The stage is set for a final showdown between Governor Seyi Makinde, of Oyo State and a former governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose, after weeks of muscle-flexing as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) holds its SouthWest Zonal Congress in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, today.
Both leaders had engaged in verbal wars over the control of PDP structures, especially the leadership of the party in the South-West.
The face-off was further aggravated by the re-election bid of the immediate past national vice-chairman of the South-West PDP, Chief Eddy Olafeso.
But, the camp of Governor Makinde endorsed a former deputy governor of Oyo State, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, for the position.
The sharp disagreement between Makinde and Fayose forced PDP National Secretariat to move the venue of the congress from Ibadan, the Oyo State capital to Osogbo, the capital of Osun State.
While the governor preferred Lagos State as an alternative venue, Fayose wanted Ogun State. In a statement on the congress, a former presidential aspirant, Dr Doyin Okupe gave an insight into the leadership question in the party over time.
Makinde was not optimistic about “an amicable settlement between Makinde and Fayose after several unsuccessful attempts were made by leaders and elders at the zonal level.
“Efforts were also made directly by the national secretariat and indirectly by the indefatigable Bukola Saraki’s reconciliation committee. All to no avail,” Okupe stated.
Part of his statement read: “This in itself is a strange phenomenon. The doctrine I learnt in my 40 years’ sojourn in politics is that … no matter the problem between two or more groups, as long as the problem is strictly political; it is resolvable through consultation, negotiation and compromise.
“The working tools of an astute politician are: oratory, ability to communicate and convince others effectively, negotiating skill, readiness to arrive at a compromise, wisdom, tact, flexibility, patience and a benevolent spirit.
“Not confrontation and rigidity or obduracy.Strangely, in Yorubaland, even issues of infidelity and adultery, which are very touchy and extremely trying, are discussed and settled between husbands, wives and offending partners.
“Governor Seyi Makinde and Fayose are contending the leadership of the party in the South-West. A position which neither of them is qualified to hold, but for aberrant development in our polity.
“It was former President Obasanjo, who because he did not want his administration to be bogged down with petty issues from the states, empowered the state governors to be leaders of the party in their respective states and zones. This was a privilege enjoyed by former Governor Fayose to the fullest in his time. And until the proviso is annulled Governor Makinde ought to have the honour of being the official leader of the party in the South-West currently.
“This “proviso” though an obvious absurdity, still stands. I call it an absurdity because it will be unthinkable for example, for a Governor Sanwo-Olu of Lagos to say he is leader of APC in Lagos, official or unofficial. But let’s rest this argument here.
“As for Governor Makinde, his attempts to destabilise established state party structures in order to establish his control and leadership is wrong and this has created unnecessary enemies for him within the zone even among those who were not opposed to his leadership.
“In tomorrow’s congress there will be no real winners. The outcome of tomorrow’s congress will cause a permanent schism in the South-West PDP, which may seriously affect the future of the party adversely in the zone in the nearest future.
“We as a people always refuse to learn from history. The dichotomy and lack of consensus in Yoruba land today can be traced to the sowing of the seed of discord during the Awolowo/Akintola conflict. But those who fail to learn from history will themselves become lessons in history. And as the saying goes “those who the gods must destroy, will firstly be made mad.” Those, who have ears, let them hear.”
The screening of contenders for the positions was on Sunday held amid tight security at the Aenon Suit Hotel, GRA Osogbo, the Osun State capital in preparation for today’s zonal party congress to elect new zonal executives.
Nigerian Tribune noted that all the contestants were thoroughly frisked at the entrance of the venue by stern-looking security operatives who manned the area. A combined team of mobile and conventional policemen, as well as men of the Directorate of the State Security Services (DSS) kept surveillance around the venue.
A total of 42 aspirants were given a clean bill of slate by the panel to contest for 22 positions in the zonal executive of the party.
Ortom heads electoral committee
A total of 743 delegates have been cleared to participate in the zonal congress.
According to the list released by Colonel Austin Akobundu (retd), the PDP National Organising Secretary, Oyo State has the highest number of delegates with 171.
It is followed by Osun with 130 while the rest are Ogun, 114; Ekiti, 115; Ondo, 112 and Lagos, 101 delegates. Akobundu said the release of the approved list is in line with the party’s mandate “to conduct free, fair, credible and transparent Congresses.” The party has also released the list of all 42 aspirants contesting the positions up for grabs. This followed the successful completion of their screening exercise. There are 22 positions to be filled, Zonal Chairman, Zonal Secretary, Zonal Treasurer, Zonal Organizing Secretary, Zonal Publicity Secretary, Zonal Financial Secretary, Zonal Legal Officer, Zonal Auditor, Zonal Women’s Leader and Zonal Youth Leader. Others are Zonal Ex-Officio (Oyo State), Zonal Ex-Officio (Ondo State), Zonal Ex-Officio (Osun State), Zonal Ex-Officio (Ogun State), Zonal Ex-Officio (Lagos State), and Zonal ExOfficio (Ekiti State) as well as one National Ex-Officio from each of the six states that make up the zone. For the zonal chairmanship post, Arapaja is squaring up with Eddy Olafeso, while Rahman Owokoniran is contesting with Jenyo Bunmi for the post of zonal secretary.
Ogunse Omotoyosi was cleared to contest with Oke Michael for zonal treasurer while Amuwa Adegbenro slugs it out with Bakenne Adewale for the post of zonal organizing secretary. Olusanya Atofarati and Fadaka Ayodele are the two aspirants cleared for the post of the zonal publicity secretary just as Adewoyin Babatunde and Aivoji Olabode are the ones cleared for the zonal financial secretary position.
