Perhaps, as a fall out of the crisis rocking the national leadership of the party, the Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has begun to experience a gradual implosion.
By Dapo Akinrefon
The first causality of this crisis at the state level is the state chairman of the party in Lagos State, Navy Captain Tunji Shelle (rtd).
Shelle is perceived as a loyal stooge to a former Deputy National Chairman of the PDP, Chief Olabode George.
Shelle was sacked by the State Working Committee after being found guilty of unspecified allegations levelled against him as a result of the party’s poor performance at the polls.
Past election failures
Crisis is, however, not strange to the Lagos PDP, the party that has consistently played second fiddle to the mainstream party guided by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Even with its consistent under-performance, the party somehow almost always survived on federal patronage given the fact that the PDP had been in undisturbed control of the levers of the presidency.
So major party candidates after losing in Lagos almost always found consolation with federal appointments. However, with the sacking of the PDP from Abuja the dire prospects for the party are now leading to unusual bellicosity.
Unusually, the party’s defeated governorship candidate in the recent election, Mr. Jimi Agbaje is not involved in the crisis that broke out early this week. Agbaje according to sources is out of the country for a holiday after the drudgery of his campaign.
Splitting the party
The attempt to remove Shelle is said to be spearheaded by some aggrieved party leaders who are perceived not to be comfortable with George’s influence on the party in Lagos State.
Vanguard was reliably informed that the decision to factionalise the party in Lagos was a plot by some top-notch leaders to jump ship to the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Owolabi Olorunoje and Wahab Owokoniran are alleged to been used to actualise this plot.
A chieftain of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the aim of the Olorunoje faction is to allegedly decamp to the APC.
The PDP stalwart disclosed that leaders of the party in the state have genuine information that some members of the group were already beholden to the APC.
“We know their antics. We have verifiable information that they have been paid to decamp to the APC. Their aim is to cause confusion in the party, and when they are expelled, they will just capitalise on that and announce their defection to APC” he said.
Perhaps this informed the decision by a dissident group, claiming to be the State Working Committee of the party, to set up a disciplinary committee to review the performance of Shelle.
Leading the pack to remove Shelle are the party’s Vice-chairman and Secretary, Messrs Owolabi Olorunoje and Owokoniran respectively.
Owokoniran is a former council chairman who presided over Ikeja Local Government Area during the Tinubu administration. Following his removal from office he defected from the then Alliance for Democracy to the PDP.
The SWC in its decision to sack Shelle accused him of among other allegations, of being responsible for the loss the PDP suffered during the March 28 and April 11 elections.
Having removed Shelle, he was immediately replaced by Olorunoje, who those in revolt announced will manage the affairs of the party in the state as chairman.
Addressing newsmen at the party secretariat, the PDP state secretary, Owokoniran, who spoke on behalf of others, said the decision was arrived at to protest the way the party was being run, leading to the last elections.
He said: “We members of Exco have all agreed that the way the party is being run should not be allowed. You will all agree with me that this party is not well run before, during and after the elections. There is need for restructuring. If we want restructuring, there is no way the Chairman can continue in office.”
But shortly after the news broke out, some PDP youths stormed the party secretariat located on Adekunle Fajuyi, GRA Ikeja to protest Shelle’s removal.
The youths led by one Shamsideen Lawal vowed not to allow Olorunoje and his team to function until the decision is reversed.
He said the state chairman should be commended and not condemned for his sterling leadership as witnessed in the just concluded general elections.
The leader of the PDP in Lagos, Chief George, frowned at the development noting that those behind the ‘charade’ would be sanctioned for anti-party activities.
George, who was instrumental to Shelle’s emergence as the party chairman said “they will be sanctioned. It is like trying to do a coup, which definitely has no constitutional backing, and you fail. They will be sanctioned for anti-party activities.”
George said only the National Executive Committee had the power to remove a party chairman. He added that Owokoniran was only an acting secretary and thus had no power to call such a meeting.
Disciplinary actions initiated
In the meantime, the party has initiated disciplinary actions against those involved in the purported removal of its chairman.
Addressing newsmen after an emergency meeting of the party’s State executives, Shelle said that necessary disciplinary action will be taken against those involved.
He said, “we have reported the matter to our NEC for advise in accordance with the provisions of the PDP constitution. They went too far. They even went as far as storming the party’s state headquarters and dragging away secretariat staff from office. They are out to sabotage the efforts of the party. “Their plans were muted long before the Lagos PDP party primaries.”
Speaking further, Shelle said, “we tried to accommodate their excesses so that their actions will not affect us during the elections. They tried to divide the party along personality lines but they failed. They will be sent back to their sponsors.”