Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been embroiled in a battle of survival. Many factors have contributed to the intractable crises that have prevented the party from fulfilling its aspiration of giving the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) a run for its money in the last general elections. MUSA ODOSHIMOKHE examines the issues that have bedeviled the party and how it can be repositioned for future elections.
All is not well with the Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It has been a story of one crisis after another and it appears there is no end to the division rocking the one-time largest party in Africa. All efforts to resolve the crises have proved abortive.
It has been a case of accusation and counter accusation among the major party stakeholders. The situation got worse, following the defeat of the party in the last general elections to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). The outcome of the election released bottled up anger that has been nursed over the years.
Observers believe the party has a long way to go, to challenge the dominance of the ruling party in the state. The party has not won any major election in Lagos since 1999. In the opinion of some members, if the quarrelsome situation continues, those who believe in the party may lose faith. Some party big names have threatened to pull out if the party fails to address the issues pulling it apart.
Such party chieftains said it is a shameful act to observe the PDP’s dirty linen being washed in the public. They said the more the aggrieved members display their anger in public, the slimmer the chances of reconciliation.
The issues at the centre of the disagreement revolve round poor management of the party’s funds, anti-party activities and disrespect for party elders.
To make matters worse, the national body appeared to have turned deaf ears to what is happening in Lagos. The National Working Committee (NWC), led by Prince Uche Secondus, it is believed, has remained aloof towards the crises in the Lagos chapter.
A source in the chapter said it has reached a level where the national body must step in to address the matter. Otherwise, it will disintegrate.
Prior to the 2019 general elections, its former Deputy National chairman, Chief Olabode George, and Lagos PDP 2019 governorship candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, jointly addressed a conference, where they cleared the air on misgivings within the fold.
They had refuted allegations that the party was divided. At the conference, the two politicians said it was united in its quest to win Lagos, noting that they would work together to actualize the plans to dislodge the APC.
Analysts believe the intent of addressing conference was simply to give the impression that they were united in their quest to challenge the APC. But, beyond the window dressing at the conference, party stakeholders were going for each other’s jugular behind the scene.
As a proof of their disagreement, up to the eleventh hour of the election, George and those loyal to him rarely participated in Agbaje’s campaign. They even accused the PDP governorship candidate of frustrating efforts to win the state. He was said to have diverted election funds running into billions of naira. The Lagos PDP chairman, Dr. Adegbola Dominic, said Agbaje bolted away with funds provided by the party headquarters immediately the money was released.
At a conference, Dominic narrated how he made spirited efforts to get Agbaje to explain why he made away with the fund for the Lagos PDP. He said the only explanation given by the governorship flag bearer was that he was asked to expend the money purely for election matters.
The chairman said the promise made by Agbaje that he would furnish his office the details of how the money was spent did not materialise.
Dominic said Agbaje was selfish and that he held the party to ransom. The chairman said the governorship candidate was mainly responsible for the failure of the party to make appreciable impact during the election.
He said: “There are ample evidence that the Lagos PDP recorded more votes during the presidential election than the governorship election. I can say it without mincing words that Agbaje was solely responsible for what happened.”
The chairman equally accused Agbaje of disrespecting the Lagos PDP leaders, particularly George. Dominic said he was shocked by the venom poured by Agbaje on the party leader. He said it was unfortunate and unbecoming of a party stalwart.
He added: “Agbaje response was sickening for a Yoruba person; very disgraceful and unacceptable. As omoluabis in Yoruba land, we do not throw stones at elders. What Agbaje did was basically to throw a sledgehammer at his benefactor, by referring to him as a sick mind.”
Before now, the pharmacist-turned-politician denied any wrongdoing in the run up to the election, adding that the action he took was in order and in the party’s interest. Agbaje said no stone was left unturned in the effort to win the 2019 election.
He said those who accused him of running a one-man show were economical with the truth. He said there were evidence that he did not take decisions alone.
Agbaje’s spokesperson, Modupe Ogunbayo, said party chieftains were adequately briefed on every move of the governorship candidate.
In a counter response to the Lagos PDP Publicity Secretary, Taofiq Gani’s accusation that Agbaje ran a solo campaign, Ogunbayo said she was surprised by Gani’s outburst that leaders were sidelined during the campaign.
She went further to say that Gani did not only attend Agbaje’s campaign, but was also the arrow head leading the onslaught against the ruling APC.
She denied any misconduct by Agbaje, saying the issues of noti releasing funds given by the PDP headquarters was simply to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it.
Ogunbayo said Agbaje disbursed funds according to the instruction given to him. She noted that if the fund was not properly utilised her principal would have been brought to judgment.
The governorship candidate’s spokesman added: “Agbaje followed instruction on how to expend the money to the letter. The fund was purely for election expenses and not to be shared by party chieftains or so. He gave every member who participated in that election their dues.
“Are you saying the party headquarters does not read or hear what is going in the Lagos chapter? They have never complained, because they know that Agbaje followed instruction given to him.”
