Peoples Democratic Party factions in Kwara State have refused to sheathe their swords despite efforts by the national leadership of the party to reconcile them. Hammed Shittu explains why?
The last state congress of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) in Kwara state, has come and gone but the political intrigues that characterized the the congress are yet to abate.
The two factions of the party that participated in the congress have refused to sheathe their swords. They would also not allow one leadership to take control of the party.
Even, the positive effect of the last councils election in which the party was believed to have exceeded expectation did not last longer. The council election proved that if the party put its house in order, it would be able to come out stronger. As instructive as this is, the two factions still refused to work together. ?
Many stakeholders believe that the two major warring factions should have come together after winners emerged from the congress to forge ahead and ensure the electoral success of the party but the reverse has remained the case.
There is no doubt that the faction led by Chief Iyiola Oyedepo had taken over the leadership of the PDP in the state but the other group led by Sunday Fagbemi has vowed not to recognise Oyedepo's leadership of the party citing unresolved issues that continued to cause disaffection within members of the party in the state.?
As this is yet to be resolved, the new leadership recently announced plans to hold ward congress for the wards in the five local government councils that were exempted from the state congress of the party that took place on November 17, 2017. However, the Fagbemi group rejected the idea and described the plan as an aberration which should not be allowed to happen.
The crisis within the party took a turn for the worse in 2015 when Oyedeo and Fagbemi held different congresses in the state to elect new executives. While Oyedepo held its state congress at the Stella Obasanjo Multi Purpose Hall along Ajase-Ipo road, Ilorin, the Fagbemi-led faction held it state congress at the Bekamds Hotel, Tanke, along University of Ilorin road during the period. This resulted in the emergence of two factions with both claiming to be the authentic exco.?
Since then, the two factions had locked horns over the leadership. This struggle eventually led the former national caretaker committee of the PDP led by Senator Ahmed Markafi to put in place a caretaker committee headed by Chief Tunde Akindehin with a mandate to to reconcile the two warring factions and to conduct a free and fair state congress to elect new leaders for the party in Kwara.
It is recalled that there are wards and local governments that did not participate in the last state congress of the party in November 2017.
Oyedepo, the new state chairman that emerged from the congress of November 17, 2017 had purportedly slated the ward/local government congresses for February this year but the other faction led by Fagbemi has vowed to reject.?
A statement signed by the PDP factional state Publicity Secretary, loyal to Fagbemi, Alhaji Ganiyu Alawo, and made available to journalists in Ilorin, urged PDP supporters in the state not to participate in the congresses, saying the conduct of such congress by anyone now was illegal and would be null and void.
The statement, which said that some leaders of the party had met with the national secretary and some members of the national working committee of the party in Abuja last week, added that the meeting had resolved that the issue of Kwara PDP's conflicts would be reviewed.
The statement reads: "Our attention has been drawn to the plan by the Akogun Iyiola Oyedepo- led faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Kwara state to conduct ward and local government congresses in five local government areas of Kwara state.
"These are the wards and local government that did not participate in the last state congress of our party. The congresses have been purportedly slated for February 3 and 10 respectively.
"We want to urge our supporters not to participate in these congresses because the conduct of such congress by anyone now is illegal and will be null and void.
"Some leaders of our party last week met with the national secretary and some members of the national working committee of our party in Abuja and the resolutions we reached at that meeting are as follows:
"That the issue of Kwara PDP's conflicts will be reviewed. That all pending issues concerning the party in the state should be resolved before any congress could be held.
“That each faction within the party should sheathe its swords to allow peace reign.
"It's on this premise that we are saying that anyone bends on conducting any congress at this moment will be fanning the ember of disunity among party members.
"We urge all PDP members in the state to remain calm but should discountenance any information concerning congresses. We are calling on the security agencies in the state to take note of this development so that there would be no breach of security in the state."
In his reaction, Oyedepo said that it was not his executive members that had planned the congresses, adding that it was the responsibility of the national leadership of the party to conduct ward and local government congresses.
"It's the responsibility of the national leadership to do the congresses and it's the national leadership that is doing it. If they are aggrieved or against the congresses one way or the other, they should approach the national leadership. It's not within our power in the state to stop it. It's not planned by us. If they are against it and may be they want another date, they can approach the national leadership", he said.