Other cleared aspirants are Babatunde Samuel and Monsuru Kukoyi (Zonal Legal Adviser); Dominic Adegbola, Balogun Ayuba and Adeola Adewunmi (Zonal Auditor); Modinat Adedibu, Abimbola Balogun (Zonal Woman’s Leader).
For the Zonal Youth Leader, Bamidele Abiola and Adetola Femi are the cleared aspirants. The Zonal Ex-Officio aspirants are: Taiwo Mubo and Ademola Santos (Oyo); Fagbayibo Emmanuel and Modupe Adetokunbo (Ondo); Akinade Temitayo and Araoye Okunlade (Osun); Adesina Semiu and Idowu Omobolanle (Ogun); Adenike Shobayo, Adewale Sunday and Tanwa Olokodana (Lagos); Akomolafe Zacheus and Olanrewaju Fajuyi (Ekiti).
The National Ex-Officio positions have the following aspirants: Ogunrinde Adeola, Monisola Omotosho (Ekiti); Alabi Ibitayo and Olakunle Adetunji (Osun); Dakova Vaughan Kolawole (Lagos), Faboyede Clement (Ondo), Taiwo Shote (Ogun), and Oluwakemi Bello (Oyo). Governor Sam Ortom of Benue State is heading the Electoral/Congress Committee which has as members, Senator Sandy Onur, Ogun Ofome Anthony, Ireruke Edward Otemabore and Senator Samuel Anyanwu, who is to serve as its secretary.
Three persons are to serve in the Electoral/Appeal Committee, including Okey Ezenwa, Clement Okaredje and Rolland Najomoh. However, the exercise was conducted without rancour, as all the aspirants comported themselves and followed due process, as well as the rules and regulations spelt out by the screening committee. In the midst of the intrigues that preceded the screening exercise, the national vicechairmanship contenders:
Arapaja and Olafeso, were seen exchanging pleasantries, with their followers not left out in the camaraderie among themselves.
Speaking with newsmen at end of the exercise on behalf of the committee, its chairman, Senator Dino Melaye, affirmed: “Not every aspirant will partake in the election because those who made the required minimum standard were cleared and those who did not meet the standards will not participate.
“Not everyone who wishes to have a clearance certificate got it. I can’t reveal those that did not meet the required standard. There will be a free and fair congress tomorrow as today clearance exercise has given us a sample of what tomorrow will be.
“We are one political family. We have a spirit of give and take. I can assure you that meeting will still hold tonight. We expect a peaceful congress tomorrow forget about the propaganda on social media, these are from the APC.
“I want to say that the exercise was very peaceful and I am happy with the way the aspirants conducted themselves. We started well and it ended well and it was a very wonderful exercise.
“Everyone is happy; the atmosphere is very clear and peaceful. We did justice and conducted the exercise with the fear of God. I have a standard and I won’t go below that.”
The screening exercise, which commenced as earlier as 8.00 a.m., was rounded off at 3.45 p.m., attracted all intending aspirants for one position or the other from the zone. Nonetheless, the issue of security still predominated as the final countdown for the election proper as more than 700 delegates to the zonal congress were screened.
As of press time, the panel was yet to release the final list of the delegates to elect the new executives at the congress fixed for the Women and Children Developments initiative Foundation (WOCDIF) events centre, Osogbo.
Nigerian Tribune observed that the two rival camps with their separate lists of candidates are set to slug it out in a supremacy contest, having been unable to achieve consensus, despite a series of frantic efforts by major party stakeholders on reconciliation. Erstwhile national vicechairman (South-West), Chief Olafeso and other members of his former executives are seeking re-election, while a former deputy governor of Oyo State, Arapaja, is in the race for the chairmanship.
While they used different platforms to shore up the chances of their separate candidates for the congress through campaign issues, there were growing concerns about the security arrangements across the ranks of the stakeholders of the party.
Fayose alleges importation of thugs
In the meantime, former governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose, has alleged that thugs were being recruited and mobilised to disrupt the congress. Fayose, who spoke to Nigerian Tribune through his media aide, Lere Olayinka on Sunday, however, said his group was prepared for the congress, expressing optimism that they would win and reposition the party ahead of future elections. The PDP leader, who had been in the running battle with the Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, over the leadership of the party in the zone, advised security agents to be deployed for the election to remain neutral and ensure the peaceful conduct of the congress. Fayose, who stated that about 743 delegates would elect new executives for the party in the zone, maintained those allegedly mobilising thugs to disrupt the congress would be disappointed. He said: “We are prepared for the congress and we will be victorious. We are hopeful that security men will secure the venue because we have the signal that thugs from Ibadan are moving to Osogbo to disrupt the process. We are also aware that thugs on Amotekun uniform will be at the venue in Osogbo. “If you are sure of victory, you won’t mobilise thugs and let me tell you, we are far ahead of them and you will see the results on Monday (today) at the congress. About 743 delegates are expected according to what was released by the party and I can tell you we are in the majority.”
Allegation a figment of imagination —Oyo PDP
Reacting, the Oyo State PDP publicity secretary, Mr Akeem Olatunji, discarded the insinuation of mobilising thugs to disrupt the exercise, maintaining that the victory of Arapaja and other candidates of the group is sacrosanct. He said: “The allegation by the other camp on insecurity may be a reflection of their plan. And the security agencies should hold them responsible if there is any breakdown of law and order. We are prepared to win convincingly and transparently. They should stop complaining; it is time for them to canvass for votes from delegates than giving unnecessary excuses for their defeat.