Peoples Democratic Party stalwarts in the South-West have rejected the option of consensus in filling the national positions zoned to the region.
The most contentious of the positions, which party leaders have tried but failed to reach an agreement on, is the seat of Deputy National Chairman (South).
The desire by former Osun State Governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and ex-National Secretary of the party, Prof Wale Oladipo, to occupy the position, zoned to Osun State, is causing tension among party members.
Trouble started when the Sunday Bisi-led Osun State chapter of the party, said to be loyal to the PDP governorship candidate in the 2019 elections, Senator Ademola Adeleke, on Thursday, nominated Oladipo for the position ahead of the convention.
The nomination was sequel to a stakeholders’ meeting held at the party’s state secretariat in Osogbo on Thursday.
However, on Friday, indications emerged that some party leaders were drumming up support for Oyinlola.
Sources within the party said the lawmaker representing Osun East in the Senate, Francis Fadahunsi, was leading the group supporting Oyinlola for the post of the party’s Deputy National Chairman.
Fadahunsi in a statement on Friday said, “The decision of all the leaders of the PDP from all the 30 local government areas of Osun State and the Ife East Area Office, Modakeke to adopt Olagunsoye Oyinlola, as the consensus candidate of entire Osun PDP members and leaders for the post of the Deputy National Chairman is a welcome development and a right step in the right direction which all lovers of the party in the state must adopt.
“The fact that the entire South-West leaders have adopted Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the region’s consensus candidate as the Deputy National Chairman of the party makes the adoption of Oyinlola by his state party leaders a good and sensible decision.”
A member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun, who also hails from Osun State, told one of our correspondents in an interview that Oyinlola was better qualified for the job.
Oyedokun explained that stakeholders at a meeting convened by the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, agreed to zone the position to Osun.
This, he said, was based on the fact that the current occupant of the position hails from the Ogun/Lagos sub zone and the outgoing national officer from Ondo/Ekiti sub zone while the sub zone seat left is Oyo/Osun and fortunately, Oyo had produced the zonal chairman.
He said, “Those of us who are elders here and are statutory delegates to the convention believe that with the division we have been nursing in Osun State for the past three years, Oyinlola seems to stand out as somebody who can be a rallying point to bring the two factions together.
“That is the essence of it. He never took sides. Even some of us were alleged to have taken sides. This issue of division is about the governorship seat. All those who are picking Prof Wale Oladipo belong to an aspirant and they go around disrupting things. That is the way I see it.
“We can’t foreclose the possibility of having another meeting here in the South-West PDP before the convention. We can’t foreclose it because we want peace.”
Meanwhile, some other party leaders across the South-West have also endorsed Oyinlola for the position. They include a former PDP governorship candidate in Osun State, Senator Olu Alabi, who said, “I support him as the overall leader of the party in the state as moved by all the leaders in the state.”
The Secretary of the Osun State PDP Elders Council, Segun Odekunmi, while endorsing Oyinlola said his emergence signalled the hope of reuniting the party.
Odekunmi stated, “The charisma, pedigree, and past records of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola as the sole candidate of the party for the Deputy National Chairman (South) is the most accurate step ever taken by Osun leadership of the party in recent times of which I’m fully involved. We have rekindled greater hope of uniting the party with his emergence today.”
Also, a former Osun State Deputy Governor, Olusola Obada, said, “The adoption of His Excellency Olagunsoye Oyinlola by all leaders of thought in Osun State as the sole candidate of the PDP in Osun State and the South-West for the position of the Deputy National Chairman which was jointly adopted by all leaders of thought in Osun State is a lofty idea that I have no objection to but to give it my full support and endorsement.”
It was gathered that, has split party stakeholders in the South-West.
It was learnt that the older generation of party leaders in Osun State, who form the bulk of the party delegates as well as major stakeholders in Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos and Ogun states, have shown a preference for Oyinlola.
The former governor also enjoys the backing of the governor of Oyo State, who is also the PDP South-West leader.
In Ekiti State, loyalists of former Governor Ayo Fayose and those of Senator Biodun Olujimi are also divided along Oyinlola’s supporters and those of Oladipo.
In defence of the decision of the state chapter to nominate him, Oladipo said, “We have a sitting governor who is the de facto leader of the party in the zone. They have micro-zoned the positions to different states and if they respect the micro-zoning and respect the choices of those states, I don’t see us having any problem.
“This is so because if you look at the South-East, for example, they micro-zoned the National Secretary slot to Imo State and Imo people chose Sam Anyanwu and the zone ratified it. The same thing happened in the North; Benue State presented a former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, to the North-Central and they accepted it.
“We are also hoping that Makinde as the leader of the party in our zone will allow the states to make their choices and will forward whatever choices states make to the national headquarters for adoption. As long as states are allowed to present their preferred persons for the positions, I believe we will get there. We still have time.”
Asked if he would step down for Oyinlola, he said, “I was aware that Prince Oyinlola was contesting for the national chairmanship position and when he was contesting, out of respect, we did not contest against him so that we would not lose the position hoping that if something lesser than that comes in, I would go for that and that is why I am going for this. I have always said that I don’t want to be national chairman but the deputy national chairman.
“We need to grow gradually and I am not in a hurry and that is why I am contesting for this and I am hoping that as my elder brother, he will still support me.
“I am praying that he will support me on one way or the other. This position is for our generation and not for our uncles and elder brothers. I have enormous respect for him. I believe that position is for small fry like us and not for our uncles. The least he should take is the national chairmanship.”
A former Minister of Transport and member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said, “When Chief Bode George, who is our leader, calls for a meeting, I will go and our views will be expressed.”
Also, a former Minister of Power and Steel, Dr Wole Oyelese, said, “Apparently they have written off the South-West in the contest for the presidency and I don’t think that is right.
“We should not think we can’t get the presidency in the South-West because of that. Why should we be fighting for the deputy chairmanship of the party and leave the presidency for others?
“The last National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, is from the South-South which is also from the East. If anything at all, we have equal rights in the South-West to fight for the position of the president and not the deputy national chairmanship seat.
“Left to me, I would rather prefer somebody comes up in the South-West to contest for the Presidency. Why can’t somebody from the South-West take a shot at it? If we in the South-West fail to produce the president now, it will take another 16 appearances before we can think of it.”
Confirming Fadahunsi’s position on the issue, his media aide, Segun Progress, said his principal was having the support of other members of the Board of Trustees on the issue.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi, expressed fears that unless something urgent was done, the South-West would once again lose out completely.
He said, “It will be a shame on the leadership of our party in the South-West if we cannot unite and reach an agreement as was done in the north, especially on the issue of the National Chairman.
“It will be unfortunate if we become the only zone that will produce three, four of five aspirants to contest for votes for the Deputy National Chairman.
“This was how we lost the position of National Chairman in 2017 when 10 Yoruba sons came out and we lost. I think we should have learnt a lesson.”
A former National Vice Chairman (South West) of the PDP, Dr Eddy Olafeso, equally expressed fears that the dispute might last until the national convention.
He told one of our correspondents, “You know the South-West is divided into two tendencies and there have never been efforts to reconcile the two. Is one tendency going to wait or look while the other tendency takes positions? With this situation, rest assured that the South-West may present two candidates in all the positions unless there is equitable and fair distribution of what is zoned to us.”