Local government primaries tears Oyo PDP apart

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This may not be the best of time for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State as the peace achieved by the party, particularly in its overwhelming victory during the 2019 governorship and State House of Assembly elections, is currently being threatened following what some stakeholders termed unlawful imposition of unpopular candidates in the forthcoming local government elections across the 33 Local Government Areas in the state.

Indeed, investigation revealed that protest has continued to trail the intra-party exercise it conducted as many of the candidates allegedly emerged through imposition by the Governor Seyi Makinde and some chieftains of the party including Senator Hosea Agboola, the Chairman of the Governor’s Advisory Council, who was accused of singlehandedly presenting the list of the candidates in the 10 local government areas of Oke Ogun zone in the state, and others.

Prior to the March 8 election date, there were pockets of protests from members of the party who reportedly acted on rumours suggesting that election will not be held rather candidates will be imposed on members of the party. For instance, members of the party from Ibadan South East Local Government and Ogbomoso South Local Government Areas stormed the party secretariat at Molete on Saturday March 6, in peaceful protest to protest against the alleged imposition.

The protesters alleged that some leaders of the party cajoled Governor Makinde, into endorsing unpopular candidates. They said, rather than accepting imposition, the governor and the state leadership should organise a free and fair primary, adding that they will accept the outcome of such an exercise. It was subtly stated, during the protest that though they are not prepared to leave the party, they will however work against the PDP in the election, should its leadership go ahead and impose candidates on them.

Sources revealed that some politicians in the party held a meeting with the governor where they impressed it on him that the prevailing security situation would not allow for a primary election; hence a consensus candidate option should be adopted.The governor reportedly agreed to the suggestion, particularly as a means of averting possible breach of security, hence the setting up of a five-man committee to look into the possibility of some of the aspirants stepping down and adopting a consensus candidate.

Similarly an anonymous source within the party informed Rulers’ World that 96 chairmanship aspirants that appeared before the committee between Friday 5 March, and Saturday 6 March, 2021, accepted consensus arrangements while 56 other chairmanship aspirants insisted on primary. The party on 7 March, 2021 subsequently announced its readiness to hold its primary on Monday 8 March and released a list of Returning Officers for each of the local government areas in the state.

Meanwhile, the poll was rocked by allegations of violence, parallel congresses, last minute change of designated areas and replacement of Returning Officers in some local governments during the primaries. In Oyo West, it was learnt that Mr. Tunde Ogunlana, who was initially announced as the Returning Officer, had his name substituted with that of Mr. Oladimeji Babalola. In Ogo Oluwa Local Government, the Returning Officer for the election did not show up at the designated venue.

Also, In Ogbomosho North, Ogbomosho South and Oriire, all in Ogbomosho zone, parallel congresses were held while violence erupted during the congress in Lagelu Local Government Area when some political thugs invaded the venue and injured some persons including one of the aspirants.

In Ibadan South East, Ibadan South West, Ibadan North-West, Oluyole, Ona Ara, Egbeda, Akinyele local government areas and some other local government areas, there was relative peace as delegates chose their candidates through the consensus option. In Ibadan North, the exercise was postponed indefinitely due to perceived irregularities. It was similar scenario in Ibarapa zone of the state where leaders and members from the National Assembly were sidelined in the exercise.

An aide to Governor Seyi Makinde from Oke Ogun zone who pleaded anonymity, lamented a situation where an individual would single handedly presented the list of candidates in the region without considering others like the Deputy Governor of the State, Mr. Rauf Olaniyan, Pa Jacob Adetoro, Barrister Farinto, Hon. Samuel Adejumobi (Agbara po) as well as the state’s party Chairman, Alhaji Kunmi Mustapha, who are also from the region, stressing that this might have adverse effect on the party.

An aspirant who craved anonymity also bemoaned the poor conduct of the primary, noting that the governor and other leaders have not been fair to all loyal party members. According to him, “they had thought the governor would use the council election to address the wrangling in the party, but sadly, the governor once more failed the party faithful.

A female aspirant expressed disappointment at the outcome of the poll, stressing that she had thought the governor would use the election to address gender imbalance in elective position. She noted that out of the 33 Local Government Areas in Oyo State, the PDP could not give it party ticket to at least five women in order to groom them and empower women politically.

While narrating her experience, she said with the way PDP picked candidates in connivance with party leaders; she has been denied the opportunity to serve her people, having spent so much canvassing delegates for the election.

Meanwhile, a chieftain of PDP in the state, Alhaji Adebisi Olopoeyan, has debunked the assertion by Senator Abdul Ningi that the intra-party poll, held in the state, was free, fair and credible. Senator Ningi was the Chairman of the party Electoral Committee. The committee was set up by the National Working Committee of the party to observe the PDP primaries in the state. He said the declaration by Ningi was far from the truth and declared that, by that singular act, Ningi has brought to an end a united PDP in Oyo State.

Ningi, while submitting the report of his committee on the exercise to Governor Makinde, had claimed that the process was free and credible. Ningi who led other members of the committee to a meeting with the governor at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, said “So far, so good, the electioneering process is satisfactory to us as a committee. This is among the very best local government primaries that I have attended. I am satisfied, especially with the openness of the state government and the party. We observed the exercise was a free and fair because we went round the metropolis. We went to the outskirts of the city to witness the local council election and we are satisfied with what we have seen.”

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But Olopoeyan said Ningi lied and called on the PDP NWC to refrain from giving the former Senator such a responsibility in the future. He said he wouldn’t have bothered himself with the alleged falsehood and charade put up by the electoral committee if Senator Ningi had not declared the primary free, fair and credible. Olopoeyan challenged Ningi and his committee members to move round the 33 Local Government Areas in the state and make such a claim, and wait for the result of such a falsehood.

According to him, “I challenge Senator Abdul Ningi. If truly the primaries were free, fair and credible as he claimed, he should go round the local government areas and tell them the primary was free, fair and credible and see what will happen to him. I want him to mention one local government area that he went to, to monitor the primary or where the primary was held. Senator Ningi is just here to do a hatchet job that may destroy the party in Oyo State. Ningi lacks credibility. He has not seen or even picked the calls of aggrieved aspirants and leaders of the party since his arrival in Ibadan.

“He was just sitting in the hotel enjoying himself until today, Wednesday, when he showed up at the Government House, making false claims. Before the conduct of the primaries, there should be a stakeholders’ meeting. I want everybody, including the PDP NWC, to ask Ningi where such a meeting was held or the local government area he visited. When the party executives knew there won’t be any primary, why collect money for nomination form from aspirants? This was a dubious character.”

But while speaking on the exercise, the state party Chairman, Alhaji Kunmi Mustapha, pledged that the party would refund the nomination fees of unfavoured aspirants that obtained the Nomination and Expression of Interest forms. He hinted that the party took the decision to refund the aspirants’ deposits so as to pacify them and not feel being cheated after the exercise.

He said, “We are thinking of calling those that do not emerge to refund their money to them. It is only candidates that emerge that will not be refunded. Other aspirants will be duly compensated by refunding their nomination fees so as to avoid any rancour or grudges against the party.”