Oyo PDP’s thorny journey to 2019
Posted By: BISI OLADELE
The Oyo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has witnessed high and low times in the last six months. Many aggrieved defectors have returned to the fold, following reconciliation, to the excitement of party members.. But, the excitement was terminated by the recent defection of its prominent leaders to the All Progressives Congress (APC). The defection has left the party in a dicey situation as it warms up for next year’s general elections. BISI OLADELE reports
The Oyo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is facing hard times. The chapter has been decimated, following the defection of prominent leaders from the fold to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Since crisis broke out between former Governor Rashidi Ladoja and the late Chief Lamidi Adedibu, the party has not remained the same. It has not fully recovered from the crisis.
The late strongman of Ibadan politics fought Ladoja to a standstill. He instigated his impeachment by the House of Assembly. He also installed Ladoja’s deputy, Chief Adebayo Alao-Akala, as governor. Ladoja returned to office, following the Supreme Court judgment in January, 2007 ,after 11 months in the cold.
The crisis culminated in the emergence of Alao-Akala as the party’s governorship candidate for the 2007 election. An aggrieved Ladoja distancied himself from the party and government activities.
In the build-up to the 2011 elections, some chieftains from Ibadan worked against the party. They vented their anger on Alao-Akala’s candidature. Although they did not leave the party officially, they supported the candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Senator Abiola Ajimobi, who defeated Alao-Akala and Ladoja, who also contested on the platform of Accord Party.
The PDP was at its lowest ebb during the 2015 elections. Its governorship candidate, Senator Teslim Folarin, came fourth. He trailed Alao-Akala, Ladoja and Ajimobi.
In 2015, Alao-Akala had left for the Labour Party (LP). Ladoja was in Accord while Seyi Makinde was in the Social Democratic Party (SDP).The dispersal of party leaders led to the party’s failure during the polls.
However, there was jubilation when Ladoja and Makinde, an engineer and businessman, returned to the party last year.
To the consternation of party elders, the excitement was terminated, following the defection of Alao-Akala, Folarin and the party’s only federal lawmaker, Hon. Dokun Odebunmi, to the APC at a rally in Ibadan. Many notable chieftains of the PDP defected along with them to the ruling party.
At the historic rally held at Mapo Hall, APC leaders boasted that the days of the PDP were numbered in Oyo State.
But, the party fired back, saying that it will bounce back to power in next year’s elections because the people were fed up with the ruling party.
Many observers point out that the struggle among the governorship aspirants may tear the PDP apart, ahead of the poll.
Currently, three chieftains are in the race. They are Senator Olufemi Lanlehin, Makinde and Sharafadeen Alli.
Makinde, an oil magnate, recently returned from his sojourn in the SDP since early 2015. He was the candidate of the party in the election. He came fifth, trailing Folarin, Alao-Akala, Ladoja and Ajimobi.
Makinde has been pursuing his ambition since 2013. The 50-year old politician said he returned to the PDP to join forces with its leaders to defeat the APC in next year’s elections.
His profile is high, in spite of his poor performance in 2015. Many voters believe that he has the advantage of age over others. This is accentuated by his decent politics and philanthropic gestures.
But, it is unclear if the new leadership of the party will prefer him to other aspirants. For instance, his bloc is in the minority in the chapter. The majority of members of the executive committee are Ladoja’s supporters. Should the situation remain the same till the election period, he will find it extremely difficult to pick the ticket, except the Ladoja bloc sacrifices its own candidate for him. That is a daunting challenge before him.
Should he also pick the ticket, it may be very difficult for him to defeat the APC candidate, given the coalition of the big wigs in the leading party at the moment.
Lanlehin left the Alliance for Democracy (AD) for the PDP in 2003. He joined the ACN in 2009 to contest for governor, but failed to pick the governorship ticket in 2011. He was later elected as the senator representing Oyo South. He defected to Accord in 2014 and lost his seat to Senator Soji Akanbi. Now that Ladoja led most of his followers back to the PDP, Lanlehin is one of the major contenders.
His name still resonates among top politicians in the state, alhough he has lost some some of his supporters to hi rivals.
Many believe that Ladoja may prefer him to other candidates because he has been his close ally since he joined the Accord Party. Besides, analysts believe that the former governor may want to favour him as a compensation for his past electoral loss.
Being a former member of the ACN, pundits believe that Lanlehin may still appeal to some APC supporters, if he emerges as the PDP candidate, particularly if the APC fails to present a popular candidate.
Alli, a former Permanent Secretary and Chairman, Odu’a Investments Ltd, is also in he race. A former associate of Ladoja, Alli defected to the ACN during the preparations for the 2011 elections. He also left for the LP during the preparation for the 2015 polls. He was Alao-Akala’s running mate.
Alli has a slim chance of getting the ticket, compared with Lanlehin and Makinde. It may be tough for him to earn Ladoja’s trust for the exalted position,having abandoned him in the past. Besides, the politician may not be able to fund a stte-wide campaign, if given the ticket.
Alhough Ladoja is now the leader of the PDP in Oyo State, the fortunes of the party had plummeted since 2011 due to implosion. Since then, the PDP has been unable to regain its strength in the state.
With the recent defections, Ladoja faces another tough task of delivering the state for the party.
Most of the top party leaders who returned to the PDP are from Ibadan, signifying that voters in Ibadan may remain highly divided, reminiscent of 2015. But, the PDP will have a tough battle winning in other zones.