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LAGOS PDP CAUGHT BETWEEN CRISIS AND DESPERATION

By NBF News
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AS the Lagos State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), prepares to contest the victory of the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), in the last council polls in the state, the party is facing hurdles as it plans to reorganise.

In the meantime, it is finding it tough to come to terms with losing all chairmanship slots in the 20 councils and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDA) to the ACN.

The party has not stopped accusing the Lagos State Electoral Commission (LASIEC) of collaborating with the ruling ACN to rob it of its mandate in certain areas. Although PDP has vowed that the struggle to reclaim some chairmanship slots it believed to have won is a 'task that must be accomplished,' the extent the party plans to go is an issue.

In an interview, the state PDP chairman, Sentonji Koshoedo noted that, 'we would stop at nothing to reclaim our mandate.'

One of the challenges before the PDP is how to manage the internal crises raging in the party. Throughout last week, PDP former Deputy National Chairman, South Chief Olabode George and former Minister of Works, Adeseye Ogunlewe traded accusations as each tried to out do the other in a quest to lead and control the state party machinery.

While George has called on the state executive of the party to investigate Ogunlewe and his group for anti-party activities, which culminated into its woeful defeat during the council polls, Ogunlewe said that, 'it is an aberration and act tantamount to conceding defeat if George said the PDP lost in the election due to anti-party activities.'

To boost its dispute of the results announced by LASIEC, the party has asked some of its prominent leaders to protest the result, as a way of letting the people of Lagos understand 'the day-light robbery of our mandate and the electoral fraud perpetuated by LASIEC and ACN.'

PDP also accused LASIEC and ACN of illegal swearing in of the new council chairmen by the state Governor Babatunde Fashola.

Koshoedo said that the party would do everything to reclaim its 'mandate.' He called on President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) to intervene by ensuring that the actual results of the council polls are reflected.

He said it is unfortunate that Fashola went ahead to inaugurate the chairmen despite the controversies surrounding the conduct of the polls. He said, 'the type of electoral malpractices perpetuated by ACN and LASIEC during the council polls was unprecedented.'

Urging President Jonathan and the national PDP to rescue the state chapter, he said 'we are already seeking redress in court. Our concern is that this may not be enough due to our bias over the composition of the election petition tribunal.'

The South West leaders of the PDP have also called on Jonathan, the National Assembly and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and all Lagosians to rise and address the malpractices that characterised the polls.

In an interview, former Deputy National Chairman of PDP (South West), Chief Shuaibu Oyedokun said that the conduct of LASIEC and ACN 'completely negates democratic ethics and voting rights of the people of Lagos.'

He said, 'we shall do everything possible to check activities of the cabal that prowls the South West and particularly Lagos to perpetuate themselves in power against popular wish.'

The South West caucus of the party referred to the council polls as 'one too many for ACN and we will fight it to a logical conclusion.'

Oyedokun said the scope of malpractices should warrant INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega and the National Assembly to probe LASIEC for 'announcing the council results at its headquarters instead of the secretariat of the each council. Also we want to know why the final results contradicts some of the preliminary results that were captured as announced by LASIEC officials in areas like Badagry, Alimosho, Ayobo, Eredo where PDP led and why LASIEC declared ACN winner but failed to give detailed figures of votes won by each party.'

Oyedokun dismissed insinuations that PDP lost the council polls due to internal crisis. He however did not comment on the ongoing mudslinging between George and Ogunlewe, which has polarised the state party and permeated the ranks of the party in the South West.

But Chief Olayinka Amos, one of the founding members of Lagos PDP noted that the effort the party is making to return to reckoning in the state and region may be hampered by 'the crisis and spat between George and Ogunlewe.'

Amos said it is important that all factions should close ranks, 'otherwise it would be difficult to undo ACN as long in Lagos. The council polls should have been a good opportunity for us to bounce back, but we lost out. PDP ought to have taken advantage of the fact that the people of Lagos were disenchanted with the poor performances of most ACN council chairmen. The people were ready to vote them out but we lost the opportunity.'

On the confrontation between George and Ogunlewe, some aggrieved members of the party said 'the two were out to undo each other with the intention of hijacking the machinery of the party.'

At a press conference held in Lagos, George alleged that Ogunlewe had always worked for the former governor of Lagos and ACN leader, Bola Tinubu. 'Whatever we discussed are no secrets because we had moles who revealed our strategies to our opponents,' George claimed.

Ogunlewe denied the anti-party accusations, and described George's statement as 'unwarranted.' He said he was on the presidential campaign council, which saw to the election of President Jonathan. He also claimed the responsibility for the success of the party's Constituency II candidate in the House of Assembly. He claimed to have spent his personal resources on the party during the previous council polls.

Ogunlewe said the accusations by George were borne out of his ambition to contest for the party's chairmanship. He said all the members of the party should be the ones to decide who became chairman.

Meanwhile, the PDP Elders' Council in Lagos has expressed concern over the dwindling fortunes of the party in the last 12 years in Lagos. The elders decried the poor performances of the party in the 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections.

At a press conference in Lagos yesterday, the chairman of the Elders' Council, Dr. Oluyomi Finnih, bemoaned the politics of bitterness in the state, poor state of federal infrastructure in Lagos, and harped on the need for the party to mobilise new members.

He urged party members to support the move by the party to get back the 'stolen mandates' of its candidates in the Lagos council polls, which he described as 'an embarrassment to democracy.'

According to him, 'the arrangements for the polls were shady and the results doctored. Our victories were reversed.'

He assured all candidates of victory at the election tribunal, 'because the party has engaged the services of credible legal luminaries.'

The council of elders encouraged members as the congress to elect new executives committees at wards, council, state, zonal and national levels draw nearer to irrespective of ethnicity or creed comply with the guidelines already issued by the National Working Committee to indicate interest in any party executive position of their choice.

Finnih maintained that the NWC has assured all contestants of the provision of a level playing field and that 'there will not be an imposition of any executive on the party.'

The elders' council also noted with displeasure the abusive words being cast on the South West leadership of the party by its top members and warned its members in South West against destabilising the party in the zone.