The PDP controls just one of six South-west states but its seemingly unresolvable crises may lead to even the loss of that state.
By Adejumo Kabir
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had planned to hold its zonal congresses this weekend. That of the South-west was, however, rescheduled for Monday in Osogbo, Osun State, following a disagreement over the initial arrangement to hold the event in Ibadan, Oyo State, on Saturday. Like that of the South-west, that of some other zones were also rescheduled due to different crises.
The forced rescheduling of the South-west congress, however, reflects the critical state of the PDP in the region. For many years now, protracted leadership crises have left the PDP in factions in almost all the six states in the zone.
The crises vary from state to state but have generally led to the defection of some prominent members such as former governors, former lawmakers and other bigwigs.
However, political analysts argue that the current crises in the party in the South-west are connected to the next general elections, especially permutations on the 2023 presidential race.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s final term ends in 2023 and his successor is expected to come from the southern half of the country under Nigeria’s informal policy of political office rotation. The prospects have led to more divisions within the PDP in the South-west and exacerbated the battle for the regional leadership of the opposition party.
The crises began long ago under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who himself was forced out of the party by a crisis in his home Ogun State.
But these have worsened over the years, most noticeably during the bitter fight between Ahmed Makarfi and Ali Modu-Sheriff over the chair of the party.
As to be expected, different factions in most states of the South-west declared their allegiance to either of the two gladiators. Thus in 2016, the Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission (LASIEC) said it was confused as to which of the PDP factions to allow to present candidates for the council elections.
That time, a faction led by Segun Adewale was loyal to Mr Modu-Sheriff while the other led by Tunji Shelle was for Mr Makarfi. The two factions held parallel primaries to select candidates for the election.
That crisis in Lagos has not been resolved even after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mr Makarfi, allowing the party to later organise a convention and elect new national leaders.
Since last year, the chairmanship of the PDP in Lagos has been a subject of litigation between two claimants, Adegbola Dominic and Deji Doherty. While a former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Bode George, is behind Mr Dominic, the national leadership of the party recognises Mr Doherty.
Former Deputy Chairman of the PDP, Bode George
A PDP chieftain, Bode George.
In Ekiti, former governor Ayodele Fayose is at daggers drawn with senior party leaders like a former national spokesperson of the party, Dayo Adeyeye, and Ekiti South senator, Biodun Olujimi.
Mr Adeyeye later dumped the PDP for the APC where he ran against Ms Olujimi for the senatorial seat in 2019.
But Mr Fayose and Ms Olujimi have continued to play cat and mouse and daily deride each other on the pages of newspapers.
Challenges in other states
In Ogun State, the state executive committee led by Adebayo Dayo had in 2016 thrown its weight behind Mr Modu-Sheriff. But another faction led by Sikirulahi Ogundele recognised Mr Makarfi.
Further muddling the water was a local battle between the late Buruji Kashamu and ex-governor Gbenga Daniel. Mr Kashamu’s faction in 2016 expelled Mr Daniel and some other leaders like Ladi Adebutu, a member of the House of Representatives representing Remo Federal Constituency, and Tolu Bankole, a former member of Ogun State House of Assembly.
Mr Daniel eventually fled from PDP to the Labour Party (LP). He is now in the All Progressives Congress (APC) after briefly returning to the PDP and serving as the Director-General of the Atiku Abubakar presidential campaign in 2019.
In Ondo State, while the then governor, Olusegun Mimiko, endorsed Mr Makarfi’s faction, some other leaders went along with Mr Modu-Sheriff.
There were parallel state executive committees led by Biyi Poroye and Clement Faboyede and each produced its candidate for the year’s off-season governorship election – Eyitayo Jegede and Jimoh Ibrahim.
It was not until a week to the election that the court finally declared Mr Jegede the right candidate. Many said the late resolution of the dispute by the court contributed to the defeat of Mr Jegede by Rotimi Akeredolu of the APC.
However, Mr Akeredolu repeated the feat by again beating Mr Jegede to win re-election in 2020.
Osun and Oyo
In Osun State, two men have for many years claimed to be the chairmen of the party – Soji Adagunodo and Sunday Akanfe.
The influential Adeleke family is behind Mr Akanfe but the crisis directly touched the family when Gboyega Oyetola of the APC beat Ademola Adeleke in the governorship election in 2018 after Iyiola Omisore dumped the PDP and later supported the APC candidate in the supplementary poll.
The next governorship election is just over a year away but the PDP remains a divided house in Osun.
All is also not well with the PDP in Oyo, the only state in which it has a governor. Some members of the party have accused Governor Seyi Makinde of causing disunity. At a recent meeting, they urged the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party to dissolve the executive committees of the party from the ward to the state levels.
“The government of Engr. Seyi Makinde has relegated the party and party leaders while recognising non-party members and non-politicians. If not properly checked and appropriately addressed headlong, may lead to implosion within our party. It is like he has an agenda to destroy the party before he moves,” the communique they issued at the end of the meeting read.
