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IN OYO, INTERNAL STRIFE MAY DO PDP IN

By NBF News
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Ladoja
It was perhaps the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that first blew the whistle mid-last year when it alerted that the party might lose election in some six states, including Oyo, because the governor and some leaders are at daggers drawn over control of the party machinery. Just months to the all-important election, the bickering festers and is even threatening to rip the party down the middle.

The aggressive agitation for control of the PDP executive has factionalised the party along three lines. On one side is Alao Akala's group, which inherited both the political assets and liabilities of the late prominent Ibadan politician, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu. These assets included the party's structure at the state, local government and ward levels. On the opposite side are leaders like former governor Rashidi Ladoja, former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Yekini Adeojo, former Special Duties Minister under the late General Sani Abacha regime, Elder Wole Oyelese, and third republic senator, High Chief Lekan Balogun.

Also against the establishment are Senate Leader Teslim Folarin, chairman, House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Ayo Adeseun, and some National Assembly members from the state, who, owing to reasons pertaining to fears of return ticket to their legislative seats, all joined the opposition camp.

Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Chief Richard Akinjide,SAN also leads another group gunning for the jugular of the sitting executive. The group, however, seems to have aligned with the governor's group.Former chairman of the Federal University of Technology, {FUT}, Akure, Dr. Dejo Raimi, and former governor, Dr Omololu Olunloyo, as elders, both preferred to remain neutral in the crisis.

The Balogun/Ladoja group insists that it has some issues to settle with the establishment group (Akala's group) over its perceived marginalization in the party. They picked holes in the manner the 2005 state congress that threw up the Dejo Afolabi executive was conducted. According to the group, during the state congresses, party executives were handpicked by the late Pa Adebidu, and then foisted as the leaders of the party on other members. They said they kept their cool at that time due to the awesome power handed Adedibu by Olusegun Obasanjo, the then president.

The publicity secretary of the PDP, Moronkola Thomas, while tracing the genesis of the crisis, went down memory lane to the days after the congresses and the crisis that engulfed the government, which resulted in the ouster of Senator Rashidi Ladoja as governor, his eventual restoration and the manner the PDP governorship ticket was handed Akala.

He also recalled the attempt by Ladoja to prevent Akala and Professor Taoheed Adedoja of the Action Congress then from contesting the election through the establishment of a panel of enquiry that found the two guilty of financial misappropriation and then banned them from holding public office for ten years.

But the move was rejected by INEC who insisted that it lacks the power to bar any candidate from standing for elections. Shocked, Ladoja directed his supporters at the last minute to boycott the two candidates and rather cast their votes for the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate in the poll, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, and Labour Party. Akala braced all the odds and won the election.

Thomas also recalled the open support for the AC during the local government polls Ladoja conducted at the twilight of his administration. He also pointed at the former governor's undisguised romance with the AC during the House of Representatives re-run on January 16, 2008, following the murder of the former lawmaker, Segun Oladimeji, from Lagelu/Akinyele federal constituency. Ladoja's men backed Alhaji Lanre Latinwo who contested on the ticket of AC. The PDP candidate however prevailed.

'What they are doing is like a man that decided to pull down his father's house because he was compromised by a foreigner, but his younger brother successfully defended the house, only for him to come back to the same house asking that he wants the front room and parlour upstairs. I think he has lost the right for that choice position because will he be asking for the choice rooms if he had demolished the building? With the exception of Senator Balogun, all of them were against the PDP and worked against Akala, but with the grace of God and hard work, PDP won and now that they decided to come back; we will welcome them, but it can't be on their own terms, it must be on our terms. They must go back to their wards like Atiku Abubakar did when he wanted to come back,' Thomas said.

But such analogy meant nothing to the opposition camp which fired repeated petitions to the national headquarters of the party, forcing the leadership to mandate members of the Dr. Alex Ekwueme reconciliation committee to include Oyo as one of the state whose members needs its attention.

The Balogun/Ladoja group saw in the Ekwueme committee an avenue to get their members re-integrated into the party; but there was a hitch. The party machinery remained in the firm grip of Alao-Akala group who, sensing the danger in the return of the former governor to the party, refused to make available the necessary re-registration materials. The crisis lingers.

