the support of some powerful elements in the party, accused Doherty of not working to build PDP’s image in the media, just as he was alleged to make pronouncements that were never discussed in any of the party’s meetings.
 
Shodipe lamented that it was PDP elders that brought Doherty on board as a unifying factor, but that he had been acting to the contrary.

According to him; “Rather than looking for what would benefit the general interest of the party, Doherty has been demanding loyalty to himself or declaring members as “persona non grata”, if they are unwilling.”
 
Other allegations against Doherty include lack of transparency in management and accountability of party finances and administration, failure to convene state assembly meetings since he assumed office, polarising the state working committee by not involving members, who strongly disagreed with his leadership style in running the affairs of the party.
 
Doherty was also accused of hobnobbing with the ruling APC regularly and jettisoning all strategies aimed at winning Lagos East Senatorial bye-election and his failure, contrary to the constitution of the PDP, to operate a bank account for the party. He was accused of using a personal bank account for party affairs.
 
On the basis of the above allegations, Shodipe and Gani, with the support of other executive members, said Doherty no longer enjoyed the confidence of party members and therefore recommended him for immediate suspension from all activities of the party.

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But Doherty, in a telephone conversation with The Guardian, said his suspension was a joke taken too far. According to him, “There is no way members that are facing disciplinary committee could suspend an elected chairman in contradiction to the constitution.”
 
Doherty, who disclosed that he was with the National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, to iron out certain developments in the party and the way forward when news of his suspension filtered in, said, “I am not moved by the suspension, because it was null and void.
 
According to him the party’s disciplinary committee had written to the suspended Shodipe and Gani and invited them to appear before it on Monday, December 21, to defend themselves of the various allegations levelled against them. The invitation letters dated December 15, 2020, were signed by the Committee Secretary, Mr. Mustapha Ahmed Okandeji.
 
Doherty said Shodipe, Gani and Adewale were accused of “consistently and flagrantly breaching major provisions of the party’s constitution and have been found to have involved themselves in anti-party activities, which could cause disunity among party faithful.”

Present at the meeting, where they were suspended, according to Doherty, were 35 executive members who voted in favour of the decision and 18 out of 20 local government party chairmen who also voted in favour of the decision.

“All the members present unanimously resolved to invoke the relevant disciplinary provisions as enshrined in the party constitution i.e Chapter 10, Section (1), (2), (3) and (4) and Section 58, subsection (a), (b), (c), (f), (h), (i), and (j) as amended in 2017.”
 
The embattled chairman added that Shodipe was accused of calling and attending an illegal meeting where he was purportedly removed against the party’s constitution.

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Controversial bye-election primary
THE Guardian, however, found out from conflicting statements from both camps that there is more to Doherty’s suspension than meets the eye. In the first place, the chairman was accused of having deliberately tailored the PDP primary for the Lagos East bye-election to favour Gbadamosi, not because he wanted the party to win but that the candidate would not be able to bid for the coming 2023 governorship ticket with him (Doherty).
 
This decision forced other contestants for the ticket to withdraw from the race and those who participated showed little or no interest in campaigning for Gbadamosi.
 
One of the contestants, Princess Abiodun Oyefusi, who was the Lagos PDP senatorial candidate in 2019, considered to have stronger grassroots grip and better chance than Gbadamosi, also stepped down. She did not campaign for the party.
 
Prior to the election, Gani had disclosed to The Guardian that Oyefusi could have been a better candidate to present instead of Gbadamosi, but for certain reasons. Interestingly, Doherty blamed the emergence of Gbadamosi on Chief George, who he said foisted Ggbadamosi on the party, in collaboration with Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State.
 
“It was obvious that Gbadamosi is not our preferred candidate but Oyefusi,” Doherty had said. “It was therefore a lie that I deliberately tailored the primary to favour a particular aspirant.”
 
Recalled that in the process that led to the primary and the bye-election proper, Governor Makinde, who had been having issues with the former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, over who should be leader of Southwest PDP, visited Chief George at his Luggard office in Ikoyi to mend fences, but Doherty was conspicuously absent. Many then felt that the embattled chairman might not have been favourably disposed to Gbadamosi’s candidature for the bye-election.

Fayose, Makinde factor 
THE subtle supremacy rift between Fayose and the governor of Oyo State, Makinde, over control of Southwest PDP has also played a critical role in the crack in the Lagos chapter. The Doherty faction believes that Fayose, a two-term governor and former chairman PDP Governor’s Forum, who has been vocal against the shortcomings of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, has what it takes to lead the party. The camp also alleged that Makinde, in collaboration with some disgruntled members, wants an unpopular person to be Southwest PDP deputy national chairman instead of Dr. Eddy Olafeso.

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Meanwhile, Adetokunbo Pearse, who was the director of Gbadamosi Senatorial campaign team, said the embattled state chairman is guilty of many atrocities against the party.

“For instance, Doherty deliberately abandoned the party’s secretariat and took necessary party meetings to his 10 Degree Event Centre, where he only invited those he wanted,” Pearse said. “He is also fraternising with the ruling APC against the interest of PDP.”
 
Pearse further lamented that PDP under Doherty was an extension of APC, adding that those who accused Doherty of working for APC are right because “there is no way any sane member of PDP would have supported Fayose, who we all know to be a stooge to the national leader of APC, Bola Tinubu.”
  
Pearse also chided Doherty as the only elected chairman of Lagos PDP who did not record any achievement worth mentioning while in office.

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