The emergence of former Chairman of Olorunda Local Government Council in Osun State, Alhaji Gani Olaoluwa, as state Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, has changed the political equation in the party, TUNDE ODESOLA reports.
The March 17, 2012 congress of the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State underscored the power of commitment and determination. The peaceful congress held at the Osogbo Township Stadium, shattered the collective decision and hope of the elders of the party and several interest groups.
The congress was also a hard lesson in the influential role money plays in Nigerian politics. After the dismal performance of the party in the April 2011 general elections, various stakeholders of the party met and agreed to chart a new course ahead the 2014 governorship election in the state.
One of the major mistakes of the PDP in Osun, which led to the dismal electoral performance, was imposition of candidates on the party. Elders of the party were quick to identify this flaw and efforts were made to correct it. After the state Chairman of the party, Alhaji Ademola Rasak, stepped down from his post following the Appeal Court ruling that sacked the Olagunsoye Oyinlola administration on November 26, 2010, his deputy, Chief Sunday Ojo-Williams, took up the mantle.
Several stakeholders were dissatisfied with the emergence of Ojo-Williams as the acting Chairman of Osun PDP, saying the former deputy chairman could not distance himself from the internal crises that led to the failure recorded by the party during the general elections.
Some youth groups and elders of the party insisted that Ojo-Williams must bow out as Rasak did. Seen as a disciple of a former Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriation, Chief Iyiola Omisore, Ojo-Williams battled to retain the post as he described those calling for his removal as Action Congress of Nigeria-sponsored elements. But the Ojo-Williams executive was eventually sacked by the National Executive of the PDP, which approved a committee to midwife the congress of the party.
Immediate past Speaker, Osun State House of Assembly, Chief Adejare Bello, headed the transition committee mandated to screen candidates and conduct fresh elections into the various posts of the party at the state level. Bello, a lawyer and three-term legislator in the state House of Assembly preached the gospel of openness, transparency and integrity.
He said, “It won’t be business as usual in the Osun PDP. The era of imposition is over. My committee will conduct the freest and fairest congress in the annals of Osun PDP.”
When the Bello committee inaugurated the race for the party’s various positions, 13 aspirants signified their interest for the party’s chairmanship position. The aspirants included the eventual winner, Alhaji Gani Olaoluwa, his closest rival, Mr. Kayode Idowu, an elder of the party, Chief Funsho Ishola, Rev. Bunmi Jenyo, Mr. Bola Ajao, Mr. Sarafa Awotunde, Chief Enoch Olagunju, and Alhaji Rasak Durodoye, among others. Delegates from the 322 wards of the state partook in the congress.
A few days to the congress, elders of the party held a meeting in the Osogbo GRA residence of Oyinlola, where they interviewed the contestants and picked Idowu as a consensus candidate – having scored 16 – in an assessment they conducted.
Olaoluwa scored nine. But Olaoluwa, who faulted the manner Idowu emerged as consensus chairmanship candidate, rejected the post of senatorial chairman that was offered him by the elders. Addressing the elders, Olaoluwa stressed that his group would not accept the decision of the elders. The elders’ caucus included former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former Governor Isiaka Adeleke, Omisore, former Speaker, House of Representatives, Mrs. Foluke Etteh, two PDP Board of Trustees members, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, and Alhaji Shauib Oyedokun, a former Board Chairman, Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, Dr. Muyiwa Oladimeji, former Chairman, Federal Capital Territory Board, Dr. Olu Alabi, Chief Abiola Ogundokun, former Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Akinade Akinbade, pioneer state chairman, Osun PDP, Chief Lai Ogunrinde, former Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Defence, Chief Oluwole Oke, Nigeria’s Ambassador to Philippines, Dr. Yemi Farounbi, Senator Kola Ogunwale, and others.
Before leaving the meeting, Olaoluwa, however, assured the elders that his group was not going to engage in anti-party activities. Shortly after the meeting with the elders, Omisore, who is the leader and major financier of the Olaoluwa group, called an emergency meeting to strategise on the next line of action.
