Ondo PDP: Mimiko’s Upper Hand Fails To Douse Tension
THE rumour of his planned defection to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had been agog in Ondo State long before it materialized on the October 2 last year, but each time it was on the front burner, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, the state governor and his aides were always quick to dismiss it with a wave of the hand, on the ground that his Labour Party (LP) was on the verge of being repositioned to expand its influence beyond the borders of the state.
Because of the preparation for the 2015 elections, the PDP had become the preferred platform for politicians who were decamping in their hundreds to the party while the ruling LP, because of a great drop in public acceptability caused mainly by what many described as lackluster second term performance of the Mimiko government, appeared to be heading for oblivion.
Only the PDP and the All Peoples Congress (APC) appeared to be preparing for the election as the LP was thrown into disarray, such that meetings of members were no longer being held and many faithful began to express apprehension that the second half of the second term of the governor might turn out to be a political ordeal as the LP seemed to have lost control of the House of Assembly.
That the LP has lost steam in a state it shook to its very foundation when it was launched on December 2006 was confirmed by its performance in the inconclusive bye-election to fill the vacant seat of Ilaje/Ese-Odo federal constituency and the apparent fear of the state establishment to set the machinery in motion to conduct the election to the equally vacant Odigbo 2 constituency in the House of Assembly.
More than half of the members of the Assembly were said to be preparing to defect from the ruling party and even the Deputy-Governor, Alhaji Alli Olanusi and many federal legislators were believed to have started holding meetings with either the PDP or the APC.
The governor’s sudden defection, which curiously took place at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, may have come as a surprise to many, but not to those who know the depth of Mimiko’s political sagacity. It was a deft move by a consummate politician to secure his mandate and remain relevant in the country’s political space even after the end of his tenure.
The defection has however created such a crisis in the state PDP that the very foundation of the party and its ability to win elections are being gradually, eroded while the leadership both in Abuja and Akure, seems to have failed in their handling of the situation.
At the inception of the post-defection crisis, many had thought that the party would be divided along the two factions- the new and old members – but the platform has been currently balkanized into about four groups to include the Jimoh Ibrahim group, which relies on the courts to truncate whatever was the outcome of the party primaries and the “PDP Change” who are those disgruntled members who decided to wreck havoc from within by working for the rival APC. Ibrahim had been a long-time financier of the party, who is said to be eyeing the governorship seat in 2016.
Signs that the party was set to enter an intractable crisis emerged few minutes after Mimiko and some of his supporters decamped. The governor who was alleged to have completely side-lined the old members who held the fort against all odds when the party was in the political wilderness, opened a new State Office for the party and within hours of his return to Akure, a detachment of armed policemen sealed off the old office and drove the people there away. The old members were thrown into total disarray.
The same day that the office was sealed, an announcement was made from Abuja that the State Working Committee (SWC) led by Ebenezer Alabi has been dissolved and that an interim committee headed by a member from Oyo State has been saddled with the responsibility of running the party.
The old members, who by now had constituted themselves into the “Konigba group” to hammer their resolve to resist the attempt by the governor to “chase them away from a house they built with their sweat” in the words of Wale Ozogoro, the Publicity Secretary of the old group, shifted the battleground to Abuja.
They approached the courts and secured an injunction that declared the dissolution of the SWC and the appointment of a caretaker committee a nullity, thereby putting legal jeopardy on the process of picking the candidates of the party, which according to the timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was to begin about that time.
Although the Abuja leadership denounced the dissolution of the SWC, which it said never emanated from it and condemned the police siege on the old party office, stressing that it would not recognize the new office opened by the governor’s group or encourage the holding of party meetings at the Government House, it reiterated that Mimiko remained the leader of the party in the state.
While some old moderate members welcome the governor and conceded to him the leadership of the party in accordance with the constitution of the party, the process of filling the list of candidates list for the coming elections became another thorny issue.
The governor, apparently desirous of having a House of Assembly of loyal members that would not give him headache in his second term, was said to have requested that 18 out of the 26-member seats be reserved for the new members while the old PDP would fill 8 seats.
At the various meetings held in Abuja and headed mostly by the Senate President, David Mark who headed the reconciliatory committee of the party in the South West, the old PDP members were said to have agreed to the governor’s proposition on the ground that the same percentage that was ceded to the new members at the state legislature must be given to the old PDP in the list of federal legislature, meaning that they would have two-third of members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
But apparently because of mistrust engendered mainly by the sour relationships between the governor and many of the major players in the old PDP, as a result of political rivalry over the years and the obvious failure of the party’s national leadership to have a template to resolve such crisis within its fold, the controversy lingered on.
