The recently concluded congress of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Southwest has presented another opportunity for its leadership to get to the drawing board and work out new ways of managing some challenges confronting it.
The elections to the regional positions may have come and gone, with winners having emerged. But to some party leaders, an internal election where a faction out of two won all seats by narrow margins coupled with the implication of winners-take-all, has thrown up new challenges must be well managed.
Before the congress, Southwest PDP was divided. Oyo State Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde led a faction while former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose led the other camp. The factions engaged each other in war of words and campaign of calumny that almost made reconciliation impossible.
The peace committee of the party, led by former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, held series of meetings with gladiators of the two factions in Lagos and Abuja before the National Working Committee (NWC) intervened. The national leadership was able to avert parallel congresses and made the factions commit to free and fair elections. Besides, it also succeeded in reconciling Makinde and Fayose, and made them to seat under the same roof for a congress.
The congress, which was presided over by the Deputy Governor of Benue State, Chief Benson Abounu, who stood in for his boss, Governor Samuel Ortom, as the Chairman of the Electoral/Congress Committee, was deemed transparent and credible. But how eight extra votes got into the ballot boxes remains a puzzle to a good number of party faithful and keen followers.
The Abounu-led electoral committee announced that for the chairmanship position, “a total of 674 votes were cast while there were 10 voided votes.”
Abonu further disclosed: “Out of 115 Ekiti delegates, 104 were accredited and voted. For Lagos delegates, 90 were accredited out of 101. From Ogun, out of 114 only 101 delegates were accredited. Out of 113 Ondo delegates, 104 were accredited. 111 delegates were accredited out of 134 delegates from Osun, while 165 were accredited out of 171 delegates from Oyo state. 675 delegates were accredited from the six states and 42 aspirants were cleared by the PDP screening committee chaired by former Senator, Dino Melaye.”
But after the election, Ambassador Taofeeq Arapaja, who represented Makinde’s camp, scored 343 while Dr. Eddy Olafeso, who had the support of Fayose’s faction, pulled 330 votes and 10 votes were declared void. The total votes cast was 683 as against 675 accredited delegates, leaving a difference of 8 votes.
Some analysts expressed the opinion that a subtraction of the ‘miraculous’ eight votes and a complete scrutiny of the 10 void votes may present a different result. But others were quick to argue that the void votes might have come from supporters of the two factions, which may make a second look at the ‘magical’ eight votes inconsequential on the outcome of the election.
With a difference of 13 votes, Arapaja emerged the zonal chairman of the party, with all other contestants in Makinde’s group also winning elections to their various posts.
Arapaja is no novice to the politics of the region having been a student and strong ally of the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, who made him deputy governor to Otunba Christopher Alao-Akala. When the crisis in Oyo PDP worsened, Arapaja decamped to the African Democratic Congress (ADC), where he had hoped to contest the governorship.
When that ambition failed, he was among the forces that joined hands with Makinde to form a coalition to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State. Only in March last year, Arapaja returned to the PDP and got a waiver, which gave him the opportunity to vie for the zonal chairmanship of the party.
Other contestants in Makinde’s camp that won the election include Chief Rahman Owokoniran (Secretary), Mr. Samson Omotoyosi (Treasurer), Barr. Amuwa Benson (Organising Secretary), Chief Olusanya Atofarati (Publicity Secretary), Mr. Adewoyin Rasaq (Financial Secretary), Barrister Gbenga Kukoyi (Legal Adviser), Dr. Adeola Adewumi (Auditor) and Alhaja Modinat Adedibu (Women Leader).
Others are Mr Bamidele Seyi Abiola (Youth Leader), Adeola Santos (Zonal ex-officio), Modupe Adetokunbo (Zonal ex-officio), Araoye Sikiru (Zonal ex-officio), Olugbenga Idowu (Zonal ex-officio), Segun Adewale (Zonal ex-officio), Lanre Fajuyi (Zonal ex-officio), Olakunle Paul (National ex-officio), David Kolawole Vaughan (National ex-officio), Ogunrinde Emmanuel (National ex-officio), Faboyede Clement (National ex-officio), Taiwo Kabiru (National ex-officio) and Oluwakemi Olayiwola (National ex-officio).
