Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
The crisis in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have ended, but same cannot be said of the discord in the south-west chapter of the party.
Five months after the Supreme Court resolved the leadership crisis in the major opposition party, the battle for the control of the levers of power in South West PDP is still ranging, as gladiators are unrelenting in the battle for the soul of the party.
Presently, there are two parallel zonal executives in the south-west, with allegiance to different leaders of the party. While one of the zonal executive is led by Eddy Olafeso as national vice chairman, the other is led by Makanjuola Ogundipe.
The Olafeso group which is recognised by the PDP national leadership as the duly elected leadership for the party in the zone enjoys the support of the Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose and some other party leaders in the zone. On the other hand, Ogundipe group, which is backed by the senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, Senator Buruji Kashamu, is exploring legal means to validate its leadership.
Although the tussle for the leadership of the south-west PDP, by the two leadership who emerged through parallel congresses predates the outbreak of political hostilities in the party in 2016; it was exacerbated by the struggle for the national chairmanship of the opposition party by its former leader, Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff and the former chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
While the Sheriff/Makarfi crisis lasted, the Olafeso and Ogundipe groups queued behind Makarfi and Sheriff respectively. However, after the Supreme Court in July last year resolved the leadership crisis in favour of the then PDP National Caretaker Committee, the party’s National Executive Committee ( NEC) took steps to harmonise all factional executives across the country.
Arising from the NEC’s decision, the National Convention, which is the PDP highest organ on August 12 affirmed the south-west zonal executive led by Mr Eddy Olafeso as the authentic leadership of the party in the zone.
The convention also mandated the caretaker committee to organise fresh congresses in states with parallel leaderships. Among these states are three South West states-Lagos, Ogun and Osun.
As part of efforts to heal the wounds in the south-west PDP, the Makarfi led caretaker committee had set up a reconciliation committee in the zone headed by Fayose as chairman. But nothing tangible came out from that committee.
The decision of the convention did not go down well with Kashamu. The Ogun Senator in a statement issued at the time accused Makarfi of destabilising the south-west PDP to advance his speculated 2019 presidential ambition.
Specifically, Kashamu accused the then PDP leader of “illegally tinkering” with duly elected state excos with the intention of substituting them with allies sympathetic to his ambition. “… He (Makarfi) has disorganised the south-west PDP for selfish manipulations with his cohorts…”Kashamu noted.
On its part, the caretaker committee accused the Ogun Senator of engaging in anti-party activities in the zone and issued him a query.
The immediate past national publicity secretary of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, told journalists shortly before the December 9, 2017 National Convention of the party that Kashamu was engaged in several anti-party activities. He vowed that the Ogun Senator would not escape sanction.
“The party will take a decision at the appropriate time on Senator Kashamu. It may take long but justice will be done. We need to remind PDP members and Nigerians that it was Senator Kashamu and those he was bankrolling that conducted parallel congresses in Edo and Ondo States. They did not stop there but took us up to Supreme Court and in the end openly endorsed and campaigned for our opponents. Their actions made us to lose the elections,” the former PDP spokesman said.
Regardless, a day to the December 9 convention of the party, the PDP national leadership slammed Kashamu with a one month suspension and referred him to the Chief Tom Ikimi- led National Disciplinary Committee of the party for further disciplinary action.
Luckily for Kashamu that suspension was quashed by an Abuja High Court last month. Since the court nullified his suspension, nothing much has been heard about the Ogun State senator.
However, those in the know said the last has not been heard from the controversial senator, especially as his supporters in the zone are still in court, battling to legitimatise their claims to the leadership of the PDP in the zone and in Ogun State.
Apart from the tussle for the zonal leadership of the party, the party is also embroiled in one crisis or the other in the Ogun and Osun states chapters respectively.
In the case of Ogun, where Kashamu hails from, his supporters are still contesting the decision of the party leadership to hold a fresh congress in the state PDP. While in Osun, the party is still torn between different interest groups.
Politics of succession battle in Ekiti
Also, politics of succession in Ekiti State is threatening the cohesion of the opposition party in the state. Things started falling apart in Ekiti PDP after the state governor, Ayodele Fayose, announced his deputy, Ekeka Olusola, as his preferred choice in the governorship election scheduled to hold later in the year.
Expectedly, the governor’s decision did not go down well with other party leaders in the state, especially those eyeing the PDP gubernatorial ticket.
Since then, Fayose, his former deputy, Senator Biodun Olujimi and former Minister of State for Works, Dayo Adeyeye have all been on war path. Olujimi and Adeyeye are aspiring to govern Ekiti on the PDP platform. Apart from the duo, others interested in the PDP governorship ticket are former Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada, Dare Bejide and the immediate past commissioner for Justice, Mr Owoseeni Ajayi.
In fact, the development has brought about discontent in the Ekiti PDP. At the 76th meeting of the PDP NEC held at the party’s national secretariat, in Abuja, recently, Olujimi reported Fayose to the party organ. Olujimi, it was gathered urged the PDP NEC to call the governor to order.
It was gathered that the senator allegedly accused Fayose of harassing party members in the state.
Few days ago, Adeyeye while speaking on behalf of the other governorship aspirants passed a vote of no confidence on the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party. He called on the PDP National leadership not to allow SWC as well as Governor Fayose have any role in the primary to pick the party’s candidate in the Ekiti governorship poll scheduled for July 14 this year.
According to him,“ The State Working Committee having betrayed its expected neutrality role , should be disqualified in the process leading to the gubernatorial primary in April . We demand a caretaker committee to replace them.”
However, Fayose said there was no going back on his choice of his deputy as his successor. The governor admonished those opposed to his choice to feel free to join other political parties.
“The PDP has taken a position; I say we have taken a position and we have no apologies for that and the position is that Olusola should take over after me, as the governor of Ekiti. It doesn’t matter to us how many people are abusing us because of our action.
“They are even free to join our adversaries, but, we will defeat them as the God liveth,” the Ekiti governor noted.
Analysts say the PDP national leadership should be worried about the situation in its south-west chapter for several reasons, especially as the crisis that brought the party to its knees in the 2015 polls started from the zone.
Party insiders are also of the view that unless the PDP, that would be facing the ruling APC in two gubernatorial elections in Osun and Ekiti in few months from now, put its house in order, it is doubtful if the party would achieve its aspirations in the two states, if it goes to the election with a divided house.
The PDP’s loss in the last Ondo State governorship election is traceable to the division within its ranks. Also, the opposition party’s plan to gain control of the south-west, which is presently a stronghold of the APC, ahead of the 2019 general elections would be in jeopardy if it does not quickly put its house in order.
As the new PDP leadership strategises for the 2019 general elections, analysts say the opposition party must make concerted efforts to address all the misgivings by party members in the south-west; that way it can confront the next election in the zone as a united house. Anything short of that will not be in its interest, it was further gathered.