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|2011: Storm In Osun Pdp’s Fold by ichommy(m): 9:24pm On Apr 08, 2010|
The battle for the governorship ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State appears to be tearing the party apart even as there are cries of marginalisation in some quarters, writes MUDIAGA AFFE.
Internal scheming by gladiators in the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State to have their candidates endorsed may have pitched members of the party against each other.
At the moment, the storm is gathering because of the decision of the leaders of the party in the state and the South-West to support the candidature of an Ife indigene, Prof Wale Oladipo, who is the incumbent Chairman of the Osun State Universal Basic Education Board.
This development is already causing ripples as some leaders of the party in the state are worried that if the plot, which is said to have the blessing of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, succeeds, the chances of the party winning the 2011 governorship election may be slim.
Sources within the party said Ooni had already presented Oladipo to Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and other leaders of the party.
It was gathered from very reliable sources within the party that the Ooni had, during a visit outside the country, convinced Oyinlola and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Patricia Etteh, on the need to endorse Oladipo as the candidate of the party. The implication, according to insiders, is that there might not be primaries for the governorship position.
The Osun PDP has zoned its governorship seat to the Ife/Ijesha zone of the state, after the tenure of Oyinlola, who is from the Osun Central Senatorial district.
Although, the axis would have had the chance of occupying that seat if the governorship candidate of the Action Congress in the 2007 general election, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, had become the governor of the state. Aregbesola‘s case however is still before the tribunal, with the pendulum still hanging.
Apart from Oladipo, other top contenders from the zone include Senator Iyiola Omisore; a legal practitioner, Chief Tunde Odanye; a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode; a chartered accountant, Mr. Akin Jegede; the Chairman, Nigerian Wire and Cable Plc, Mr. Lateef Bakare; a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Gbenga Onigbogi; former Chairman, National Emergency Management Agency, Mrs. Remi Olowu; a former Majority Leader, Osun State House of Assembly, Mr. Wahab Olatoye, among others.
An official of the State Executive Council of the party told our correspondent that if the governor succumbs to Ooni‘s request by accepting and backing Oladipo, it means that the party was looking towards failure in 2011.
The official, who spoke under anonymity, said that the party only defeated the AC in the 2007 election by whiskers and the case is still being argued at the tribunal, adding ”when we had an incumbent governor and formidable candidate, not to talk of when we field a political upstart. We need a formidable candidate for that election and the only way to achieve that is by allowing everybody to go and slug it out at the primaries.”
The party leader further said the battle for the governorship seat was still open as Omisore, a former Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade; a former Chief-of-Staff to the governor, Dr. Peter Babalola, Odanye, among others are still making moves. But both Akinbade and Babalola are not from the Ife/ Ijesha zone.
It was gathered that it was for this reason that the Ooni agreed to tell Omisore about the decision to adopt Oladipo after the meeting outside Nigeria. But apparently spurned by the Senator, the traditional ruler sought the assistance of Obasanjo to convince the Senator on the matter. Ooni‘s excuse was that he found Oladipo more controllable than Omisore. It was also in the same light that the governor agreed to talk to Babalola on the matter, to persuade him to drop his ambition on the matter.
Towards the end of March, it was gathered that Obasanjo summoned Akinbade to his Abeokuta home and told him of the plan to support the Ooni‘s candidate, but the former SSG was said to have told the former President point blank that there was no way the PDP could win the election with Oladipo.
He was said to have told Obasanjo to allow all the people interested in the race to go ahead and contest in the primaries. But Obasanjo was not done. He also summoned the state Chairman, Chief Ademola Rasaq on the matter in front of Etteh and told him of the plan. Again, Rasaq was said to have told Obasanjo that the PDP was taking ”a very dangerous gamble with Oladipo,” as it was not clear if the party could win the election by a candidate backed by the Ooni and without any primaries.
A source within the party said, ”Obasanjo was told that it would be better for a candidate backed by the paramount ruler to be seen to have emerged from the primaries. That would also help other traditional rulers in the state to support the Ooni in the battle, as well as the PDP.
Recall that in 2003, the then Governor Bisi Akande started losing it when traditional rulers in the state left him. Yes, Ooni rallied traditional rulers for the PDP but he was not the one that won the election for us. If other traditional rulers did not support him, how would he have done that? If the traditional rulers fail to support us, it means we will find it hard in 2011.”
It was also learnt that a good number of the party faithful are angry at the developments within the party. A senior party official said that if things are not arrested, many of the party members may quit the party and go to the Labour Party.
He said, ”Let me tell you the truth. Even leaders of the party like Senator Yinka Omilani, Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, Chief Abiola Morakinyo and others are not happy with what is happening. Some of our members are also not happy. They are willing to leave if no level playing ground is given here.”
Oyinlola himself has been working to convince his party men on the need to accept Oladipo. Three Sundays ago, when he held a caucus meeting with the state think-tank in Okuku, his home town, he was said to have explained the rationale behind his decision to leaders of the party. The think-tank comprises the governor, deputy governor, chairman of the party, the secretary and some elders of the party. After the meeting, it was learnt that the elders told him to take the route of primaries.
Apart from Oladipo‘s endorsement, the decision of the PDP elders from Ijesaland to also endorse Onigbogi and Chief Dosu Fatokun as the two governorship aspirants for the party was an earlier issue that had generated controversy.
Onigbogi is the incumbent House of Representatives member representing Ijesa-South federal constituency in the National Assembly, while Fatokun was a former member of the House of Representatives.
But Odanye had warned while unveiling his campaign organisation at Ilesa recently that the imposition of candidates on the party in the state posed grave danger.
He therefore prayed that the fate that befell the PDP in Anambra during the governorship election in February would not befall Osun PDP in 2011.
Odanye, who was the governorship candidate of the AD in 2007, assured his supporters that he still remained in the race. For now, the members of the party are still trudging on, hoping that the powers-that-be will change their minds on the state of things. Even with all the political permutations on the emergence of a successor to Oyinlola within the ranks of the PDP, the determining factor is the tribunal. The case involving the AC candidate in the 2007 election and the incumbent governor is one that has dragged for the better part of the present administration. If a decision is reached by the tribunal before the expiration of the present administration in favour of Aregbesola, then all permutations by the PDP would have been neutralised. Again, if a rerun is declared, it would still amount to the same wasted efforts as the old contestants would still want to slug it out.
But the schism in Ijesa axis of Osun State is not about the governorship ticket alone. Issues bordering on marginalisation have been raised in some parts of the axis.
At the moment, the battle for the House of Representatives for Ijesa South Federal Constituency is on. Currently occupied by Onigbogi, who hails from Ilesa West Local Government Area of the state, the agitation is on that the House of Representative‘s slot should be conceded to Ilesa East Local Government Area which, according to the agitators, is yet to produce any major political appointee either at the state or federal level. The federal constituency is made up of four local government areas. These are Ilesa West, Ilesa East, Atakumosa West and Atakumosa East local government areas.
Agitation is said to be rising from the Ilesa East Local Government which is claiming that since all other three local government areas that make up the federal constituency have produced various political appointees both at the state and federal levels, Ilesa East should be compensated by the leadership of the PDP by allowing the only candidate from the Ilesa East Local Government Area, Mr. Tunji Omole to be the candidate of the party.
Omole is a son of late industrialist, Chief Lawrence Omole.
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