Twists in the crisis rocking the Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been attributed to external influences, particularly those that have left the fold, but are still interested in using it as a springboard for the 2019 general elections. MUSA ODOSHIMOKHE, who has been following the matter, reports.
THE crisis rocking the Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is far from abating. The chapter is under two factional leaders. Both factions have been fighting over the party’s headquarters located in the Shogunle/Ikeja area. The one led by Hon. Moshood Salvador occupies the secretariat. The other faction, led by Mr. Segun Adewale, had attempted without success to dislodge the Salvador-led group from the place. The Salvador camp is loyal to the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee. The Adewale group is backed by the Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff-led faction.
Adewale has attributed the crisis rocking the party to external forces. He said the crisis was being orchestrated by some forces struggling for the soul of the party, ahead of the 2019 presidential election. The factional chairman specifically accused former Vice President Abubakar Atiku and former National Deputy Chairman of the PDP Chief Bode George of destabilising the party.
In a statement personally signed by him, Adewale said the divisive elements were working from outside to get the PDP’s nod for the 2019 election, rather than coming back to join hands with other loyal leaders in the ongoing rebuilding effort in the party.
Adewale accused the duo and some members loyal to them, particularly those who he said had benefitted from the party, of being responsible for its dwindling fortune PDP. He said some of them had defected to the other parties. Yet, they want to ride on the back of the PDP to achieve their aims.
He, however, insisted that the Makarfi-led faction was working with Atiku to destablise PDP. He also dismissed the accusation that Senator Modu-Sheriff was an agent of the APC.
The factional chairman said the accusation was a figment of the imagination of some paid elements within the party. He added: “These agents are working toward the nomination Atiku as our presidential flag-bearer in the 2019 general election.
“They have resorted to cheap blackmail as it is becoming obvious that the efforts of Modu-Sheriff at frustrating every attempt to impose a non-party member as our presidential nominee are beginning to gain the attention of well meaning members.”
But, the accused persons have debunked the claims as unfounded, noting that the former Lagos West PDP senatorial district candidate is just being mischievous. Atiku said it was ridiculous to accuse him of working from outside the PDP.
Atiku loyalists debunked the claim of the factional Lagos PDP chairman as lies. They said it “only added his voice to a topic that has remained a heresy”.
At the office late last week, it all was as silent as a graveyard; some workers at the secretariat were seen performing skeletal services. When the PDP was in power at the centre, its Lagos secretariat was a beehive of activities; notwithstanding the fact that the state has been governed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) since the return to civil rule in 1999.
Some chieftains said the development was due to the various litigations over the leadership of the party at the national level.
A source that until the courts proceedings are disposed, a resolution of the crisis in the chapter should not be expected. It added that what is happening in Lagos is not peculiar; a similar situation is playing out in many states where the PDP is not in control of government.
The crisis in the Lagos chapter, according to political watchers, started when Salvador, a former lawmaker emerged the chairman. He took over from Captain Tunji Shelle (rtd).
The former lawmaker said he would turn the party around and ensure unity and peace. But, observers say peace is yet to return to the fold, because it went into the last general elections as a divided house.
Salvador, who claimed that he emerged with a popular vote, has continued to operate with caution, condoning off the secretariat with a retinue of security men each time the party has an engagement.
He said: “There are no more warring factions in the Lagos PDP. After my election, we never received any complaints from anybody or heard that there is another faction elsewhere. To the best of my knowledge, Lagos PDP is one. If there is anybody complaining, we are ready to discuss with them and resolve our differences.”
But, the faction led by Adewale had challenged him, saying that Salvador’s emergence was ill conceived and devoid of the popular support. He called on Nigerians to ignore the Salvador leadership and reach out to him, as far as the affairs of the PDP in Lagos State is concerned.
He also appealed to the media to avoid granting interviews to members of the Salvador-led executive, saying it was an aberration to do so.
In view of the support Adewale receives from the Sheriff-led leadership, he had attempted to dislodge the Salvador group from the secretariat. For instance, during last year’s Lagos PDP General Assembly for the ratification of the Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee to proceed with the task of rebuilding the party, there was pandemonium.
It was alleged that he entered the secretariat to engage the supporters of the Makarfi-led faction in a fight, with the aid of some youths. This caused some uproar at the secretariat. Organising Secretary, Taiwo Kuye, and two other members, sustained injuries in the process and were later rushed to the hospital.
The meeting later resumed, but it was held amidst fear and suspicion. Deputy Chairman, Sakirudeen Olabiwonnu, reportedly calmed the uprising in the secretariat.
He apologised for the interruption, adding that it was caused by divisive elements. He added that no individual can kill the collective aspirations of the people and that those who want to hold the party to ransom will be disgraced.
Olabiwonnu said what was paramount for the party to be taken to greater heights, to give it a chance to bounce back to power. He said: “We will not allow those bent on creating problem to distract us. God will support us to surmount the internal wrangling. What happened today was the height of indiscipline. I have moved across party lines, but have never witnessed this type of distraction. I was in the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Alliance for Democracy (AD); there was never a time a member had the effrontery to take the party to court.
“It is in our constitution that you must solve the problem within; and, if you remember, our founding fathers used to say anything that happened in the PDP was a family affair. These people are telling us that they are not part of the family. For any person to come and try to put commotion into what we do or cultivate court cases against any member shows that the person is not normal.”
Adewale’s aide, Mr. Tosin Odunsi, said they were not in the secretariat to fight anybody, but to restate that the due process must be followed. He said: “Adewale is the popular chairman. He has been supporting the party and he wants to make the party great. But, what we are saying is that we want change in leadership, because those who have been leading the Lagos chapter have not won any election in the last 16 years.”
Observers say the party will bounce back, despite its past challenges. Lagos State PDP chieftain, Hajia Tolani Animasahun, said there is no crisis in Lagos PDP.
She said: “What is being peddled is a figment of the imagination of those who do not actually wish the pasty well. We are in 2017 and our preoccupation is to position the party the ahead of the 2019 election.
“The PDP is not leaving anything to chance. It is reaching out to Nigerians and members of the party to be united in order to restore hope to the people. They have been at the receiving end of dubious policies and bad governance.
“This is not the time to be talking of Lagos PDP crisis, but how the country can get back on course. Nigerians need food on their table; they need electricity, employment and security.”
The Publicity Secretary, Mr. Taofiq Gani, said the hullabaloo was not true. He said Lagos PDP was at peace. He noted that the misadventure facing the country was the leadership of the APC that has made life unbearable for the people.
He said Nigerians have woken up to the reality that they took the wrong decision to support the APC that lacks ability to deliver the dividend of democracy to the people. He maintained that the leadership of the PDP will continue to engage in meaningful talk until it finds its way out the entanglements it has found itself.
He called on politicians to live up to their responsibilities, stressing that the people have been shortchanged on many occasions.
He added: “I am very sure our people have learnt their lesson. They would examine politicians to the bone marrow, when next they approach them for their supports and vote. We are equally using this occasion to urge the Lagos State Government to conduct council polls, so that the people can elect their representatives.”