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Southwest PDP in search of bearing, navigator

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Chief Olabode George

There are indications that the recent victory recorded by the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Edo State governorship election has given the party a glimmer of hope that it could replicate similar feat in the 2023 general election, especially against the governing All Progressives Congress (APC).

But apart from the Edo governorship feat, how does PDP stand against APC generally, especially in the Southwest geopolitical zone?

Unlike in 2015, when APC dominated majority states, the table is gradually turning. PDP’s presence across the six geo-political zones is being bolstered with more electoral victories. The party now controls the entire South-south region; a development which some analysts say could give it a head start in 2023.

Flicker Of Hope
With the victory against APC in Edo, PDP started nursing the hope of rebuilding its structures in the states to bolster its presence in the Southwest region, where it currently controls only Oyo out of the six states in the zone.

Looking back at PDP’s fortuitous journey in the Southwest since Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999, the party has had a chequered history of ups and downs with successes and failures, which many blame on its lack of cohesion. Some party faithful also decry the politics of bad blood among its stakeholders in the zone.

At the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999, PDP had no grip or relevance in Southwest. Rather, the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), which was the main opposition to the then ruling PDP, won all the governorship seats in the zone. But, during the 2003 general elections, PDP, which then controlled the central government under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, took over the region save Lagos State, where former Governor Bola Tinubu got re-elected.

Nonetheless, in subsequent general elections, 2007 and 2011; Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which later metamorphosed into APC by merging with other political parties, bounced back to takeover some states, including Ondo, Osun and Ekiti. The feat was wrought through various election petition tribunals. In 2011 governorship, the party defeated PDP in Ogun and Oyo states, leaving only Ondo, which by then was being controlled by Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of Labour Party (LP). LP was however defeated by APC in the 2016 governorship poll.

Surprisingly, in 2019, PDP reasserted itself in Oyo State. Incumbent Governor Seyi Makinde, believed to be the underdog in the governorship poll, effectively struck a deal with other political parties to cash in on the shortcomings of former Governor Abiola Ajimobi of APC to bring back PDP into reckoning in the state.

APC went through unusual tracks to retain control of Osun in 2014 and 2018 governorship elections, the election that produced current Governor Gboyega Oyetola came after a controversial rerun and allegation of sell out by one of PDP’s stalwarts, Senator Iyiola Omisore.

Analysts believe that yesterday’s Ondo State gubernatorial poll and October 31 by-election in Lagos Senatorial would present a picture of what to expect from PDP in each of the Southwest states before the 2023 general elections.

PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, underscored that optimism, saying, ”If our party succeed in winning Ondo as we did in Edo on September 19, that means the two major strategic states in the region after Lagos will be under our control ahead of the 2023 elections.”

Other observers also held that going by present realities, all PDP needs is to put its house in order before the October 31 by-elections in Lagos, since according to them, the party “stands a good chance of winning the Lagos East Senatorial seat and Kosofe 11 House of Assembly by-elections, based on the divisions and sharp disagreement over the way the leadership of Lagos APC foisted its senatorial candidate, Mr. Tokunbo Abiru on other aspirants.”

Makinde

Oyo As Springboard
AS at present, Governor Makinde is the leader of the party in the zone by virtue of being the most senior elected political officer but this is determined by the way the likes of former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose perceives him (Makinde). It is alleged that Fayose is subtly at war with Makinde because of personal ambition of the possibility of Southwest producing the running mate to whosoever the party would elect as its presidential candidate in 2023. Fayose is allegedly interested and has been accused of doing everything possible to denigrate the incumbent governor.

While it is assumed that Makinde is preforming in Oyo, skeptics are also faulting his politics as they accused him of reneging on the promises he made with the forces that brought him to power in 2019.

A source from the state said the governor is currently fighting two critical battles within and outside the party that may suffocate his second term chances if he failed to address those issues.  When it seems Oyo PDP was getting over the alleged crisis in the party particularly between the Makinde and his Deputy, Engineer Rauf Olaniyan, another crisis erupted again between the duo in one hand, and between the chieftains of the party in the other hand.

As this is still generating internal rancour within the state chapter of the party, it would also be recalled that recently, a PDP chieftain, Alhaji Bisi Olopoeyan, expressed doubts about the party’s possible re-election in the state in 2023.

While lamenting the neglect of party members by Oyo State governor and PDP politically elected officers, he said aggrieving party members might not work for their re-election in 2023.