Those at the meetings include a former deputy governor of the state, Hazeem Gbolarunmi; Nureni Akanbi; Bisi Olopoeyan, a former Commissioner; and Oribayo Okeyode.
From states level to national level
After the Supreme Court ruled in favour of Mr Makarfi on July 12, 2017, as the national chairman of PDP, top members of the party in the Southwest began another internal war over who would contest at the December 2017 national convention.
Mr George of Lagos, Mr Daniel of Ogun, a former Minister of Education, Tunde Adeniran; former governorship candidate, Jimi Agbaje; and a stalwart of the party from Oyo State, Taoheed Adedoja, all wanted to be national chairman.
None of them agreed to step down to enhance their zone’s chances in the race, unlike the South-South zone, which presented Uche Secondus who went on to win the election.
After the election, angry members accused Mr Fayose and late Mr Kashamu, among others, of betraying the South-west wing of the party.
Fayose, Makinde feud now tearing zone apart
s the PDP elects new leaders at all levels, the crises in its Southwest zone have predictably intensified. The current feud is, largely, between Mr Fayose and Mr Makinde. This was what affected the plans for the regional congress of the party. The congress was initially scheduled for Ibadan on Saturday but has now been rescheduled for Osogbo on Monday.
Mr Makinde, as the only governor of PDP in the South-west, is seen by some members as the natural leader of the party in the zone. But Mr Fayose said a “baby governor” cannot be his leader. Mr Makinde is serving his first term while Mr Fayose is the only person in the zone and still in the party who served two full terms as governor on the PDP platform. The only other person, Mr Daniel of Ogun, has defected to the APC. Mr Mimiko of Ondo only concluded his second term as a member of the PDP but even he has left the party.
Mr Fayose also accused Mr Makinde of backing Mrs Olujinmi to challenge his leadership of the party in Ekiti.
At a meeting of the party leaders from the zone held in Ibadan, to which some prominent members, including Mr Fayose, were not invited, Mr Makinde was declared the leader of the party in the zone. The meeting also elected Dayo Ogungbenro as the caretaker chairman of the PDP in the zone and set up a five-member reconciliation committee headed by former Osun governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
But barely 24 hours later, Mr Fayose and some other leaders held a meeting of their own in Lagos where they set up a parallel reconciliation committee.
A major issue in the dispute is over who should be the next PDP National Vice Chairman for the Southwest. Mr Fayose said the leaders had agreed at a meeting hosted by Mr Makinde in his house in Ibadan that a former Ondo State Information Commissioner, Eddy Olafeso, should take the position.
But Mr Makinde is insisting that a former deputy governor of Oyo, Taofeek Arapaja, is better suited for the position.
It was, however, unclear at the time of this report if Mr Makinde and his supporters will attend the zonal meeting in Osogbo on Monday as he had warned the party against rescheduling it.
Crisis narrowing party’s chances
There have been reports that Mr Makinde and his supporters may dump the party.
But the governor’s spokesperson, Taiwo Adisa, has denied that the governor was considering this.
However, Jide Ojo, a political analyst, said the party’s future in the zone is bleak.
“If care is not taken, PDP may lose the only state it is controlling. Fayose for instance is feeling like the godfather of the party in the Southwest. Already, the party is dead in Lagos because Bode George is the only bigwig there and that is the situation across all the states in the region.
“To a large extent, the Osun and the Ekiti states elections in 2022 will determine the future of the PDP in the southwest.
“We can see the defection that is happening across all states. If people like Gbenga Daniel, Iyiola Omisore and Dimeji Bankole could leave, then there is trouble for them.
Also, Kazeem Israel, a political scientist, said the party’s efforts at reconciliation being led by former Kwata governor, Bukola Saraki, may prove too little too late given the recent defections from the party.
“Right now, defections from the PDP to the APC are a serious threat for the party ahead of the 2023 general elections,” he said.
“The recent events in the Southwest zone of the party are pointers to the fact that the party’s reconciliation committee cannot change much as regards what the performance of the party would be in 2023.”
Since the 2019 general election, many bigwigs have dumped the party for the ruling APC.
In December 2020, a PREMIUM TIMES analysis, showed how defections have consistently marred the progress of the party.
Several defections are also happening at the local level in the six South-west states.
But the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, in an earlier interview with this newspaper, said the party remains stable and strong.
“The party is stable and we (NWC) have made the party a very viable platform which many Nigerians are attracted to despite the mistakes of the past,” Mr Ologbondiyan told PREMIUM TIMES then.
“Nothing has gone wrong with the party and I say it with all sense of clarity. As far as the party is concerned there is no division. Maybe one or two persons felt that they may not be able to achieve their ambition or their interest”.
Last week, a chieftain of the party, Adetokunbo Pearse, while speaking with journalists in Lagos, urged the members to sheathe their swords and give room for peace to strengthen the party in the South-west.
“There is no need for us to be fighting ourselves within the PDP when our real opponents are in the APC. We should desist from actions, disposition and utterances that are tearing the party apart,” Mr Pearse said.