In a bid to rejuvenate the opposition Peoples Democratic Party in the country, the Senator Ahmed Makarfi and Alhaji Ali Modu-Sheriff factions of the party recently resolved to reconcile their differences. This move, it is believed, will help hold the embattled PDP together once again ahead of 2019 and give the party the impetus to provide a virile opposition to the ruling All Progressives Congress.
But as the two major factions of the PDP are bracing to embrace peace, there are speculations that the move may worsen the crisis in some of its state chapters across the country, where the already existing quagmire may become deeper. This could be particularly so in Ondo State, where the race for the next occupant of the Alagbaka Government House has continued to gather momentum, ahead of the forthcoming governorship election scheduled for November.
PEACE AND RECONCILIATION MOVES
Resolution of the lingering leadership crisis that has bedeviled the PDP commenced, when leaders of the two factions of the party met and agreed to bury the hatchet in the interest of unity in the party.
The Secretary of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ben Obi and a top-ranking chieftain of the Modu-Sheriff-led faction, first gave the hint of the impending rapproachment between the two warring groups within the party.
According to the party chieftain, who pleaded anonymity, leaders of the two disparate groups, at a meeting, had a holistic review and deliberation on the state of affairs of the PDP, “Without prejudice to all outstanding matters in court.”
He added, “It has become obvious to both of us as principal actors that it is time to heal the wounds and bring about a united, focused and constructive opposition party.
“A party that can bring sanity to our democratic process; bring relief to the teeming supporters of our great party and to the benefit of our great country.”
The party chieftain also said Makarfi and Modu-Sheriff had both agreed to consult widely with relevant organs of the party.
He said the two leaders also agreed to set up a joint committee that would carry out a holistic reconciliation of aggrieved segments of the party across the country and in the Diaspora, adding, “They also agreed to pursue the vision of the founding fathers of our great party.”
He added that the details of the meeting between the two leaders of the factions would be made public soonest.
“We therefore call on party members to remain calm and refrain from any actions and utterances that could further bring about division or dispute in the party,” he said.
In his remark, Obi also affirmed both leaders’ resolve to put their differences aside and unite the party. Implication for troubled Ondo PDP.As some stalwarts of the party are preparing for a new era in the PDP, it is glaring that some of its actors in Ondo State have become apprehensive of what may become of them in the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
This state of affairs, according to information gathered by our correspondent, has thrown some of the party followers in the state in disarray, while others have embarked on critical consultation in order to know how best to play their game ahead of the coming election.
It is instructive to note that both factions of the party in the state have already concluded their primary elections at the different levels, which produced different candidates for them.
The Sheriff-led faction, it would be recalled, had its primaries in Ibadan, Oyo State, where the Chairman of the Global Fleet Group, Mr Jimoh Ibrahim, emerged its standard bearer, while the other faction, led by the Chairman of the party’s National Caretaker Committee, Senator Makarfi, conducted its primary election at the state capital, Akure, where Mr Eyitayo Jegede also emerged the party’s standard bearer.
With the emergence of two different standard bearers for the party, political analysts are of the view that the PDP at the state level may need to go extra mile in its ongoing peace moves in order not to spoil its chances in the November governorship election in the Sunshine state.
Meanwhile, findings by our correspondent revealed that some PDP loyalists, at both the national and state levels, have said that the only way for the ongoing reconciliation moves to stand, especially at this point in time, is for the Sheriff faction to produce the PDP governorship candidate for the forthcomng election in Ondo State.
A party stalwart in Ondo State, who pleaded anonymity, said the Sheriff camp in the state had already taken the decision, which was the major determinant of their agreement to the peace moves announced recently.
“As a matter of fact, we all know what happened to Sheriff’s faction in Edo State to the extent that it was Pastor Ize Iyamu that was accepted by the Independent National Electoral Commission and with the situation on ground, Sheriff’s camp has begun to request for Ondo State’s slot against what happened in Edo State. This and other things will be embedded in the factors that will determine how real the peace move is,” he said.
With ongoing speculations on which candidate will fly the PDP flag in Ondo, keen political observers have said Ibrahim, against people’s expectation and the name submitted to INEC by the Makarfi faction, may end up being favoured, if the pendulum swings in the direction of the Sheriff faction and the business mogul emerges the party’s consensus candidate.
However, other political analysts, having different views, have said that the ‘forces’ and ‘powers-thatbe,’ which saw Jegede through as the party’s standard bearer, would hardly allow for such a situation to prevail in the state.
