Baring last-minute parley, Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, and former Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, are for a final showdown over who is in control of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Southwest Nigeria.
After months of failed reconciliation attempts and legal fireworks over seeming irreconcilable differences, both juggernauts will lead their followers to the Southwest zonal congress in Osogbo, the Osun State capital tomorrow (Monday).
The congress will serve as a test of strength for both leaders, and ultimately determine how the party may perform in the 2023 elections.
The National Working Committee (NWC) of the party fixed the congress for tomorrow after long hours of failed parley last Wednesday evening over agreements on who to select for the positions in the zonal executive. Zonal executive positions are usually shared among the states and power blocs to avoid a bitter election.
But the two major factions in the party failed this time to agree on candidates for the positions. While Makinde has presented those led by a former deputy governor of Oyo State Taofeek Arapaja, Fayose is backing those led by the immediate past zonal chairman Eddy Olafeso.
The Fayose faction had secured an injunction restraining the conduct of the election in March. It insisted that the election should not hold in Ibadan.
Though Makinde got a section of the national leadership to fix the congress for yesterday in Ibadan, the NWC ruled last Wednesday that the election could not hold as suggested because of the court injunction. It immediately directed the two factions to meet that night and agree on major considerations. The meeting was expected to end the rift but it failed as the two factions stuck to their gun.
Consequently, the NWC fixed the congress for Osogbo tomorrow in what may serve as a litmus test, particularly for Makinde, who is the official leader of the party in the region.
Speaking on the development, a source within the Fayose faction confirmed that the congress would be tough for Makinde because Fayose enjoys the followership of the majority of delegates having being in power many years ago. According to the source, the Fayose faction worked for Makinde’s emergence as the governorship candidate of the party in 2018, using its strength and wide influence.
But a source within the Makinde faction said it was wrong for the Fayose faction to contest control of the party with Makinde since the PDP constitution recognizes the highest elected official as the PDP leader in the zone. The source argued that Fayose and his supporters should allow Makinde to call the shot during his tenure.
Preparatory to the congress, the Peoples Democratic Party on Saturday announced the postponement of screening for candidates vying for various positions at the South-West zonal level.
The party shifted the screening exercise till Sunday, April 11th 2021 noting the action was due to a problem of logistics and that all stakeholders have been informed of the postponement.
The Nation had reported that the PDP spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan in a statement on Thursday disclosed that the leadership of the party has resolved that the southwest congress be shifted from Ibadan, Oyo State to Osogbo capital of Osun State, slating it for April 12, 2021.
A member of the zonal congress committee, Alhaji Kazeem Adio speaking with newsmen on Saturday, said, the Chairman of the Screening Exercise has communicated reasons to postpone the screening exercise till Sunday, he directed all of us to reconvene at 8 AM ahead of Monday congress.
His words: “We are meeting tomorrow at 8 AM because of some logistics reasons. We have informed the candidates. The party leaders have embarked on consultation and reconciliation to ensure a peaceful congress.
“The screening committee, Petition and Grievance Resolution committee. The two committees will be on the ground tomorrow, and if there is any ground of disagreement it would be resolved tomorrow. If there are no grievances then there is no need to resolve anything and it is cheaper and faster to resolves before going to congress.
Good numbers of committee members are already on the ground. We are trying to make sure we remain one family. We are hopeful that everything will happen peacefully. We should allow peace.
As at press time yesterday, the venue of the congress was yet to be made public due to the tension between the two factions. Already, the Fayose faction has rejected the appointment of Sen. Dino Melaye as the chairman of Congress Screening Committee. It urged the party to retain the Senate Minority Leader, Enyinnaya Abaribe, earlier agreed upon by both parties, saying “the sudden emergence of Senator Dino Melaye is suggestive of a planned hatchet job.”
To vote tomorrow are elected officials of the party in each of the six states including those elected into public offices from the local government to the National Assembly level.
-Source: The Nation