Unless it puts its house in order, OLUSOLA FABIYI writes that the former ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party, may witness more election defeats
He likens himself to the Biblical Peter, saying he’s the rock. With relish, he also brags that he has never lost any combat in his life. But beyond that open display of bravery, Governor Ayodele Fayose is said to be a worried man. His anxiety is not unconnected with the catastrophe rocking his political party, the Peoples Democratic Party. Even if other governors of the party are not as anxious, Fayose ought to. The reason is not farfetched.
His state is bordered by Ondo State, which was under the control of the PDP before it fell into the hands of the All Progressives Congress in its last governorship election.
Also known as Osokomole, Fayose is a prominent member of the PDP and the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum. His state is the only one being governed by the PDP in the South-West region, comprising six of the country’s 36 states. Besides, he is seen as a torn in the flesh of the APC-controlled Federal Government.
Conversely, the fall of Ondo State from the grips of the PDP and former Governor of the state, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, who is also known as Iroko, to the APC is a pointer to the waning popularity of the PDP in the region.
It was an indication that Fayose’s ‘rock’ could be reduced to mere pebbles by the APC come 2018, when governorship election would be held in his state. This may be why, he unlike other governors of the party, appears to be more concerned about the lingering crisis in the former ruling party. Election is not due in any other state under the control of the PDP in the country until 2019. Other states where governorship elections will be held before 2019 are Anambra (November 2017) and Osun (2018), which are controlled by the All Progressives Grand Alliance and the APC respectively.
The loss of the PDP to the APC in the last governorship election in Ondo State had been largely ascribed to the division in the former. While the National Chairman of the party, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, relies on the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Port Harcourt, Rivers State for his hold on power; his core rival, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, of the sacked national caretaker committee, believes he has the crowd and other organs of the party as his backers.
However, Makarfi’s crowd is not recognised by the Independent National Electoral Commission, and Fayose is a leader in the unrecognised multitude following Makarfi.
Even in his state, Fayose’s grip on the PDP has been whittled down considerably, courtesy of a Federal High Court judgment which sacked a faction of the party’s State Working Committee loyal to him. Justice Taiwo Taiwo had identified Mr. Williams Ajayi as the authentic chairman of the party in the state and consequently dissolved the faction led by Chief Gboyega Oguntuase. But Oguntuase vowed to appeal the judgment.
“We will appeal the judgment. I plead with all the PDP members in the state to remain calm. In that judgment, I saw humour and I didn’t see honour and candour. How will you call yourself a chairman when the governor is not behind you, when all the National Assembly members and state assembly lawmakers are not behind you? So, this is not the last court,” Oguntuase had said.
Fayose, though still pursuing the legal option, knows that the path of appeal could be delayed; he has consequently decided not to put his eggs in one basket. He has hinted about the possibility of his taking cover outside the PDP umbrella to prosecute his succession battle in the 2018 governorship poll. Addressing supporters at Ikere-Ekiti late last year, Fayose said, “I don’t know the platform we will use for the 2018 election yet, but at the appropriate time, I will tell you. We are studying the situation. We have to play the game left, right and centre and whoever we are going to use and the platform (we will use), you will all be part of the process because party politics is about the people.”
Perhaps, as a prologue to the proposed “platform”, he has commenced the registration of a political movement, known as the Osoko Mass Movement. The registration, which commenced also in Ikere-Ekiti, is believed to be a move to either register a new political party or create a strong force to fuse into an existing one as the battle for 2018 is intensified in the state.
Director of Media and Publicity of the movement, Mr. Adebayo Akinleye, did not deny the insinuation, but said that “anywhere Fayose goes anytime from now, we will follow him en-masse.”
As the PDP appears to be in disarray in Ekiti State, so it is in Osun State, where governorship election is also due in 2018. The state chapter of the party is also believed to be in a state of panic.
With one faction behind the National Secretary, Prof. Wale Oladipo, and another showing loyalty to a former Deputy Governor in the state, Senator Iyiola Omisore, the PDP in the Osun State has two chairmen –Mr. Soji Adagunodo and Mr. Bayo Faforiji. While Adagunodo is loyal to the Sheriff-led faction of the PDP, Faforiji is with the Makarfi-led faction.
