Ondo PDP’s resurgence towards gov poll
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Tuesday, 17 July 2012
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State has settled for its immediate past National Legal Adviser, Olusola Oke, as its candidate for the October 20 governorship election. Yinka Oladoyinbo looks at the efforts and calculations of the party aimed at winning the election.
THE Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ondo State, in the last few weeks, has been making frantic efforts to prove doubting Thomases wrong about its ability to stage a comeback and go ahead to win the governorship election slated for October 20 in the state. The leaders and members of the party have been involved in the resurgence efforts which have made things to look up once again for the party that was once the bride of the people of the state.
Since it lost power on February 23, 2009 to the Labour Party (LP) through the judgment of the Court of Appeal, the PDP in Ondo State has gone through difficult situations, which had led to serious divisions and crises among members, culminating in the defection of some of its leaders and founding fathers into either the LP or the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The crises led to the emergence of factions and suspension of notable leaders from the party, which also made the state chapter to lose the opportunity of having a party man as the minister from the state, as there were allegations and counter allegation over the desirability of particular personalities to be appointed as minister.
The development was said to have made leaders of the party uncomfortable and initiated series of peace moves in order to bring sanity back into the party. The moves were, however, sealed with the visit of the national vice chairman, SouthWest of the party, Chief Segun Oni, to the state in April, where the majority of the members of the party that had been at loggerheads came together to chart a way forward for the party in the state. It was at the meeting that the drum of unity was beaten into the ears of the members and almost all of them agreed to come together under one big umbrella to work for the success of the party.
One of the resolutions sealed by the meeting was the readiness of the party to contest the governorship election later in the year. This was consequent upon the insinuation being peddled around in the state that the party might go into an alliance with the ruling LP during the election. The basis of this was the fact that, with the balkanisation of the party, it was now weak and, therefore, could not stand an election on its own without going into an agreement or alliance with any other party. With the assurance from the leadership of the party at the state and the zonal levels, notable members of the party from across the three senatorial districts of the state threw their caps into the ring for the governorship election with the hope of becoming its standard bearer for the October 20 election.
Notable among those that signified their intention to contest were a former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Victor Olabimtan, a former Head of Service in the state, Alaba Isijola and Moyosola Niran Oladunni, a former Military Administrator of Akwa-Ibom State, Joseph Adeusi, Dr Dare Bada. However, as the coast became clearer for the party, its immediate past National Legal Adviser, Chief Olusola Oke, joined the race and this changed the calculation in the party. With Oke joining the race, it was obvious that the other aspirants, particularly those from the northern senatorial district, will have to wait for their time to become the governor of the state.
For Oke, with his political antecedents and the decision of the party not to zone the ticket to any party of the state, it was glaring that if a primary was conducted, he was likely to emerge victorious. The former commissioner representing Ondo State on the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) however left no one in doubt about his readiness to slug it out with the incumbent and any other person for the governorship seat of the state.
However, after weeks of consultations and permutations, the secretariat of the party and the aspirants all agreed to work together for the benefit of the party.
At a well attended briefing attended by the leadership of the party in the state and the aspirants, the state chairman, Ebenezer Alabi, let the cat out on the manner of emergence of the governorship candidate of the party. He said the party had resolved to settle for a candidate using the consensus option.
The consensus arrangement was said to be the brainchild of the aspirants, who agreed to work with whoever was chosen to wrestle power from the LP in the state. Rationalising the option, which many believed was at variance with the tradition of the PDP that is known for the conduct of primary, the chairman of the party in the state said it was adopted to avoid rancour that might come with the conduct of a primary. He said, "We are putting sentiments behind us, we are going for the best, so any of the aspirants can emerge as our candidate". For the purpose of unity and cohesion, the aspirants formed themselves into a forum which was coordinated by Adeusi.
Also speaking, Adeusi said the aspirants had agreed to accept the decision of the party on the choice of a candidate from the consensus arrangement.He said, "Bearing in mind that the LP and the ACN will not be going for primary, we have resolved not to waste money on primary, the decision of the party will be final. We have also resolved not to defect or leave the party because we believe the PDP is the only party that can lead the state".
Barely two weeks after show of solidarity by the aspirants, the party set up an electoral college of 90 people with each of the 18 local government areas in the state having five persons each. The college was saddled with the responsibility of screening the aspirants and come up with one of them as the consensus candidate.
The 90-member electoral college was said to have further set up an ad- hoc committee among themselves to screen the aspirants and come up with a recommendation. After what was termed a rigorous exercise, the party announced Oke as its candidate for the governorship election. Making the decision public after the unanimous ratification by the whole house, Alabi said, “The committee resolved on Oke and a report was presented to the larger house and it was unanimously approved that Oke should be the standard bearer of the party in the next election”.
He however said the selection would be presented to the members of the party for ratification during its congress which would be held on July 15 in accordance with the constitution of the party. The party chairman said the arrangement that led to the emergence of Oke was an in-house one that was agreed upon by party leaders and the aspirants in order to avoid crisis and rancor that were likely to happen when a primary is organised.
