Leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday fulfilled their promise to set up committees to prepare the party for its national convention scheduled to take place between October 30 and 31 and they announced the outcome to the public. Behind the scene, they did more: they bargained, lobbied and jostled for positions for their protégés and aides based on new arrangements, ahead of the convention.
One of the major positions that was decided behind the scene in an attempt to bury the proverbial hatchet in the party, which is still brewing with litigations between it and the former National Chairman, Uche Secondus, was the position of the National Chairman of the party.
A former Governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola was reportedly named as the consensus candidate for the position of National Chairman, ahead of the main opposition’s October 30 National Convention.
According to TheWill, Oyinlola was chosen after key interest groups in the party, including state governors agreed to sink their differences, following negotiations and the politician’s national appeal. His emergence came on the heels of a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC} of the party held in Abuja last Thursday, which effectively sealed the fate of the embattled Secondus.
Recall that six days earlier, a High Court in Kebbi State had vacated an earlier relief granted Secondus, which had reinstated him as party chairman.
The judge, Nusirat Umar, said the counsel to Secondus intentionally hid crucial facts on the matter, which led her to grant the exparte order in a suit marked KB/AC/M.170/2021 that restored him as party chairman.
In cancelling her earlier ruling, she said, “I also agree that the claimants’/ respondents’ counsel failed to disclose to the court the true subject matter of this matter, namely the suspension of the first defendant, Prince Uche Secondus, from the membership of the second defendant (Peoples Democratic Party) by Ward 5, Ikuru Town in Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers state.”
While that ward suspension order is still a subject of litigation, party stakeholders agreed to anoint Oyinlola in order to end the two-month long crisis that had pitched Secondus against a powerful group backed by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
Oyinlola, a staunch ally of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, was chosen by the PDP Governors to lead the party into the 2023 general elections.
Having found his way back to the party after a standoff, during which he publicly tore his registration card in a fit of temper in the heat of the anti-President Goodluck Jonathan campaign in 2015 and tried without success to form a Pan-Nigerian political group in 2018 before burying his quarrel with his erstwhile deputy, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, and supported his 2019 presidential bid, Obasanjo, with Oyinlola’s emergence, will become even more powerful within the party. Atiku, who is still eyeing the 2023 presidency, cherishes his reconciliation with his former boss and for that reason, readily supported Oyinlola’s candidacy.
Oyinlola, a retired Brigadier-General, also enjoys the support of former military President, Ibrahim Babangida, and Lieutenant-General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau, a former military top brass, as well as former President of the Senate, David Mark.
According to sources in the party, Oyinlola’s wide support base would make it hard for any one group within the party to control him. This consensus of support has put him ahead of other aspirants for the position of national chairman, namely a former governorship candidate of the party in the recent Ondo State governorship election, Mr Eyitayo Jegede, SAN and a former military governor of old Ondo State, Chief Bode George. “Oyinlola is the candidate to beat for the position of national chairman, come October 30,”said a competent party source.
According to multiple party sources, the choice of Oyinlola, who is from the South-West, means the party’s presidential ticket would effectively go to the North, while the vice presidential ticket would be open to either the South-East or South-South.
Atiku, a frontline presidential aspirant, according to party sources, has already started negotiations with other party stakeholders to emerge the PDP’s presidential candidate.
According to a top-level source, the former Vice-President has offered the position of either Vice-President or Petroleum Minister to the South-South. It was not clear whether he was deferring to the Wike group that has become too assertive for comfort in the party or playing brinkmanship, following the hazy political signals coming from the South-East where the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has decided to fish for defectors from the PDP amid crises fueled by separatists and secessionists.
While Governor Aminu Tambuwal is yet to revive his presidential ambition after his failed bid in 2019, another aspirant whom is cashing in on Oyinlola’s ‘anointing’, is former President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Abubakar Saraki.
Sources, however, say party leaders from up North are keeping him under watch because of his perceived anti-Buhari posture as Senate leader, though they still respect him for his leadership skills at the senate.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
As the PDP prepares for its National Convention in October, some chieftains are already nursing their wounds while others are savouring their victory. Among the victors are Governor Wike, his Oyo counterpart, Seye Makinde and Adamawa’s Ahmadu Umar Fintiri. They were the three musketeers that orchestrated Secondus’s removal as national chairman.
Again, as exclusively reported by this newspaper in its August 8, 2021 edition, Wike with the support of Makinde and Fintiri, amongst other notable leaders, facilitated the surprise resignation of seven members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party in a bid to force Secondus to resign. His re-election bid, his opponents believed, would open the old wounds that his erstwhile ‘godfather’ and sponsor, Wike, had harboured against him when he reportedly ‘helped’ Atiku to emerge as the party’s flag-bearer, beating the Tambuwal/ Wike joint ticket during the presidential primaries in Port Harcourt in 2019.
So it was no surprise on Thursday that Fintiri and Makinde featured prominently as officers of committees the party set up for the national convention. Instructively, the National Executive Committee of the PDP, alongside 13 governors elected on the party’s platform, ex-PDP governors, members of the Board of Trustees and Atiku agreed to the decision.
Fintiri emerged as chairman of the Convention Organising Committee with Makinde as secretary. Their Bayelsa counterpart, Duoye Diri, would serve as deputy chairman.
The zoning committee is chaired by Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, with Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State as his deputy, while Zamfara State deputy governor, Mohammed Mahdi, would serve as the secretary.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbodinyan, addressed journalists after the meeting. He said, “NEC met today to further discuss critical issues concerning the party. NEC commends the efforts of the National Working Committee, the PDP Governors’ Forum, the Board of Trustees (BoT), the National Assembly Caucus and other stakeholders in resolving the challenges confronting the party.
“NEC also approved the composition of the National Convention Planning Committee as well as the Zoning Committee to zone National Working Committee offices.”
Thus, while the Wike group, as it were, became winners under the new arrangement, Secondus and his supporters are the losers, particularly with the ‘anointing’ of Oyinlola, as his replacement.
The politician, who was a former Governor of Osun State, will be 70 in February next year.
He was sworn in as Governor on May 29, 2003 and was re-elected in 2007 on the platform of the PDP until the Court of Appeal nullified his election in November 2010 in favour of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of the Action Congress. After several years with PDP, he defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) shortly before the 2014 Osun State governorship election. He returned to the PDP in March 2020.
Oyinlola was later appointed Chairman of the National Identity Management Corporation (NIMC). The politician is a prince from the royal family of Okuku Town in the Odo Ọtin Local Government Area of Ọṣun State. His father, Oba Moses Oyewole Oyinlola, reigned as the monarch of Okuku between 1934 and 1960. After leaving secondary school at the age of 18, Oyinlola joined the Nigerian Army in 1969.
Appointed the Military Administrator of Lagos State, he governed the state from December 1993 to August 1996 during the regime of late Head of State, General Sani Abacha. He later retired as a Brigadier-General in 1999 as is very well educated.
Sources within the party further told TheWill that consultations are still ongoing amongst stakeholders to split the other positions in the party’s National Working Committee to ensure the party runs smoothly after the convention.