While the Abuja leadership seemed to have recorded success in persuading the Alabi-led SWC to resign to pave the way for the new sharing formula of party offices between the old and the new members, Ibrahim who caused the emergence in his Igbotako home, of a new executive led by Dr. Olu Ogunye, Mimiko’s teacher at the medical school, set the hands of the clocks back by relying on a lacuna in the party’s constitution.
The Ibrahim group has further secured the backing of the judiciary, which maintained its earlier pronouncement that all the list compiled by the Ondo PDP now led by Clement Faboyede, a Mimiko loyalist, should not be accepted by INEC thereby downing the expectations of many candidates who could not commence their campaigns because of the air of uncertainty pervading the political atmosphere.
Even with the publication of the lists from the governor’s camp as the authentic one by INEC, the uncertainty in the air refused to dissolve because the gavel of the judiciary hung like the Sword of Damocles over the candidates ambitions, such that all the aspirants, no matter their status with the electoral body, now adorn the streets of Akure and other metropolis with their posters sometimes side-by-side with rival aspirants on the same PDP platform.
As predicted by pundits, the APC, which also has its own fair share of crisis in the state as a result of the election that produced the present leadership and the lack of a father figure to manage it, is already reaping from the PDP misfortune, which also has reverberating effects on the old LP.
In a massive shift of political allegiance, a large chunk of politicians shifted base last week Tuesday from both the PDP and the LP and defected to the APC with thousands of their supporters in an unprecedented manner that could have major effects on the outcome of next month’s general elections.
The defectors who are drawn from various political backgrounds are made up of three former Speakers of the State House of Assembly, three serving and six former members of the House of Representatives, seven former members of the state executive council that served both the present administration and that of his predecessor, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, several council chairmen, Special Advisers and Assistants that served both administrations.
Former Chief of Staff (COS) to Agagu and younger brother of the former governor, Femi Agagu, who led the team of defectors, which also included prominent players in the private sector and the labour movement, said “we have resolved to embrace change, which the APC represents and drum support for the victory of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and Professor Yemi Osinbajo as well as all the candidates of the party.”
He told a gathering of APC faithful that included Chief Pius Akinyelure, the South West Zonal v ice chairman of the party, its State chairman, Isaacs Kekemeke and scores of members of the party, that their movement to the APC was imperative “to save our state from the drift to perdition under the current leadership.”
Members of the old PDP who still remained in the party however blamed Mimiko for the mass defection, saying the way he allegedly imposed one Tokunbo Modupe as the coordinator of the Goodluck Campaign in the state forced the aggrieved members who saw no future in their continued stay in the party, to change platform.
However, some members of the PDP whose names were listed as having defected to the opposition party have denied the reports.
The Publicity Secretary of the PDP in the state, Hon. Banji Okunomo last week displayed a letter written to the party by one of the supposed decampees, Mr. Segun Adagunodo, popularly known as Santana, denying his reported move.
A former commissioner in the state whose name was also mentioned, Chief Akin Akingbesote a.k.a Escon has also denied the report.
Denying the report, the former commissioner for Commerce said at no time did he discuss with anybody that he was going to leave the PDP, adding that he was thoroughly embarrassed by the report and thus urged his supporters to dis regard the information, which he attributed to the handiwork of desperate politicians.
In the same vein, former chief Secretary to Governor Olusegun Mimiko, Bisi Kolawole, whose name also appeared on the list of the supposed decampees denied the claim, adding that he remains a member of the PDP.
PDP’s Publicity Secretary, Okunomo had earlier on Wednesday, read the letter of denial by Segun Adagunodo, another member of the party alleged to have decamped to the opposition.
Popularly known as Santana, Adagunodo had stated that he never at any time contemplated leaving the party even as he vowed to take appropriate action to know why and how his name got into the controversial list.
The publicity secretary also said that some members of the party whose names were also mentioned in the list have visited the party secretariat to refute the claim, adding that most of the names on the list are those of absentee politicians who at various times held political positions in the state.
“In fact, their association with the party began and ended since they left government, they never had any relationship with the party and therefore, it is instructive to declare that their membership of the party have since lapsed since they are occasional politicians whose participation is always dictated by opportunism.”