Peoples Democratic Party stalwarts in the South-West have rejected the option of consensus in filling the national positions zoned to the region.
The most contentious of the positions following a report of The PUNCH, which party leaders have tried but failed to reach an agreement on, is the seat of Deputy National Chairman (South).
Former Osun State Governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and ex-National Secretary of the party, Prof Wale Oladipo, are at loggerheads over occupying the position, said to be zoned to Osun State.
The report says problem ensued when the Sunday Bisi-led Osun State chapter of the party, Thursday, nominated Oladipo for the position ahead of the convention.
The nomination was sequel to a stakeholders’ meeting held at the party’s state secretariat in Osogbo.
However, on Friday, there were indications that some party leaders were rooting for Oyinlola.
Following the report, sources within the party said the lawmaker representing Osun East in the Senate, Francis Fadahunsi, was leading the group supporting Oyinlola for the post of the party’s Deputy National Chairman.
A member of the Board of Trustees of the PDP, Alhaji Shuaibu Oyedokun, who also hails from Osun State, according to the report, said Oyinlola was better qualified for the job.
Oyedokun explained that stakeholders at a meeting convened by the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, agreed to zone the position to Osun.
This, he said, was based on the fact that the current occupant of the position hails from the Ogun/Lagos sub zone and the outgoing national officer from Ondo/Ekiti sub zone while the sub zone seat left is Oyo/Osun and fortunately, Oyo had produced the zonal chairman.
He said, “Those of us who are elders here and are statutory delegates to the convention believe that with the division we have been nursing in Osun State for the past three years, Oyinlola seems to stand out as somebody who can be a rallying point to bring the two factions together.
“That is the essence of it. He never took sides. Even some of us were alleged to have taken sides. This issue of division is about the governorship seat. All those who are picking Prof Wale Oladipo belong to an aspirant and they go around disrupting things. That is the way I see it.
“We can’t foreclose the possibility of having another meeting here in the South-West PDP before the convention. We can’t foreclose it because we want peace.”
Moreover, some other party leaders across the South-West including a former PDP governorship candidate in Osun State, Senator Olu Alabi, have also endorsed Oyinlola for the position.
“I support him as the overall leader of the party in the state as moved by all the leaders in the state,” Alabi said.
The Secretary of the Osun State PDP Elders Council, Segun Odekunmi, while endorsing Oyinlola said his emergence signalled the hope of reuniting the party.
Also, a former Osun State Deputy Governor, Olusola Obada, said, the adoption of Oyinlola for the position of the Deputy National Chairman which was jointly adopted is a lofty idea that he has no objection to but gives full support and endorsement.
This situation, the report says, has split party stakeholders in the South-West.
It was learned that the older generation of party leaders in Osun State, who form the bulk of the party delegates as well as major stakeholders in Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos and Ogun states, have shown a preference for Oyinlola.
The former governor also enjoys the backing of the governor of Oyo State, who is also the PDP South-West leader.
In Ekiti State, loyalists of former Governor Ayo Fayose and those of Senator Biodun Olujimi are also divided along Oyinlola’s supporters and those of Oladipo.
In defence of the decision of the state chapter to nominate him, Oladipo said, “We have a sitting governor who is the de facto leader of the party in the zone. They have micro-zoned the positions to different states and if they respect the micro-zoning and respect the choices of those states, I don’t see us having any problem.
“This is so because if you look at the South-East, for example, they micro-zoned the National Secretary slot to Imo State and Imo people chose Sam Anyanwu and the zone ratified it. The same thing happened in the North; Benue State presented a former Senate President, Iyorchia Ayu, to the North-Central and they accepted it.
“We are also hoping that Makinde as the leader of the party in our zone will allow the states to make their choices and will forward whatever choices states make to the national headquarters for adoption. As long as states are allowed to present their preferred persons for the positions, I believe we will get there. We still have time.”
Asked if he would step down for Oyinlola, he said, “I was aware that Prince Oyinlola was contesting for the national chairmanship position and when he was contesting, out of respect, we did not contest against him so that we would not lose the position hoping that if something lesser than that comes in, I would go for that and that is why I am going for this. I have always said that I don’t want to be national chairman but the deputy national chairman.
“We need to grow gradually and I am not in a hurry and that is why I am contesting for this and I am hoping that as my elder brother, he will still support me.
A former Minister of Transport and member of the party’s Board of Trustees, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, said, “When Chief Bode George, who is our leader, calls for a meeting, I will go and our views will be expressed.”
Also, a former Minister of Power and Steel, Dr Wole Oyelese, said, “Apparently they have written off the South-West in the contest for the presidency and I don’t think that is right.
“We should not think we can’t get the presidency in the South-West because of that. Why should we be fighting for the deputy chairmanship of the party and leave the presidency for others?
“The last National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, is from the South-South which is also from the East. If anything at all, we have equal rights in the South-West to fight for the position of the president and not the deputy national chairmanship seat.
“Left to me, I would rather prefer somebody comes up in the South-West to contest for the Presidency. Why can’t somebody from the South-West take a shot at it? If we in the South-West fail to produce the president now, it will take another 16 appearances before we can think of it.”
Confirming Fadahunsi’s position on the issue, his media aide, Segun Progress, said his principal was having the support of other members of the Board of Trustees on the issue.
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi, expressed fears that unless something urgent was done, the South-West would once again lose out completely.
A former National Vice Chairman (South West) of the PDP, Dr Eddy Olafeso, according to the report, equally expressed fears that the dispute might last until the national convention.