LADOJA AND PDP: DILEMMA OF A BEAUTIFUL BRIDE
The speculated return of billionaire -politician and ex-governor of Oyo State, Senator Rashidi Ladoja into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the proverbial case of the stone which the builders rejected coming to become the pillar, the beam of the house.
Harried and humiliated by the same party, which ignored prolonged pleas of his and coalition of other PDP leaders in the State for the democratization of the party in the state, Ladoja was forced to pull out of the party with his numerous supporters on December30, 2010 to form a new party, Accord Party, on which platform, he tried to fulfill his bid for re-election as governor for the second time last year.
Although he failed in his bid, his party made a bold statement as it won four seats in the Federal House of Representatives and seven in the State House of Assembly, closely following PDP, which lost the State to the Action Congress of Nigeria, with five seats in the Federal House and 10 in the State House of Assembly.
Smarting from this electoral humiliation the realization that its loss of the state as in other states of the South West was due to the rift within the party, which saw other splinter groups working for the success of the ACN, the party leadership at the Zonal and National levels, instituted a process of reconciliation which brought some of the estranged leader of the party in the state back into the fold.
The incredible electoral feat of Ladoja and his party has, however, drummed home to the party the fact that it needed the businessman -politician, if it hopes to recapture Oyo State from the ruling ACN, with which Accord has a subsisting working pact for peaceable administration.
Hence, began series of overtures to the ex-governor, who before his forced exit, was also one of the major financiers of the party and a member of the Board of Trustees. Moves to have him back were first initiated by former deputy governor of the state, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja and the Minister for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Ms. Jumoke Akinjide, who arranged a meeting between the Ibadan politician and the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The talks were inconclusive as Ladoja reportedly gave several conditions including expressing anger at the relegation of Oyo State and its denial of key positions in the Federal Government. But more pressures have been mounted on the Accord Party leader in the past three weeks with even former adversaries persuading him to rejoin the party with assurances of a better deal. One of such was former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who at a meeting in the Presidency over a fortnight ago, reportedly admitted that the party wronged the AP leader and begged his forgiveness.
This was followed by private meetings with Zonal leaders of the Party and some of his former co-leaders of the party in the state. Others who reportedly intervened include: Chief Richard Akinjide(SAN), former Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Senator Gbenga Babalola and Senator Yinka Omilani At the weekend, indications emerged that Ladoja may have accepted to navigate his way back into PDP after receiving firmer assurances of full accommodation of his interest and that of his followers.
For one, Daily Sun learnt that, the politician is being offered the position of the National Secretary of the party, while he is to nominate members into the Transition and Reconciliation Committee raised to unite the various feuding factions; compile a new membership register and conduct fresh congress to elect a new state executive of the party in the state.
But the development faces a lot of challenges amid rising sentiments within the AP not to have anything to do with the PDP. Besides being cynical of the intention and sincerity of the PDP leaders, some party stalwarts noted that the PDP has become a 'pariahl', rejected by the people, arguing that associating with such party could only soil their leader's good reputation and their own fortunes with the electorate in future polls.
A leader of the party told Daily Sun at the Weekend that, 'Convincing our members is the problem, because if he is going back, he has to be in charge, where he would have a voice - not that when he is back, they start their games again and relegate him'.
A former governorship aspirant in the state under the Peoples Progressive Alliance (PPA), Chief Adesola Adelabu, now a staunch Ladoja loyalist spoke in similar vein. 'Our concern is that the PDP's image is soiled, initially they underrated him (Ladoja) but, the result of the election has shown them that he's a crowd puller, that the percentage of the people who love and respect him is more than non-politicians. So they only want to take advantage of him. Some of our people are however saying PDP is a liability. That it is better for us to be seen as a credible alternative that we are seen to be. With time more people will flock to join us'.
'Another point is, on which platform will he serve? A clear role has to be created for him and his supporters to be relevant. These are issues being discussed by our people'. Former Speaker of the State House of Assembly and Director General of Ladoja's 2011 Campaign Organization, Hon. Adeolu Adeleke, told Daily Sun that, Ladoja would soon meet with the AP members to intimate them on his discussions with the PDP and the way forward. ' It is then, we will give them our own conditions for returning', he said.
But sources hinted this newspaper that a desperate PDP was ready to bend backwards to meet Ladoja's camp demand. Already, it has been agreed that the TRCC is to be reconstituted to include nominees from the camp, they said. But assurances have been coming from other Party leaders.
Former Special Duties Minister, Elder Wole Oyelese, in an interview with Daily Sun said the former governor is welcome in the party to contribute his quota to its rebuilding. 'Let me say right away that the reconciliation is not a fluke. Our detractors will like to be pessimistic, but it's for real. Many of us were annoyed by Akala, but all that is over. On the question of his supporters, that is not debatable, they will have the rights to all the benefits of bona fide party members'.
On the clash of ambitions, the former governorship aspirant in the state said: 'Every politician must have an ambition, he is entitled to it, if he has, but he's confided in me that he is not interested in contesting. He is coming back to restore the house he built'.
Senator Lekan Balogun, another PDP leader said: 'Ladoja has always have a prominent say in the party and will still continue to, so the question of relegating him does not arise. His coming will have the party stronger and more democratic.
On what role would be carved out for the returning politician', he says: 'That will be a function of the outcome of the negotiation he has with the party. He's meeting with the National leadership and he's talking to us at the State level'.
News of the politicians impending return appears to have set the ruling ACN in the state on jitters. Feelers by this paper revealed moves from Governor Abiola Ajimobi's camp to open discussions aimed at persuading the former governor from swallowing the PDP's bait, perhaps, out of fear that this may put an existing, albeit strained accord between him and the AP in jeopardy.
Unprepared to work with an hostile House of Assembly, Governor Ajimobi had struck an agreement with AP to have a cooperative parliamentary relationship, so his bills could have smooth sail. The arrangement has seen seven lawmakers in the House supporting ACN's 15 to produce the Speaker and other principal parliamentary officials, while AP got the position of Deputy Speaker.
But, in a twist, occasioned by opposition from the governor's party leadership, AP was ditched when other officers were to be elected as the ACN members in the House allied with the PDP. The betrayal has strained relationship[ between the two parties, although the governor is said to have lamented that he is helpless over the situation.
But, pundits note that he probably need not fear a possible AP-PDP coalition rocking his boat as their number is insufficient to impeach the speaker or stall his plans and bills which require two-third majority votes of the legislators. 'The PDP has 10 to ACN's 15 and AP's seven, So, with 17 to 15, they can't remove the Speaker. They will need two-third to do that'.