The decision by former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Ambassador Taofeek Oladejo Arapaja, and erstwhile National Vice Chairman, southwest zone, Dr. Eddy Olafeso, to contest the national vice chairmanship position in the planned Southwest zonal congress Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is worsening the division among the party faithful.
Antagonists of Arapaja, who are mainly loyalists of former Ekiti State governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose, have said the former Oyo State deputy governor has no moral justification to lead Southwest PDP. They noted that Arapaja once left the party and could not just return to take the reins. On the other hand, those opposing Olafeso, who are loyalists of the incumbent governor of Oyo State, Mr. Seyi Makinde, said the immediate past national vice chairman, is one of the traitors that truncated the opportunity of the Southwest to produce the party’s national chairman at the last national convention.
An adverse effect of the development is that it has weakened the Lagos chapter where two parallel executives now exist with each pitting tent with Olafeso and Arapaja respectively.
Last Thursday, Arapaja visited Lagos to meet with former Deputy National Chairman of PDP, Chief Bode George to solicit his support and the camps loyal to him, while earlier, Olafeso met with the state’s chapter chairman, Engineer Adedeji Doherty, and some other loyalists of Fayose, to seek their blessings for his ambition.
During the meeting on Thursday, which held at the Ikoyi office of George, the former deputy national chairman expressed confidence in Arapaja, saying, “I knew the former deputy governor of Oyo State as a competent and devoted chieftain of PDP, who would be willing to serve with the best of intentions and motives and would no doubt succeed if voted in.
Arapaja, who happens to be loyal to the Makinde camp, also led his campaign team to the Lagos party secretariat in the Shogunle area of Ikeja to rally leaders and members’ support. The party’s Zonal Caretaker Chairman, Dayo Ogungbenro, Chief Abosede Adedibu, and Hon. Dare Adeleke accompanied him, among others.
Arapaja said he has embarked on a very significant journey to lead the Southwest zone, pleading with members in Lagos and across the zone to unite, noting that a divided house is a defeated one.
George, while admonishing Arapaja and his entourage, said members of the PDP must learn to adhere to the party’s constitution and abide by principles of justice, equity and fairness if peace, success, and progress must be attained. Responding, Arapaja pledged to adhere to advice, vowing not to run a one-man show if elected.
But in a telephone conversation with The Guardian, Olafeso said his ambition to lead Southwest PDP is not and can never be threatened by someone who has not been devoted and faithful to PDP. I have visited Lagos, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, and Oyo, to meet with authentic delegates, who would vote at the congress.
Olafeso said: “I don’t know why Arapaja is wasting his time to meet unknown and unrecognised people to PDP’s Constitution. I met Doherty, whom the National Working Committee (NWC) recognised as the authentic chairman of Lagos PDP. I don’t know who Arapaja met.”
The National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan told The Guardian that, “no date has been fixed for the congress but that does not prevent anyone from running his or her campaign. NWC is not in a hurry to conduct any congress, especially in the Southwest zone until the Senator Bukola Saraki Reconciliation Committee submits its report and assures the national headquarters that the congress can hold without any rancor.”
According to him, “there are three major zones where congress is yet to hold due to crisis. North Central, North West, and Southwest. Reconciliation is ongoing in the zones and the tenure of the caretaker committees in the affected places have been extended.”
Meanwhile, the Southwest PDP Zonal Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Lere Olayinka said the real bone of contention why the congress is yet to hold in the region is due to the court matter over the venue of the congress.
According to him, “I don’t think the issue is about reconciliation because the facts are clear that the Fayose group remains the majority and is also the one recognised by the Constitution. What is really delaying the congress is that some people have gone to court to challenge the Ibadan venue where the congress was originally scheduled to hold for security and other critical reasons while some are insisting that the congress must hold there, being the headquarters.
“The matter has been fixed for hearing and we are waiting for the outcome. Recall that the zone had, on several occasions, held its congress outside Ibadan. It was once held in Osun State and at another time in Ondo. Why must it now be held in Ibadan, Oyo State?”
Another member of the party said Arapaja is from Oyo and given that he was once a deputy governor whose base was Ibadan, he could influence the outcome of the conference. He also expressed concern that Governor Makinde could do anything to determine the outcome of the congress if it is held in his backyard.
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