Southwest leaders strategising for PDP national chairmanship
• Using Ekiti, Osun guber elections as bait
Ahead of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s national convention on October 30, leaders of the party in the Southwest have begun intensive consultations to convince its national leadership to micro-zone national chairmanship to the zone.
Besides, they are also working assiduously to present a consensus candidate and prevent a re-occurrence of what happened in 2017, when the zone lost opportunity of producing national chairman because of their inability to agree on a consensus candidate to confront the incumbent, Prince Uche Secondus who was presented by the South-south members of the party.
It was gathered that prominent Southwest leaders have been lobbying some members of the Zoning Committee of the party that southwest needs to produce the national chairman to strengthen PDP in the zone to clinch governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States holding in 2022.
A source said, “Southwest leaders are very serious in producing the national chairman this time around. They wanted the office to re-launch the party in the zone and defeat APC in Ekiti and Osun States in 2022. You know it is possible for us to win elections in those states because of our strength and acceptability in those states but with national chairman from that region it will be easier for us.”
It was gathered that the disagreement among the leaders did not only deplete their ranks by losing some top members to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), it also incapacitated the party from having a strong rallying point to take critical decisions to move the party forward.
A source said: “The manner our leaders disagreed to present one aspirant out of six that vied for that office deepened crises in the party in Southwest and that made us to lose some strong members like former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel (OGD) and former Minister of Education, Prof Tunde Adeniran to mention few.
“But hard lessons must have been learnt as some leaders are talking on how they will close ranks and agree on a candidate because the party wanted a politician from southwest to emerge as national chairman in 2017, but they lost the opportunity and gave Secondus the chance to win with little resistance.”
Although, the Zoning Committee of the party chaired by Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, with Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State as his deputy and Zamfara State deputy governor, Mohammed Mahdi, as secretary has not come out with its decision, many believe that PDP seems to have determined to zone its presidential candidate to the North, the reason politicians from South are already warming up to vie for office of national chairman.
But a party source said PDP may not micro-zone the office to any of the zones in South, meaning that members from the Southwest, Southeast and South-south are free to contest for the office.
According to the source, “if you follow the trajectory, it is not in the tradition of PDP to micro-zone presidency or national chairmanship, so if the chairmanship office is zoned to South, all members from the region will be free to contest. And that’s why Secondus won in 2017 even when many thought Prof Tunde Adeniran or Chief Bode George would emerge as chairman of the party.”
Investigations have revealed that former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose and 2020 governorship candidate of the party in Ondo State, Mr Eyitayo Jegede (SAN) are top contenders for the office.
While Chief Bode George who contested in 2017 and lost has declared that he was no longer interested in the office, three-times Lagos State PDP governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje has kept mum on his next moves.
Although Oyinlola has not hidden his ambition to contest for the office, that of Fayose and Eyitayo Jegede are yet to be made public. But strong party sources confided in The Guardian that some party leaders have approached on the matter.
The National Vice-chairman (Southwest), former deputy governor of Oyo State, Ambassador Taofeeq Arapaja, in a telephone chat told The Guardian that party leaders in the region are waiting for the Zoning Committee to conclude their assignment and make public their decision on which position is coming to the South. He said until the committee completed its assignment, it would be pre-emptive to go further than consultations among members.
Arapaja said, “As a member of the Zoning Committee we are yet to meet and take decision. But at the Southwest level, we shall meet after zoning has been announced to take decisions and present a candidate. I am aware that former governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola is interested, I heard that our candidate in Ondo State Governorship election in 2020, Mr Eyitayo Jegede is interested, Jimi Agbaje and two more other people”.
Asked if the party at the Southwest level is united enough to speak with one voice on this matter given the bitter lessons of 2017, he said: “The truth is that we still have some leaders who are still nursing grouses over the outcome of last zonal congress. We have made them to understand that party position is not as important as forming a government, which must be our objective. Those that are not happy with the outcome of the congress are still supporting Secondus, despite his shortcomings and attempts at dividing the party. We shall continue to appeal to them to allow a member from southwest to emerge as the national chairman or any position zoned to the South”.
But Jegede has denied interest in the office of national chairman of the party. A statement by his Personal Assistant, Oluseye Adegboye said: “Our attention has been drawn to newspaper and social media reports linking Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, SAN to the contest for the National Chairmanship position of the PDP in the scheduled national convention slated for October. These are mere assumptions. For the records and to date, neither had such declaration been made nor intention for same made known.”
