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Sunday, 29 December 2013

Pedro: The Return of a Political Godson

Olufemi Pedro,

Gboyega Akinsanmi writes on the recent defection of the former deputy  governor of Lagos State, Olufemi Pedro, from PDP to APC and what it portends for the 2015 governorship race in Lagos State

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) suffered a major setback in Lagos State last week. One of its chieftains and the state’s erstwhile Deputy Governor, Otunba
Olufemi Pedro formally announced his defection at a time when the party chapter is still in critical need of a strong leadership ahead of the 2015 general election. Pedro’s defection, apparently, depicts the South West PDP as a party currently undergoing political travails.

Pedro, an estranged political son of the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu gave an uncommon reason for a decision, which he said, became indispensable to rescue Nigeria from the brinks. His decision to defect to the APC was contained in a four-paragraph statement in which he linked his defection to the need to team up with the progressives in order “to lead Nigeria out of the woods.”

Resigned from the Tinubu administration controversially in April 2007, Pedro explained his return to the fold of the APC on two different grounds. He, first, cited the fact that Nigeria “is dire need of purposeful leadership committed to leading us out of the woods; and one for which all men of good conscience must join hands.” Pedro’s concerns, apparently, are evident in the country’s socio-economic and political challenges.

He, therefore, said the task of nation-building no doubt “comes with challenges and always at great personal cost; yet it must be fulfilled by genuine patriots.” Also, Pedro expressed confidence in the present leadership of the APC, even though he abruptly abandoned the political platform during its formative years then as the Action Congress (AC) in 2007 and later as the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in 2011.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media & Strategy, Mr. Lanre Anjolaiya, the former deputy governor acknowledged that after series of discussion with the national leadership of the APC, it was clear that they mutually share the desire “to see Nigeria become great again. I am convinced, beyond any shadow of doubt that the APC offers that veritable platform to put Nigeria back along the path of glory and prosperity.”

He, therefore, said he had formally left the PDP with his teeming supporters and party stalwarts across the Southwest geo-political zone “to partner the progressives towards attaining the goal of rebuilding Nigeria. I am irrevocably committed to help actualise the task of building democratic and institutional standards.”

He explained the essence of enthroning a government, which he said, “is not only responsive and accountable to the people, but one that signpost what an APC-led Federal Government promises as from 2015. The landmark achievements and performances of the progressive governors and legislators in the APC-controlled States bear eloquent testimony to the tenacity of purpose of the party’s leadership.”

At the instance of what culminated in his controversial resignation, Pedro’s return portends likelihood of what to expect in the future of South-West. A 2007 gubernatorial candidate in Ondo State, Mr. Bankole Oluwajana expressed grave concern of those who defected to support the PDP and its governors in the geo-political zones. He said Pedro's defection the APC “should not be a surprise and is a sign of what to expect in the future.”

Oluwajana, who contested the governorship race on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD), rhetorically asked what would the people expects from Pedro in the present circumstance. In 2007, what would you expect? He explained frustration of those who defected to the PDP in 2007. He said some of them decided “to support the South-West PDP with the aim of strengthening the presence of the Yorubas at the centre.

“We also erroneously felt encouraged when the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw man, a minority ethnic group. We expected that this would further support our objective. It has not turned out to be so. People that are de facto leaders, even within the PDP, in western states, are out of touch with the president.

“Or is it President that is out of touch with them? Even the blind can see and the deaf can hear that the Yorubas are not well represented in President Jonathan's Government. As Politicians, we represent people who want to see that they are being effectively represented. As a leader, you are of no use where you have lost your voice and influence. All these must have informed the decision of Pedro,” Oluwajana explained.

Asked whether he had concluded plan to defect to APC, Oluwajana retorted that all options “are still opened,” which he said, was the crux of politics in any political clime. But he added that the most important thing “is to be in touch with your supporters and listen to them.” But he believes there is still a chance for President Jonathan “to listen to the people that voted him to power and make appropriate changes.”

However, Oluwajana expressed the fear that judging from President Jonathan’s disposition towards the country’s current political situation and the people surrounding him, such required changes “are most unlikely.” By implication, he added that a good number of South-West PDP chieftains would defect to the APC in the future with a view to bringing the region back to the front of national politics with the conduct of 2015 elections.

This suggests Pedro has nothing to lose with his defection. Even with little time he spent with the party, Pedro was never accepted into the rank of the party. He truly helped rebuild the party; spent quality time and resources for it; and contested its governorship primaries in 2011. Yet his effort was hardly rewarded.

But Pedro is, indeed, one of Nigeria’s luckiest politicians. He never sought any political office; neither did he ever contest as a running mate before he ascended to power in December 2002. The fall of his predecessor, Mrs. Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele led to his historic rise to Office of the Deputy Governor of the state. He, however, had a prosperous banking career as the Managing Director of First Atlantic Bank, which fused into FinBank Plc. 

He was introduced to Tinubu by former Commissioner for Tourism and Intergovernmental Relations, Sen. Tokunbo Afikuyomi. Pedro, actually, earned confidence and trust of his political godfather until his ambition tore them apart. He then offered to resign from the Tinubu government, but his resignation letter was declined.

Consequently, the state’s House of Assembly set up a 7-man probe panel, which eventually found him guilty of gross misconduct. The panel came up with recommendations, upon which his impeachment was premised. The panel, thus, said upon the careful perusal and analysis of the submissions before the panel with respect “to the notice of allegations of gross misconduct, this panel is fully convinced that Pedro is fully aware of the allegations against him and chose not to refute or lead evidence to refute the allegations.

“In view of Pedro’s refusal to deny any of the allegations either in writing or by any means whatsoever despite adequate and reasonable opportunity afforded him by the panel, the panel cannot but agree with the submission of the House of Assembly that the deputy governor has no defence to these allegations.”

The implication of his impeachment was grave. It robbed him of all his benefits as the state deputy governor. Though he fought it helplessly in the court of competent jurisdiction, he has not been able to get it back. But now that he has returned to the warm embrace of his political godfather, Pedro’s impeachment might be converted to retirement, at least mend the dents it has brought on his political career.

But Chairman of Lagos APC, Otunba Oladele Ajomole deferred a little from what speculations of his defection might. He argued that his decision was premised on a strong belief that APC "represents the future of Nigeria." Aside, he said the former deputy governor could not "have remained outside for eternity. He belongs here. He only went on a political recess."

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