November 28, 2021

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Infighting: How Lagos PDP has lost fortunes

There appears to be respite among members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lagos State following a series of reconciliatory meetings with the leaders and warring stakeholders of the party by Senator Bukola Saraki-led committee, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.

On April 12, 2021, the South-West chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party temporarily buried their differences to elect its new set of leaders in a crucial zonal congress held in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.

Despite the grievances from a section of the party, the congress was largely seen as a unifier and a catalyst for strengthening the party and bringing about the badly needed cohesion in the party at the zonal level.

But while the zonal congress has come and gone, the crises in state chapters continue to defy all odds. One of the chapters deeply enmeshed in internal wrangling is Lagos.

The Lagos PDP has always been in tatters, shattered and almost ruined by internal wrangling. Despite being in what seems like a perpetual opposition, the chapter has failed to get its acts together and assume the role of a viable opposition.

From one election to another, the chapter continues to swim from one crisis to another. This, according to many chieftains and members of the party, calls for concern.

A member of the party’s State Working Committee who spoke with Daily Trust on Sunday on the condition of anonymity said he was deeply worried by the messy situation of Lagos PDP.

“I have been in politics for decades and I know what my contemporaries in the All Progressives Congress (APC) have achieved. If I had joined the ruling party, I would have achieved more. I once met Asiwaju Bola Tinubu (the APC national leader and strongman of Lagos politics) with a friend of mine who is now in the party (APC). If you see what he has achieved for being in that party.

“But here in the PDP, we have continued to fight. The election will come, and instead of getting our acts right, we will resume the fight and the ruling party will take advantage of that to defeat us,” he lamented.

In the 2015 elections, the party put up an impressive performance when it won eight House of Representatives seats out of the 20 in the state. Similarly, it won eight seats in the House of Assembly.

But since 2015, the fortunes of the party have been deteriorating due to infighting, scramble for the control of structures at ward, local government and state levels. Elders are not working with the youths, who are not ready to bow. There is no unity or synergy at any level. In fact, the party appears to be in disarray.

Along the line, several bigwigs of the party left. From Moshood Adegoke Salvador, a former chairman of the party, to Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe, a former minister, Mutiu Okunola, among others, the party has suffered massive defections, yet those left in the party are not ready to concede to one another to forge a common and united front.

In the 2019 elections, the governorship candidate of the party, Jimi Agbaje, ran a lone race. He never held a single rally where party leaders and members of the State Working Committee mounted the podium to campaign for him. He only did few town hall meetings and that was all. The defeat by the ruling APC was predictable and it was indeed a landslide for them.

After the election, he was accused of embezzling campaign funds, an allegation he denied. He, in fact, called the bluff of the party leaders, including the then state chairman, Dr Adegbola Dominic.

Few months after the 2019 elections, specifically in December, a new set of the executive was elected and Adedeji Doherty, an engineer, emerged as the new chairman of the party. Although the state congress was held with high hopes that the party would pick its pieces and forge ahead to be the credible opposition it ought to be, it did not solidify the party. No sooner did the congress end than some party leaders began to challenge Doherty’s leadership. They accused him of running a one-man show, alleging that he did not consult organs of the party in taking crucial decisions.

At the moment, the State Working Committee is split into groups with a majority loyal to the former deputy national chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, and few others backing Doherty.

From day one when he became the chairman, Doherty has not hidden his disposition to run the affairs of the party independently. This is why he has distanced himself from the leaders, including Bode George, who has been financing the party for years.

There was confusion in the party in December last year when some executive members announced that the chairman had resigned. This was after he reportedly issued a statement to the effect that three of the executive members, including the state secretary, Prince Muiz Dosunmu, the publicity secretary, Taofiq Gani, a lawyer, and Nurudeen Adewale, an ex-officio member, had been suspended for alleged anti-party activities. Since the suspension and counter suspension, the party’s cohesion has been further weakened.

But Doherty insists he remains the chairman of the party; and he has, in recent times, been performing his duty, albeit without the input of many party stakeholders.

Speaking at a forum penultimate week, George said since the Osogbo zonal congress, the prayers of the party had been answered with the outcome of the election.

However, he stated that the major challenge with the party, especially in the state, had been a lack of discipline by some party members. According to him, the party is determined to drive out those he called, “traitors” in the party.

“The traitors are the problem of this party. They go about leaking stories because of pittances. Look at them; where are they today? We must resolve here today that anybody that is trying to be a traitor, we would not only drive them out of the party, we would recondition them, containerise them and teach them a lesson – what they do to traitors,” he said.

Speaking at the welcome reception for the newly elected zonal secretary, Wahab Owokoniran, with some party leaders in attendance, including a former national secretary, Dr Remi Akintoye, former deputy governor, Chief (Mrs) Kofoworola Bucknor, many state executive members, but without the presence of the state chairman, Bode George declared that he didn’t belong to any group in the party. He said it was an offence for any member to be loyal to any group and not the leadership of the party.

Speaking with our correspondent, the state chairman said disagreements and misunderstanding were parts of the democratic process.

He said, “The reason for the continuous conflict escalation in the party has been the non-respectability of previous managers of the party to simple adherence to the rules and regulations of the party’s constitution.

“The previous managers never created a strict and non-bias conflict resolution structure. This has been put in place now and I believe we have seen the various crises decrease.’

He added that as at today, “we have about an 80 per cent peace situation in the party. The other 20 per cent are those that are loyal to their leaders rather than the party, which I believe would change as we go along. It is a work in progress.”

However, in a new development, a former Senate president and chairman of the party’s reconciliation committee held a meeting with stakeholders of the party in the state, with a view to resolving all the issues of contention.

Saraki, who spoke with reporters after the meeting, urged the warring chieftains to sheathe their swords, shun bitterness and have a forgiving spirit in the interest of the party.

Only time will tell how far the reconciliatory meeting would bring lasting peace to the party.