To Southwest stakeholders of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it is a waiting game. They are taking their time to see how the newly elected National Vice Chairman, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, would pilot the affairs of the zone preparatory to PDP’s forthcoming national convention, as well as the 2023 general elections.
It would be recalled that Arapaja beat erstwhile National Vice Chairman, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, in the controverted zonal congress held on April 12, 2020, at Osogbo, Osun State. However, there are concerns as to how Arapaja would unite the various interest groups within the party and present it as a united family, rather than what obtained during the December 2017 national convention. That was when Southwest lost the position of national chairman due to division among its faithful.
But, though Olafeso’s loss to Arapaja came as a surprise to many political observers, some stakeholders had expected that the lingering ‘ego’ and leadership competition between Governor Seyi Makinde’s supporters and those belonging to the former Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, would mar the exercise.
They expressed surprise at Fayose’s sudden about-face in accepting Makinde’s status as leader of the party in the zone at the last minute. At worse, it was generally anticipated that both camps would organize parallel congresses to present separate executives.
The Fayose camp disappointed skeptics by refusing to challenge Arapaja’s victory in court and their last-minute’s association with the call to embrace unity. Yet, there is also the possibility that the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) and National Executive Council (NEC) might zone the post of national chairman to Southwest, especially if the Southeast insists on nothing but the presidential ticket in 2023.
Could it then be that the sudden comradeship by Fayose to accept Arapaja’s emergence and accede to Makinde’s leadership was a ploy to curry their support for his undeclared interest to contest the national chairmanship when and if it is eventually micro zoned to Southwest.
A former member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Chief Ebenezer Babatope, in a recent statement disclosed that Southwest might not be desperate to contest PDP’s presidential ticket during the 2023 general election. Babatope however, noted Yoruba members of the party would support any candidate from whichever zone with what it takes to defeat the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Also, in a bid to forge a common front and make PDP more formidable in the Southwest, Fayose’s camp again met with loyalists within the week, with an unambiguous resolve to work with Arapaja-led zonal executive.
In a statement after the meeting, the Spokesman of the group, Mr. Lere Olayinka, said the stakeholders, drawn from the six Southwest states reiterated their commitment to peace and unity in PDP and enjoined stakeholders within the other camp to show similar commitment.
Part of the statement read: “As committed stakeholders in the PDP, we have done what should be done after the congress by congratulating Ambassador Arapaja and extending hands of fellowship to him.
“To us, despite the flaws, we have accepted results of the congress and the onus is now on the other side to reciprocate our gesture.
“However, it is imperative that we point out to the party leadership, the ignoble role of the Congress Committee Secretary, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, who did not hide the fact that he was in the committee to do his usual hatchet job.
“We condemn Senator Samuel Anyanwu for his clear display of bias during the congress. But, for the honesty, sincerity, and steadfastness of the Deputy Governor of Benue State, Engr. Benson Abounu, who acted as the Congress Committee Chairman on behalf of Governor Samuel Ortom, the whole process would have been so crudely manipulated by Anyanwu.
“It is on record that twice, Senator Anyanwu added ten votes to those of the eventual winner and it took the vigilance of those at the hall to correct him while counting the ballots for the chairmanship election.
“Consequently, we call on the party to blacklist him (Anyanwu) and desist from involving him insensitive assignments, especially congresses.
“We also appreciate former Governor Fayose for his commitment and doggedness and urge him not to relent in his sacrifices for the peace and unity of the party.”
In his remarks at the meeting, Fayose commended the stakeholders, saying he was surprised that despite the outcome of the congress, they have remained resolute in their support for the party.
“I am humbled that you are here today, not-minding what happened last Monday in Osogbo. Your display of total commitment to the party is well appreciated and we will continue to do what is expected of us as leaders, in the overall interest of the party,” Fayose declared.
The meeting, which was held in Lagos, had in attendance the chairmen of Ekiti, Ogun, Lagos, and Osun states, Otunba Bisi Kolawole, Dr. Sikirulai Ogundele, Engr Adedeji Doherty, and Hon Sunday Bisi respectively.
