18 April 2019

Nigeria: Lagos PDP Crisis Deepens As Members Demand End of Bode George's Reign

opinion

The 2019 gubernatorial election would make it the sixth time the Lagos State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would try but fail to oust the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). This is principally based on the party's inability to capitalize on the internal frictions in APC or as a result of its own weakness to forge a united front.

If there are instances Lagos PDP has had to demystify the well-oiled and political machinery of the ruling party under the firm control of National Leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the gubernatorial elections of 2011, 2015 and 2019 provided such opportunities. Unfortunately, the leadership of the major opposition party could not organise itself to rise above petty politics and internal wrangling, which is either orchestrated by Tinubu or his cronies in the last 20 years.

In 2007 when Tinubu finished his second term and was searching for a successor on the platform of APC, then Action Congress (AC), no less than 11 commissioners in his cabinet indicated interest to succeed him. But he had no single preference f rom their rank. The national leader instead settled for his then Chief of Staff, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, the current Minister of Housing, Works and Power. It was a situation that nearly threw APC off balance because of the internal bickering particularly against Tinubu who was accused of deceiving the aspirants to test the waters with a promise to support them. It was such serious internal friction within APC such that Tinubu's deputy then, Mr. Femi Pedro, defected to pursue his gubernatorial ambition under the platform of Labour Party (LP)

Despite happenings in the ruling party, erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo of PDP was bent on deploying federal might to take over Lagos by whatever means possible. The presidency threw its weight behind former Minister of State for Defense, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who at the time enjoyed little or no support from members of PDP in Lagos, including the erstwhile Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George and other leaders of the party. Their preference was in another candidate, not Obanikoro. This was in spite of the fact that Tinubu was hell bent on making Fashola his successor. The ruling party was as divided as PDP but while APC banked on the power of incumbency, Lagos PDP was looking to the centre for support to trounce APC. In the end, internal fracas and lack of cohesion, and selfish ambition robbed PDP of the chance to take over Lagos.

Another opportunity surfaced again for PDP to oust the ruling party in 2011 when Tinubu singlehandedly moved to deny Fashola second term ticket. There was general consensus that Fashola performed beyond reasonable well for the national leader to deny him return ticket. This was coupled with the fact that several members of the ruling party also came out to contest for the ticket with Fashola. PDP could not also take advantage of the situation. The party was however battling with its internal discord, which was more of the spillage of the 2007 rancour. Instead of allowing internal democracy to play out in the primary, George was accused of singlehandedly imposing former Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Ade Dosunmu, in what was described as tailored governorship primaries conducted in one of the spaces within Murtala Muhammad Air Port premises. At the end of the day when APC successfully resolved its crisis and Tinubu agreed to allow Fashola run for second term, PDP was unable to address its crisis in spite of the support it got from the centre.

Although there was a belief that Jonathan, a minority from the South-South enjoyed massive support across the country, including southwest, it was insinuated that Tinubu entered into an agreement with him (Jonathan) that Lagos should be left alone in the gubernatorial election while APC supporters would vote for Jonathan in the presidential election. The scenario actually reflected in the pattern of votes then as Fashola successfully trounced Dosunmu while Jonathan won the presidential election in Lagos. It could however be concluded that the 2011 election was more of a trade by barter between the then ruling PDP and Lagos APC leadership.

In 2015, which was considered the best chance for PDP, the party could not also rise above its internal challenges. One of the factors that could have successfully aided PDP's victory over APC was the religious sentiment that was introduced into the politics of Lagos when Christians insisted that the next governor of the state must be one of them irrespective of the political platform. Interestingly, Fashola, against the interest of Tinubu, was supporting Dr. Obafemi Hamzat as his successor while Tinubu, who had bought into the Christian sentiment, preferred the incumbent governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode. It was a serious development that nearly tore the ruling party apart while Jonathan, with the support of the likes of George and other PDP stalwarts and religious leaders, backed Mr. Jimi Agbaje, a new entrant into PDP. The story ended on a sad note for PDP just after its primaries held at Yard 58 Kudirat Abiola Way, which produced Agbaje as the candidate. It further set its members at loggerheads.

Instead of working as a team ahead of the election, most of the PDP members openly defected to APC while those who stayed behind like Obanikoro exhibited lackadaisical approach to the election. In the end, Ambode defeated Agbaje with a very narrow margin.

A similar development of internal friction also worked against Lagos PDP in the last poll. Before the election, some of the strong members like Obanikoro, the state chairman, Moshood El-Salvador and others defected to APC. To make matters worse, the party did not receive any support from the Federal Government in terms of funding and other logistics. Agbaje himself was accused of misappropriating the funds released to the party to execute the election while the ruling party deployed federal might to suppress PDP's supporters from voting in some areas.

