A major political battle is about to take place in Yorubaland between two powerful forces as a mini-convention to elect the leadership of the South-West chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been fixed for July 11. The congress will pitch loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan against those of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in a war for the control of the party in the zone.
Both sides have been at each other’s throats for some time now with chieftains on both ends firing salvo at each other. Since the dissolution of the South-West executive and the removal of the National Secretary of the party, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, peace has eluded the PDP in the zone. The leadership change in the zone was widely seen as a ploy to remove pro-Obasanjo elements from the control of the party.
Prior to the dissolution of the zonal leadership, the state executive committee witnessed a silent struggle for control. Both camps of Obasanjo and Jonathan were invisibly seen across the zones. While gubernatorial ambition accounted for the initial struggle, the issue of presidential race in 2015 silently crept into the equation. By the time Obasanjo openly fired at the president, the battle line was drawn across South-West. What appears like gubernatorial dreams instantly translated into camping behind one camp or the other. The battle was drawn boldly when the former president made moves to promote Jigawa State governor as an alternative presidential aspirant for 2015.
Chieftains of the party in the zone took sides openly and secretly. Alleged marginalisation of the South-West irked some party chiefs. While some see Obasanjo as the problem, others see Jonathan as the issue. Former Deputy National Chairman (South) of the party, Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun, at a point, asked the former president to stop further public criticism of President Jonathan’s policies and programmes and denied any connection between PDP South-West and Obasanjo’s posture concerning Jonathan, saying the former president was on his own.
Speaking on the recent developments in the party, the PDP Board of Trustees member stated that no matter the inadequacies of the present administration, the president deserved more time. “I am very careful while trying to comment about Obasanjo. This is because he is first and foremost a global figure. He is a mentor to many people.
“He is also a former president and, above all, he is a respected Yoruba man. But his recent posture on national affairs has become an embarrassment to the nation. His statement back home is also causing a lot of disintegration.
“First of all, his attitude to the Boko Haram issue is not expected of a statesman, although he made a bold attempt, sometime ago, by going to Borno State to discuss with leaders of the sect. However, while going there, one would have expected that he consulted with other leaders in the North such as former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, and former head of state, Muhammadu Buhari, to get a better result.
“He made statements there that disrespected President Jonathan, telling him to use brute force to quench the insurgency. Also, his recent utterances outside the country about Nigeria are not expected of a good leader. Obasanjo should stop playing God. God has done more than enough for him socially, politically and economically,” Oyedokun, a veteran politician, said.
Former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, took exception to the open criticism of Obasanjo, taking a swipe at Alhaji Oyedokun for fanning embers of discord in the party. Oyinlola, in a statement, said it was unbecoming of an elder like Oyedokun to seek to create a rift between President Jonathan and former President Obasanjo through what he called statements based on falsehood.
Oyinlola said no fifth columnist could succeed through political subterfuge in creating a rift between the two foremost leaders of the PDP. He added that he suspected Oyedokun of being uneasy over current efforts by stakeholders to resolve the differences in the party, hence the statement.
Oyinlola said Oyedokun, as an elder, should have found out what Obasanjo actually said in Jigawa State before concluding that the former president attacked Jonathan.“I have painstakingly found out that what Obasanjo said in Jigawa State was that he was happy Governor Sule Lamido did not disappoint him, given the role he (Obasanjo) played in his emergence as governor,” Prince Oyinlola noted in the statement.
The former governor quoted Chief Obasanjo as concluding with a Yoruba proverb: ‘You can help someone get a job, but you cannot help the person do the job. We got Lamido the job and he has done it well.’ “That was it. There was no innuendo or allusion to President Jonathan in the statement, which Oyedokun has now clung to, to further cause divisions in the polity,” the former governor stated.
“I am particularly worried that Oyedokun did not agree with our BoT chairman, Chief Tony Anenih, who, just last week at the PDP family dinner, called for peace and the resolution of all differences in the party. Could Oyedokun be carrying out the usual assignment of throwing spanners in the works of genuine members of the PDP who are working hard to reconcile all the party leaders and members and reposition it for the tasks ahead?
What could actually be his motive?
“I also read that he claimed Chief Obasanjo is planning to go to another political party. I think by now, Oyedokun ought to know that Obasanjo does not have the character of a betrayer. He is also not what, in the military, we call a deserter. He is a leader of the PDP and I am sufficiently close enough to him to know that he is ever committed to the growth and survival of the party and of the nation,” Oyinlola said.
The war of words in the zone has, however, taken a new turn as the forthcoming zonal congress may entail a test of strength among those who believe the president, as the commander in chief, should have his men in charge of the party and those who want the former president to be respected as a former leader of the nation. In the hard world of politics, it remains to be seen how the confrontation will play out. For now, there are clear signals that hawks within the president’s camp believe his ‘boys’ in the South-West should hold the zone.
Events of Thursday at Wadata Plaza may have further opened old wounds as the failed uprising against Tukur may embolden the president’s loyalists to test who truly is in control of PDP in the South West. Will Yorubaland be a battle ground ahead of July mini national convention? Only time will tell.