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2023: The Trouble Within Oyo PDP Over Consensus Arrangement
With the conclusion of national convention by the registered political parties especially the two dominant political parties, APC and PDP where national and zonal executives that would steer the ship of their parties for the next four years were elected, the special focus of these political parties now is on who will fly their flag in all the elected positions as 2023 general elections approach.
As expected, a number of aspirants have shown interest in running for one position or the other ranging from the President, Governors, Senate, House of Representatives and of course State Houses of Assembly positions.
In Oyo State PDP, it is fantastic to note that many aspirants most especially the young people who are capable, intelligent, and versatile and most especially have both political and electoral values to deliver have come out in their large numbers to show interest. Many of them have paid their dues as party men and are qualified to run while some are newcomers in the party. However, the hope of many of these aspirants aspiring to clinch the ticket of their party, PDP has been dashed owing to the decision of the leaders of the party who opted for consensus arrangement to pick candidates rather than allowing all aspirants to test their popularity in the primary election.
It would be recalled that on 26th February, 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the timetable and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 general election. The Timetable provided detailed activities, including the conduct of primaries, nomination of candidates by political parties and other activities leading to the Presidential and National Assembly elections on Saturday 25th February, 2023, followed by the Governorship and State Assembly elections on Saturday 11th March, 2023. All the activities were in line with the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) and the Electoral Act, 2022,
On 28th February, 2022, the Commission published The Notice of Election, while nomination forms have been made available on its website since 1st March, 2022 for political parties to download and issue to their candidates.
The next activity is the conduct of primaries by political parties in line with the dictates of Section 84 of the electoral Act for which the Timetable and Schedule of Activities provides a period of 61 days (4th April to 3rd June, 2022).
On Tuesday 5th April, 2022, the Commission issued a release through its National Commissioner and Chairman, Information on Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye where it reiterated that parties must adhere strictly to the principles of internal democracy, drawing from their constitutions, guidelines, the Electoral Act and other Regulations and Guidelines issued by the Commission.
According to the release, candidates of all political parties for the 1,491 constituencies for which elections will be conducted in 2023 must emerge from democratic, transparent and valid primaries, in line with the provisions of Sections 29 and 84 of the Electoral Act, 2022. Where a political party fails to comply with the provisions of the Act in the conduct of its primaries, its candidate shall not be included in the election for the particular position in issue.
As required by law, the Commission shall monitor the primaries of each political party that provides the required legal notice in line with Sections 82(1) and (5) of the Electoral Act. Failure of a political party to notify the Commission of any convention or congress convened for the purpose of nominating candidates for any of the elective offices specified in the Act shall render the convention or congress invalid.
Primaries must be conducted in the various constituencies as provided in Section 84 of the Electoral Act as it is a violation of the law to conduct primaries outside the constituencies for which parties are nominating candidates. The Commission will not monitor such primaries and their outcome will not be accepted.
Political parties are enjoined to avoid acrimonious primaries that could result in unnecessary litigations that may lead to failure to nominate and field candidates for elections in some constituencies.” The statement warned political parties.
On Friday 1st April, 2022, the political permutations as to who gets what commenced with a stakeholders’ meeting that the Oyo State Governor who is also the leader of the party in the State, Engr Seyi Makinde held with different gladiators and stalwarts of PDP at the government house. At that meeting, the Governor told them that he had procured some couple of forms for various elective offices. He specifically mentioned that he had bought two Senatorial forms, 11 House of Representatives and 16 State House of Assembly forms. The reason for this decision by the Governor, according to inside sources who was at the meeting has to do with the fact that there are some electable individuals with good electoral value but do not have the financial muzzle and the governor was determined not to let anyone behind especially those that can really deliver for the party.
The Governor told the leaders to go back to their respective constituencies to dialogue with all the aspirants and come up with their preferred candidates and to meet him on Monday 4th April, 2022 with those agreed lists or preferred candidates via consensus. He, however, added that where the leaders have failed to come up with consensus candidates there would be primary elections as he would ensure a level playing ground for all the aspirants – a decision that was applauded by all the party stalwarts present at that meeting.
However, the decision of the Governor to procure some forms that would be given to some aspirants has generated a lot of controversies with many people querying why the leader of the party would buy forms and give it to some individuals he has soft landing for while many other individual aspirants have equally procured forms to signify their preparations to participate in the primary election. It is should be noted that all the aspirants for various elective positions besieged the PDP secretariat office in Abuja to pick up their expression of interest and nomination forms while they were also expected to return the duly completed forms to Abuja except the State House of Assembly forms which is to be submitted at the State party office.
According to one of the aspirants who spoke under the condition of anonymity, we were surprised when the Governor told us that he had procured some forms. At that moment, I knew that the Governor already had some candidates he already anointed that he would impose on others. I think as a leader of the party if you have a person who doesn’t have the capacity to purchase a form, why not give the person money quietly and allow everybody to test their popularity in the primary election.” He lamented.
The aftermath’s developments across the length and breadth of the state since Monday 4th April, 2022 indicated that the crisis of imposition of candidates rocked the Oyo State PDP with aspirants together with their supporters protesting in many of the local governments and in some constituencies where the leaders agreed on consensus candidates. It appears the centre couldn’t hold in the affected constituencies. It appears the ruling party is not intended to conduct primary elections for all its aspirants.
