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A level playing field is a situation in which everyone has a fair and equal chance of succeeding. According to Wikipedia, a level playing field is a concept of fairness. A metaphorical playing field is said to be level if no external interference affects the ability of the players to compete fairly.
This concept is often used to describe the level of fairness in electoral competition. So, ahead of the Zonal Congress of the Peoples Democratic Party in the Southwest, it behoves on the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP to provide a level playing field for all the aspirants to have equal chances of succeeding in the conduct of the Congress.
Internal or external interference must be discouraged for a free and fair zonal congress. The NWC should play the role of an unbiased umpire which I believe they are already playing with the way they are exercising caution on the proposed date and venue for the Zonal Congress in Southwest.
There are two groups in the southwest PDP. One is loyal to Dr Ayodele Fayose, former governor of Ekiti State and the other group is loyal to Engr Seyi Makinde, the Oyo State Governor. While Fayose is routine for the return of Chief Eddy Olafeso (PhD) as the National Vice Chairman of the party in Southwest, Governor Makinde is supporting Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja, an ex-deputy governor of Oyo State.
The immediate past zonal chairman of the party, Olafeso is from Ondo State while his opponent, Arapaja is from Oyo State. Given the above, some groups in the party believed it would only be fair if the venue of the zonal Congress is shifted from Oyo State to another state in the southwest since Arapaja and Governor Makinde are both from Oyo State.
It is popular opinion that if the congress is held in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, the PDP will just be conducting an election at the backyard of Governor Makinde, an interested party and the Oyo State Governor who has endorsed an Ibadan man and his kinsman from the same Federal Constituency (Oyo West and East) as his anointed candidate for the position of the Southwest Chairman.
This was the reason a suit was filed by some leaders of the party in the Southwest seeking an order of the court directing that the zonal congress be held in Abeokuta, a neutral state and the Ogun State capital.
Upon this, on January 19, 2021, a Federal High Court, presided over by Justice C J. Aneke had ruled that status quo ante Bellum be maintained pending the determination of the originating summons in the suit number FHC/L/CS/63/2021.
Hearing of the suit, which was earlier fixed for March 29, 2021, was rescheduled for April 16, 2021.
The said court case led to the postponement of the zonal congress in the southwest when zonal congresses of the PDP were held in other zones on March 6, 2021.
Currently, a letter addressed to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) dated March 31, 2021, which purportedly revealed that the party had scheduled its South-west zonal congress for April 10, 2021, is presently causing ripples in the party as many believed that the governor of Oyo State is desperately using his position and influence not only for the Congress to hold on the said date but also for the venue to be in Ibadan, his country home, for the conduct of the South-West zonal congress despite a subsisting court order on the same issue.
Governor Makinde’s recent threat of “dire consequences” against the PDP NWC if the South-West zonal congress is not held on Saturday, April 10, 2021, in Ibadan even at a time the NWC is currently having a second thought of disobeying a court order is a confirmation that the governor is an angel on the surface, but he’s up to something.
Why would a Governor insist that a congress in which he is an interested party must hold in his backyard? Who is afraid of a free and fair electoral competition? Why is Gov Makinde afraid of a level playing field ahead of the Southwest Zonal Congress?
Akinrinlola Olumide is a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ondo State and Publisher of Starnews Nigeria Online Newspaper