PDP’s presidential candidate for 2023 will be decided on equity, fairness, says Olafeso
Former Vice Chairman Southwest Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Eddy Olafeso, spoke with OLUWASEUN AKINGBOYE on the crisis affecting his party ahead of the party’s upcoming zonal congress.
Why I want to be vice chairman once more
Southwest PDP zone is in crisis ahead of its congress, what is the way out?
You call it crisis, I call it competition but there must be decency, there are rules to this game. Democracy is about participation, it’s about people showing interest in one position or the other and democracy must have a long sense of history and should be able to understand how our people can come together. For me, our desire is to work harder to make sure we bring unity into the Southwest so that we can take our place of pride among the comity nations.
The early days of independence show our strength and commitment and great leadership that we have lost along the line, and the reason being that we are no longer having quality men and women coming out to lead, those who are desirous of serving the society and not themselves. So, I am getting into this to ensure that we bring ourselves back together again to win more states in Southwest and position PDP for the 2023 general elections to displace this mediocre APC government.
This is far more important than individual position and I demonstrated that in my first tenure and I would do so again and that’s exactly what I intend to do.
Where do you stand between Makinde and Fayose?
For sure, Fayose supported me in my first tenure; he fought side by side with us. He stood for the party and did everything when there was nobody to fight for PDP. For the two years that we were in court, Fayose never left our side and never took a decision one day that was for himself except for the development of the party.
When this position came and we had a meeting at the residence of Governor Makinde, and I told him I was going to contest for governorship of Ondo State, he said, ‘no problem; if you’re able to win, we will support you but if not, just come back and take your position because you have performed creditably well for the party in the two years you had served as the zonal chairman.’ There was a committee set up, which insisted that the existing zonal structure should be left the way it was so that we can return and complete our tenure and bring stability and coherence into the zone.
But suddenly, Makinde started changing and did not carry all of us along. Our Constitution is clear as to the calling of caucus meeting and those that are supposed to attend such meetings. But when Oyo State governor decided to carefully select some people to attend and those of us that have the constitutional right to attend were left behind, that was the breaking point. You cannot take a decision on the position I am occupying without me being in that meeting to say one or two things. No matter the circumstances, having served for two years, we have a better and superior knowledge of how to manage the zone much more than anybody else.
So, for me, I belong to Fayose’s group, but we are working on the possible way to ensure a quick resolution between Fayose and Makinde so that the two can work together with other leaders and bring peace to the party.
For me, Fayose remains our leader; he is my leader. You will recollect that Fayose was a governor when the Dr. Olusegun Agagu of blessed memory was the governor of Ondo State here. We were Special Advisers, government people serving the five PDP governors then, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Gbenga Daniel, Alao Akala, Olusegun Agagu and Fayose, they were all our leaders. So, Fayose is my leader. I believe in him and I know he has the love of the party at heart and he fought while there was nobody there to stand and fight for the party.
Why did your faction reject the reconciliatory committee headed by former governor of Osun State, Gen. Olagunsoye Oyinlola (rtd)?
It had to be rejected because it was friends of Governor Makinde that were actually put together in that committee, not the Southwest caucus; that’s the reason why we were not there when the decision was made. Oyinlola is my brother, a leader, we respect him as an individual but taking that position is like taking a side in a situation where he should have been the godfather that will settle the matter.
So, as far as we are concerned, we thank God that the National Working Committee (NWC) set up a reconciliation committee under Senator Bukola Saraki, the former Senate President and we are relating with that committee. We’ve been to Abuja to speak with the committee and they are happy we are seeking peace. We are interested in peace despite the blackmails and all the lies that they put in place here. Our party is diminishing in Ondo State; we must do something to bring everybody together so that we can have a bigger opportunity and platform where everyone can work together to unseat the APC government.
But it appears Ondo State chapter of PDP is not supporting you?
No, no, Ondo State PDP is supporting me. If you say Adams and few of his friends, Eyitayo Jegede, are not supporting me, but by the time the congress comes, you will know if truly I am in the majority in Ondo State or not. There are going to be about 110 votes, if 15 people are not supporting me, that is their business and it is democracy. We have not even gone for the congress, so you don’t know who is supporting me or not. With their body language, they appear to be working for another candidate from Oyo State, whom I am yet to take mental note of in this matter.
The truth is that we are doing very well in all the six states of the zone and we are hopeful that we will succeed; and succeeding means unity and commitment to party growth, commitment to the dictates of the Constitution: chasing away arbitrariness and absurdities. We are sure that in a short while we can bring about a very strong, formidable and virile party in the Southwest.
