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PDP convention: How Arapaja, Oyinlola’s fate will be decided

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•Effort intensified to produce consensus candidate

•Date of convention stands —PDP •Screening of aspirants manipulated —Olafeso

DELEGATES from states not under the control of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) might determine the fate of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja in the deputy national chairmanship race at this weekend’s convention of the party.

This is however subject to ongoing intense horse-trading among some blocs in the party for possible compromise on the contest.

But while some lobbyists believe that there was still time for the major power blocs within the PDP to come up with a consensus candidate for deputy chairmanship, others said the chances were increasingly becoming slim due to the seeming rigidity on the party of a few power brokers across the zone.

The National Convention Planning Committee led by Adamawa state Governor, Ahmadu Fintiri, had estimated that between 4,000 and 6,000 delegates are expected to participate in the two-day convention beginning on October 30 in Abuja.

While majority of the 13 governors elected on PDP platform were said to favour the candidature of Ambassador Arapaja, other influential leaders were reportedly rallying support for Oyinlola.

Another set of PDP buffs were said to be working on the possibility of whittling down the seeming overwhelming influence of the governors by mobilizing highly politically exposed delegates to create a third force.

Their main targets are delegates from mostly states under the control of the All Progressives Congress (APC) with potential large number of delegates.

These include mostly states in the North, including Kano, Plateau, Kaduna, Jigawa and Niger, as well as Lagos and Ekiti, Osun, Ondo, Edo where factions still subsist in the party in the southern part of the country.

Some former governors, lawmakers and other categories of delegates were reportedly closing ranks in the states ostensibly to assure their chances for elective offices in the 2023 elections.

There were claims on Tuesday that some forces within PDP had also not foreclosed the possibility on prevailing on the embattled Prince Uche Secondus to have a rethink over his suits against the PDP leadership in his bid to regain his seat as national chairman.

The litigation was said to be a major source of pervasive fear and uncertainty in the party as the countdown to the convention peaks.

However, PDP governors and other stakeholders from the southern part of the country have stepped up troubleshooting efforts to ensure that a consensus candidate is presented for the position of deputy national chairman (South).

Arapaja of Oyo state and Oyinlola have be screened to contest for the position.

Among the two candidates, however, the southern governors are said to be in support of the candidature of Arapaja and have continued to intensify efforts at beckoning on Oyinlola to drop his ambition to allow for a smooth sail at the congress.

Arapaja, whose candidature was proposed by Governor Seyi Makinde, is said to be the toast of most of the Southern governors above Oyinlola who is said to be supported mostly by former political officers.

Over the weekend, top PDP stakeholders had attempted to have another meeting with Oyinlola but did not meet him at home.

They had afterwards proceeded to wedding of son of former governor Ayodele Fayose, but didn’t find the wedding the appropriate venue to beckon on Oyinlola to step down.

The reaching out to Oyinlola to allow Arapaja emerge consensus candidate continued on Sunday and Monday, with party stakeholders pressuring Oyinlola to step down his ambition.

While hopes are high that consensus will be achieved, the camps of Arapaja and Oyinlola have however continued with campaigns should the push for consensus fail.

The two camps remain upbeat with governors already mobilizing delegates should it turn out that the battle for position of deputy National Chairman (South) be a contest at the convention.

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The Southern governors are particularly keen on consensus across all posts zoned to the geopolitical zone so as to present a unity list, while working hand in hand with their northern counterparts to have consensus candidate across all positions.

Meanwhile, a contestant for the position of Publicity Secretary, Dr Eddy Olafeso, has said the screening process carried out by the party was aimed at disenfranchising some contenders.

Olafeso, who denied dragging the party to court to stop the convention but to make sure the suspended chairman, Secondus completed his tenure, maintained that he would not appeal the verdict of the committee disqualifying him.

Olafeso said he might not participate in the convention because of the injustice melted on him and other contestants that were disqualified from contesting.

Olafeso, in a statement signed by him and made available to reporters in Akure, said the screening committee was manipulated by some individuals in the party to arrive at a predetermined position.

The ex-national vice chairman of PDP in the South-West, said the petition which the committee relied on to disqualify him and others, was written by a faceless individual.

In his defence, Olafeso said the suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos was not instituted to stop the National Convention of the Party, but a courageous action taken by some committed stakeholders from the Southwest Zone of the Party to ensure constitutionality and cohesion within the party through strict compliance to the extant provision of the party’s constitution.

He said, “Those of us who went to court were conscious of the fact that things were happening within the party that seems to portend imminent danger to the party if not immediately checked. Hence the approach to the Federal High Court in the hope that the slide into unconstitutionality was stopped and supremacy of the party constitution enthroned.

“The crux of the matter is that we asked the court to restore Prince Uche Secondus to his position to enable him complete his tenure in line with the Party’s constitution to avoid legal quagmire which his removal by exparte injunction may visit upon the Party. We still stand by this position. My accusers never took their time to read the facts of the case before their conclusions.”

Olafeso, who said he has served the party in various capacities with passion and talents, assured that he would not do anything to undermine the success of the party congress.

He, however, said he would not attend the Appeal Screening Committee.

His words, “I am withdrawing from this process henceforth. The process has been calibrated for no reason other than to exclude us and the best we can do at this juncture is to wish the Party well and pray to God for the PDP to survive these perilous times.”

On its part, the Lagos State chapter of PDP said more than 70 delegates from the state would participate in the convention.

Nigerian Tribune gathered that four chieftains of the party are currently jostling for the position of deputy national secretary of PDP zoned to Lagos and Ogun states: Dr Deji Doherty; Honourable Kosedo Setonji; ex-state chairman and former member, House of Representatives; Mr David Kolawole and Honourable Rita Orji, also a former member of the House.

Spokesperson of the party, Taofik Gani, said that notwithstanding the botched state congress of PDP, delegates from the state were fully prepared to partake in the exercise.

According to him, the delegates comprise of party officials, current and former members of the National Assembly and former ministers on PDP platform, among others.

In Ogun, the state chapter of the party through the publicity secretary, Akinloye Bankole, said the party was going to the convention as a one big family under the leadership of Honourable Oladipupo Adebutu.

He said that all logistics had been adequately catered for to ensure a hitch-free convention for the state delegates.

In the meantime, PDP national publicity secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan has said that the plans of the party to host its convention at the end of the month stands, irrespective of the views that suggest otherwise.

He noted that the party cannot do otherwise, following speculations by anyone, of any court injunction, saying the party does not have any judgment of any court to do otherwise.

He maintained that as part of preparation for the event, slated for the next few days, the chairman of the convention was already in town to discharge his duty at the party.

His words: “As far as the People’s Democratic Party is concerned, the party does not work on speculations. The party does not have a judgment before the party. You cannot be talking about court issues, it is only when there is a judgment before the court that we will begin to talk about court issues.

“As far as the party is concerned, all the plans that have been set out for the national convention are on. The preparations for the national convention are in place, as far as the party is concerned, the date for the convention remains October 30 to 31.”

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