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It has not been lost on many that the crisis in the Oyo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party dates back to 2003 when former governor Rashidi Ladoja assumed office. Eleven years after, the party is yet to know peace, writes Ademola Babalola
Although no existing political party in Nigeria today is immune to internal squabbles and in most cases, undue wrangling due to divergent interests and agenda but the case of the Oyo state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for close to 11 years now, have defied all known solutions thus making political observers wonder if the crisis would ever end?
THISDAY recalls that hardly had the party taken over the reins of governance in 2003 from the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) government of Alhaji Lam Adesina that crisis erupted between the camps of former governor Rashidi Ladoja and his political godfather, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu over the sharing of political spoils.
The fire raged for two years leaving in its wake many victims of the era and ultimately the January 12, 2006 impeachment of Ladoja by 18 lawmakers loyal to Adedibu. Though Ladoja was reinstated through judicial means after 11 months in the wilderness, the crisis then culminated in the unending bickering still ravaging the party till today.
Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala who was deputy to Ladoja was sworn-in as governor and held sway until Ladoja was returned 11 months after the quashed impeachment believed to have been carried out by a less than two-thirds 18 lawmakers in the 32-member house of assembly loyal to Adedibu, popularly referred to as the strongman of Ibadan politics.
Since the demise of Adedibu, the colourful politician who bestrode the political landscape of Oyo politics nay Ibadan politics like a colossus on June 11, 2008, the party members and other leaders alike have been unable to proffer a workable solution to the intra-party crisis that bedeviled the umbrella party.
That Adedibu was autocratic, controversial and in many instances Mr. Know-it-all while both his glorious and inglorious era in the politics of the state lasted was not in doubt, one must however acknowledge his political sagacity and unmatched rallying figure with uncommon ability to organise, mobilise and douse tensions among the infringed members after the fallout of every 'party primaries' to select or elect candidates to run for elective offices.
Such a rallying point leadership is missing among the present day political leaders in Oyo state hence the current fight for supremacy and uncoordinated fronts in the party.
After Adedibu, the popular slogan 'Baba sope' which literally meant "Adedibu has decreed or ordered what should be or what ought not to be" disappeared with him, the party's umbrella has been torn to shreds because it appears no person of Adedibu's ilk exist any longer in the party. A leader of Adedibu's standing and crowding followership with overriding 'respect' and influence is today missing in the party. This is though not peculiar to Oyo politics or the PDP as a party; it cuts across board.
Those who initially thought Ladoja who rode on the back of Adedibu to become governor and whom he had a running battle with till Adedibu breathed his last, could emerge the party's rallying point, were soon confronted with the obvious reality that Adedibu's shoes were too big for anybody to put on not even Adedibu's godson, Alhaji Azeem Gbolarumi, who though commands the respect of many in the Adedibu political dynasty and party followers alike, could match the unrivaled political experience and in most cases, Adedibu's benevolence to many.
The inability of the party to hand Ladoja the PDP governorship ticket to run for a second term on resumption from his quashed impeachment in the party primaries which process began late 2006 and through to early 2007 saw Alao-Akala picking the ticket and eventually winning the April, 2007 election.
The crisis ever since made many, including Ladoja to finally leave the PDP few months to the 2011 elections. All the reconciliation committee recommendations of the party's National Working Committee (NWC) of Ike Nwachukwu, Alhaji Shuiab Oyedokun among others went down in the dustbin of history as all their reports could not bring about the much-needed peace among the gladiators.
While some PDP members hitherto in Ladoja's camp teamed up with the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Ladoja opted to energize Accord Party in the state; flew its governorship ticket and came third in the said election, queuing behind the eventual winner, Governor Abiola Ajimobi and Alao-Akala who came second. Ajimobi's taking over after eight years rule of PDP was the last straw that broke the camel's back for the party.
Alao-Akala who earlier in 2007 won the governorship election under PDP and ruled till 2011 became second person to be elected under the party. He ruled amidst suspicion from fellow party men and battled unsuccessfully throughout his four years tenure to bring all members under the same umbrella. Many of his supposed party men and women jumped ship to the defunct opposition ACN and threw spanner into the wheel of his avowed second term ambition.
Ever since, the falcons could no longer hear the falconets and the centre no longer holds for Oyo PDP.
