Amidst allegations that Governor Seyi Makinde has cornered all leadership positions of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the southwest zone for his allies to the exclusion of other interest groups within the party, aggrieved chieftains of the PDP in the zone are not about to end their face-off with the Oyo helmsman even as political parties prepare for the 2023 general elections, reports Assistant Editor, ‘Dare Odufowokan.
With Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo state now firmly in control of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the southwest ahead of the 2023 general elections, aggrieved chieftains of the party are left to grumble against his leadership of the party in the zone. Checks by The Nation revealed that in spite of the Oyo governor’s success at installing his allies in all the PDP leadership positions zoned to the southwest, he has been unable to placate most of his ardent opponents within the party in the zone.
“It is a fact to declare that Makinde, who incidentally, is the only governor from our party, the PDP, in the zone, have taken over the structures of the party in the southwest. But what he has not been able to do is douse the festering crisis within the party in the zone. Many of our leaders are still unwilling to associate with him and this is not good for the PDP as we move towards the 2023 general elections. We still need to reconcile many of our leaders with the governor in order for the PDP to maximize its new strength in the zone,” a source said.
But the governor’s supporters insist he is providing leadership for the PDP in the southwest in spite of what they described as the ranting of a few disgruntled elements within the party. “It is natural to have a few people unwilling to accept the reality of the day. We have a new order in Southwest PDP. It is an order where Governor Makinde is leading the original owners of the party, the members, to take decision and drive the party towards reclaiming its lost glory across the zone,” another source told The Nation.
To the Makinde, as the only governor of the governor, he is the leader of the party and should be respected as such. Many observers have wondered what his intentions are but he has been very consistent in claiming that his main concern is repositioning the PDP in the zone and returning it to winning ways. The Oyo governor believes the party needs to take some firm decisions regarding the way it does things if it is to work its way back into the minds of the people of the zone ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Responding to some of the allegations against him by his party men recently, Makinde had said, “What I want you to know is that I am also a man; I have flesh and blood and I make mistakes. Maybe there are some issues we need to address and we are trying to look at them. I know that wherever we need to make amends, we will definitely do that. I don’t want to believe that I did not do well with some members of the party but some may feel I have not done enough while some may feel I have done the best. But those who think I have not done enough could be right and I think we need to evaluate all of these. Moving on, there is room for improvement.”
Weeks after the successful completion of the national convention of the opposition party, some prominent members of the PDP in the southwest are allegedly displeased with Governor Makinde over the outcome of the convention. The bone of contention, The Nation gathered, is the alleged cornering of all the National Working Committee (NWC) positions zoned to the Southwest, by the Oyo State governor, leaving other leaders and groups within the party in the zone without any one, contrary to the terms of the reconciliation preceding the convention.
About three weeks before the convention, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State had brokered peace between Governor Makinde and former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose. Party sources claim the meeting discussed the power struggle between the two PDP leaders in the southwest and proffered ways to end the rift and avoid new ones. “One of the things agreed at the meeting was the need to share party positions among leaders of the party. We were looking forward to the convention at the time and it was believed that positions given to the zone will be shared in that manner,” our source said.
The Benue State Governor impressed it upon the two party leaders to work together in the interest of the PDP in the Southwest. At the convention, the positions of Deputy National Chairman (South), National Publicity Secretary and Deputy National Secretary were zoned to the Southwest. Amidst allegations that Makinde was working towards pocketing all the positions, his known allies emerged the winners of the three slots at the expense of other contenders, their leaders and their groups.
The emergence of Taofeek Arapaja, a former Deputy Governor of Oyo state, and an associate of Makinde’s, as the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the PDP, completed an alleged take-over of the control of the party structure in the zone by the Governor. He defeated Olagunsoye Oyinlola, an ally of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, with over 1200 votes. Arajapa got 2004 votes against 705 by Oyinlola. Setoji Kosheodo, another candidate of the Oyo governor from Lagos state, emerged as deputy national secretary while Debo Ologunagba from Ondo state, rode on Makinde’s back to become national publicity secretary.
Speaking on the development, a PDP chieftain from Ogun State, who preferred anonymity, insisted that Governor Makinde, contrary to the advice of the Ortom committee and others before it, executed a take-it-all-plot at the convention. This, he claimed, escalated the crisis within the PDP in the southwest. “What you are seeing now is the peace of the graveyard. People are now more aggrieved than they were before. I can also tell you the number of those aggrieved now is more than what it was. At least, you saw how Makinde dealt with Prince Oyinlola and his team at the convention, these were people supporting him all along,” he said.
Another chieftain of the PDP, a former federal legislator, claimed that the silence of the Fayose group on the matter should not be taken as acceptance. “We saw how Eddy Olafeso was denied the right to contest against Makinde’s candidate in Abuja. This will not bring unity. The governor is not the only force to reckon with in Southwest PDP. The outcome of the Southwest zonal congress in which there was just 13 votes difference between the winner and the loser should be enough to prove that the two groups are strongly on ground,” he said.
Aside from the happenings at the convention, critics of the governor are also citing the recent appointment of new Board of Trustees (BOT) members for the PDP ith all the five people appointed for the Southwest zone allegedly coming solely from the camp of Governor Makinde. “Anybody overlooking the interests of the likes of Fayose, Olafeso, Alh. Adebisi Olopoenia, Hon. Mulikat Adeola-Akande, Hon. Ladi Adebutu, Deji Doherty, Sunday Bisi and many other party leaders in the zone, is not considering the interest of the PDP,” he warned.
The ratification of Soji Adagunodo, the embattled chairman of Osun PDP, as the South-West National Vice Chairman of the party, is regarded as another political move by Makinde in his quest to control the party in the zone. Adagunodo is an ally of the governor. He replaces Arapaja who has been elected Deputy National Chairman of the PDP. Adagunodo’s nomination was on Wednesday, November 17, ratified by the Southwest Zonal Executives of the party.