Osun PDP: How elders lost to masses’ revolt
From YINKA FABOWALE, Ibadan
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
To elders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State, the party’s state congress held on March 17, 2012, was to be another mere ritual where their hand picked candidates would be affirmed as elected executives.
The elders’ favourite candidate for the chairmanship of the party was Mr. Kayode Idowu, a former lecturer at the Osun State Polytechnic, Ire and former House of Representatives member. He was selected by the caucus out of the seven aspirants at a meeting held in former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s residence, Osogbo, four weeks ago. His opponent was Ganiyu Olaoluwa, a former chairman of the Olorunda Local Government and ex-aide to Oyinlola, who with the support of youths in the party, refused to step down for Idowu like other contestants as ordered by the elders.
Hitherto, the elders’ word was law and who constituted the state executive had always been dictated by the privileged oligarchy, who included Oyinlola, his former deputy and now Minister of Defence, Erelu Olusola Obada,;Chief Shuaib Oyedokun; Chief Abiola Ogundokun; former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Chief Fatai Akinbade; former PDP National Chairman (South West), Alhaji Tajudeeen Oladipo, Dr. Olu Alabi, a former House of Representatives member; Gbenga Onigbogi; Chief Wole Oke, Otunba Iyiola Omisore, Chief Francis Fadahuns, Chief Dosu Ladipo; former governor, Isiaka Adeleke and former Speaker, House of Representatives, Olubunmi Etteh.
Nobody has challenged this influential minority group, although the criteria for their membership, not exactly defined, have been under silent questioning by many party members, who disliked their apparent culture of “impunity and non- consultation.” But, the election of the state executive provided a platform for revolt.
Daily Sun learnt that the position of the party chairman had been zoned to Secretarial District 1 (Osun Central) comprising Osogbo, Ikirun, Iree and Okuku which in the calculation of the stakeholders is not due for the governorship in the forthcoming elections, having produced two governors of the state in Oyinlola and Bisi Akande of the old Alliance for Democracy (AD).
However, party leaders from that zone expected to pick a consensus candidate could not agree, owing to personal prejudices and interests in the various aspirants. This gave room for others in the two other senatorial districts, Osun West and Osun East, to queue behind their preferred candidates, who could be useful for their future ambitions for elective offices.
Oyinlola was said to have sponsored Idowu, while Oyedokun preferred Senator Kolawole Ogunwale, aka Jumokor. Alabi presented one Funso from Osogbo. Other aspirants appeared to have no visible god-father, although sources linked Olaoluwa with Omisore.
Two meetings held in Oyinlola’s house in Abuja to pick the chairman ended in deadlock. But most of the elders were unanimous that he should not be Olaoluwa. Besides his perceived association with Omisore, another reason for his rejection was his little education. After the two failed attempts in Abuja, the leaders took the meeting to Osogbo home of the former governor to which they invited the seven aspirants for screening. At the end of the exercise, Idowu emerged the popular choice with 15 votes, while Olaoluwa scored nine votes.
The leaders reportedly exacted pledges from all the aspirants, save Olaoluwa, to abide by the outcome of the screening. A disappointed Olaoluwa was said to have felt betrayed at this “conspiracy” and told the leaders this much when invited in, to hear the result. Sources close to the session said the leaders how he had been loyal and helped in promoting their political careers, even though many of them met him in politics. He told them to allow a free, democratic congress, saying he would accept if he lost fair and square on the hustings.
His stand became the rallying battle cry of his supporters who had stormed the venue of the meeting, but were barred from participating in the proceedings. Strategies were mapped out for the imminent battle. The first was launching massive-state wide campaign to demand for congress. To this end, the Olaoluwa group toured the 30 local government areas to sensitize party members and delegates on the importance of participatory democracy instead of the collegiate method of the elders.
“Part of our strategy of persuasion is to let them know that if they don’t have a say in who becomes their chairman they won’t be able to question his action as the selected candidate will be only loyal to the few who selected him”, one of the ring-leaders told Daily Sun. The campaign train was led by an Obafemi Awolowo University don, and former governorship aspirant, Prof. Wale Oladipupo. Although it could not be confirmed, it was gathered that the group got the financial support from some of Olaoluwa’s sympathizers and dissenters within the elders body.
Another strategy was to ensure that many of the leaders involved in the controversial screening did not emerge national delegates from their local governments, which would automatically deny them participation in the state congress. The group mobilized support for the opponents of such leaders. Among the casualties of this move were: Alabi, who was defeated by Rasaq Oyeniyi, a former driver of Oyinlola, who was raised against him in the election at the local government level. Onigbogi also lost to former National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) boss, Chief (Mrs.) Remi Olowu, who was away in London on the day of the congress.
The group threatened to go to court to force the Adejare Bello- led Transition Committee, put in place two months earlier to conduct a proper congress. The elders had no choice but to concede.
On the D-Day, however, unaware of the devastating impact the campaign has had and the shock that awaited them, all the leaders moved to their respective local government areas to mop up support for Idowu. Delegates were camped in various hotels and watched over as mother hen watches over her chicks against the predator. Indications that the elders would be humiliated emerged right from the entrance of the Osogbo Township Stadium, venue of the congress, as many of them were individually booed by the crowd as they arrived.
The reverse was, however, the case, whenever Olaoluwa’s name was announced as he was hailed by the crowd. One by one, the other chairmanship aspirants announced their withdrawal from the race, leaving Idowu and Olaoluwa. After the ballot was cast and counted Olaoluwa polled 578 votes to defeat Idowu with 490 votes. Although he secured popular votes from other zones, the winner, remarkably, got bloc votes from Ife Central, Ife North, Ife East and Ife South including the Modakeke area office, Omisore’s stronghold.
The result was all the elders needed to realize that the game was up and that if they went ahead with elections into other positions, their candidates were likely to lose flatly. Sensing possible band wagon effect, they asked for a halt to the elections and invited all the aspirants for the remaining offices to allow for a harmonization of their list and that of the Olaoluwa’s group so as, in their words, “not to discourage those who may lose out and thus, encourage factionalisation of the party.”
Another meeting was therefore scheduled for Oyinlola’s house immediately after the announcement of the chairmanship result where the remaining 27 positions were shared between the elders group, who tagged their list, the “Unity List” and the “rebels” who touted theirs as the “Freedom List.” In the final tally, the freedom group got 18 positions, conceding 10 including the deputy chairmanship to the elders.
A leading activist in the Olaoluwa group described it as a major victory for democracy and the youths, saying it was the first time the popular wish of the members had been given expression in thr party.