BY TIMOTHY AGBOR, OSOGBO
It’s exactly 62 days to the July 16 governorship election in Osun. Yet, all is not yet well in the ranks of almost all the political parties in the state. As each day passes, the crises bedeviling the political families, especially the ruling All Progressives Congress and major opposition Peoples Democratic Party, are worsening with their attendant depletions occasioned by defections of bigwigs and their supporters to less popular political parties.
When a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Lasun Yusuff, could not bear the heat in APC after he performed woefully in the party’s primary, he exited and floated his gubernatorial ambition in Labour Party where he is now the candidate of LP.
The story is similar for a former governorship aspirant of the PDP, Dr Akin Ogunbiyi, who dumped the party and moved to the Accord Party with thousands of his followers. He is now the governorship candidate of the Accord Party in the forthcoming poll. These are just instances of the level of division, factionalism and internal bickering in the major political parties in the state and they now appear to be intractable.
Without a doubt, the worst-hit and struggling in troubled waters is the PDP, which of course is also gearing to settle an old score with the incumbent Governor, Gboyega Oyetola. The governor is the candidate of the ruling party. The PDP is not only battling internal differences, its candidacy in the election is under threat owing to pockets of litigations and counter-court cases. The party currently parades two governorship ‘candidates’ and political watchers have said that PDP may be shooting itself in the foot should it continue to toe this path.
While the Independent National Electoral Commission and the national leadership of the party recognise and authenticate Senator Ademola Adeleke as the governorship candidate, Prince Dotun Babayemi, who emerged as a candidate at a parallel governorship primary has refused to let go and has been parading as the candidate arguing that the court recognises his faction’s primary.
There is big confusion among party members in the state as the two candidates continue to lay claim to the governorship ticket of the party and have been going about their campaigns separately.
“The latest efforts by the leadership of PDP to unite aggrieved leaders and members of the party in Osun might not have yielded any positive results. The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, had announced the constitution of a Special Reconciliation Committee for Lagos and Osun States, headed by Eyitayo Jegede, SAN
How crisis in Osun PDP snowballed
The crisis in the PDP got to a head when it was preparing for its governorship primary candidate nomination in March, this year. On March 8, Senator Adeleke and Prince Babayemi were elected in separate primary elections in Osogbo, the state capital. While one primary election took place at the Osogbo City Stadium, another parallel governorship election was conducted at WOCDIF Event Center producing two candidates.
The exercise at the stadium was supervised by a committee from the National Secretariat of the party led by the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Lawrence Oborawharievwo Ewhrudjakpo and INEC officials, but the one at the WOCDIF event centre was not supervised by the committee.
Six aspirants, including Ademola Adeleke, Prince Dotun Babayemi, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, Dele Adeleke, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi, and Omirin Emmanuel Olusanya had all shown interest in clinching the PDP ticket and the Mohammed Adoke-led screening committee from the PDP National Secretariat cleared all of them for the contest.
However, four aspirants, Ogunbiyi, Dele, Omirin and Akinbade pulled out of the race. While Akinbade, Dele and Omirin supported Babayemi at the primary, Ogunbiyi was neutral as he lampooned the leadership of the party for alleged bias in events leading to the primaries.
The members of the party at the stadium were supporters of Adeleke while those supporting Babayemi were at the parallel primary.
A former governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Deputy Governor, Erelu Olusola Obada, PDP leaders, Chiefs Shuaib Oyedokun, Olu Alabi, Tajudeen Oladipo were among top PDP members at the parallel primary election at WOCDIF while other party leaders including Professor Wale Oladipo, Alhaji Gani Olaoluwa and Prince Diran Odeyemi were at the primary election holding at the City Stadium.
At the end of the parallel governorship primary election at the WOCDIF event centre, Babayemi was declared the winner by the returning officer, Adelani Ajanaku, and the flag of the party was handed over to him. Senator Adeleke was declared the winner of the primary election held at the City Stadium which was supervised by officials of the party from the PDP national secretariat.
Five days before the parallel congresses, exactly on March 3, an Osun State High Court sitting in Ijebu-Jesa, had authenticated the Ward Congress that produced 215 delegates under the then state Chairman, Soji Adagunodo (Babayemi’s camp). This was against the ward congress conducted under the then state Chairman of the party, Sunday Bisi (Adeleke’s camp).
On 10th March, two days after the primaries, again, the same court pronounced that the PDP governorship primary election that produced Babayemi as the gubernatorial candidate was the legally recognised because the delegates that voted for him were the ones backed by the law.
Also, Adeleke approached a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja with an originating summons dated March 10, 2022 and filed on March 14. Through his counsel, Wole Jimi Bada, Adeleke asked the court to only recognise him as the authentic candidate of the party and that the court should nullify the parallel primary held by Babayemi’s camp. While Adeleke was the plaintiff, Dr Iyorcha Ayu, National Chairman of PDP, PDP and INEC were the three defendants.
Delivering judgment in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/322/2022, Justice Emeka Nwite, in a copy of judgement obtained by The Point and dated April 28, ordered that Adeleke’s camp primary is authentic and declared that any other is null and void.