The zonal leadership of the PDP led by Tajudeen Oladipo then stepped into the fray and raised a reconciliation team headed an ex-Deputy National Chairman of the party, Shuaibu Oyedokun, to mediate in the crisis and bring back the aggrieved founding leaders into the party. The Oyedokun committee submitted its report and recommended that a 15-man Elders Committee be set up to harmonise the various agitations and demands. But one year after, nothing was done and the opposition leaders became increasingly agitated and passed a vote of no confidence on Oladipo's ability to resolve the crisis and insisted that the Ike Nwachukwu national reconciliation panel be mandated to take over.

In response to the demand, the national secretariat of the party mandated the Nwachukwu committee to intervene and reconcile the warring groups. On November 5, 2009, the committee met with the aggrieved elders at the banquet hall of the Government House. However, all hope of peace collapsed at that first sitting. First was dispute that broke out over the screening of all party stalwarts into the venue, and when that was resolved, the sitting arrangement easily indicated that whatever reconciliation formula the meeting would come up with, would be short-lived .

While the leaders like Sarafa Abiodun Alli; Ali Oyedeji and former Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Hon Kehinde Ayoola, and Hon. Ayo Adeseun occupied a line, two former governors of the state; Dr. Omololu Olunloyo and Chief Kolapo Ishola, who are supporters of Alao-Akala group, occupied another line. After the meeting, events took a new twist as the various groups went their ways, laying claims to the leadership of the party.

The committee raised a 19-member Implementation Committee to harmonise the various groups and come forward with an acceptable sharing formula for the party positions.

In the committee composition, the governor's group was allotted five seats, the Ladoja group had five seats, and the Adeojo group had three seats, while members of the National Assembly were allotted two seats with one each for the Balogun and Oyelese camps. Raimi was also given a seat on the committee in acknowledgement of his neutral position.

There was directive for re-registration of members as well as the re-admission of Ladoja and Adeojo into the Board of Trustees of the party, which were never disputed. Balogun, Folarin and Ladoja were vociferous that the state executive of the party was illegal. Balogun specifically stated that he initiated the court injunction that stopped the congress but that the organizers went ahead. But Special Adviser to Akala on Political Matters, who happens to be a former speaker of the state house of assembly, Rt. Hon. Asimiyu Niran Alarape, insisted that the there was no injunction against the congress. He said the officers sent from Abuja to conduct the event denied any court injunction stopping the congress. 'I was the Master of Ceremonies and at a point, the man sent from Abuja to conduct the congress collected the microphone from me and announced to the hearing of all that he did not have a court injunction stopping it, so it is all lies.'

The executive assistant to Akala on Political Affairs, Chief Oladejo Olaniyan, however revealed that no injunction exists because the court rejected the prayer. To buttress his position, he brought out certified true copy of the verdict of Justice A.L Akintola in suit no I/154/08 in the case between Saka Rashidi, Ajao Jide and Adeaga Olusegun Adetunji versus the chairman of PDP Oyo State and the PDP Oyo State. Olaniyan called attention to the concluding part of the ruling delivered on September 16,2008. It reads: 'In the final analysis, I find no merit in the preliminary objection raised by the plaintiff against the defendants' motion praying the court to set aside the order of interlocutory injunction even though it was an order of interim injunction that the court made and the prayer to strike out the entire suit for want of jurisdiction and other two grounds. While the notice of preliminary objection fails and is dismissed, the defendants' motion praying for a striking out of the entire suit succeeds. As I have held earlier in the course of this ruling, in order for the court to entertain jurisdiction, the defendants sued are not juristic persons, the court cannot entertain jurisdiction over this suit. The same is accordingly struck out.'

Olaniyan, while faulting the agitation for the dissolution of the executive, added that the National leadership of the party after the congress issued a certificate of return where it remarked that 'results of the state congress have been received and checked. They have been found correct and therefore approved.' Bernard Ezeh signed the certificate.

In view of these facts, political observers are at sea why and how the Ike Nwachukwu committee held in its 'second progress report' of 9th December 2009 that the executive in Oyo State was 'non-elected'. The report added that the 'proposal that allows the implementation committee to run the party in the state is premised on the fact that there was no congress in Oyo State as held by the INEC and the NWC of the party.'

He added, 'the peace and reconciliation committee recommends to the NWC that the implementation committee be mandated to run the affairs of the party in Oyo State, until congresses are conducted. This is because all the stakeholders made nominations into the committee.'

The Nwachukwu committee further held that 'in view of the above, it is recommended that the erstwhile chairman of the non-elected Oyo State Exco be stopped from attending the next and subsequent meetings. The chairman of the implementation committee, pending a congress, should take his place. This will send the right signal.'