Adagunodo was among the delegates from the South-West zone of the party that paid a visit to Sheriff at his temporary office in Abuja last week before his relocation to the party’s national secretariat.
Both factions in Osun State have engaged each other in war of words and have also announced the suspension of some prominent members from each faction, accusing them of anti-party activities. The faction loyal to Makarfi recently suspended Oladipo; Adagunodo; the immediate past state chairman of the party, Alhaji Ganiyu Olaoluwa; and the secretary of the Adagunodo-led faction, Bola Ajao.
But Adagunodo has dismissed the move, saying that it was Omisore and others that were suspended over allegations of anti-party activities. The gale of suspension of key members of the PDP in the state has been extended to Faforiji, Bunmi Jenyo, Chief Ojo Williams and Bade Falade for the same offence.
Meanwhile, a former Minister of Transportation and member of the Board of Trustees of the party, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, has described the situation as worrying, saying the internal crisis could lead to the party’s defeat at the next governorship election.
He said there was nothing on ground in the state chapter of the party and the national level to show that the PDP was gearing up to defeat the APC government in the state.
“We are unserious in our determination to take over in Osun and Anambra states. We may also lose in Ekiti State due to intraparty crisis, which is caused by greed and reluctance to let go. Sheriff is there to do the bidding of those who are bent on destroying the PDP. Though the APC also has its internal crisis, it is not as pronounced as ours.
“We have factions at the national level, while the state chapter is also in pieces. I have never seen a party that goes into an election with such a fragmented team and emerges victorious.”
Oladipo, who is the recognised national secretary of the party, however, disagreed with Babatope.
Oladipo described the ongoing move to find political solution to the factionalisation of the party at the national level as one that would bring peace to the distressed party.
According to him, most members of the party in Osun State, apart from Omisore, are solidly behind the party. For these reasons, he insisted that members of the PDP should have nothing to fear.
“We have state chairman in the person of Adagunodo while notable leaders of the party, such as Babatope, Erelu Olusola Obada, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, Jide Adeniyi, Olamuyiwa Oladimeji and others are with the party in the state. We have nothing to fear.”
Besides, he added that the court had settled the case of Ekiti State chapter where he said a state chairman and members of his State Working Committee had been recognised.
“We are working with them and they are also pursuing reconciliation,” he added.
The PDP’s case in Anambra State is however considered by political analysts as more pitiable. The state is known to have more members of the PDP than any other party; yet, it has only produced governor for about five years. After the sacking of Chris Ngige, who came after the first tenure of Chinwoke Mbadinuju, as governor by the court, the party has yet to govern the state. Nonetheless, it has more members as federal and state lawmakers from the state in the state House of Assembly and the National Assembly.
No other reason could be adduced to this than the division among members of the party in the state. Recently, two prominent members of the PDP in the state, Senator Andy Uba and Ifeanyi Ubah, defected to the APC, further weakening the former ruling party.
However, a former Minister of Aviation, who is also eyeing the party’s governorship ticket, Osita Chidoka, has said the party would witness a new dawn soon.
Chidoka was particularly pleased with the defection of a former Governor of the state, Mr. Peter Obi, from APGA to the PDP, saying his addition would help his party regain power in the state.
He said it was the PDP that had been making it possible for the APGA to win governorship elections in the state over the years. “Now, the franchise arrangement has been terminated because Obi, who is the franchisee, has returned to the PDP,” he added.
However, Chairman of the party’s BoT, Senator Walid Jibrin, said such hopes might not become a reality should the party fail to put its house in order.
“We need to work together as a team in order for us to have good outings in Ekiti, Osun and Anambra states the way we had in the just concluded reruns in Rivers, Gombe and Taraba states,” he said.
He added that with the open intervention of leaders of the party, especially former President Goodluck Jonathan, the leadership problem confronting the party at the national level would be resolved before the elections are conducted.
Only Sheriff, Makarfi and their backers are in the position to resolve the crisis, but lovers of democracy say the PDP needs to reunite its aggrieved members in order to give the APC the true opposition it deserves.
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