Why do you think Fatai Adams-led leadership of Ondo PDP is not supporting you?
I was the last but one National Vice Chairman from Ondo State. In the same meeting that was called in Oyo State, Adams that is supposed to be our leader from Ondo State, that is supposed to have defended the position that well, that we still have somebody here who has the constitutional right to run for second term, brought home an ex-officio and Organising Secretary, while they zoned my position to Oyo State, where there is a sitting governor.
And they took even the woman leader from Ogun State and all of them in Oyo State, in a very small federal constituency; the governor gathered everything in the Southwest and put in his home base of Ibadan East and Ibadan West. Everybody feels that this is not right, and when they came back, that was the beginning of our disagreement with them.
While they have a right to make a decision on who they wanted to support, we too have the right to pursue our dreams within the confines of the constitution and say we have the right to run for second term; and we are going to.
Let me appreciate everybody from Lagos to Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo State for their support. We have a massive support behind us and we are very confident we are going to win the election.
Are you not scared of another factional congress?
It cannot happen because the Constitution stipulates that the National Working Committee (NWC) is in charge of all congresses both local government and states, zonal and national conventions. It is where the NWC sends its committee to conduct the congress that is the authentic congress. If you take anything that is not authenticated by the NWC, you are wasting your time and nothing can happen out of that.
Our desire is to make sure that the congress is peaceful because our ambition is not worth of the blood of anybody, despite that they have over-militarized our processes. You were here when we were doing the governorship primaries in July last year and how much violence they visited on some of us, the aspirants at that time, Agboola Ajayi’s vehicle was destroyed, Dr. Bode Ayorinde’s vehicle was shattered, many of us were bludgeoned; a former House of Assembly member from Ose, her home was ransacked.
Are you satisfied with Ibadan as a venue for the congress?
How can that be possible? That is the reason some of us said no; let us go to a neutral ground; if you know you have the support, bring all your men. And it is not the first time that we have done our zonal congress outside Ibadan, the last one was in Ondo State here; the other one was in Osun, there were some we did in Abuja. So, it is not a big issue, we all should be able to make a decision on where we are all going to be comfortable.
As at today, four state chairmen, seven out of 12 zonal caretaker committee members have decided that Ibadan would be too violent for our congress and that we must find a neutral ground where people can vote peacefully. We are not enemies and we must recognise that.
What are your chances of winning?
Mark, today is 17th of March, 2021; Eddy Olafeso will return as the National Vice chairman and will still continue the job that I resigned to contest for the governorship and will do the best that we can do to bring all our leaders together. I am sure and positive that PDP will do far better than we did against APC in the last general election.
Which of the zones should produce your party’s presidential candidate in 2023?
It is far more complicated than saying there is this zone there is that zone. There are historical antecedents and it depends on the angle we are looking at it. As far as I am concerned, it is the duty and responsibility of the National leadership of the party to take a decision that they know will bring about victory and will create equity and fairness in the ways powers are distributed.
It is not the decision of an individual, that’s the reason we have the caucus meetings so that we can streamline and take a look at all these things. And apart from the pedestal level of our democratic participation, in the world of politics today, what is more important is capacity, intellect, knowledge, good health and every other thing you can put together for a visionary leader to emerge must be considered. Geography, on its own, is misleading.
I told people when I was running here that I am not a believer of geography, pair me with every other person and let’s debate about what we are going to do. Nigeria needs a sound individual that can unite the nation and that is exactly what we must begin to think from this moment on. There is no zone in this country that a good candidate cannot be found but we must as much as possible look at all the crucibles, all the options available to us and pick one individual that can actually serve Nigeria and bring her out of this darkness and backwardness to a new beginning of a hopeful nation.
There are insinuations that Fayose is after PDP Southwest leadership to support 2023 presidential ambition of Tinubu?
This is not possible. This man spoke on television recently and said that only someone with a mental problem or brain damage will be in one party and work for someone in another party. How are you conjecturing what is on somebody’s mind when he has never said so by himself?
Let me tell you that we are all in the six states of the zone and we are in the majority in the six states including Oyo State; Oyo is 50/50. Our group in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Ekiti states, we are cohesive and when we sit, we analyze things. We are not working for anybody and if Fayose decides to work for APC, many of us will walk away because that’s not the idea. The idea is to develop our party and we should not even be discussing something that does not exist.
I can tell you that Fayose is not working for APC and I can say this openly a thousand times that all we are concerned about is a better government to run 2023 in Nigeria. The country is dead, so what exactly will be the motive behind supporting APC one more time, to do what? What do you think will change under any leadership from APC? Nothing.