Olaniyan said the state chairman of the party, Afolabi, has been attending meetings of the NWC since the recommendation was made which shows the party hierarchy has rejected the recommendation.

Nevertheless, the grapevine continues to be abuzz with speculation that the Afolabi Exco is about to be dissolved and that the chairman of the implementation committee, Yunus Akintunde, a supporter of Ladoja, would be the new chairman; and that the positions have been shared among the contenders in the Oyo PDP crisis. It was said that the Alao-Akala faction might get positions of Secretary and Assistant Financial Secretary. Also, former Deputy National Chairman, South, Alhaji Yekini Adeojo, is to nominate one of his supporters as Deputy Chairman.

Akinjide (SAN) was given the position of Treasurer. Other positions were Publicity Secretary, given to Senator Balogun; Women Leader to Ladoja faction; and Organising Secretary to Senator Teslim Folarin.

However, the party at one of its State Working Committee meetings rejected the recommendation and asked the NWC to do away with the Nwachukwu list. It warned that the national secretariat of party should not create a crisis in the state and the Southwest.

While the scuffle was on, four members sympathetic to Akala dragged the then national chairman of the party, Vincent Ogbulafor, and the PDP national secretariat, to court to stop the proposed replacement of the state executive committee with a caretaker committee.

The plaintiffs- Sikiru Ikuogbogun, Niyi Akande, Ojo Bolaji and Rufai Adetomiwa Memudu- brought a motion before Justice A.O. Boade, as a last ditch effort to thwart the proposal of the national body of the party to pave the way for a new executive to accommodate the interests of all factions within the party.

Besides, hundreds of PDP members loyal to Akala staged a protest rally over news that Akintunde will be the chairman of the party's caretaker committee. In the rally were Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Olayiwola Olakojo; the deputy governor, Hon Taofeek Arapaja; former governors Omololu Olunloyo and Chief Kolapo Ishola; and a host of members in Akala's camp.

Olakojo while addressing the protesters said the supposed head of the implementation committee, Akintunde is yet to formalize his return to the party having severally been the senatorial candidate of the Labour Party in the 2007 poll as well as being the elected chairman in the local council poll conducted in the twilight of the former administration on the platform of the AC.

Former governor, Olunloyo, in his remarks at the rally blamed Ogbulafor and Chairman, National Peace and Reconciliation Committee, Senator Ike Nwachukwu for the crisis in Oyo state PDP, adding that they were the ones causing trouble in the state

Oyo second term jinx
The political history of Oyo is replete with the story of the jinx of a sitting governor not securing a second term in office. Till date, four governors have ruled the state through the instrumentality of the ballot box and interestingly, none had been able to persuade the political warlords that he deserves a second term in office.

The late Chief James Ajibola Ige, SAN ruled on the platform of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria between 1979 and 1983. Many thought his performance had secured the Esa-Oke born politician a re-election, but the power brokers thought otherwise. He lost to Omololu Olunloyo of the defunct National Party of Nigeria.

Olunloyo, a mathematician, was to spend just three months in office before military adventurers ended the second republic.

At the restart of democratic rule, a retired teacher, Lam Adesina, came in on the crest of the annulment of the June 12,1993 presidential election on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD).Adesina served the state with all his might and was able to raise the parlous infrastructural level within the limited resources of the state. At the end of his first term in office, he secured his party's ticket and made to return to his desk but was firmly rebuffed as Senator Rashidi Ladoja of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was declared winner of the election in that historic political typhoon that blew five AD governors away from Yorubaland.

Ladoja was to endure worse treatment, as he had to flee the state after he was impeached and for eleven months, he was a refugee in Lagos. Ladoja failed to secure his party's ticket as the nomination process had been concluded before he regained his seat.

A political scientist from the University of Ibadan, Professor Taiwo Oladele, explains the jinx. He said, 'what people call a jinx stems from the very history of Ibadan. Ibadan is a land of indomitable warriors and very proud people, so it is very difficult to dominate them for long. Once you assume the post of the governor, your days on the seat are numbered because the next man is already thinking; why can't I do what he is doing? I think I can do better, and so he is already starting his movement to actualize his vision. In that case you will lose support and the capacity for a second term.'

