The crisis rocking the Southwest zone of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as making the divisions of the party ahead of the 2023 elections appears to be deepening with only two of the state governors of the party showing up on Saturday in Akure for the flag-off of the party’s campaign for next month’s governorship polls in Ondo State.
Governors Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State were the only state governors in attendance to support the party’s flag bearer in the election, Mr. Eyitayo Jegede, in what party sources said underlined the battle for the soul of the PDP.
There are fears within the party that the development is a major threat to the chances of the PDP in the polls and even beyond.
Although the party’s national chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, was at the rally, prominent party leaders from the South West, such as former Ekiti State governor Ayo Fayose, PDP candidate in the last governorship election in Osun State Mr. Ademola Adeleke and party chieftain from Ogun State Mr. Ladi Adebutu were absent.
They are currently locked in a rift with Governor Makinde who is the chairman of the PDP campaign committee.
The disagreement centres on the handling of the Ondo State governorship campaign of the party.
Secondus and many chieftains of the party in Ondo State are also said to be unhappy with the situation.
According to the Nation reported that following incessant complaints by some major stakeholders within and outside the state that they were not being carried along by the Oyo State governor in respect of the Ondo election, Secondus expressed concern about the state of things and asked Makinde to put more effort into uniting the Southwest with a view to giving PDP victory in the state.
Sources said little or nothing has been done to bring aggrieved stakeholders of the party to work with Makinde in the campaign efforts.
Fayose had warned that Jegede could lose the Ondo State election if the party remained divided in the Southwest and Ondo State ahead of the poll.
He accused the Oyo governor of foisting party executives, committee members and instructions on leaders and members of the PDP who are working tirelessly towards the victory of the party and Jegede.
Southwest national vice chairman of the party, Eddy Olafeso; Ogun State chairman, Sikirulai Ogundele; Lagos State chairman, Deji Doherty; Ekiti State Chairman, Bisi Kolawole; and Osun State chairman Sunday Akanfe, are all in support of Fayose’s objection to Makinde’s style.
Adebutu, Adeleke, Senator Yinka Olujimi and other prominent leaders of the party in the Southwest had recently called on the NWC of the party to caution Makinde in the interest of the PDP.
Fayose and his supporters are also said to be opposed to Makinde’s alleged positioning of former deputy national chairman of the party, Bode George, as the de-facto leader of the Ondo campaign structure.
A source said: “We have told the national chairman and other party leaders that with Makinde’s undemocratic approach to leadership and his collaboration with Bode George, there is no way he can get other stakeholders in the zone to work with him.
“Our worry is that he is threatening the chances of the PDP in Ondo State.
“Makinde’s political style and undue meddlesomeness in the Southwest and Ondo State in particular may cause the party to lose the election.
“He is driving away the people who can deliver Ondo for the PDP and working with retired grandpas. That is not how to win elections.”
The newspaper also gathered that some governors of the party, as well as supporters of a former presidential candidate of the PDP, are also not inclined to working with Makinde in the campaign committee.
A source accused him of singlehandedly selecting members of the committees and deciding who got what.
“You can imagine him making Fayose an ordinary member of a sub-committee,” one source said.
Continuing, the source said: “Others like Adebutu and the party state chairmen in the zone were not consulted on the selection of committee members.
“In Ogun and Ekiti, he (Makinde) decided to support factions of the party not recognised by the NWC. These and many more actions of Makinde’s are threatening Jegede’s victory.
“Even outside the Southwest, some PDP governors and leaders are not comfortable with Makinde’s style.
“They have openly accused him of acting the script of a clique within the party that is determined to snatch its control.
“That was why only two governors attended the campaign flag-off in Ondo State.
“Even the national chairman is no longer happy with the situation of things. But he is cautiously approaching the whole issue so as not to further scuttle PDP’s chances in the election.
“Unless something is done urgently to rescue the campaign structure from Makinde and George, the situation will remain the same.”
However, speaking at the campaign flag-off yesterday, Secondus urged voters in Ondo State to support the PDP, saying their votes would lead to change and restructuring of the country.
He said Jegede, if elected, would bring about the desired change, and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that he bequeathed a legacy of free and fair election to the nation.
He said: “The only thing left for Nigeria is for Buhari to conduct free and fair election, because the economy has collapsed, security has collapsed and they are swimming in corruption.
“Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gun powder, waiting to explode. The only way out is for Buhari to conduct free and fair elections in Edo and Ondo states so that Nigeria can remember him.”
Also addressing the rally, Governor Makinde faulted the APC for asking the people to vote for the party to ensure that the Southwest gets the Presidency in 2023.
Makinde said: “They are saying you should vote for them because they want Presidency to come to Yoruba land. This election is not about presidency to Yoruba land. This election is about delivering Eyitayo Jegede and putting Ondo State among the states that will lead the charge to restructure Nigeria.
“This election is about you choosing between continuous servitude and freedom. We want freedom for the entire Southwest. It has started from Oyo State, it will continue in Ondo State on 10/10/2020. Will you rather stay with a candle when you have the sun? Ondo State is the sunshine state.
“They have been lighting candle for you, so it is time to let the sun shine again. So, you will come out, cast your votes and stay with your votes. Your votes will not only count, it will be counted and it will liberate Ondo State”.
Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Tambuwal, who also addressed the party faithful, said that the Ondo election was the commencement of work in progress by the PDP, for the restructuring of Nigeria.
The governor knocked the APC administration for bringing untold hardship to the people with increased fuel and electricity charges at a time Nigerians were still struggling with the crippling effects of the COVID-19 lockdown.
He said: “Now the other party, the APC is in disarray, not only in Ondo State where they are busy fighting but also at the national level where they unlawfully, against their own constitution, dissolved their own national working committee.
“Are they not a party of confusion? Are they capable of governing Nigeria? As at now, they do not have a board of trustees for their party. Since the inception of APC till today, they have not been able to get a board of trustees for their party. Is that not enough confusion? That is why I confirm to you that APC is not the choice for Ondo State.
“They said that they are going to fight corruption, you all know the situation in Nigeria today. They said they are going to ensure the security of Nigerians, are we secured now? Are we secured at all?
“What about the economy? At this time of COVID-19, they have increased the suffering of Nigerians. Instead of giving us palliatives, they are adding to the suffering by increasing fuel prices, by increasing electricity tariff. The timing is very wrong”.
Addressing the people, Jegede promised to change what he described as the pathetic situation in the state by providing employment opportunities for the youth and addressing infrastructural decay.