January 20, 2021

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Southwest PDP: A divided House

6 min read

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in deep crisis in the Southwest geo-political zone, owing to the leadership tussle between Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde and former Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose. Southwest Bureau Chief BISI OLADELE examines the dimension of the crisis and the way out of the logjam

 

Gone are the days when the leadership of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in the Southwest was acceptable and respected. Gone are the days when the Tajudeen Oladipo-led zonal executive made party faithful proud. Crucial decisions were taken at their Bodija, Ibadan office with state chapters embracing them. Governors elected on the platform and other zonal leaders operated smoothly without muscle-flexing.

But, times have changed. Perhaps, the loss of five of the six states to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2009 in Ekiti, 2010 in Osun and 2011 in Oyo and Ogun states left the PDP in disarray that the party has been unable to speak with one voice at the regional level. The ACN is one of the legacy parties that metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014.

In spite of its shortcomings, the APC has managed to conduct its affairs as a united entity. But, the PDP appears to have lost the initiative on how to regain relevance in the region. Events of the last few months have cast the opposition party in a bad light, as former Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose and Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde have been engaged in a battle of supremacy over the leadership of the party in the region. Fayose, who has been leading a faction of the party in his home state since he left office in 2018, continues to lay claim to the leadership of the party in the Southwest. Makinde, on the other hand, is also asserting himself as the new zonal leader by virtue of being the only PDP governor in the zone.

 

Genesis of the crisis

The crisis came to the open when Fayose and Sen. Biodun Olujimi’s factions held parallel congresses in Ekiti State last year. While Makinde waded into the crisis through his men, the two factions were unable to reach a compromise which led to the parallel congresses. Thereafter, Fayose accused Makinde of taking sides with Olujimi’s faction. He accused the Oyo State governor of overreaching his influence as the zonal leader. Fayose insisted that Makinde has no power to interfere in the affairs of the party outside Oyo State.

However, a chieftain of the party in Oyo State recalled that the same Fayose interfered in the crisis that rocked the party in Oyo State in 2017. He said Fayose, acting as the zonal leader, supported Makinde’s faction against that of Sen. Rashidi Ladoja. Both factions also held parallel congresses. Makinde has remained calm, insisting that there is no crisis in the party in Southwest.

 

Why it is festering

A number of factors have fuelled the leadership tussle. Personal ego is one of the factors fueling the crisis. This is exemplified by the unwillingness on the part of Fayose to let go. The spokesman of the party in Oyo State, Akeem Olatunji, said Fayose practically installed all members of the outgoing zonal executive, “in his capacity as the only PDP governor in the Southwest in 2016”.

Olatunji’s views were contained in a statement he issued on the matter recently. This, he added, accounts for why Fayose believes he still controls the structure of the zonal leadership. It may also explain why the Eddy Olafeso-led exco is loyal to the former governor till date.

Earlier in the year, the zonal exco had cried out that Makinde was bypassing it in decision-making. It accused the governor of taking unilateral decisions on zonal issues in disrespect to the exco. It was not pubic knowledge at the time that the zonal executive was rather loyal to Fayose, who is still keen on maintaining his political relevance. His influence as a zonal leader has also helped him to secure the backing of stakeholders in states in the zone. The situation is buoyed by an internal crisis in virtually all the states, forcing chieftains and members to factionalise the party.

The current tussle between Makinde and Fayose has degenerated to ego level. Those who know him well say Fayose will do anything to hang on to the political relevance he enjoyed while he was Ekiti governor. But, back home in Ekiti State, his image has been battered by the factionalization of the party. While Makinde has everything to prove that he can successfully lead the zone, Fayose has very little to lose should PDP go down in Southwest this time. He believes that he has proved himself as an astute leader through his eight years as governor and four years as zonal leader.

 

State chapters not helping matters

Apart from Oyo where PDP is at the helms, and possibly Ondo where Eyitayo Jegede has flown the party’s flag twice as its governorship candidate, the party is factionalised in the remaining four states. The crisis is partly being fueling by the one at the zonal level. Factions in the states align with either Makinde or Fayose, depending on their relationship, interest and opportunities for relevance and other gains.

The Ogun State faction has recently declared support for Makinde‘s faction. In a statement by its Acting State Chairman, Bolade Sanni and the Secretary, Prince Adeleke Shittu, the  chapter expressed confidence in the leadership of Makinde, describing him as “the one with the temperament and leadership qualities to move the party forward in the Southwest”.

The statement reads: “It is evident that Governor Makinde has what is required to move our party forward in the Southwest. As the only PDP governor in the Southwest, he is automatically the leader of the party in the zone.

“Ahead of the forthcoming Southwest congress, we are declaring our support for Governor Makinde and the Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola-led Reconciliation Committee. The decision was unanimously taken at an extraordinary meeting of the State Executive Committee of the party.

“Leaders and stakeholders of the party in Ogun State, including the Chairman of the Apex Caucus, Dr. Remilekun Bakare; Secretary of the Elders Committee, Chief Kola Sorinola; member, Ogun State House of Assembly, Mr. Sylvester Abiodun; members of the State Executive Committee who are automatic delegates to the zonal congress, including the State Working Committee  members, local government party chairmen and others endorsed the choice of Governor Makinde as the leader of the party in the Southwest.”

Observers say the statement emanated from the faction that was led by the late Buruji Kashamu. Hence, it cannot be regarded as a statement from the mainstream PDP chapter in the state. The faction led by Ladi Adebutu is currently occupying the party’s state secretariat. That faction cannot be said to support Makinde. But, the faction led by Zikirulahi Ogundele is loyal to Fayose.

Two factions are equally visible in Osun State. While one is led by Akin Ogunbiyi, the other is led by the popular Adeleke family. An Osun State High Court sitting in Ikirun has also ordered a return of Soji Adagunodo as the substantive State Chairman, pending the determination of the substantive case. Each faction supports zonal leadership based on group interest and potential opportunities available to members.

 

Possible solutions

Fayose is a fighter. He relishes opportunities to prove his point, even in messy situations. So is Makinde, though he operates with a different approach.

Analysts believe that both leaders must find a common ground and embrace compromise. Makinde and Fayose need each other to hold the party together in the Southwest. PDP governors outside the region may also need to wade into the crisis by bringing both leaders to a roundtable where they can help resolve the imbroglio.