But another politician attributed it to sheer jealousy. The man, who pleaded to be anonymous, noted that what people call a jinx is nothing but jealousy that makes the political leaders gang up against an establishment. 'That is the thing they are doing now with Akala,' he stressed.

Akala and traditional rulers
Several reasons have been adduced for the not-too-cordial relationship between the governor and the Olubadan, HRM Oba Samuel Odulana Odugade. Some say the cat and mouse relationship is because Olubadan denied Akala the needed support during his election campaign, and the legal firefight between him and Senator Abiola Ajimobi. Yet another school of thought believes the animosity is a carryover of the hostility that existed between the Olubadan and Akala's political godfather, Lamidi Adedibu.

Adedibu and the Olubadan were not best of friends while the politician was alive. The frosty relationship peaked with the Olubadan-in-Council suspending Adedibu over his alleged unsalutary roles in the politics of the state. The council barred members from partisan politics. But Adedibu rebuffed the ban, insisting that besides the fact that his right of association is entrenched in the 1999 constitution, the Olubadan remains his political leader in Ibadan. The cat and mouse relationship persisted until Adedibu's demise.

It was as if Akala took over from where Adedibu left off, allegedly, putting in place policies and decisions that tend to undermine the influence of the Olubadan as the numero uno in Ibadanland. For instance, the state government accorded recognition to some lesser town chiefs without the consent of the Olubadan-in-council.

The state government also decided to enlarge the state council of traditional rulers to include some monarchs seen by the Olubadan as too junior to be in the Obas council.

The monarch also alleged that the government has been starving him of money by withholding statutory funds meant for the upkeep of the council members. The Olubadan and the Akala government also took different positions after the Olubadan-in-Council deposed a monarch who it said failed to follow due process. However, the government rejected the Olubadan's position.

But the Balogun of Ibadanland, High Chief S.A Omiyale, apparently broke ranks with the Olubadan-in-council when he recently sent out a statement endorsing Akala for a second term. The chief said that Akala has done well for the town in terms of infrastructural development and should therefore be supported by the people of Ibadan. Political analysts claim the endorsement by the Balogun signposts a yawning crack in ranks of the Olubadan-in-council.

Lukewarm relationship with the Alaafin
The Alaafin of Oyo, HRM Oba Lamidi Adeyemi III, stood like the rock of Gibraltar behind Akala when he ruled the state during the eleven months ouster of Ladoja as well as during the elections and the legal battle to validate his seat.

Things, however, seem to be falling apart between the two. Although spirited efforts were made to paper over the cracks, insiders in the Oyo palace claim that 'Kabiyesi knows that all is not well with the relationship between him and the governor. They are pretending but the two of them know that it was not as it used to be.'

Although those in the corridors of power in the state would readily allege that the Alaafin's 'excessive demands' was the cause of the frosty relationship, sources at the Oyo palace insist that the re-composition of the state traditional council, which interestingly was one of the major departure points between the Alaafin and the past governments of Lam Adesina and Rashidi Ladoja, was the reason.

The report to enlarge the council was done by the Lam Adesina government, but he could not implement it before he was voted out. Ladoja that came in with the active assistance of the Alaafin later saw reasons why he must implement it. He never stayed in office to realize that vision. 'The way Akala is going, I hope he won't fall into the same trap that consumed his predecessors,' was the way the palace source concluded his assessment. It is, however, feared that Akala might decide to give legal teeth to the contentious recommendation during his second term in office.

The opposition gets set
While the PDP was busy bickering, the main opposition party in the state, Action Congress, seems to be preparing to pull the rugs off the feet of the ruling party. It commenced statewide sensitization rallies aimed at winning more members into its fold.

The leader of the party and former governor, Lam Adesina, while expressing confidence in the ability of the party to oust the PDP explained: 'the people of Oyo State have seen what we can do in four years when I was in office with little resources. They have seen what the PDP can do in eight years and I am sure they are already comparing and they will see that we lest a lasting legacy unlike the legacy of thuggery that the PDP is bequeathing to the people of the state.'

Adesina has good reasons to be upbeat. In the last couple of months, the ranks of AC has been swelling with veteran politicians. The influx of Bola Tinubu boys is also a reason to be happy. A former special adviser to Tinubu , erstwhile Lagos State governor, Femi Lanlehin, has sensationally dumped the PDP for the AC to join forces with Adesina and Tinubu's former finance commissioner, Dr Ismail Adewusi.

