Osun poll: Crisis worsening PDP’s chances
As the Osun State governorship election draws near, the crisis within the Peoples Democratic Party may ruin its chances, writes FEMI MAKINDE
The Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State is in a precarious situation. This situation cannot be divorced from the crisis rocking the party’s National Headquarters in Abuja. Perhaps more than every other state, the state chapter of the party is in dire straits as the crisis appears set to decimate what is left of the goodwill it once enjoyed. Pundits argue that unless the crisis is quickly resolved, the state chapter of the party will remain in the opposition longer than it ever envisaged. The situation is made worse by the fact that the 2014 governorship election is only a few months away. The party cannot afford to go into the election with its house in disarray. If, however, the party is able to find a solution to its myriad of problems, it could spring a surprise.
Former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who is the national secretary of the Abubakar Baraje-led PDP, leads one faction of the party while the other faction has remained loyal to the Alhaji Bamanga Tukur.
Barely 24 hours after the split in PDP, the Osun State chairman of the PDP, Alhaji Ganiyu Olaoluwa, issued a statement dissociating the state chapter from Oyinlola while pledging loyalty to the Tukur-led PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan.
Some days later, the state PDP Elders’ Committee issued a communiqué in which they also dissociated themselves from the Baraje faction.
A member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun, who is also the state chairman of the PDP Elders Committee, said betrayal was not new in politics. He observed that those who did it in the past did not end their political careers well.
The elders committee later declared its support for Jonathan and warned members of the party against attending any meeting called by Oyinlola or any leader of the new PDP.
Despite the warning, thousands of PDP members trooped to Odo Otin Grammar School, Okuku in Oyinlola’s hometown to attend a meeting with the ex-governor.
Oyinlola, who is good in the art of story-telling, enthralled his teeming supporters with what caused the crisis between him and Tukur and how his relationship with Gen. Ibrahim Babangida was misconstrued by Jonathan.
The former governor appeared overwhelmed by the show of solidarity by thousands of his supporters who came out to attend the rally despite earlier threats.
He said the PDP leaders in the state would scuttle the party’s chances of winning the 2014 governorship poll by sidelining him.
Oyinlola said, “I am happy that despite the warning that you should no longer associate with me, you still came out in large numbers to honour me. God will honour you all. But let me tell you all, without my support, it will be impossible for the PDP to win the governorship election in Osun State. “They can only go round to campaign with what they intend to do but if I follow them, I will tell the people what I have done in the state.”
When probed further if he was likely to join the progressives; the ex-governor said he would move elsewhere if he was no longer wanted within the PDP.
Many suggest that by this statement, Oyinlola was giving a hint of a possibility of defecting to the All Progressives Congress.
The Ganiyu Olaoluwa-led state chapter of PDP did not take kindly to the effrontery displayed by party members who openly identified with Oyinlola.
The immediate past chairman of the party, Alhaji Ademola Rasaq, and some ward chairmen of the party were suspended for attending the rally called by Oyinlola.
Three out of the four governorship aspirants of the party were also given a 24-hour ultimatum to either denounce the statement credited to Rasaq that they (aspirants) were in support of Oyinlola or be ready to face the consequences.
The governorship aspirants are: Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi and Wole Oke.
But the suspension further exposed the disunity within the rank and file of the state chapter of the party.
While some who are loyal to the Tukur- led PDP hailed the suspension, those who are Oyinlola’s loyalists criticised the party chairman for taking the decision to suspend members of the party.
Chief Abiola Ogundokun who is also a member of the PDP Elders Committee, said Oyinlola’s action amounted to a betrayal of trust.
He said the ex-governor did not carry anybody along when he dumped the PDP and teamed up with rebel governors to form the “so-called new PDP.”
In response to the ultimatum given to them by the state party chairman, the three governorship aspirants dismissed the chairman’s threat saying it was unthinkable for the chairman to give them an ultimatum to denounce what they did not say.
They urged the party leadership to resolve the crisis saying the party needed to be united before going to the polls. The chairman has yet to make further comments after the expiration of the one-week ultimatum.
Instead, he set up a panel headed by Mr. Dosu Oladipo to investigate those who were identified to have attended the meeting with Oyinlola in Okuku.
One of Oyinlola’s loyalists; Chief Dapo Ayodele, who is seeking to represent Osun Central Senatorial District at the Senate; verbally attacked the PDP chairman for suspending Oyinlola’s supporters.
He faulted the “unilateral decision of the chairman” to suspend the affected persons while stating that Oyinlola remained the leader of the party in the state.
Ayodele further noted that what should be the primary objective of the party was to find a way of settling the crisis rather than aggravating an already bad situation.
A former acting Chairman of the state chapter of the party, Chief Sunday Ojo-Williams, in an interview with our correspondent, appealed to all the warring factions within the PDP at the state and at the national level to unite for the party to win in Osun State in next year’s governorship election.
He said the party needed Oyinlola and all of its members, as well as those who were non-members to support it in order to ensure that it emerges victorious in the forthcoming election.
Ojo-Williams said since election was a game of numbers, the PDP would not want to lose Oyinlola’s vote and the votes of other aggrieved members of the party.
Although Jonathan has his loyalists who would be ready to work for the PDP during the governorship as well as the 2015 presidential elections, it is almost certain that some of the aggrieved PDP leaders will work against it except its internal wrangling is quickly resolved.
Erelu Olusola Obada was recently removed as the Minister of State for Defence and her sacking was traced to her association with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Oyinlola who obviously do not belong to Jonathan’s camp.
Many believe that even if she, as a person, does not work against the party’s interests, she may not go out of her way to work towards its success in 2014; unless an amicable solution is found to the problems facing the party.
The Chairman of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency, Olajide Adeniji, who is an avowed loyalist of President Jonathan, is one of those who will stake all that they have to ensure victory for the party but such efforts may come under threat by aggrieved party members.
There are those belonging to the school of thought that Adeniji, is a joker Jonathan may use if the stigma on a preferred aspirant refuses to go.
However, coming from Osun Central Senatorial District which has produced Chief Bisi Akande and Oyinlola, it may be difficult for him to convince some voters.
Senator Iyiola Omisore, who is the only governorship aspirant who escaped the threat of sanctions by the leadership of the state PDP, is also obviously in Jonathan’s camp.
His supporters believe that he is tough and has what it takes to give the incumbent governor a serious challenge. Those in this school of thought argue that they both enjoy a large following in Osun East Senatorial District where they both come from.
He too may become a victim of the antics of aggrieved members of the PDP who have an axe to grind with him and the party if he eventually picks the ticket to contest the 2014 governorship election.
Without a doubt, the crisis which has polarised the party at the national and state levels will lead to serious consequences for the party if not quickly resolved.
This is even more so in the case of Osun State, given the current level of acceptance the administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of the APC enjoys.
The PDP, which is the leading opposition party in the state, may be in for a long wait to wrest power from the APC unless and until it puts its house in order.
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