Seyi Makinde: PDP Undertaker?

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In 2019, Seyi Makinde confounded pundits when he sent packing the then ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) by defeating its candidate, Chief Bayo Adelabu -and 40 others – to win the Oyo State governorship election conducted on 9th March 2019. As it later turned out, he was the only governor elected on the party platform in the entire South-West geo-political zone.

However, two years on, Governor Seyi Makinde has fallen apart from virtually everyone that ensured his victory, including a coalition that cut across party lines. Speaking in an interview shortly after assuming office, he told reporters from a national newspaper that: “Another major factor that made the 2019 experience different was the fact that, at the last minute, we had a coalition of political parties, with people like Baba (Rashidi) Ladoja, Senator (Olufemi) Lanlehin, Barrister Sarafadeen Alli, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde and a host of other leaders leading different parties, which all came in to team up with the PDP and that pushed the game beyond the reach of the APC.”

But that was then. Mr Makinde has fallen out with most (if not all) of the personalities mentioned above A further confirmation of the demystification of the Makinde brand was the outcome of the recently conducted South-West PDP Zonal Congress where the candidate he openly supported, Ambassador Taofeek Oladejo Arapaja, could muster a paltry 13 votes difference between him and his closest rival, Eddy Olafeso, despite huge financial war chest deployed for the venture. Ex-governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State – the main supporter of Olafeso, was to describe the process as a “scam”.

Indeed, the events leading to the election is as interesting as the outcome of the poll itself. One, the exercise initially scheduled to hold in Ibadan was moved to Osogbo, the Osun State capital, at the last minute, even as it was delayed for another 48 hours.

To thousands of observers outside the Women and Children Development Initiative Foundation Event Centre, Osogbo, venue of the South-West Zonal Congress of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the process couldn’t have been more seamless and peaceful. However, insiders reveal a potpourri of unbridled cases of vote-buying, intimidation and harassment of delegates leading to the emergence of Governor Makinde’s anointed candidate, as the winner of the congress held on Monday, 12th April 2021.

Delegates from Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and the Oyo States, had converged on the ancient town to elect new executive members for the party in the South-West geo-political zone. Although there were other positions contested, that of the Chairmanship position had attracted attention owing largely to the interest it has generated in the days leading to the poll.

It was a battle of wits, test of popularity and, above all, scheming for positions ahead 2023 election between the two camps loyal to Governor Makinde and that of Fayose, having failed to agree on consensus to put the new executive of the party in place.

Reports suggest that Governor Makinde had prepared to have the congress in Ibadan, being the political headquarters of the South-West region. However, the Fayose camp wouldn’t have any of that as it clamoured for a neutral venue, a request that was acceded to as the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) moved the exercise to Osogbo, the Osun State capital.

Olafeso, an indigene of Ondo State and former occupant of the office, resigned from that position in 2020 to participate in the Ondo State gubernatorial primary of the PDP but lost in his bid to clinch the party’s ticket. He had told anyone who cared to listen that he had an agreement with Makinde that should he lose out in the PDP gubernatorial primary, he would return to his former position.

Arapaja on his part was granted a waiver by the NWC of the party as his name was listed as one of the delegates from Oyo State, despite recently joining the party. Oyo had the highest number of delegates with 177, followed by Osun State with 132, Ekiti State with 119, Ogun State with 114, Ondo 112 while Lagos State had 102 delegates participating in the congress. Some members had questioned the rationale behind fielding the former deputy governor of Oyo State as he was said to be a rolling stone that gathers no moss. His critics say he has a penchant for defecting from one party to the other. Indeed, he was a member of the APC not long ago. In the built-up to the 2019 elections, he defected to the African Democratic Congress (ADC). And now, he’s back in the PDP.

However, at the screening exercise for aspirants held on Sunday 11th April 2021, only an aspirant, and a loyalist of Fayose, contesting the position of Youth Leader was disqualified over allegation of being overage by the Senator Dino Melaye-led screening committee.

Meanwhile, that the exercise fell short of the standard election was confirmed by some chieftains of the party in Oyo State who took part in the exercise. While speaking on the condition of anonymity, they opined that the exercise fell short of internal party democracy going by what actually transpired during the election.

According to a member, “if you are there you will weep for Nigeria because of the heavy presence of thugs and hoodlums mobilized to the venue from Oyo State. I wondered why about 300 vehicles filled with members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), led by Mukaila Auxiliary were doing at the venue. On enquiry, I was told that they were there to unleash mayhem and attack whoever was against Governor Makinde if the outcome of the election does not favour our candidates.

“Secondly, when it was time for Oyo State delegates to vote, we discovered that they planted some people to act as spies on some of us perceived not to be in support of Ambassador Arapaja’s candidature, or some that have one grievance or the other with Governor Makinde. The sitting arrangement was changed when it was time for Oyo State delegates to vote. They spied on the name we wrote on the ballot papers.