Having lost the 2019 election in the March 9 gubernatorial poll, Lagos PDP crisis got worse on Tuesday as a faction of the party broke into the secretariat demanding immediate end to the 20 years' reign of George. The faction, led by a former chairman, Segun Adewale, forced its way into the Lagos office of the party in Ikeja, which was under lock and key and was being guarded by men of the Nigeria Police on the orders of George. The factional party members thereafter declared Adewale the state's party chairman.

With chants of victory songs with his name and placards of various colours and inscriptions such as 'Please, come and rescue us from Bode George', 'Chief Bode George 'o to ge,' 'stop playing anti-party politics in Lagos and South West', 'we are tired of Bode George selling our vote in Lagos! National, please help us', 'we are tired of the cartels of failures in PDP', among others, they said Adewale was the right man for the job as he has a winning mentality.

They claimed that George and his cohorts, against the party's constitution, Section 46-48, which recognises State Executive Committee or Congress as the only means of filling vacant positions or electing state officers, unilaterally picked Dr. Adegbola Dominic as Acting Chairman. The PDP's party men stated that since 1999 and under the leadership of George, the party has no commitment and strategies to win elections, hence the new move is to build a new and strong platform for possible victory in 2023.

While speaking yesterday to party faithful, Adewale said PDP has always lost elections to the All Progressive Congress (APC), not because the party is not capable of winning but alleged that some people have dealings to help the APC National leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to hold the party to ransom.

He said, "We cannot continue to do the same thing same way and expect different results. Dear members, let's all have a rethink; I want to win, I want to lead you to victory. We all need to achieve this together. I also want to state it here that the police do not have right to interfere with our internal party affairs. Under the law, we can have peaceful assembly. As a matter of fact, it is our fundamental human right of association.

"Let me state it here that we don't have any issues with all the authentic chairmen in all the 20 local government areas and the other state executive members. We are only against the illegal installment of Dominic who was imposed on the party by George without following constitutional provisions. It is imperative to note that if they fail to adhere to the constitution, I also have the right to lay claim to the chairmanship based on my 2016 letter of appointment, because no court or National Executive Committee has asked me not to be chairman.

"We want to show them how politics should be played; it is not a matter of force or thuggery. It is about display of intellectual know-how, and those saying I moved around with thugs are only telling lies. As a politician of note, who likes to carry people along, I move with our party members but those on the other side have known thugs they use in tormenting our party members. We won't go low like them. We would continue to do the right things that will advance the cause of our party.

"I want all of us to work together for victory ahead of 2023. This is why I am asking all of us to team together or we should follow the old path that has led us to failure at every election in Lagos. Now, the choice is ours to make whether we want all our collective efforts to yield results in 2023 and beyond or remain as failure that we have been faced with since 1999.

"We are going to be victorious in this struggle to liberate Lagos PDP from those who don't want it to progress. We are going to rebuild the party and make it a winning machine ahead of the 2023 elections. We are not only going to get involved in all the positive moves that will guarantee success for the party, we will also champion all the destiny-changing initiatives that will propel Lagos PDP to the land of promise. As from today, we are all saying no more to Baba Sope because PDP belongs to all of us. We must all now be stronger together and say 'o to ge' to Bode George and his brigades".

Also, an ex-officio of the party, Mr. Adedapo Olushola asserted that it has become clear that the leadership of George doesn't want any victory for PDP in the state.

On the way forward, Olushola added, "The only option is to allow Lagos PDP choose who leads them, either from the executive or the congress. Enough is enough. He has led this party to failure for the past 20 years without winning any elections. We say due thank you to him; let the old man go and relax at home and allow our party plan, restrategise and rebuild ahead of the forthcoming polls".

In a telephone conversation with The Guardian, Dominic explained that Adewale's claims were illogical as he was no longer a member of the party. He said the self-acclaimed chairman had decamped to Action Democratic Party (ADP) nine months ago where he contested in the last elections and has since then been rejected by PDP.

According to Dominic, "A letter of rejection was sent to him from over 800 party members in Alimosho Local Government Area, where he belongs, which confirms his non-membership. More so, he was a senatorial candidate in 2015 and he lost with over 5,000 in his ward and over 20,000 in Alimosho. So his problem has never been George. He is a liability who disturbs the peace of the party with thugs as followers. We have reported the case to the police and they have promised to act immediately".

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