The story of the imposition of candidates is almost the same in all the constituencies. For instance, in Oluyole federal constituency, on Sunday 3rd April, 2022, the leaders in Oluyole federal constituency picked the party’s publicity secretary, Akeem Olatunji as candidate for House of Representatives while a popular presenter with a private radio station, Waheed Akintayo was picked for the House of Assembly candidate. The other aspirants protested against the modality used to pick these two candidates which made the committee headed by the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the PDP, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja to order for the primary election. But the story changed again after a lot of forces within the government imposed the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor, Hon. Mojeed Mogbonjubola on other aspirants without even waiting for the primary as ordered by the committee.
In Oyo Central senatorial district, former Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Bisi Ilaka was imposed as the candidate, in Oyo North, Akinwole Wolekanle was imposed while in Oyo South where PDP has a serving Senator, a former gubernatorial aspirant in the APC who just defected to the ruling PDP, Engr Joseph Olasunkanmi Tegbe was picked against the incumbent Senator Kola Balogun and Dr Nureni Adeniran, the Chairman of Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board (OyoSUBEB). The duo of Senator Kola Balogun and Dr Nureni Adeniran were the only two aspirants that purchased the forms in the said senatorial district before Engr Tegbe’s defection.
In the Ibadan South East/North East federal constituency, it was reported that the incumbent Hon. Abass Adigun Agboworin was imposed on other strong contenders like Hon. Akeem Ademola Ige, Governor Seyi Makinde’s Special Adviser on Tourism and Culture, Hon. Deji Aboderin, Hon. Abass Fawole and Ibrahim Ajiboye. Prior to Agboworin’s alleged imposition, some party stalwarts in the said federal constituency had issued a statement where they vehemently rejected any attempt to give return ticket to Agboworin on the ground that he did not have respect for the party and failed to deliver on many of his campaign promises prior to the 2019 election.
Similarly, in Ibadan South West/North West Federal constituency, the incumbent Hon. Stanley Olajide (a.k.a. Odidiomo) was equally returned after other contenders like Hon. Stephen Fagbemi has been prevailed upon to step down by the leaders in the said constituency, while Hon. Olayemi Taiwo, another serving Rep member, was also returned for Ido/Ibarapa federal constituency.
In all, the PDP returned three out of its serving House of Representatives members except Hon. Muraina Ajibola who represents Ibarapa Central/Ibarapa North federal constituency. Hon. Ajibola is one of the aggrieved PDP members and as at the time of collating this report, it is being speculated that he has defected to the APC alongside thousands of his supporters.
The same scenario is played out in the selection of candidates for the House of Assembly in all the 32 State constituencies.
However, the developments have led to pockets of protests by the unfavoured aspirants and their supporters with a call on Governor Seyi Makinde not to allow the wishes of some political leaders to impose candidates reign supreme over the wishes of the people with an appeal to allow the aspirants to test their popularity based on their political antecedents.
While analyzing the happenings within the PDP and what it is likely to portend for the party in the State in the general election, a chieftain of the party who spoke under the condition of anonymity said that the history was about to repeat itself with the development.
He recalled that In the build up to the 2019 general election, former Governor Abiola Ajimobi took the similar step when he came up with the idea of zonal leaders and relied on them to pick the candidates which was kicked against by a lot of APC members at that time. According to him, we are here again with the current administration who is relying on leaders to come up with the preferred candidates. For you to get the nod of your leaders in your constituency it is either you continually oil their palms year in year out. But I will tell you that that idea is dangerous because whoever candidates the so-called leaders have handpicked that emerges will have to meet formidable opponents at the other side.
For any candidate to emerge, it is necessary to look at the charisma, background, the antecedents and most importantly the electoral value of such an individual could bring into play but now when it is now put in the hands of the few elders to make such decision when we know that at the end of the day monetary influence will be involved I think it poses a serious danger for us as a party.
In the eyes of we who have been following the trend of events in the last three weeks, many of those that have been approved don’t have both the political and electoral value to deliver for the party. This is what we have witnessed in this State before. For Governor Seyi Makinde he may say the opposition is in disarray because they couldn’t give him any challenge he needs to be reminded that he was also a product of internal democracy because he emerged through the primary election where he defeated Senator Ayo Adeseun at Liberty Stadium in 2018. He needs to do the right thing during this process because if we get it wrong at this stage you can predict what will be the outcome of the general election. He should allow the party faithful to decide who will represent them instead of allowing a few leaders to select for us.” He submitted.
Governor Seyi Makinde is about to finish his first term as Governor even though he has contested on several occasions before he became the governor, it is necessary to let history be his guide in whatever he is doing as a governor if he is desirous to have better outing in 2023. He must have an internal mechanism to resolve and placate those aspirants that are protesting without letting them jump to another party.
There is one thing that is very important to remember, the circumstances that brought in the present administration in 2019 are no longer there as we speak. Governor must be careful in deciding what to do at every point in time because when candidates emerge, it is the party members that will go out to canvas for votes and mobilize for them. If the party members don’t own the candidates, the excitement to canvass votes for the candidate will not be there. For that scenario to be averted the Governor has to be careful. He should not listen solely to the leaders, have an independent means of verifying whatever the leaders have presented.