“ We were literally coerced to voting for Ambassador Arapaja because I can tell you authoritatively that majority of the delegates from Oyo State were not happy with Governor Makinde’s leadership style. Some of his loyalists even voted against his chosen candidate, and this was reflected in the result of the election if you look at it. How can Arapaja win with just 13 votes with the machinery and resources expended on the election by the governor?

“Their saving grace was that they had arranged a monitoring team to spy on how we voted and that was when some delegates changed their minds to vote for Arapaja because they didn’t know what was in for them should they do the opposite. Though Fayose camp lost, the result showed that they were solidly on the ground and has the majority and it is high time Governor Makinde realised this fact and do the needful by bringing everybody on board and allow true and genuine reconciliation of all aggrieved party members as we prepared for the 2023 elections.”

Similarly, another source from the delegates from Oyo State said though Oyo State truly deserved that Chairmanship position looking at the commitment of the people of the state to PDP since inception from 1999 till date, when some people are fighting a specific individual there is much to that individual. According to him, “that Congress has exposed many hidden things about Governor Makinde considering his commitment and resources to this needless battle. A leader should be somebody who should have a listening ear and take advice. How come people extremely loyal to Makinde and who worked for the success of the PDP in the Oyo 2019 gubernatorial elections were vehemently against his candidate in the build-up to the zonal congress elections? How did he and some of his political associates become so estranged within a short time? How on earth can Governor Makinde turn his enthusiastic supporters into bitter enemies within two years of his administration?” the source queried.

However, a usually realisable source within the party informed Rulers’ World that some members of the executives of the party in the state equally voted against Ambassador Arapaja during the election. Among them was the PDP Youth Leader, Asiwaju Adekola Adeoye. He has since been suspended from the party, allegedly on the order of the governor.

Some stakeholders insinuated that the feud between Governor Makinde and ex-governor Fayose could be linked to the prospect that the PDP might zone its next Vice- Presidential slot to the South-West region after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Prior to the conduct of the Congress, South-West State chairmen of the PDP had dared Governor Makinde, to dump the party, after he warned the NWC of the party against postponing the South-West congress of the party.

The Chairman of the South-West PDP Chairmen, Dr Sikirulai Ogundele, in a statement released on behalf of PDP chairmen in Ekiti, Lagos and Osun states – Otunba Bisi Kolawole, Adedeji Doherty and Sunday Bisi, respectively, noted that it was shocking that Makinde could insult “the custodians of the party just because they chose to obey an order of the court which had earlier forbade the party from holding the congress.”

Their statement read in part, “Who cares if he chooses to leave the PDP this time, too? Is he not even already a sinking ship in Oyo State, placing members of the SDP (Social Democratic Party) and ADC (Action Democratic Congress) over and above those of the PDP?

“Without apologies, Governor Makinde can do his worst. He should stop threatening the party because he is not more a loyal and committed member of the party than people like us who stood by the party when he left.”

Governor Makinde is also having a running battle with some stakeholders of the party in Oyo State, persons he admitted in the past played a key role in his electoral success. Few names that readily come to mind include Alhaji Adebisi Olopoeyan, Alhaji Hazeem Gbolarumi, former deputy governor in the state, Hon. Mulikat Akande-Adeola, former Majority Leader, House of Representatives, Engr. Femi Babalola (Jogor) and a host of other chieftains of the party in the state.

Not only that, there is a pervasive rumour of a tiff between the governor and his deputy, Engr. Rauf Olaniyan, as feelers from the Government House, points to the alleged sidelining of the deputy from state affairs.

It would be recalled that it took a coalition between the PDP and other political parties which included ADC, Zenith Labour Party (ZLP); SDP and Alliance for Democracy (AD) to oust the former administration from office based on sharing formula agreed upon.

But immediately on assumption, the governor was said to have given an indication of unwillingness to honour the ‘gentleman agreement’ he had with members of the coalition. On 2nd July 2019, Chief Olufemi Lanlehin, who was the ADC gubernatorial candidate, withdrew from the coalition.

The other was Barrister Sharafadeen Alli of ZLP. Both have since joined the opposition APC, alongside thousands of their supporters.

It was gathered that the decision to pull out of the agreement was based on the deviation from the terms of the agreement reached on how the various positions and appointments would be shared on the eve of the formation of the coalition.

With the way and manner Governor Makinde is handling the affairs of the party, he might not only find it difficult to win re-election in 2023, but he might also just sound a death knell on the PDP in its only remaining hold in the South-West region. The coalition formed then that brought him to power doesn’t exist anymore while he is also having a serious battle with major stakeholders within the PDP. Some observers had even said that his inability to manage success and sustain his team will likely have adverse consequences in the entire South-West region.

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