Ayodele Fayose

Some PDP Chieftains in Oyo are also unhappy with Makinde’s attitude towards political parties that help him win the election, saying all the political parties involved during the coalition should be the one to be in government but opposite is the case.

However, the governor is getting support from the likes of former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Olabode George, who believes that the incumbent is not only representing the party well in the zone but that his performance since 2019 is a reference point.

Whatever the case, it is still uncertain if the governor has what it takes to secure the party’s return ticket or perhaps how well the opposition APC can put it house in order to reclaim Oyo in 2023. Both the Oyo chapters of PDP and APC are still in crises.

Ogun PDP’s12 Years Crisis
FORTUNE smiled on the Ogun State chapter of PDP, when former governor Otunba Gbenga Daniel did the impossible by defeating former Governor Segun Osoba in the 2003 election to claim Ogun for PDP, which has always been under the control of progressives. The party waxed strong under Daniel for eight years but lost to ACN-led by Senator Ibikunle Amosun in 2011. Efforts to launch a comeback in 2015 also failed due to irresolvable internal crisis in the party especially the face off between Daniel, the late Senator Buruji Kashamu and former President Olusegun Obasanjo over who should succeed in 2011.

Daniel settled for Mr. Gboyega Isiaka from Ogun West, but Obasanjo, who as at then had Buruji on his side supported Major General Tunji Olurin from the same zone. When it dawned on Daniel that his choice candidate, Isiaka would find it difficult to secure the party’s ticket for the 2011 governorship election, he, as the outgoing governor stayed in the party but put his structure behind Isiaka who defected to another party to realise his ambition. The division eventually cost PDP the state in 2011. The same crisis brewed in 2015 that enabled Amosun re-election.

Since 2011, the Ogun State chapter has been running parallel executives, one loyal to the late Buruji Kashamu, headed by Adebayo Dayo. The multibillionaire Kashamu used his faction to win the 2015 Ogun East senatorial election, a feat he hoped to re-enact in 2019 for the governorship election, but failed.

All the same, the long-running crisis, which spanned the past 12 years seems to have been finally resolved. The two parallel executives had engaged in cross litigations, even as the crisis was said to have culminated in the party’s woeful defeat during the 2019 governorship election.

Unfortunately, Kashamu and Daniel obviously worked against the interest of their party in the state in the last election and they are one of the stakeholders from the opposition party to congratulate the incumbent governor, Dapo Abiodun after his victory. The internal crisis in APC that could have been an added advantage to PDP was also squandered because of the internal frictions in the opposition party.

Uche Secondus

Meanwhile, the National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, received the harmonised executive in the state.

Speaking on behalf of the executive, the immediate-past governorship candidate of the party in the state, Ladi Adebutu explained that it became imperative for the party to harmonise and unite so as to reclaim the lost mandate.

“The party in Ogun has been embroiled in conflicts for 12 years. So a chapter that had 100 per cent of all the elective positions in the state has now moved to a party that has just one out of the 40 elective positions.

“In these 12 years, we have had two parallel executives in the state that have not always worked together. This culminated in a situation where in the last election, when the party produced me as the candidate of the party; the other faction had another candidate. At the end of the day, unfortunately, we lost the election woefully.

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“Happily today, it is my pleasure by the grace of God to now present to you the state working committee of the other faction.”

How far PDP can take advantage of the seeming internal crisis within the ruling party will play out on the build up to 2023.

IN Ekiti, PDP is deeply polarised between the two prominent gladiators, Fayose and the Senator representing Ekiti South, Mrs Biodun Olujimi.

The bone of contention is said to be their desire to have full control of the party’s structure and such tendencies have sparked unhealthy rivalry between the duo, culminating in the desperation to hijack the party’s structure during the recently conducted ward, local government and state congresses in the stat

As things currently stand, PDP seems torn apart, with two state chairmen dangling in between Fayose and Olujimi, thereby making the dream of winning the 2022 gubernational poll a tall one.

PDP’s fortune is not different in Osun State, where the acrimony within the state structure lingers, with attendant accusation and counter-accusations.

Being the main opposition party that once held sway in the Southwest, PDP’s fortunes have dipped what with its depleted and disoriented membership. Who would light up its path for a return to reckoning? Would the leaders at different levels, including various interest groups be forthright enough to shelve narrow interests for the corporate benefit of the party? Only time would tell.

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