The reason, according to findings, is that Modu-Sheriff’s candidate, Ibrahim, is currently having yet-to-beresolved issues with most PDP stalwarts in the state and this has made most of them to alienate him from the as a party.
In fact, for the Ondo PDP, Ibrahim is no more seen as member of the party in the state, due to his alleged failure to formally return to its fold since his earlier defection to the Accord Party.
The Ondo PDP Publicity Secretary, Banji Okunomo, said, “The information that Ibrahim may emerge our candidate is not correct and I have released a statement on that. It is an attempt to create more problems for the party within and outside.
“What I mean is that the national crisis involving Sheriff and Makarfi is about the leadership of the party at the national level, which does not have anything to do with the structure of the party at the state level. It also does not have anything to with the process of selecting candidate for the coming election. “We had our primary election legally in the presence of INEC on August 22. It was a contest where Mr. Jegede emerged the standard bearer of the party in Ondo State. Outside this, no other primary was conducted in Ondo State. The claim that was laid by one Mr. Ibrahim, who was a onetime member of the PDP and later defected to Accord Party, is far from the truth.
“Ever since his defection to the Accord Party, he has not returned to the PDP, either at the ward, local government or state level. So, is it possible for such a person to now announce himself as a contestant for the governorship election under our party? The Point I am making here is that we had our primary and our only candidate is Jegede.
“The congress was held according to the constitution of the party under Section 25 subsection 1(a-d). The governor, the deputy governor, on the platform of the party, National Assembly members of the party from the state, the 21 members of the state House of Assembly, the state executives of the party, and party chairmen from the 18 local government areas of the state, and others, participated in the primary election.”
Meanwhile, a top-ranking chieftain of the Modu-Sheriff faction told our correspondent that the party would, for now, remain silent on its authentic standard bearer in the coming election in Ondo State.
“For now, there is a directive that we don’t talk on any issue about the party. Issues like that have not been decided, as what is pertinent now is the peace move we are all working towards. We want to ensure that we come together once again to achieve a stronger party. So, on that question, we have not decided on who will be the flag bearer,” he said.
But PDP National Publicity Secretary, Dayo Adeyeye, said the ongoing reconciliation would not affect the party’s decision on theOndo State governorship election.
Adeyeye, who on the telephone with our correspondent, said, “Irrespective of any speculation that may be going on, we already have our standard bearer who is Eyitayo Jegede and I think people should get this right. And the primary that produced him was the only one that was conducted in Ondo State. Anything outside that is fake.”
INEC not interested in any candidate.
While the disagreemets between the two PDP factions in Ondo State rage, INEC has declared that it had no interest in any name submitted in respect of the Ondo governorship election. The Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Rotimi Oyekan, in a chat with our correspondent, said, “To be sincere with you,INEC is not concerned with any name submitted. We work with a code of conduct and whichever name that is submitted will be accepted. And on the name submitted, I will confirm and get back to you.”
The struggle for the soul of the Ondo State PDP by the Modu-Sheriff and Makarfi factions started before the parallel primary elections conducted by both groups.
Both factions sold nomination and expression of interest forms to the aspirants, each claiming to be the authentic leadership of the party.
In the contest, six aspirants expressed their interest to seek the governorship ticket on the platform of the PDP, including a former commissioner for justice, Jegede; former commissioner for the environment, Sola Ebiseni; and former Commissioner for local government and chieftaincy matters, Bamiduro Dada.
The three of them, until recently, served in Governor Olusegun Mimiko’s cabinet, but resigned their appointments to pursue their governorship ambition.
Other aspirants include business mogul, Ibrahim; Niran Sule and Saka Lawal.
While Messrs. Jegede and Lawal obtained their forms from the Makarfi faction, Messrs Ibrahim, Sule, Ebiseni and Dada obtained theirs from the Modu-Sheriff group.
Messrs. Ebiseni and Dada said they pitched their camp with Modu-Sheriff because they considered him the authentic chairman of the party in the eyes of the law.
However, with the insistence by both Jegede and Ibrahim on being the authentic governorship candidate of the the Ondo PDP, it will be difficult to clearly see how the current imbroglio will be resolved.
Although the two factions at the national level are busy fine-tuning the terms for reconciliation, political watchers are of the opinion that unless the current confusion in the Ondo PDP is urgently resolved in one way or the other, it may be the undoing of the party in the forthcoming governorship election in the sunshine state.