In the face of the unimpressive status of the party till date which culminated in its loss of power to the defunct ACN in 2011, the PDP members appear not to have learnt their lessons as recent efforts to bring them together and forge a common front ahead of next election is again heading for the rock!
THISDAY recalls that the stakeholders’ meeting which included who-is-who in the party held two months ago in Abuja and has neither brought forth fruits nor met its set target of fashioning out ways to come back as a strong party capable of evolving a formidable platform to return it to its winning streaks ahead of the next general election in 2015.
Those who attended the parley were Alao-Akala, Senator Teslim Kolawole Folarin, Senator Lekan Balogun, Chief Richard Akinjide, Elder Wole Oyelese, Professor Soji Adejumo, House of Representatives Leader, Honourable Mulikat Adeola-Akande, Gbolarumi, Dr. Saka Balogun, state chairman and secretary of the PDP, Yinka Taiwo and Alaba Adelabu.
People like Seyi Makinde, Femi Babalola (JOGOR), Deputy Senate Whip, Senator Hosea Ayoola Agboola and former Sports Minister, Professor Taoheed Adedoja, took permissions to be absent because they were out of the country. But the gladiators, according to reports, unanimously agreed on one of its founding fathers, Alhaji Yekini Adeojo, to be its leader in the state.
Regrettably however, the parley appears to be collapsing so soon with recent altercations from the different camps of the party members especially in the last three weeks. Some members of the party have been up in arms against the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, for allegedly declaring herself as the party's leader in the state.
The minister had said in a recent press statement that, "I am the Arrow Head of the PDP in Oyo State as the Minister in an opposition state. I will continue to work hard to ensure the success of Mr. President, the Transformation Agenda of the federal government, and the victory of PDP at the polls in the 2015 elections."
The above statement by the minister has continued to elicit reactions but the latest of Akinjide's critics, Alhaji Bisi Olopoenia got more than he bargained for as some notable members of the party and youths in Olopoenia council area (Ibadan North-East local government area of the state) condemned him in strong terms, describing his outburst as most uncharitable and self-serving.
Kazeem Adebayo who spoke on behalf of the Ibadan North-east PDP warned Olopoenia whom he described as someone who does not know the number of polling units in his ward, ward 1 in Ibadan North-East local government area much less knowing the wards and local government boundaries, to stop parading himself as a chieftain of the party in the state.
As if that was not enough, another respected leader of the party who doubles as the former Chief of Staff to Alao-Akala, Dr. Saka Balogun also got a dose of the bitter pills in the ensuing altercations for his reported call for the dissolution of the state party executives to pave the way for a 'truly united' and an all-encompassing party executive members as the chairman of the PDP in the state, as Alhaji Yinka Taiwo, took him to the cleaners for such effrontery and daring to make such a call, a few weeks after Abuja parley.
According to Taiwo, such call for the dissolution of party executive was uncharitable and baseless that the National Working Committee of the party should dissolve the legitimately-constituted executives of the party from the ward to the state level.
But the party chairman has a supporter in Olopoenia who reacted to reports credited to Balogun that President Jonathan would lose Oyo in the 2015 election, because of the intractable party crisis and the non-dissolution of the state party executives to reflect all shades of opinions.
Olopoenia said "Dr Saka Balogun's comment was a political miscalculation which was clearly revealed that he is a spent force in the state’s political terrain. President Jonathan will win with wide margin in Oyo State because there is no issue on ground that portends such.”
Another chieftain of the party and a former council chairman, Alhaji Kehinde Olaosebikan supported Taiwo, saying "I agree with the Chairman. We have wasted so much time on agitation. It is high time we moved forward. One good thing about the whole issue is that the executives are neither concentrated in one particular zone nor under the influence or control of any individual.
“It is a product of democratic process duly endorsed and applauded by all. This is what is distinguishing us from other parties that are still being run like personal estates.”
For all intents and purposes, the party appears to be its own greatest enemy and if the crisis that has crept into its fibre is anything to go by, PDP may totally be heading for the rock and 2015 may be its worst showing since 1999 that the nation returned to democratic rule. Only genuine and true reconciliation of all its members remain the panacea to the obviously intractable crisis that the party finds itself today.