BY DAPO AKINREFON
SINCE 2007, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the South-West has been embroiled in crises that have cost it electoral laurels in the zone. Its performance at the 2011 elections in the region was dismal. State chapters in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo have had their own fair share of crises following the inability of the leaders to put their houses in order.
Currently, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) controls the South-West region except Ondo State. Though, there have been efforts in the past to reconcile various factions of the PDP across the Southwest, such efforts have proved abortive because party bigwigs, owing to ego, have failed to sheathe their swords in the overall interest of the party.
Factors responsible for the crises include absence of internal democracy, imposition of candidates and non-inclusion of preferred persons to occupy political offices.
The previous South-West executive led by Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo could not reconcile the various factions. Some observers noted that in spite of his huge influence, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, could also not do much in this regard.
Obasanjo, whose resignation as the Board of Trustees ( BoT) chairman of the PDP, jolted the party especially in the South-West, was alleged to have collaborated with former PDP governors to instal their cronies at the helm of affairs of the party.
A party leader, who craved for anonymity, expressed displeasure at the parlous state of affairs in the South-West PDP.
The party leader told Vanguard that “the former president, Obasanjo and former governors in the regions have prevented internal democracy to prevail in our party.
They believe that they are the alpha and omega of the PDP in their respective states forgetting that party members should be the ones to elect and choose those to lead the party.”
Thus, the newly elected PDP National Vice Chairman (South-West), Engr Segun Oni, a former governor of Ekiti has a tough task on his hands.
Crises in the state chapters
Though, the former governor has begun concerted efforts to reconcile the warring factions and aggrieved members to avoid dismal performance at the next polls, some of the state chapters are still enmeshed in crises.
In Oni’s home state of Ekiti, the state chapter remains factionalised with two bigwigs laying claim to the chairmanship seat.
Ekiti PDP is already embroiled in a fresh crisis with some members blaming the former governor for allegedly working to polarise the party.
The state chairman of the party, Mr. Makanjuola Ogundipe, said the election, which produced the new executive, was one of the most credible polls in the country.
Ogundipe, who blamed some of those who lost the control of the party during he congress for trying to destabilise the party, said the process of his emergence was far better than the one that produced Oni as a national officer of the party.
The chairman also accused one of the chairmanship aspirants who contested against him during the March 18 state congress, Mr. Akin Omole, who is believed to belong to the Oni camp, of working with the group to destabilise the party.
He as such ordered Omole to tender an apology to the party or be ready to face expulsion from the PDP.
However, Omole in his reaction to the allegation argued that Ogundipe was not the chairman of the party in the state.
He said: “We don’t have any exco in Ekiti. I want to put it on the record that some of the people, who are now in the state exco are not eligible to contest in the first instance.”
In Ondo State, the story remains the same as party members express displeasure over the outcome of the primaries recently conducted.
There seems to be no end to the crisis rocking the party in Ondo State as a factional chairman, Dr. Akin Olowookere, threatened to go to court over the state’s congress. He claimed that his faction would soon take over the affairs of Ondo PDP.
Olowookere, who alleged that the party was being run by a few individuals, was of the view that his group would not allow the party to be turned into a one man show.
In Oyo State, a former governor, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala has been at loggerhead with the likes of Senator Lekan Balogun, Elder Wole Oyelese and others over the control of the party’s machinery.
The crisis also took a new twist as the former deputy governor, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja moved against his former boss, to inaugurate a new state executive.
Arapaja had said that, “PDP is for all. Nobody will be allowed to dictate things again. That is what led us here. Some of us still have integrity. Last year, we had power, money (in fact, people were calling us ATM) but we did not listen. We need to work together. We will continue to tell them.”
Bode George, Ogunlewe sheathe swords
In Lagos State, the fortunes of the party have continued to dwindle following refusal of party leaders to toe the same line with Chief Olabode George.
The likes of former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe and former High Commissioner to Ghana, Sen Musiliu Obanikoro among others are, obviously not disposed to the alleged style and antics of Chief George.
The South west zonal executive of the party has meanwhile, waded into the crisis rocking its Lagos State chapter by reconciling all the factions in the party.
Leading other executives to Lagos on a reconciliation move recently, Oni, appealed to the factions to work together in the interest of the party.
Oni, who first met with some of the factions at the residence of Alhaji Shitta Bey with Ogunlewe, in attendance, also had a meeting with some other factions at the party’s secretariat at GRA, Ikeja.
Though the reconciliation talks were held at different venues, many party members converged at the secretariat to see the outcome of the meetings.
While speaking at the party’s secretariat, Oni urged all aggrieved members to come back to the table for resolution, saying the party in the zone was going through transformation that would position them actively for 2015 elections.
According to him, “the processes must improve in the party, we must change our ways and re-organise completely for 2015. They should all withdraw all cases against the party in the court as there will not be litigation in the party again.”
While prohibiting members from instituting legal actions against the party, he enjoined them to desist from media war, saying such acts would be considered as an aggression against the PDP.
He called on the factions to team up and form a conclave of leaders at the local governments in the state so that the party could win Lagos and reclaim South-West.
Having emerged as the Vice chairman (South-West), Engineer Oni, some party leaders expressed optimism that the new executives would restore normalcy to the party and ensure that the PDP wrests power from the ACN. Whether this will be achieved is a question of time.