The losers in Fayose’s camp are Eddy Olafeso (Zonal Chairman), Bunmi Jenyo (Zonal Secretary), Bakene Fasiu (Zonal Organising Secretary), Adetola Femi (Zonal Youth Leader), Barrister Bimbo Balogun (Zonal Woman Leader), Oke Ojo Michael (Zonal Treasurer), Engr. Balogun Kolawole Ayuba (Zonal Auditor), Barrister Dosu Babatunde (Zonal Legal Adviser), Ayo Fadaka (Zonal Publicity Secretary), and Philip Aivoji (Zonal Financial Secretary).
Others for Zonal Ex-officios are Yeye Agnes Adenike Shobajo (Lagos), Fagbayigbo Adeola (Ondo), Adesina Adeboye Semiu (Ogun), Mrs Taiwo Abiola Mubo (Oyo), Mr Akinade Jimoh (Osun) and Akomolafe Oluranti Zacchaeus (Ekiti).
Those who failed to win posts for National ex-officio members are Mr Michael Okunlade (Oyo), Arowolo Oluwole Johnson (Ondo), Captain Tunji Shelle (Rtd) (Lagos), Hon Abayomi Nureni Tella (Ogun), Alabi George Ibitayo (Osun) and Mrs Monisola Omotosho (Ekiti).
As it is now, the PDP exco at the zonal level is constituted with no member from Fayose’s camp. The situation, however, does not present them as weaklings, given the close margin of the votes cast in the election.
Before the congress, some observers had predicted that Makinde’s camp may win the election because of a number of former office holders and leaders of the party in the group but what they did not envisage is the narrow margin of victory as the results of the election revealed.
On the Makinde side, there are two former Governors -Prince Oyinlola Olagunsoye of Osun State and Chief Segun Oni of Ekiti State, seven former Deputy Governors – Omolade Oluwateru (Ondo State), Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor (Lagos State), Sikiru Tae Lawal, Olusola Eleka and Biodun Olujimi of Ekiti State, Erelu Olusola Obada (Osun State) and Taofeek Arapaja (Oyo State); former minister Wole Oyelese, two former deputy national chairmen – Chief Olabode George and Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun; BoT member, Dr Olu Alabi and other gladiators.
But Fayose’s faction had the support of one former deputy governor, Hakeem Gbolarumi of Oyo state, Ogun State governorship aspirant, Ladi Adebutu and party chairmen of Ogun, Lagos, Ekiti and Ondo.
The Fayose group has announced that it would meet to have a holistic review of the election but affirmed the ex-governor’s resolution to be committed to the PDP ideals.
The group also expressed appreciation to the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, delegates and other stakeholders who attended the zonal congress in Osogbo, Osun State.
A statement by Lere Olayinka, said, “the exercise should be seen as victory for the PDP” while thanking delegates, especially the 330 who voted for the group’s candidate, Dr. Eddy Olafeso for their courage and commitment.
The statement read in part, “We thank those 330 delegates who defied the obvious security threat to make their ways to the congress venue to vote for our candidate. Outcome of the congress notwithstanding, we appreciate their show of courage and commitment.
“We congratulate those elected as members of the zonal Exco, especially the Chairman, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja. We thank our National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, for showing exemplary leadership and allowing party members the right to choose. We will remain with his leadership.”
After the results were announced, Olafeso and Arapaja had declared determination to work together and reposition the party to defeat APC in future elections.
Arapaja said: “We thank Governor Seyi Makinde and former Governor Fayose. It’s our party. We will work together and move the party forward. We want to reposition the party. I will work with my brother Olafeso to achieve our aims.”
Olafeso, on his part, noted that the storm was over and that the elections marked a new beginning for the party.
Observers noted that the atmosphere for a free election had earlier been laid when Fayose and Makinde embraced and the pronouncement by Fayose that he had accepted Makinde as leader of the party in the Southwest.
Before Fayose’s pronouncement, there was palpable tension at the Women and Children Development Initiative Foundation (WOCDIF) Centre in Osogbo, Osun State, venue of the congress. With heavy security presence, periodic gunshots punctuated the voting process, ensuring that party thugs did not have access to the congress venue.
Makinde, who arrived at the venue of the congress before Fayose and his group, had also expressed determination to play the fatherly role as the only governor in the region.
Governor Makinde said: “This is an attempt to reposition our party in the Southwest. It has ramifications for our party nationally. So, whatever the outcome is, we will take it in the spirit of a family contest. We don’t want to defeat ourselves but we want to defeat the APC. So, at the end of this exercise, I promise you that there will be no victor and no vanquish.”