The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State recently chose its State Executive Committee (SEC) members through consensus and harmonisation in a deliberate move to heal wounds. However, the step had barely resolved the lingering division within the party up till the time the national convention was held.
The setbacks that hit the PDP after the 2015 elections necessitated a coordinated effort at picking the pieces of the party in anticipation of future elections. However, in Lagos State, this has been hampered by an ego war among chieftains of the party who have been laying claims to the party’s leadership.
The division at the national level crept into the state with a factional executive in allegiance with the then Ali Modu Sheriff executive claiming to be in control of the state secretariat after purportedly dislodging the Moshood Salvador-led exco that was elected in May, 2016.
The PDP also went to the local government polls in Lagos State divided as the Moshood Salvador-led exco which was loyal to the defunct Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led national caretaker committee aligned with the Labour Party (LP).
The faction did this by directing PDP members to vote for LP candidates even as the other faction chaired by Segun Adewale kicked against the directive.
It is believed that the division dealt a great blow to the performance of the PDP in the elections which were cleared by the ruling APC.
With the defunct National Caretaker Committee chaired by Makarfi securing a Supreme Court victory which gave it full recognition, one of the steps taken by the party was to reconcile all aggrieved members across the states and collapse factions.
In the spirit of reconciliation and rapprochement championed by the Makarfi-led committee, the committee dissolved executives of some state chapters, including Lagos, to pave way for the conduct of fresh congresses at ward, local government and state levels.
This did not, however, go down well with many members of the party in Lagos, especially those loyal to Salvador who believed they had sacrificed and rallied round the party and the Makarfi-executive during its trying times.
A former chairman of the party, Capt. Tunji Shelle, told our correspondent that the dissolution of the executive was a miscalculated step, saying, “I am so surprised that the NCC does not know the problems we go through, they don’t know who is in the party, they don’t know who is not in the party, they don’t know who stands by the party, they don’t know who does not stand by the party.”
This lingered as dates of fresh congresses were fixed. Salvador indicated interest in coming back just like his rival, Adewale. There were two new entrants in the race-Femi Carena, a member of the caretaker committee and Dr. Adegbola Dominic, a one-time governorship aspirant of the party.
For the Lagos PDP, the fresh congresses was an opportunity to redefine itself, pick its pieces and form a formidable opposition having suffered a major setback in 2015.
The gale of defections from the party started with the decamping of seven of the eight elected members of the party in the House of Assembly. At the moment, only one member of the party remains in the 40-member assembly.
Recently, another chieftain of the party and a former minister, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, alongside many of his supporters, including Modupe Sasore, Jide Damazio, Kola Balogun, Kamal Olorunoje, dumped the PDP for the APC.
Therefore, it is natural that the party would take advantage of the congress to appease all warring factions and chart a new course for a more united and stronger party.
However, the congress was not without pockets of complaints and grumbling from members who disagreed with the process.
On Saturday, November 27, Salvador and other newly elected members were selected through a consensus. Other newly elected officers of the party are Alhaji Hassan Waliu (Deputy State Chairman), Prince Muiz Dosunmu (Secretary), Hon. Kunle Okunola (Organising Secretary). Others are Niyi Adams (Youth Leader), Mrs. Shola Oladehinbo (Women Leader) and Barr. Taofik Gani (Publicity Secretary).
The list of the new executive was sent to newsmen by the Publicity Secretary, Mr. Taofiq Gani, who said the congress was held at a venue in Jibowu area of the state and had the officers returned unopposed.
The congress was supervised by members of the state congress committee which included Hon. Dubem Onyia (chairman), Hon. John O. Odey, Col. Abibu Aliyu, Mrs. Cecilia Undie (members) and Mr. Joseph Asawa (secretary).
It was learnt that the stakeholders had earlier met all interested parties where it was agreed to allot offices to different zones in the state and to party leaders.
Notable leaders present at the congress were Senators Adeseye Ogunlewe and Kofo Bucknor-Akerele, Capt. Tunji Shelle, Jimi Agbaje, Otunba Segun Adewale, all the five members of the House of Representatives and its only member in the House of Assembly.
It was learnt that the allotment of party offices was done with a certain formula to accommodate all interests and groups. They included Chief Olabode George, who is the leader of the party and its strong financier, Jimi Agbaje, five members of the House of Representatives and Madam Aduke Maina, another BoT member in the state.
A source privy to the arrangement said, “We have drawn the list in such a way as to carry everybody along. Every stakeholder took home something in this arrangement which was done to avoid wrangling and further crisis in the party. The committee chose the harmonisation option having realised there were three groups of PDP in the state.”
However, the outcome of the party’s convention may have further deepened the crisis. A source alleged that the harmonisation was done in such a way as to decimate Bode George’s delegates’ list.
“Those they were trying to please were the same people who brought the party to disrepute and they were with Sheriff in the dark days of the party,” said the party chieftain.
Dominic and Adewale and other chieftains of the party also disagreed with the harmonisation process adopted in choosing the executive.
Adewale, who spoke with journalists, said he did not support the process by which the state executive emerged, saying the chairman’s position was unilaterally decided by one leader.
“I and the House of Representatives members were against it, but for peace to reign, we allowed them to have their way as usual. I don’t see how election can be won by selecting who and who get positions on the basis of who is your leader without considering your ability, electoral value, education and managerial expertise. Positions were shared based on sentiment and loyalty.
“A real congress will bring an end to political hegemony and a paradigm shift in the political narratives of Lagos State because vibrant, young and grassroots leaders will emerge through credible congress,” he added.
Also, the only member of the party in the House of Assembly, Mr. Dipo Olorunrinu, described the process as undemocratic.
“While I appreciate the Lagos PDP Congress Committee sent from the national headquarters for the conduct of the congress, if I will rate them, I will rate them under 40 per cent. Selection of leaders in politics has to do with congress. When the committee brought in harmonisation, a large number of people did not accept that approach. There is a big problem with the approach of harmonisation through which the state executives emerged because the people are aggrieved and angry with such directive,” he said.
Another chieftain of the party, Engr. Auwal Tahir-Maude, expressed reservation over the outcome the congress, saying the harmonisation failed to carry along people who suffered for the party.
“They should have looked at those who worked for the party. I am one of the faces of the party in Agege. They didn’t look at our side at all,” he said.
Another chieftain, Chief Ola Apena, said as far as he was concerned, there was no congress in Lagos State because there was no election. He said with the developments in Lagos which culminated in its dismal outing in the last national convention, the party was far from being united in the state.
Most of the chieftains who spoke with our correspondent however said they were keeping calm to allow peace to reign in the party and give it a new sense of direction.
However, Maude is of the opinion that the newly inaugurated executive should dissipate energy on reconciling aggrieved members who were genuinely committed to the promotion of the party’s ideals.
How Salvador carries along the aggrieved members is strategic to rebuilding and repositioning the party in preparation for future elections.