It was also attended by Olafeso, Reverend Bunmi Jenyo, Alhaji Adebisi Olopoeyan, Engr Femi Babalola, Alhaji Gani Olaoluwa, Prince Diran Odeyemi, Hon Saka Lawal, Chief Tunde Akindehin, Dr Lad Ojomo, Barrister (Mrs) Abimbola Lanre-Balogun, Hon Boye Adesina, Hon Daisi Akintan, Hon Wahab Owokoniran, Hon Sunday Olaifa, Lanre Omolase and Mrs Funmilayo Ogun.
Others are Hon Okunlade Michael, Hon Asipa Ismael, Ambassador Makinde Dada Akinlabi, Deacon Anthony Edwards, Rufus Adeniyi, among others.
But in a telephone conversation, Olalere said what is paramount now is for Southwest PDP to forge a common front and see how it could reposition the party and make it stronger to oust APC in the next general election.
He also said it was too early to start talking about the national convention because the national headquarters is yet to decide on the zoning of positions to any zone.
Similarly, Olafeso stated: “The congress has come and gone; the winner Arapaja spoke with me for about two minutes after the election and I congratulated him and the Makinde group. We were magnanimous in conceding victory to them despite some irregularities that characterized the congress but I hope, and I emphasized that they will not get carried away that they can do anything without carrying other camps along.
“The most important thing before us now is how to oust APC in the next general elections otherwise the way Nigeria is being run by the present administration, I doubt if the country will continue to exist not to talk of political parties. We have reached out to them and on Tuesday, the Fayose camp met and we reiterated our commitment to peace, unity, and harmony of Southwest PDP not minding the outcome of the congress.
“We are still waiting for the Arapaja-led executive to reach out to us and present its programme of activities so that we will strategise on how to position the region to take whatever the national eventually zoned to us ahead of the national convention.”
Meanwhile, a chieftain of the party from Lagos, who is loyal to the Makinde group, Dr Adetokunbo Pearse, warned the Arapaja-led executive to be careful of the lips service Fayose is pledging to unity and peace of the zone after the congress.
He said those who had written Fayose off long ago as a political charlatan were moved when Fayose spoke with humility about peace and reconciliation at the congress venue on April 12. He stressed: “Fayose appeared very sincere. He said he acknowledged Governor Makinde as the undisputed leader of the PDP in the zone and vowed to work with him to strengthen and unite the party. But lo and behold, Fayose was merely playing to the gallery. Within hours of his peace talk, he declared war, reneging on his every word publicly on national television. Fayose was back in character.”
He said Fayose’s grudge against the congress borders on two issues; one that the congress was marred by violence and secondly that the election was rigged but Pearse said both allegations are false and frivolous.
Pearse added that the congress is done, and Southwest officers of the party are ready to work with Governor Makinde, the leader of the party in the zone. It is their collective duty to strengthen the party’s structures throughout the geopolitical region, and improve citizens’ quality of life. As they do that, they will be contributing their quota to national development.
“However, Governor Makinde and the Arapaja team must be mindful that a political barracuda is lying in wait for them. Ayo Fayose is still on the loose, working assiduously to derail their efforts. It is reasonable to assume that these leaders and most PDP stakeholders are wise to Fayose’s antics. But here is an appeal to others who may admire his shenanigans or are entertained by his theatrics: Take a careful look at Fayose’s words and actions, if you do, you will find a disturbed man who seems to be harbouring a political death wish. Please do not let him drag you into the grave with him.”
Pearse disclosed that all South-South governors are ready to support Southwest to produce the national chairman of the party at the forthcoming national convention if the zone gets its acts right.
According to him, “I have it on a good authority that the South-South governors have lost confidence in the incumbent National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, and are willing to support us to clinch the position. The fear is Fayose. Recalled that the former Ekiti State governor and Olafeso worked against us in 2017, because he wanted to contest for vice president, which was not feasible then. I want Makinde and Arapaja to be careful.”