The emergence of Oke therefore balanced the senatorial representation as far as the election is concerned. The ACN has settled for Oluwarotimi Akeredolu from the Northern senatorial district, while the incumbent and who is likely to be standard bearer of the LP, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko is from the central and the PDP’s candidate if from the southern senatorial district of the state.
Oke, who has been an active participant in the political game in the state since the advent of the present democratic dispensation believes he and his party have what it takes to “rebuild” Ondo state. He is the pioneer NDDC commissioner from the state, when he attempted to return to the seta for another term and the Senate did not clear him, he was appointed the Chairman of the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (OSOPADEC).
In 2007, Oke won the ticket of the party for the Ondo South senatorial seat and he campaigned vigorously for the election but the power that be in the PDP submitted the name of the then incumbent, Senator Hosea Ehinlanwo and after weeks of legal battle, Oke, who was issued the certificate of returns by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) lost to Ehinlanwo. However, with the support of the party in the state and the leader, Dr. Olusegun Agagu, he was later compensated with the post of the National Legal Adviser of the party, the post he held until the conduct of national convention of the party early in the year.
In his first reaction after his selection, Oke said economic development was the main issue to be tackled if elected as the governor of the state. To him, the state is blessed with vast resources, which include human, capital and mineral resources that could be converted for the development of the sunshine state. He also pledged to focus on the development of the state’s vast forest and coastal resources to open a new frontier of economic development for the people of the state.
The PDP candidate believes the coastal and forest belt which are located in the southern and central senatorial districts respectively, could be harnessed for the overall development of the state.c He said, “It is a thing of regret that we have gold mines in our coastal and forest reserves, yet these areas are wasting away and nobody seems to have taken cognizance of their potentials. We have the longest coastline in Ondo State with all its aquatic splendour that can be harnessed to become money-spinners in tourism while the oil and gas reserves could also be tapped for the growth of our industries and much more.”
Oke, who is not new to campaigning for elections, however said he would make his campaign issues-oriented and devoid of any attack on personality, saying “ours is going to be issue-based. We are not to talk of personalities or individuals. We intend to tell the people of this state, the enormous opportunities available here and open their eyes to how we intend to use them for their sake.”
On the preparedness of his party to win the election, Oke said “we are very much prepared and because we are on the ground, things are just falling in place. We are more determined because of the encouragement of our people who have seen a great difference between the PDP and the ruling LP.”
Since the emergence of Oke, the PDP that had been docile for almost three years has now woken up, with the state secretariat becoming a beehive of activities as preparations continue for the election. One other thing going for the party is the crisis that followed the selection of a candidate by the ACN.
When the ACN settled for Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, it was obvious that the party would face a lot of challenges, as many of the aspirants that were jostling for the ticket were likely to dump the party. Already, the PDP is reaping from the situation and that has also changed the calculation and permutation within the party.
Two of the aspirants in the ACN, Saka Lawal and Jamiu Ekungba and a leader of the ACN, who was the pioneer chairman of LP in the state, Dr Olaiya Oni, last Thursday, publicly dumped their party for the PDP with the aim of teaming up with it to dislodge the LP from government. If the development in the party is however anything to go by, one of the people defecting to the party will emerge the deputy governorship candidate and rekindle their hope on another platform.
Speaking at a well attended press conference in Akure, the state chairman of the party confirmed that the party had conceded the deputy governorship ticket to the groups that were joining the party towards the governorship election in October.
He also disclosed that the leadership of the party had gone into negotiations with the incoming groups and concluded that no governor on their platform would serve for more than one term. To solidify the decision, an agreement that would be biding on stakeholders was designed and signed by leaders from both sides stating that governorship would move from the south, where Oke comes from to the Northern senatorial district and back to the central senatorial district.
Alabi said the people had agreed to work together on “the declining fortunes of Ondo State as regards depreciating infrastructure, poorer health care delivery, declining standard of education, stunted industrial growth, declining agricultural productivity and large scale unemployment.”
The PDP chairman accused the present administration in the state of losing focus and having no capacity to lead the state to the desired status. He said, “Ours is a marriage of convenience that is solemised on the altar of truthfulness, honesty of purpose and a patriotic zeal to put in place concerted actions geared towards a renewal of orderliness in our state.”
The developments in the party has shown that its revival is on course and the PDP that was considered to be a walkover before now is gradually becoming a formidable opposition that can spring surprisse at the October 20 election. If the leaders of the party further show commitment and the execute their plans with utmost respect for the new entrants coupled with trust, political observers believe the party’s quest for Alagbaka could be a reality.
But one thing that continues to appear in the argument over the ability of the party, is the timeliness or otherwise of its resurgence. To some people, the party has left it too late to be able to put together a strong platform to beat Mimiko to the governorship of the state, as the governor is still popular among the electorate that will decide where the pendulum swings, while others feel it is still a possible mission, citing Mimiko’s example in the build-up to the 2007 election. Mimiko came out barely four months before the election and dislodge the PDP. How possible this feat can be for the PDP, October 20 will decide.