On PDP’s future amid dwindling fortunes in South West
• Osun, Oyo Chapters To Lead Revival Efforts
Following the poor outing of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southwest in the just-concluded 2023 general elections, the party’s fortunes might have been further worsened. Except in Osun and Oyo states where it made remarkable success by producing governors and few federal and state legislators, PDP’s performance in the other four states across the region was abysmally poor.
In fact, since Nigeria returned to democratic government in 1999, the last general elections could be described as the worst outing of the PDP.
At the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the PDP couldn’t produce any governor across the Southwest. But four years later, the party succeeded in defeating the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) in Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Oyo states, except in Lagos State where former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is now the President-elect, was re-elected.
The PDP produced a majority of the Federal lawmakers until 2007 when Tinubu, through the instrumentality of court cases, began to unseat some PDP governors under the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which later transformed to the All Progressives Congress (APC). By 2015, the ruling APC took control of the Southwest except in Ekiti and Ondo states.
Since then, the fortunes of the PDP continued to dwindle until Governor Seyi Makinde of the PDP defeated APC in Oyo State in 2019, becoming the only PDP governor in the region.
In Lagos, the PDP practically went down from its perceived major opposition position to third place during the 2023 polls just as it also failed in Ondo, Ekiti and Ogun. The development gave room for the electorate across the region to begin to perceive the Labour Party (LP) as the major opposition platform.
One of the factors responsible for the political misfortunes of the party across the Southwest is the irreconcilable crises among its members.
In Oyo and Osun states, where PDP produced governors Makinde and Adeleke, pundits believe that the party’s successes in the two states were ‘circumstantial.’ The saying is that PDP won in Oyo and Osun, not necessarily on the strength of the party but due to the personalities and popularities of Makinde and Adeleke.
For instance, some observers said the March 18, 2023 governorship election in Oyo was won based on Makinde’s individual connectivity and personal acceptability among the electorate. Until the governorship election was held, the party was sharply divided in Oyo such that it lost the three senatorial seats and managed to win four House of Representatives seats while APC won eight. Two seats remained inconclusive. Also in the presidential election, PDP lost the entire 33 local councils to APC.
Governor Makinde’s popularity came to bare in the governorship polls when he defeated the APC gubernatorial candidate, Teslim Folarin in 31 local councils out of the 33.
In the state House of Assembly, PDP also won 24 while APC won four. This feat was attributed to Makinde’s individual popularity and not PDP’s acceptability.
In Osun, the fragmented house of the PDP couldn’t have won election in the state but for the personality of Governor Adeleke. The party rode on Adeleke’s popularity and the irreconcilable differences in the APC to win the three Senatorial seats and all the nine seats of House of Representatives. It also cleared the entire 25 seats for the State Assembly. A member of Osun PDP said all the achievements are because of Adeleke’s closeness to the electorate.
“To attribute what the ruling party attained today in Osun to the PDP’s platform is like living in a fool’s paradise. The PDP house in Osun is so weak and fragmented such that if the governor’s factor is removed and APC house is settled, the ruling party has nothing to showcase,” a close source to the governor said.
But he noted that the majority of the National Assembly lawmaker-elects in Osun might eventually defect to APC if Tinubu is eventually sworn in as president on May 29.
COMING to Lagos, although the PDP has never ruled the state in the past 24 years, Lagos has always been one of the strongholds of the PDP. The party has always been the major opposition party in Lagos since 1999 until the last general elections when it was relegated by LP and subsequently came a distant third in the gubernatorial polls.
It also came third in the presidential poll. Peter Obi of the Labour Party won majority votes in the February 25 presidential election while Tinubu came second.
PDP couldn’t produce a senator in Lagos but managed to win one seat in the House of Representatives. Recall that the party once won four seats of the House of Representatives and eight in the State Assembly in previous elections. APC won 38 seats out of the 40 House of Assembly seats while the Labour Party won the remaining two.
In Ekiti State where PDP has produced governors and also controlled majority seats in the National and State Assembly, it not only came third in the June 2022 gubernatorial polls but also failed to win any seat both at the Senate, House of Representatives and State Assembly in the last general elections.
The party struggled to win 11 seats in the State Assembly polls in Ogun State and no seat at all in the National Assembly polls. Its governorship candidate, Ladi Adebutu lost to the incumbent governor, Dapo Abiodun with a margin of 13000 votes.
Though some observers described the performance of PDP in the last general elections as the worst in the history of elections, members of the party believe it would bounce back with time.
Speaking on the factor responsible for the party’s poor outing in the last general elections and the implications for the party’s future in the Southwest zone, a former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Bode George said the crisis at the national level between the G-5 Governors, led by Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and the presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, over the governors’ demand for the immediate past National Chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, to step down for a Southerner, created a major setback for PDP in the zone.
George also decried the way the national headquarter, led by Ayu, meddled in Lagos PDP affairs, which according to him, gave room for the party’s governorship candidate, Abdul Azeez Adediran, to misbehave. “There is no doubt this is the worst outing of our party in Lagos State.” He particularly berated the Governor of Bayelsa State, who moderated the Lagos PDP convention.
George said since Ayu has been relieved of the position by the court, “PDP will definitely bounce back. We have just learnt our lesson and that is not the end of our party in Southwest.”
A former state chairman of the party in Ogun, Adebayo Dayo attributed the poor performance of the party in Ogun in the last polls to the character it presented as its candidate in the governorship poll. He alleged that Ladi Adebutu, the flag bearer, was imposed on them by the Ayu-led National Working Committee (NWC).
According to him, “You least expected PDP to win Ogun with Adebutu, who lacks regard for elders in the party.” Adebayo also said the lopsided game played by Atiku, Ayu and their cohorts before the presidential poll, also affected the party badly. He said it was against the logic of fairness, equity and justice for some northerners in the PDP to think that they could take everything and not concede anything to the South. “It will take a long time for the wound created by Atiku and Ayu in the Southern zone of the party to heal. It is even going to be worse for the PDP in the Southwest if Tinubu is able to perform to the satisfaction of Nigerians. I doubt if the majority of our members will not defect to the ruling party.”
There are speculations that Governor Makinde, who automatically takes over as leader of Southwest PDP having won a second term, may defect to APC. The possibility of Adeleke also joining APC cannot be ruled out.
A former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Hazeem Gbolarumi was, however, optimistic that the party would bounce back to relevance. According to him, “The last election went that way because of the factor of religion and ethnicity that was introduced into the voting psyche of the electorate.”
He also attributed the party’s poor outings to the internal crisis that almost placed stakeholders from the north against their counterpart in the south over power sharing formula.
In the same vein the incumbent chairman, Ogun State PDP, Sikirulai Ogunlade dismissed the fear that PDP’s fortunes are at risk in Southwest. He said all the crises that affected it would be resolved. “Moreover, we still have two governors with the hope that Adebutu will reclaim his mandate in Ogun State,” he said.