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NIGERIA: Challenges Before PDP’s Filani Committee

Tunde Sanni looks at some of the challenges before the Chief Ishola Filani-led Caretaker Committee of the South-west zonal working committee of the Peoples Democratic Party and how far it can go in reconciling the warring factions in the zone

Chief Ishola Filani posted the picture of an embattled soldier who went to the warfront, unsure of victory as he briefed the media on the latest development in the party in the zone which was to raise peace and reconciliation committees for each of the states in the zone. He had told the press that the inauguration of the Ekiti committee was deliberately being put on hold to mourn with the state over the twin tragedy of the death of the deputy governor, Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka and the murder of a new PDP member. Aside Ekiti, the committees for other states in the zone were set up with a mandate to achieve utmost result.

Filani has been around for some time and the party in the region is not new to reconciliation and harmonisation. Since the days of Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo-led zonal working committee, efforts were stepped up to reconcile warring and aggrieved chieftains of the party who fell out with the party leadership over the party primaries ahead of the 2007 polls, some of whom defected to the defunct Action Congress (AC).

The election of the Oladipo-led zonal working committee with the backing of the late Umaru Yar’Adua presidency, embarked on the reconciliation and harmonisation of the aggrieved party chieftains. The Oladipo-led committee achieved a modest success as many of the chieftains, embraced the re-integration exercise.

But with the outcome of the 2011 polls, it was evident that not much was actually achieved in the reconciliation process of the Oladipo-led committee as the party lost in Osun, Ekiti, Ogun and its most coveted seat in Oyo. The cause of the losses was traced to intra-party wrangling and the continuation of the imposition culture of party leadership.

Since the losses, the party has been engaging in all sorts of actions aimed at regaining the control of the region. Even with the Segun Oni-led zonal working committee, not much could be achieved as the defunct committee was merely reading the lips of its godfather, Olusegun Obasanjo, in his relationship with the party chieftains. In the bid to please Obasanjo, the party’s legal structure in Ogun
state was sidelined for the one supported by Obasanjo but which the court vacated.

The Oni-led committee soon got drowned in the confusion for the Filani-led zonal working committee.
In apparent realisation of his new task, Filani in his maiden media chat in Ibadan declared that the Yoruba nation would soon be brought back to the mainstream of Nigerian politics by aligning with the PDP, which he said, was to correct the imbalance the Yoruba is currently experiencing in the polity.

Filani submitted that the task of reconciling aggrieved members was achievable but declined to disclose the modus operandi of the committee towards resolving the internal crises in the party as he simply said “our method is very close to our chest.  We will not reveal it to anybody, but all party members are aware of the method we want to adopt,” he said.

From Ekiti to Ondo to Osun to Oyo to Ogun and to Lagos, stories of grievances on the management of the party affairs abound, such that, most chieftains had vowed to ‘siddon look’. Signs that the Filani interim zonal arrangement was far from being accepted by the
chieftains of the party in the region emerged when the National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamangar Tukur, came calling in the zone last month. Most of those who lost out in the power game at Wadata plaza and who had been identified as ‘Obasanjo men’ stayed out of the Tukur reconciliation visit.

There was the absence of Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Oni and interestingly, that of the former governor of Oyo state, Adebayo Alao-Akala.
Almost all the six states in the zone are crisis-prone with those of Osun and Ekiti lately being engendered by the gubernatorial ambition of some chieftains and threatening the peace of the party in the states. A proposed governorship zoning arrangement purportedly aimed at edging out former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, from the 2014 governorship race on the party’s platform is heating the polity in the party in the state.

In Osun, sudden turn about action of some leaders against the gubernatorial ambition of Dr. Iyiola Omisore, is portending crisis in the party in the state. It would be recalled that these two states; Ekiti and Osun boast of peaceful intra-party co-existence in the region, which has been sources of worry for the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the two states. These obviously are areas the
Filani committee would want to look into with a view to bringing the aggrieved together for the success of the party in the 2014 polls in the two states.

In Oyo State, the crisis is assuming new dimension by the day such that the magical abracadabra of the more you look, the less you see is at play in the party in the state. Some party chieftains are yet to forgive some leaders for the seeming anti-party roles they allegedly played in the last election and that has continued to affect the unity of the party in the state. Even among those who stayed by the party all through the 2011 polls, there are cracks in their relationships as mutual suspicion and distrust have set in, thus pitting two brothers against each other.