?While the dispute over whether the congresses should hold in the five local government areas or not was pending, Oyedepo recently paid a visit to the national secretariat of the PDP in Abuja to inform the national leadership of alleged plan by the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, to return to the PDP.
He advised the party leaders not to allow Saraki to take over the structure of the party from the newly elected state PDP leaders.
Sources close to the party in the state told journalists in Ilorin that the party was aware of frantic moves by the Senate President to come back into the PDP.
Saraki political structure, which is said to have been in existence since over 40 years, is also seen as cohesive, large and on ground.
Those in PDP fear that if Saraki is allowed to return to PDP, he would take over the party's structure ?in the state.
?A chieftain of the PDP in Kwara state, Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, who was one time governorship aspirant of the party in the state, said that the Senate President was not welcomed in the party.
He also said that positions and offices in the state chapter of the party should not be conceded to Saraki if he returns to the party.
The PDP chieftain, who said that the party did not need the Senate President to win elections in Kwara state, added that the recent local government elections in the state was a testament to that.
"The people of Kwara State are tired of poor service delivery, nonpayment of salaries and absence of governance. Saraki constitutes an albatross that will sink our ship", he said.?
In a statement, Abdulrazaq said: "Our attention has been drawn to the misguided position of the self serving factional chairman of PDP in Kwara state in which he is not only groveling to welcome Saraki into PDP in Kwara state but is also seeking to undemocratically concede positions and offices to him.
"The factional chairman has little understanding of the dynamics of Kwara politics today. For his information, the dynamics have changed.
"PDP does not need Saraki to win elections in Kwara state. The recent local government elections in the state in which PDP won overwhelmingly is a testament to that. The people of Kwara state are tired of poor service delivery, nonpayment of salaries and absence of governance. Saraki constitutes an albatross that will sink our ship.
"While the doors of the party are opened to those that want to join the party, there will be no red carpet treatment for anyone."
But, the state governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed has debunked claims that he or the Senate President planned to return to the PDP, which he said they left with some other chieftains of the party prior to the 2015 general elections.
Ahmed, in a statement issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Communications, Dr. Femi Akorede , said that he, Saraki and other political leaders in Kwara have no reason to return to the PDP.
Ahmed clarified that the insinuations, which emerged from his recent interview with a newspaper, did not suggest that he was planning to leave. Rather, he was stating the conditions under which he and other political stakeholders in the state left the PDP.
The governor emphasized that he, Saraki and other governors left the PDP due to impunity, disregard for the rule of law and lack of inclusiveness in the party at the time and following extensive consultations with stakeholders and supporters.
He, therefore, declared that they were committed to the APC and have no intention to join the PDP.
He also advised disgruntled elements within the APC that were urging him and Saraki to hasten their exit from the party to educate themselves with that interview and be appropriately informed instead of making misguided comments on issues they have no knowledge of.
He affirmed his full support for the APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari and commended him for his strides in governing the country and for the unprecedented federal projects in Kwara State, which he added, were aided by the intervention of the Senate President.?
Also, the APC in Kwara State has dismissed the fear expressed by the PDP that Saraki might likely take over the structure of the PDP in Kwara State as unfounded and baseless.
In a statement issued by the publicity secretary of the APC, Alhaji Sulyman Buhari, the party warned the Kwara State chapter of the PDP to stop clutching to the personality and influence of the Senate President for political relevance in Kwara State.
Excerpts from the statement read: "The party has observed that most of the times Kwara PDP has appeared in the press in recent times, the name of the Senate President has been deployed as a recurring factor. We have strong reasons and convictions to believe that it is a deliberate strategy of the PDP in order to remain relevant in politics of Kwara State."
What is important for PDP in Kwara is to resolve its crisis ahead of the 2019 general elections rather than fighting over unsubstantiated claim that Saraki and his supporters planned to return to the party.
?What is important for PDP in Kwara is to resolve its crisis ahead of the 2019 general elections rather than fighting over unsubstantiated claim that Saraki and his supporters planned to return to the party.