It was also gathered that some party leaders across the country recently spurred Fayose to give the office a shot but it is also not clear whether Fayose has agreed to their proposal or not.
A source said, “Fayose may join the race because some PDP leaders believe he is the best candidate for the office but he has not agreed. But we also know that the same leaders also met with former governor of Cross River State, Liyel Imoke from the South-south. I think those leaders are not comfortable with the aspiration of Oyinlola who they believe is being supported by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Military Heads of State, Gen Ibrahim Babangida, Gen Abubakar Abdusalami and other former army Generals.
It was also gathered that Makinde and governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike might have agreed to work for Oyinlola to emerge as the next national chairman of the party.
The source said, though the outgoing chairman, Secondus may likely re-contest despite stiff opposition by Wike and Makinde, the horse-trading at the convention is going to be between forces for and against Secondus. “For the first time Fayose and Wike will work from opposing camps and this will make the convention very interesting,” the source said.
Explaining chances of Southwest on October 30, spokesperson of the PDP in Oyo State, Engineer Akeem Olatunji said, “Certain lessons have been learnt and things have changed. The chief reason why we lost in 2017 was that Fayose was the only PDP governor from the region and by the party’s tradition, he was the leader of the party. While many party leaders in the Southwest had made up their minds to support a candidate, Fayose had alliance with Wike to support Secondus.
“At that period, Fayose and Secondus worked together and had influence on critical decisions to be made by the party. But now things have changed, Governor Makinde is the leader of the party in the Southwest and he has expressed his preference to support a Yoruba man to emerge as chairman of the party.
“Makinde did not hide his support for former Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola to succeed Secondus and I know that many leaders in Southwest are also supporting him.”
But Lere Olayinka, the spokesperson of former Governor Fayose while recalling why Southwest could not produce national chairman in 2017 said, “As at that time, I don’t know whether Olatunji was in the PDP because he ought to know what happened. I think there were six aspirants for the position of national chairmanship, namely, Chief Bode George, Alhaji Rashhed Ladoja, Prof Taoreed Adedoja, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Prof Tunde Adeniran, I think at some point, Bode Olajumoke.
“The first thing Fayose did was to call the elders telling them; ‘I am the only governor here, all of you can’t be chairman at the same and it is not possible to support all of you. Meet and give me one person to support’, but that did not happen. And Fayose said, since that did not happen there was nothing he could do. But South-south brought only Secondus. That was what happened, Fayose as the only governor in the Southwest had no such powers to push one person all alone, whatever what anybody wanted to do, you must consider the interest of others. If interests of other people are at variance with your own you, in party politics, you have to take middle line approach. So if the interest of Governor Wike at that time was to produce the national chairman, then you look at Fayose’s strength, is it in terms of funding and other considerations.
“That’s why I said if that person was in PDP at that time he would know what happened. I understand where they are coming from, they want to give people impression that Fayose did not defend the interest of Southwest at that time, but unfortunately they are not deep in the PDP, some of them were not in the party at that time”.
Ex-Ekiti State governor, Oni, recently said the region was rooting for Oyinlola for the position of national chairman. “The person that all of us are setting our eyes on is Prince Oyinlola, and he has not yet told us that he’s not going to do it. That’s the man we all want to support for the position of national chairman,” Oni said.
Also, a political group, Ayombo Movement for Good Governance, has canvased support for Oyinlola, to be the next national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The group in a statement signed by its President, Prince Ayoade Adewopo, in Abuja, described Oyinlola as the best candidate with needed charisma and grassroots support across the country, to lead the party and return it to power in 2023.
Adewopo said that the impeccable public administrative record of the former military administrator of Lagos State put him on a good pedestal of leadership in the country and described Oyinlola “as well respected and highly regarded based on his outstanding achievements in the previous public offices he held”.
He continued: “Oyinlola’s past positions has demonstrated his prodigious capacity as a celebrated manager and leader of men and resources. Having served in different roles of public trust, it is crystal clear that Oyinlola is reliable, dependable and trustworthy. He can be trusted owing to his purposeful and resourceful approaches to providing time-tested solutions to the challenges that confront our society”.