There is also the problem of factional structures for the party in the state which has refused to be collapsed into the main structure. The names of the Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory, Mrs. Jumoke Akinjide and former deputy governor of the state now Nigeria’s ambassador to Syria, Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja, have been severally mentioned as the promoters of the factional structure.

The argument is that if the two principal officers agreed to a ceasefire and called their supporters to order, then peace might gradually return to the party. It was gathered that the committee could not achieve any positive headway in the pacesetter state as many of its leading lights shunned the committee when it called on them.

There is the grievance of some chieftains of the party against Alao-Akala on the main structure of the party. They are unhappy that the ormer governor is calling  for the dissolution of the party structure when in actual fact he was a signatory to the structure and had sponsored candidates in the executive committee of the party in the state. There is yet the problem of the leadership of the party in the state. There had been the argument that since Alao-Akala is no more the governor of the state, he can’t continue to lay claim to the leadership of the party in the state.

There has also been the deference to Senator Hosea Agboola, being the lone senator from the state and in the South-west as the leader but some chieftains are also kicking.

Interestingly, appointments from the national secretariat are either rooted through the senator or the former governor, thus putting others at the mercy of these politicians.

For Oyo PDP, it is the refusal to forget the past and forgive those who, out of frustration, worked against the party and the interests of some chieftains, especially, the re-election of Alao-Akala that has continued to aggravate the crisis in the party and this is one area the Filani interim arrangement should focus on.

There is, however, another fear that if the crisis in the party has defied resolution, what extra efforts can a Filani with an interim mandate bring to the table?

In Lagos State, the battle of supremacy between former Deputy National Chairman of the party, Chief Olabode George, and former Minister of Works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe is far from being over.  Though George has taken control of the party’s machinery in the state, the former Minister and the Union Group, an assemblage of   party elders opposed to George, have kept away from
the activities of the party in the state.

Thus, how Filani reconciles the warring chieftains in Lagos would interest even none PDP members outside Lagos, judging by the influence of George in the presidency.

Ogun remains the hotbed of intra party crisis in the zone. Issues surrounding the Ogun crisis began during the administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former governor  of the state. Being a PDP member, the same party as Obasanjo, it was not surprising that issues boiled over, especially when the former president finished his second term and with little things to do, decided to lord himself
and his wishes on the party in the state to the consternation of Daniel who saw himself as the leader of the party being a sitting governor and in line with the party constitution.

The disagreement between Daniel and Obasanjo on issues relating to the party made the internal woes intractable. Soon, Daniel, sensing that he had lost the battle quietly formed the Progressive Party of Nigeria (PPN) to sponsor a gubernatorial candidate, Gboyega Nasiru Isiaka and other National and state assembly candidates in the 2011 elections. His technical exit from the party narrowed the fight for the soul of the party to between Obasanjo and PDP financier, Alhaji Kashamu Buruji. It was a battle that later demystified the former president.

The successes of the court processes of the Buruji camp led to de-recognition of the Dipo Odujirin- leadership which is loyal to the former president and the full recognition of the Chief Bayo Dayo leadership and all his sympathizers. It was in the spirit of the success of the courts that Alhaji Fatai Adewole Adeyanju was elected National Auditor to replace Chief Bode Mustapha. However, if the recent
report that Obasanjo and Daniel had reconciled is anything to go by, then the party can look on 2015 with hope but as things are, it is doubtful if the peace would not be ruptured again.

Thus, if Tukur’s statement during his reconciliation visit to the region was anything to go by, then the Filani interim committee has a herculean task before it. Tukur had urged the stakeholders of the party to re-strategise ahead of 2015 elections so that the party can achieve victory and told the party faithful to “reconcile and rebuild the party. You are the rightful people that should be in governance in your respective states. If you don’t get power, you can’t serve your people. Please reconcile so that this can be achieved.”

For the party to regain the zone, he pleaded with feuding parties to forget the ugly experience of the past, avoid political bitterness and forge ahead to realize the objectives of the party. To him, there are no permanent enemies.

And in the words of former Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin, the visit of Tukur to South-west would help the party unseat the opposition party in the 2015 elections, because according to him, the visit had served as a morale booster to the PDP since it lost to the opposition party.

Against this background, it is left for the Filani Committee to prove that reconciliation is feasible in South-west PDP, however short the timeline is because anything short of that holds grave consequences for the party as the next election inches closer.

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