Senator Abiola Ajimobi who angrily left the AC ahead of the 2007 elections is also back in the fold

The aspirants
Interestingly, the interest of the Ibadans to retrieve the governorship from its present abode in Ogbomosho cannot be masked. Apart from Dr. Ismail Adewusi from Eruwa, and Akala, all other contenders for the crown are from Ibadan. Adewusi can also be called an Ibadan man because his town, Eruwa, is considered as one of the satellite towns of Ibadan.

In the PDP, other aspirants apart from Akala, are former governor Rashidi Ladoja, and one time special duties minister, Elder Wole Oyelese, while in the AC, two former aides to ex-Lagos governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Femi Lanlehin and Dr. Ismail Adewusi, Soji Akanbi, and Sen Abiola Ajimobi, are all warming up for the challenge.

In the PDP, Alao-Akala stands head and shoulder above his co-contestants to pick the ticket. The reason is simple. Presently he controls the party organs from ward to state level and these officers would be the delegates to the congress where the candidate of the party would be picked.

Although he might have little problem picking the ticket of his party, how he would perform at the main poll is left for conjecture, as the second term jinx in the state is yet to be broken.

Senator Ladoja would have been on a very good ground had the NWC of the party implemented the recommendation of the Nwachukwu panel to share the present Exco. Perhaps this is the reason why calls for the dissolution of the Dejo Afolabi Exco refuses to die down. Ladoja, however, seems to have an ace up his sleeve as he might decide to contest as an independent candidate. A pointer to that effect is the poster he is pasting all around the state where he failed to indicate the party he would represent. The former governor has the means to go ahead as an independent candidate.

Wole Oyelese although commands a lot of respect, may find it hard to penetrate the party leadership in the state for the same reason Ladoja might fail. Unlike Ladoja, there are serious doubts if he has the financial muscle to go it alone as an independent candidate.

In the AC, Abiola Ajimobi who fought Akala to a standstill in the 2007 election remains a force to reckon with. Should he pick the AC ticket, he will have to prove that his performance in 2007 was not a fluke brought about by the last minute endorsement of his candidacy by Ladoja.

Femi Lanlehin was a special adviser to Tinubu. He dumped the PDP for the AC in 2009 and was seen as positioning himself to take over from Akala until Ajimobi staged a return to the AC the party he dumped in 2007.

Ismail Adewusi is a former commissioner for finace in Lagos State. Many believed the AC made a mistake in 2007 by not settling for him as he was seen as a better candidate to Professor Taoheed Adedoja.

Should Adewusi pick the ticket, he will have the menacing backing of Tinubu in the contest.

Soji Akanbi served under the administration of Lam Adesina as a special adviser. He has remained steadfast with the former governor since then. His ability to muster the needed finance muscle and the important political reach needed for the battle is however suspect.

Political permutations
Political analysts contend that for Akala to be able to retain his seat, he will have to contend with the internal dissention in his party, the Olubadan's hostility and Tinubu's invasion.

In 2007, Akala was able to wade through a host of Ibadan candidates that threw their hats in the rings. Although allegations were rife then that Akala sponsored many of them to split Ibadan votes, the former police officer still carried the day with massive votes from Ogbomosho and Oke-Ogun areas of the state. Nothing on the ground can suggest that the 2007 scenario cannot repeat itself in 2011, if the Ibadan intelligentsia is not able to give direction to its politicians.

In fact it is said that should the Olubadan be able to get his subjects to speak with one voice, Akala might become history after the 201 polls. The Alaafin is not likely to work against Akala. Unless Akala is able to bring together all the 'rebels' within the PDP, he stands a chance of internal sabotage at the general election.

Another problem that might confront the PDP in Oyo is Tinubu's desire to ensure that the influence of the PDP in the southwest is curtailed. It is feared that Tinubu might pay more than just a passing interest on Oyo in the election, especially if he is not saddled with the responsibility of piloting a personal election as it is speculated he might emerge the Vice President of a presidential candidate in the 2011 election. Should Tinubu decide to assist aging Lam Adesina in plotting the fall of PDP in Oyo, Akala should be ready for a massive battle.

Pundits, however, insist that the crisis in Oyo PDP notwithstanding, Akala stands a good chance of doing a Peter Obi in Oyo. They claim the governor has everything going for him to break the second term jinx in the state.

They readily point at Akala's human relations and his uncanny ability to woo the opposition to his side as key factors.