•How meeting turned rowdy
From Bamigbola Gbolagunte, Akure
It was meant to be a peace parley where all aggrieved members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would agree to sheathe their swords and deliberate on the way forward.
As it appeared, all initial arrangements made by the organizers of the meeting were pointers to the fact that peace, which was the expected result would be achieved. Contrary to expectation, the reverse was the case at the end of the day as they all left without achieving the target of the meeting.
Leaders of the PDP who converged on Akure, the Ondo State capital on the invitation of Governor Olusegun Mimiko who is the Chairman of the party’s Governor’s forum had no premonition that the meeting would end in a fiasco, as they were full of life when they arrived at the Government House, venue of the parley.
From Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osun states, eminent leaders of the PDP including the two governors of the party; Dr Mimiko of Ondo State and Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State gathered to deliberate on how to resolve the internal wrangling within the party. The meeting eventually led to another round of crisis in the party, as many leaders abruptly left the venue of the meeting unceremoniously.
Initially, upon their arrival at the meeting, members of the two factions of the party were full of joy and they exchanged pleasantries with one another. It was indeed an avenue for members of the Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi-led faction of the party and those of the Senator Alli-Modu Sherif faction to be together formally for the first time in the
last three months when crisis tore them apart. Both members of the Sherif and Makarfi faction had been embracing themselves at the venue of the meeting, even as many of them cracked jokes, thinking that the meeting would proffer a lasting end to the simmering crisis in the party. They were later disappointed.
At about 3.00pm when the meeting was exactly an hour to take off, events eventually turned around and friends eventually turned to foes.
The environment and the whole situation changed. There was no individual at the venue of the meeting that could not notice the change in the situation of things as members of the party who had earlier been embracing one another were involved in a shouting match.
The cause of the sudden change in the situation was the accreditation exercise announced by the National Vice Chairman of the party in the South West, Dr Eddy Olafeso, who insisted that only accredited members would be allowed to enter into the banquet hall, the main venue of the meeting while others would remain at the premises of the Government House.
At the commencement of the accreditation, the situation was still orderly, but when it became clear that many members of the party from the Alli Modu Sherif faction were denied accreditation, the situation changed and became rowdy even as many made attempts to force themselves into the main venue of the meeting.
At that stage, it became clear to members of the Sheriff’s faction that they were not welcome at the meeting and they mobilized themselves out of the Government House premises to a hotel where they later held a brief meeting and addressed the press.
However, a few members of the Sheriff’s faction managed their way into the hall where the meeting was held. This is even as many chieftains of the party were manhandled by security personnel to prevent them from gaining entrance into the meeting, a situation which almost degenerated into free for all among members of the two factions.
Apparently displeased with the situation, Senator Buruji Kashamu who is the leader of the Sheriff’s faction in the South West ordered his supporters to leave the Government House premises and also made a u-turn on his way to the hall where the meeting was held and from there returned to Lagos.
However, the development did not scuttle the meeting, as members of the party who are mainly in support of Makarfi and a few others in the Sheriff faction stayed back and deliberated for several hours on the way forward for the party.
Despite the effort, the meeting still ended on a confused note as PDP members present disagreed on the resolution of the party’s leaders to zone the positions given to the South West region at the forthcoming National Convention of the party.
Governors Mimiko and Fayose who entered the meeting together holding hands, left the venue at different times. Fayose was the first to leave and Mimiko left about 15 minutes after, an indication that they could have disagreed on certain issues raised at the meeting.
It was not clear whether or not the two leaders disagreed on any issue as Journalists were barred from the meeting and the two governors declined comments on the resolutions reached. Those who attended the meeting include Fayose, Mimiko, former Minister of Works, Chief Adeseye Ogunlewe, former Minister of Aviation, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, former Deputy National Chairman of the Party, Chief Olabode George, former Minister of State for Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada, Deputy Governor of Ondo State, Alhaji Azees Oluboyo and zonal leaders of the party in the Makarfi faction, while Dr Eddy Olafeso presided.
The factional zonal Chairman of the party, Chief Makanjuola Ogundipe who was also prevented from attending the meeting expressed displeasure on the manner with which members of his faction were treated at the meeting, alleging that “what happened was different from the assurance given to us before we agreed to attend the meeting when Governor Mmimiko invited us.”
He alleged that Chief George took over the affairs of the meeting and determined those to attend, describing the development as “executive rascality”. He also stated that a factional Chairman of the party in Osun State, Mr Soji Adagunodo who made attempts to enter the venue of the meeting was chased out by security agents.
Ogundipe therefore called on the national leadership of the party to ignore the outcome of the meeting, stressing that it was not in the interest of the party and could not foster peace and unity but crisis among members in the party.
Commenting on the development, National Vice Chairman of the party in the zone, Dr Olafeso said the party is a disciplined one and would not allow some undisciplined people to rubbish it, saying that “members of the PDP must learn how to be more disciplined and respect constituted authority.”
Olafeso stated that the three positions zoned to the South West are sensitive, hence, the need for the careful sharing of the positions among the states. He said members of the party have resolved to embrace peace and work together as one, saying those who were not accredited were not part of those invited to meeting.
The leadership of the party in the South West, he said, has zoned the position of the National Chairman of the party to Lagos and Ogun states, while the National Publicity
Secretary goes to Osun and Oyo states and that of the National Treasurer to Ondo and Ekiti states. He clarified that the positions which were zoned to the South West were shared fairly among the six states of the zone.
However, a chairmanship aspirant, Prof. Taoheed Adedoja, who is from Oyo State said delegates from the state were not pleased with the arrangement, adding that he would continue with his ambition to serve the party at the highest level.
He said he would contest at the National Convention of the party, as he was not afraid of defeat, stating that “those who believe in zoning arrangement are those who are afraid of contest. Everybody should be allowed to go to the field and allow the winner to emerge.”