By Dapo Akinrefon
THE crisis rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Lagos State seems to be a thorn that has refused to leave the flesh of the party.
This could be attributed to the dissenting voices who tend to control the soul of the party in the state.
The recent Supreme Court judgement that authenticated Senator Ahmed Makarfi as National Chairman of the party, rather than douse the crisis within the party, seems to have escalated the feud.
It is instructive to note that the May 21, 2016, elective convention of the PDP, in Port Harcourt, could be traced as the genesis of the party’s crisis in Lagos State.
Soon after the stalemated convention, the party was torn into two factions; one led by the former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, while former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi led the other.
Before the split, Chief Olabode George, a former Deputy National Chairman of the party, was the rallying figure of the party in the state.
But soon after the split, party leaders and members, who had an axe to grind with George saw the split as an avenue to get back at him.
In this group of party men, who found camp with Sheriff in Lagos, were Mrs. Aduke Maina, a member of the Board of Trustees of the party; Segun Adewale who became the chairman of the Sheriff inclined state chapter; Wahab Owokoniran among others.
Mainstream of the party
However, Adewale, popularly known as Aeroland did not take control of the state secretariat of the party until after the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the Sheriff-led exco. He said his action was based on the judgment.
Interestingly, the Moshood Salvador-led executive which controlled the mainstream of the party and was loyal to the Makarfi leadership did not contest the control of the secretariat with Adewale.
Last week Monday, and perhaps acting on the verdict of the apex court, officers of the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies stormed the PDP secretariat situated along Adekunle Fajuyi, Ikeja GRA to enforce the apex court judgment.
The Makarfi led National Committee had asked the police hierarchy to hand over the secretariat to Chief George to take control in trust for the party. Adewale, remarkably, did not struggle over the issue and promptly complied at the ceremony.
The party had through its National Secretary, Senator Ben Obi conveyed its desire to the Police to hand over the keys to Chief George.
Drama at Police Command
However, a mild drama took place at the Lagos Police Command when the Commissioner of Police in Lagos, Mr. Fatai Owoseni called leaders of the party to hand over keys to the secretariat.
Chief George had arrived the Police Command around noon alongside other leaders of the party in the state.
George, party leaders, and journalists waited tirelessly for the handover.
Having been ushered into the waiting room of the CP’s office, party leaders, including George, waited for the event to commence but nothing of such happened.
It was later gathered that Mrs. Maina, who belonged to the Sheriff PDP had been called upon to witness the handing over. Maina, who arrived the Lagos Police Command in a red flowing gown, was ushered into the office of the Police Commissioner. After leaving the office, George was accosted by waiting journalists for comments about the handing over.
Attempts to include Maina in the joint press conference were rebuffed by her.
Angrily, she said that “the people representing the party here are not the only party members, there are still numerous party members.”
Apparently referring to Adewale and other members of her team, who were left out of the meeting, she said: “So, if you want to do this Chief (George) for peace to reign, you have to include every other person.”
Faulting the handover of keys to George, the aggrieved BoT member said: “You cannot hand it (keys) to just one person, we have factions in Lagos, we should not shy away from that. We have factions, it is politics and it is bound to happen. We, as elderly people should be able to resolve our crisis amicably, we should be able to sit down and resolve our problem. Like he said, the party secretariat belongs to everybody but now that we have frictions in the party, tempers are high right now, let everyone who wants to hold meetings there hold meetings there at different times.
“After a while, we will all work together, that was my suggestion and then, the problems will be solved. I disagree that there is only one exco in Lagos, it is inconclusive.”
Responding, George said: “When you see those who are with Modu Sheriff and they are coming back to the party after a clear judgement, you can see there is a cacophony of voices. I have collected the key and I am going to hand over the key to the state chairman.
If the other people have grievances, there are procedures for resolving it and not to talk here as somebody who is aggrieved. Is she personally aggrieved? It is not my personal property, but the party has directed that the keys should be handed over to Chief Bode George, the letter is clear.”
George, who described Maina’s attitude as shameful said: “As far as I am concerned, this is not what the national secretariat directed, what she (Maina) did was very shameful but we will resolve the individual grievances. I waited for her to be here to witness. Let her check with the national secretariat which is the authentic exco.”
Besides, he assured leaders and members of the party of peace in Lagos State.
He said: “Let me assure all our people in Lagos that there will be peace in Lagos PDP. I have collected the keys in the presence of Mrs. Aduke Maina, who is also a BoT member, which is what is contained in the letter sent from the party secretariat. Now, I will hand over the keys for our people to operate. Of course, the party secretariat is open for all to use.”
He also used the opportunity to clear the air that the party in Lagos was enmeshed in crisis.
According to him, “the notion that there is crisis in Lagos PDP is not true, you will have friction in any political setting but the national secretariat is still alive and they moderate all activities.
What I have to say is that we have held a meeting at the national secretariat, which you can clear. We may have differences but there is no crisis in Lagos PDP. As far as I am concerned, based on the meeting we had at INEC, there is only one exco in Lagos. You can check that the only state in the South West that is yet to hold its congress is Oyo state.”
Efforts to get Segun Adewale for comments proved abortive as calls made to his telephone line were diverted.
However, Mr Sunday, an aide to Adewale said Adewale has followed the instruction of the party but insisted that he (Adewale) remains the chairman of the party in Lagos.
Mr Sunday said: “Otunba Adewale has obeyed the instruction of the national secretariat. If Bode George is taking a lead as a BoT member, there is noting Adewale can do, he has obeyed the institution. What he is saying is that he is still the chairman in Lagos and that the handing over of the keys does not cancel his election, he has maintained that over time.”
With the scenario that played out at the Lagos Police Command, the storm rocking the party in Lagos seems not have abated.
Urgent steps are needed to be taken to mend the broken fence in the party.