Sources within the chapter said Agbaje was specifically told to sideline George’s group and prevent it from handling the money. The source maintained that in the past the group had always collected money without using it for the purpose it was meant for.
One of the sources added: “They specifically urged the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to ensure that the money he would release for Lagos did not go into wrong hands. That is why Agabje had the effrontery to go away with the fund released by Abuja without caring whose ox is gored.”
The party’s Lagos West senatorial candidate and factional chairman, Mr. Segun Adewale, has been accused of causing a colossal pain in the efforts to find a lasting solution to the PDP crises in the state.
Adewale who was the candidate of Action Democratic Party (ADP) in the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State returned to Lagos to continue his battle with the George camp. He said Dominic is a usurper and does not have the legitimacy to lead Lagos PDP.
The battle to reclaim the seat has been raging and he has made several attempts to forcefully take over the secretariat. This has often led to the breakdown of law and order at the PDP office, located in the Shogunle area of Ikeja Government Reservation Area (GRA).
Stakeholders have found it difficult to reach amicable solution to the crises, because both Dominic and Adewale have been at each other’s throat on who is in charge.
Asserting his right to the position, Dominic said the police had been informed to arrest Adewale because he is no longer a member of the party and therefore he is a usurper.
In a petition written to the police titled, ‘Unnecessary and preventable break-in and entry at PDP Secretariat’, he said: “We are imploring the Nigeria Police, to apprehend Segun Adewale in order maintain peace and protect our property.”
He said the break-in occurred despite the fact that Adewale was not a member of the PDP and the police have been duly informed about the unwarranted breaches in the party’s affairs.
The Dominic group went on in the petition: “Please be reminded that this occasion is not the first and you have to swing to action to half the perpetual breaking down of order due to Adewale’s conduct.”
Speaking on the matter, Adewale said he was following the constitution of the party which still recognises him as the chairman. He said Dominic is a stooge of George, because the latter tried to foist him on the party through the backdoor. He maintained that contesting Ekiti election on the platform of the ADP did not mean that he had ceased to be a non-member of the PDP.
Adewale added that he was adopted by the ADP when former Governor Ayodele Fayose said nobody could contest against his former deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, for the party’s ticket.
Adewale said: “I did not work against the chances of the PDP in Ekiti. I never campaigned against its candidate. What I did was to maintain during the campaign that I was the best candidate for the state.
“Now that the Ekiti election has come and gone, I am back to Lagos to continue as the chairman; a position I legally occupy by dint of the party’s constitution. The truth is that Dominic was never elected the chairman. It is the plan of Bode George to put him there to do his bidding.”
The PDP crises deepened, when one of its major stakeholders, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, dropped a hint that he would be leaving the party. The comment from the former Minister of Works and Housing jolted the party. Observers believe it was the sign of bad omen for the party. Ogunlewe could be ranked in the class of die-hard party stalwarts, such as George and Ebenezer Babatope.
The former minister gave his reason for leaving the party. He said: “Yes, I am set to leave. My son who is already there and he is expecting me to join him. I am leaving in no distant time. You see, there is no chairman in the PDP. We don’t have leaders and you don’t expect me to stay in a party that is not stable and with people that lack focus.”
Prior to his pronouncement, his son, Moyosore Ogunlewe, who contested Kosofe Constituency 1 on the platform of the PDP and lost defected to the APC. Analysts say they were not surprised that Ogunlewe senior made the pronouncement that he was leaving the PDP, because that has been the tradition of many party leaders.
One of the analysts said: “What they often do was to test the turbulent water by pushing their wards as a forerunner. When that successfully scales through, they now take the next flight to the party in power.
“Other members who followed the same route include former Organising Secretary, Mutiu Olakunle. Olakunle contested the Federal House of Representatives, but was defeated by the APC candidate. Indeed, the number of PDP members who crossed to the ruling party in recent times has been on the increase. Almost all the party members who were elected to the Lagos State House of Assembly (LAHA) in 2015 defected to the APC afterwards.”
Close watchers of the developments in the Lagos PDP believe the reason why members have been crossing over to the APC was because of lack of assurance that party can fly in the state. The party did not win any outstanding election in Lagos when it was at the helm of affairs at the centre.
With its dwindling financial fortunes, the party has not been able to attract new members. At some point, workers at the party’s secretariat were being owed and rents for the premises were running into several million of naira. Succour only came during the 2019 electioneering campaign when Atiku agreed to pay the bills.
It very likely more members will leave the party, in view of the discordant voices from the party. But, other members believe that what is happening is simply a storm in a tea cup. They said the party will bounce back and that every problem has a solution. One of its die-hard members said: “The challenge is just temporary; we will get over it. But before that could be done those causing the problem for the party have to leave and some of them have actually started leaving. I can assure you that when the bad eggs are removed the party will become superlative.”
Source: The Nation NG
They should settle all differences, United if they want to defeat APC someday.