Last week the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) set up an 85-member campaign committee for the September 22 governorship election in Osun State, to lead its flag-bearer, Senator Ademola Adeleke, into battle against an array of formidable foes, which include Gboyega Oyetola, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC); and Senator Iyiola Omisore, candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP) and one-time deputy governor of the state.
An ex-chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Omisore, gave Governor Rauf Aregbesola a run for his money four years ago, scoring over 40 per cent of the votes. The Ife-born politician believes he won that election but was rigged out by Aregbesola. To complete the strong field is Alhaji Moshood Adeoti of the Action Democratic Party (ADP). The PDP campaign committee is headed by Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who, upon his recent defection from APC back into PDP, now wears the hat of National Leader of PDP. Saraki, perhaps to justify his rating as consummate politician and sleek operator, wasted no time in resolving what had hitherto appeared a Gordon knot between Adeleke and his hottest challenger for the PDP flag, Dr. Akin Ogunbiyi. Before now, efforts at reconciliation had floundered but Saraki waved the magic wand and, pronto, Ogunbiyi and Adeleke fell in line.
The wonder, though, is why PDP did not find the winning formula earlier. Omisore is an asset the party had allowed to bolt away before commonsense returned to the party. A man who has a vice-like grip over his home base of Ife, a people who turn in the votes like no-man’s business, should not have been allowed to leave the party. The right words at the right time; and commensurate incentives with appropriate horse-trading would possibly have done the trick. Omisore in PDP’s camp would have given the party added advantage but now it appears the votes will be split in a four-horse race. Will a winner emerge on first ballot? Putting one’s house together after many notables had bolted from the stable appears medicine after death. It is like getting wiser after the act or the case of a child who hides the knife only after it had lacerated his hand. If the remaining sun on the horizon can still help the Osun PDP to dry its clothes, as our people say, what do we make of the recent reconciliation and return of many estranged PDP members in Ekiti State to the party?
Senate Majority Leader-designate, Biodun Olujimi, reportedly was the architect of the reconciliation move. Olujimi herself was one of those top-shot PDP leaders who disagreed with the choice of the deputy governor, Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, as the PDP flag bearer in the last but controversial Ekiti governorship election, whose results as declared by the INEC is before the election petition tribunal for adjudication. Together with some other party leaders, Olujimi rubbished Governor Ayodele Fayose, ridiculed Prof. Eleka, gnawed at the very soul of Ekiti PDP and undermined its “Continuity” efforts – but at the 11th hour when she was expected to defect form the party like the others, she made a U-turn and remained. Was this love of party, adherence to party discipline, or selfish interest? It is pure and simple enlightened self-interest. The anti-party activities of Olujimi and his cohorts encouraged as well as emboldened APC to attempt all the shenanigans that a shocked Ekiti populace and an alarmed nation witnessed on July 14. It provided justification for the daylight robbery of “see and buy” as well as the massive security lock-down of the state not to provide the touted security but to hold the hands of the opponent (PDP) for the favoured and anointing (APC) to coast home to “victory”.
PDP as a party may be served in the long-run by the Olujimi-inspired reconciliation of disaffected party leaders but in the immediate, it is Olujimi whose nest is feathered. This wily and foxy politician is positioning herself seriously to take over the leadership of Ekiti PDP from Fayose, whose tenure as governor expires in a few weeks. Whether or not Fayose proceeds after vacating office straight into the waiting hands of the EFCC and whether true or false that a decision has been taken by Presidency cabals to give him the Sambo Dasuki and Ibrahim El-Zakzaky treatment of prolonged incarceration to teach him a lesson for his perceived “insults” on President Muhammadu Buhari as well as make Ekiti save enough for APC to lord it over, Olujimi as Senate Majority Leader and one-time deputy governor of the state, remains the most visible, high-ranking, and experienced Ekiti PDP leader that can step into Fayose’s shoes.
PDP national leaders must have thought in this direction. Fayose and or his supporters may have thought of pulling the rugs from underneath Olujimi’s feet to pay her back in her own coin, teach her a lesson, and put a stop to her chequered history of political treachery. What if they prevent her from getting the PDP ticket? They should still possess enough political muscles to do that but the costs to PDP at national and state levels could be high. And with Fayose out of power and off the scene, even if only for a while, finding someone able to stand Olujimi eye-ball to eye-ball and Naira for Naira on his behalf may be a tall order.
Nevertheless, the point must be made that the ongoing rapprochement among Ekiti PDP leaders would have better served the party and the state had it happened before July 14. That it is happening now and seeing who is claiming the credit suggests that Fayose is held accountable for the exodus of Ekiti PDP leaders in the first place. As Fayose prepares to leave office, now those he “drove” out of the PDP, as someone put it, are now being encouraged to return. Will Olujimi prove a better party leader? Will her politics be more “inclusive” and less “sectarian” as someone said? Time, as they say, will tell! Olujimi’s action in rallying Ekiti PDP may have been informed by some of the party’s recent mistakes. For instance, why did the PDP at national level not set up for the Ekiti governorship election the kind of high-powered campaign committee it has now put in place for the Osun election? Fayose and Ekiti PDP were left severely alone in that election, despite that PDP saw how APC set up a 100-plus campaign committee. In addition, APC governors in the adjourning states shifted base to Ekiti before, during, and after the election, providing thugs, money, and logistics support. APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was not left out. No commensurate interest was shown by PDP leaders and no APC-like support was given. Were they told not to bother? Was it over-confidence?
Whatever, I believe they must have sat down, done a post-mortem, and drawn useful lessons. Perhaps, it is those hard lessons that have informed Olujimi’s steps and the Saraki committee. They should, however, go further afield: Since the Ekiti PDP’s case at the tribunal is about to start, PDP must not leave it to Fayose, the candidate or Ekiti PDP alone. They should set up a high-powered committee to prosecute the case to its logical conclusion. They missed an opportunity when they allowed APC steal a fast one on them in Ekiti. It is sad to see APC and its leaders gloat as they cite their daylight electoral robberies as evidence that they are loved by the people and will win hands down in 2019.
LAST WORDS: Why is PDP unable to keep old and fresh politicians in the same boat? In Kano, Benue, Sokoto, Kwara, etc. as some are coming in, others are taking their leave. Blame the winner-takes all mentality, lack of negotiation skills, and absence of internal democracy. Old habits, as they say…
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