It was at the meeting held in Omisore’s Ife residence that the decision to engage in an election was taken. Members of the Omisore team included Chief Lere Oyewunmi, Mr. Adedotun Adebowale aka Meree, Prof. Wale Oladipo, Mrs. Oluremi Wilson, Prince Diran Odeyemi, Ojo-Williams, Alhaji Jelili Adesiyan, Chief Kunle Alao aka Lele, Mrs. Remi Olowu, Chief Sola Oladehinde, Chief Sogo Agboola, Elder Sunday Akanfe-Atidade, Chief Ropo Oyewole, Mr. Obafemi Fagbola, Mr. Adetoyese Ojo, Chief Abiodun Adeogun and Alhaji Rasaki Salu.
Over 500 security operatives, including soldiers and policemen, were at the venue of the congress held on March 17. Emotions boiled at the venue when some party supporters attempted to bar some elders of the party from entering the stadium even as they openly abused some of the leaders.
At the end of over five hours voting exercise, Idowu, the popular choice of the elders, scored 490 votes while Olaoluwa scored 574 votes.
Investigation showed that the battle for the chairmanship, which is considered as the soul of the party, was solely between the Omisore group and the group of Akinbade, the Ogbaagba-born politician reputed to have immeasurable native intelligence and immense grass roots support.
In the countdown to the 2011 general elections, both Omisore and Akinbade had shown interest in becoming the governor, before an Appeal Court ruling thwarted the ambition by declaring Governor Rauf Aregbesola winner of the April 14, 2007 Osun governorship election. Omisore subsequently lost his re-election bid into the Senate during the last general elections.
No sooner had the Ojo-Williams executive been sacked than Omisore, began to shop for a chairmanship candidate for the party and he found a Man Friday in Olaoluwa. During the countdown to 2011 general elections, the overpowering influence of Omisore in Osun PDP was amplified when Rasak, and other members of the executive showed their preference for him as the governorship candidate of the party.
Oyinlola and several leaders of the party also rooted for the 55-year-old as Osun PDP governorship candidate. While Idowu, a computer scientist and former lecturer at the state Polytechnic, Iree, is seen as leaning towards the Akinbade camp, Olaoluwa, an HND Business Administration graduate of the state Polytechnic, Iree, is a dye- in-the-wool Omisore disciple.
Iragbiji-born Ogunwale, who attempted a shot at the chairmanship position, was stiffly resisted by Oyinlola, whom he (Ogunwale) had vied against for the Osun PDP governorship ticket between 2006 and 2007. A rich and influential chieftain of Osun PDP, Prince Francis Fadahunsi, adept at pulling the strings behind-the-scene, was not overtly committal in his support for either Idowu and Olaoluwa but it was insinuated that he gave financial support to both.
It was also gathered that a former National Vice-Chairman, South-West PDP, Alhaji Tajudeen Oladipo, tacitly threw his weight behind Olaoluwa.
Speaking about the congress, a chieftain of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “In any secret ballot election, you are never sure of the outcome until the final moment. Delegates will tell you they are voting for candidate ‘A’ whereas they are actually voting for candidate ‘B.’ Money was a deciding factor in the outcome of the election. The coast is now clear for Omisore’s governorship candidacy.”
Also, Ogundokun said, “Man proposes, God disposes. Both Olaoluwa and Idowu are PDP members and an election between them should not tear the party apart. I think the elders considered a lot of factors in choosing Idowu over Olaoluwa. Idowu is highly educated but Olaoluwa is a practical and experienced grass roots politician. The oratory prowess of Olaoluwa in English Language was put into question by the elders. But this does not deduct anything from his political prowess; he is competent, humble and determined.
“His emergence is a danger signal for the Osun ACN because he can deliver. I hope he will use his political sagacity to lead our governorship candidate to Oke-Fia Government House in 2014. What swung victory the way of Olaoluwa was that he had hit the road campaigning several months ago and he also mobilised his supporters. The elders’ caucus began to rally support for Idowu a few days to the congress. We, in the elders’ caucus, won’t say because we did not support Olaoluwa, we will wish him to fail. No, this is the time to be united and committed to taking Osun PDP back to winning ways.”
Having met elders and rival groups on a fence mending mission, Olaoluwa, who was inaugurated as chairman, on Tuesday, in Osogbo, pledged to ensure unity, peace and progress.
He also called on all the stakeholders in Osun PDP to support his tenure.
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