Not satisfied, Babayemi approached a Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo and instituted another case against the PDP, INEC and nomination of Adeleke. In the suit, marked FHC/OS/CS/26/2022, Babayemi challenged the nomination and submission of Senator Adeleke by the PDP to INEC and the validity of the governorship primaries conducted at the stadium against the authenticated delegates who voted at the party primaries at WOCDIF as ordered by the court.
Meanwhile, the court presided over by Justice N Ayo-Emmanuel had adjourned till Wednesday, May 18, for delivery of judgement on the latest suit.
Fresh reconciliatory move
The latest efforts by the leadership of PDP to unite aggrieved leaders and members of the party in Osun might not have yielded any positive results. The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, had announced the constitution of a Special Reconciliation Committee for Lagos and Osun States, headed by Eyitayo Jegede, SAN, a former governorship candidate of the party in Ondo State.
Ologunagba had disclosed that, “the National Working Committee (NWC) of our great Party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has constituted a Special Reconciliation Committee (SRC) to address certain issues in both Lagos and Osun States chapters of our Party.”
The statement said the “Reconciliation Committee is charged with the responsibility of reconciling all our various stakeholders including aspirants in the just concluded State Congress and Governorship Primary Election respectively in Lagos and Osun States.”
Other members of the committee include Mutiat Ladoja, Monsuru Olakukoyi, Kunmi Mustapha and Tolagbe Animasahun. The committee also has Awila Banigo, Olusola Soledolu and Abimbola Balogun, Kayode Adaramodu and Adegbite Adedamola were appointed as Secretary and Administrative Secretary, respectively.
The PDP charged all stakeholders and teeming members of the party in both states to remain focused and continue to present a common front for the task ahead.
Even while Adeleke and Babayemi’s camps have declared support for the reconciliation committee led by Jegede, their body language has not accentuated their readiness for peace and togetherness.
In an interview with The Point, the Director General of Senator Ademola Adeleke Campaign Organisation, Hon Sunday Bisi accused Babayemi of being used by APC to distabilise the PDP in the state.
Bisi said since the national leadership of the party and the electoral umpire had authenticated the candidature of Adeleke, “Babayemi is a non-issue.”
He said, “I can assure you that Senator Ademola Adeleke is ready to support the Reconciliation Committee set up by the National Working Committee. We are going to give all necessary support on Osun State.”
When asked if Adeleke would be ready to work together with Babayemi after a truce has been made, Bisi said, “Babayemi is an impostor. He is being used by the APC to distabilise the party. He has no place here and I can assure you that he is an impostor. He has been shown the way out and has been cautioned to stop parading himself as the candidate of the party. The person that has been given the mandate of the party is Senator Ademola Adeleke and the INEC has given credence to that. Osun PDP is at peace except for few disgruntled elements led by Babayemi. He (Babayemi) is a non-issue as far as this election is concerned.”
“We must leave nothing to chance; no stone must be left unturned in making sure we get to our desired point through meaningful resolutions. Nobody can ever clap with one hand; we are one big indivisible PDP family poised for a mission of bringing sanity to Osun through purposeful governance
However, Babayemi also declared support for the reconciliation committee and enjoined leaders and members of the party to rally round the Eyitayo Jegede-led Reconciliation Committee to resolve lingering differences in the party.
The factional governorship candidate gave this charge in a statement by the Director of Media, Omooba Dotun Babayemi Campaign Organization, Kayode Oladeji. He said it was high time all hands were on deck for success to be achieved in the coming polls.
According to Babayemi, it has become imperative for members of the party to rally round the committee so as to foster the needed unity in the party, especially as the state governorship election draws nearer.
“The Reconciliation Committee appointed by the national leadership of our party to settle some grey spots within our party, can only succeed if we all support them; our support will also bring about the needed peace and unity amongst members of the party in the state,” Babayemi added
He admonished that the overall interest of the people of the state who are currently bearing the brunt of misgovernance, must be considered in order to give peace a chance, noting that the people of the state were tired of the APC administration in the state.
“We must leave nothing to chance; no stone must be left unturned in making sure we get to our desired point through meaningful resolutions. Nobody can ever clap with one hand; we are one big indivisible PDP family poised for a mission of bringing sanity to Osun through purposeful governance” he asserted.
He however maintained that this could only be realised if the crisis and bickering within the party were jettisoned, warning that the people of the state who are undergoing harrowing experiences, would not forgive the party if it allows crisis to truncate its chances of taking over the affairs of the state at the coming polls.
Babayemi, while imploring the PDP members not to allow those he termed infiltrators to break their ranks, urged that the current peace process must be allowed to sail through for the betterment of all.
Meanwhile, political watchers have argued that if the May 18 judgment favours Babayemi, the move for peace would have been lost. They said the major opposition party, in their desire to dislodge the ruling party might have been doing itself more harm than good if its crisis continue to fester. They said should the current reconciliation committee fail like that which was led by Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, then it may be the beginning of an end to the party in the state.