Lagos PDP in dilemma over George’s leadership

There were indications recently the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) national leadership was intent on whittling down former Deputy National Chairman Bode George’s influence on the Lagos State chapter. The chapter flouted a court injunction restraining it and went ahead to elect and inaugurate a new executive. MUSA ODOSHIMOKHE examines the implication of the action of the national leadership, particularly efforts to mobilise members to forge ahead without the influential leader

Lagos State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is having a moment of respite. The secretariat is presently undergoing renovations and there appears to be peace within the chapter.

The secretariat has equally shown signs of human activities, unlike in the past when the place was desolated. Nevertheless, workers at the secretariat said the issue of payment of outstanding salaries is yet to be addressed.

The party chairman Mr Deji Doherty recently led a protest walk from his office at Shogunle to Ikeja High Court, where he addressed members and passers-by.

The protest was against the Supreme Court judgment that reversed the party’s governorship victory in Imo State, which removed Emeka Ihedioha and restored Governor Hope Uzodinma of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The protest walk came with different meanings. Some are wondering whether the party had finally found its feet. But, analysts say it is still facing the challenges of unity and acceptability by major players.

Over the years, the party had stumbled from one crisis to the other, making it difficult for it to win major elections.

A chronology of the party’s struggle indicates the former Deputy National Chairman Chief Olabode George, Mr Jimi Agbaje, Mr. Segun Adewale, Mr Adegbola Dominic and Mrs Aduke Maina are the major protagonists in trying to control the soul of the party.

It has been an uphill task resolving the lingering crisis in the party. Efforts to ensure peaceful resolution of the crisis in the past had failed to produce results.

Observers say no sooner one crisis is resolved between one the faction and another than a fresh one rears its head among other factions.

Depending on the vested interest, some members quickly pitched their loyalty to where their interests would be assuaged.

Worried by the situation, the National Working Committee (NWC) led by Chief Ben Obi, a chieftain of the party, came to Lagos to conduct a special congress that produced Doherty as the chairman. Observers say it was not a popular congress because most members did not attend.

A day to the congress, the then chairman, Dominic who belonged to the George faction got a court injunction which restrained all stakeholders to maintain the status quo.

However, the Obi-led committee went ahead with the congress that produced Doherty.

Members of the Obi led committee are Mallam Ahmed Mukthar, who served as secretary, Senator Biodun Olujimi, Jarigbe Agom and Danladi Tijo.

But opinions are divided on the outcome of the contest that produced Doherty.

They made the allusion to the injunctive order, restraining all parties. Justice T.A.O Oyekan Abdullai of the General/Civil Division of Court 3, Lagos had ruled that the proposed election was it in compliance with the party’s constitution.

He said: “That this court shall halt in making any order than the fact the parties shall keep peace and maintain the status quo.

The motion on notice dated November 8, 2019, is hereby adjourned for an argument for November 18, 2019, and shall be served on the respondents, Director of State Service and Nigeria police.”

The court said the case was adjourned to December 12, when the matter would be looked into and determined the merits and demerits of the Dominic application to stop the election.

But, it was like the court pronouncement had no effect as far as the congress was concerned. The NWC was determined to replace the sitting Lagos PDP executive led by Dominic.

The Southwest leader and an aspirant in the October governorship election in Ondo State, Dr Eddy Olafeso, said the party was not aware of any injunction stopping the Obi-led committee from conducting the Lagos PDP congress.

Besides, there were evidences that the Lagos chapter was overdue for a leadership change.

He blamed the lingering crisis to leadership failure and condemned actions of certain peoples who he said sought to control the party at all cost.

Olafeso said if the pattern was sustained, Lagos PDP would not make progress and it was not likely to make an impact in future elections.

There are claims that George was the target for displacement. Indications were that the NWC was no longer at ease with his leadership of the Lagos PDP.

An inside source maintained that the NWC under the leadership of Prince Uche Secondus had perfectly designed the Obi-led committee to sideline George in Lagos PDP affairs.

To achieve this, no effort was spared, including disregard for any motion served the party. Those leading the campaign against George claimed that under his leadership, the party has not won major elections since 1999 in the state.

They believe that he was the one that produced or nominated most of the chairmen that had emerged in the past. For instance, George backed former Lagos PDP chairman Moshood Salvador against Adewale for the position.

He installed Dominic after the exit of Salvador to the ruling APC. It had also been alleged that George parted ways with Salvador over the latter’s plan to control the party without the input of George.

The plot to sideline George was made open during a conference in Lagos attended by George’s erstwhile political comrade, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, former Lagos State Deputy Governor Kofoworola Akerele-Bucknor, Lagos State PDP party chieftains and other members loyal to him.

Dominic said an unholy alliance was being hatched by the NWC and some members of the Lagos PDP to conduct a congress ease him out of the office. But, George, the party leader, was the main target.

He said the attempt to undermine George in the political arena would fail because the people were behind him. He said under George, the party had remained focused and marching forward to clear the way for a successful outing in the 2023 election.

Corroborating plans to whittle the influence of George, Babatope said members would not sit by and watch the colourful politician being stained. He added that members would defend him within the legal procedure and resources.

He warned members of the NWC to imagine the consequence of its ill-conceived plan, noting that George served the party loyally. He said the Lagos PDP pillar was etched through the unquantifiable support the former Deputy National Chairman.

Denouncing the plan to reduce George’s influence, Akerele-Bucknor said those who came up with the plan would fail. She reminded the party of George’s huge sacrifice in term of resources and commitment to ensure that the party remained solid not only in Lagos, but the entire Southwest.

She urged the party leadership to have a rethink and follow due process in producing leaders. She said George was a natural leader and was not bestowed on him by the edict, but by his deed and ability to do what most of his contemporaries could not do.

Again, the recent pronouncement by George’s Political Adviser Uthman Sodipe-Dosumu that the politician’s plan to run for the highest office, through another platform, is an indication that George in one leg in and the other leg outside the party.

Observers say if he leaves the party, it would signal the end of opposition in Lagos State. They noted that the presence of George in PDP is the only weight keeping the party floating.

Sodipe-Dosumu said most of those who should make the PDP thick had crossed to the ruling party. The consensus was that this is not the appropriate time for George to quit the party because someone very formidable is needed to stand as the pillar for the party.

They say the only person likely to command the kind of respect commanded by George is Agbaje, who often remained very quiet after every election.

Agbaje who contested as the Lagos PDP governorship candidate is being battled by party members for not accounting for campaign funds.

Observers says even when leadership is thrust on him he would not get the green light because of controversy that usually trails him after every failed attempt to secure the people’s mandate to govern the state. Members say they are tired of Agbaje’s use and dump method.

The state party executive positions were shared along the line of consensus agreement among the camps of George, Agbaje and that of Aduke Maina. It appears the Maina camp is the only less outlandish among them.

She had remained virtually behind the scene in the aftermath of George’s movement to another platform to realize his ambition.

Thus, the party may have to rely on Maina to be the torch bearer, owing to Agbaje’s unacceptability because of his penchant for remaining in the cooler after major elections.

Observers are wondering whether she is well-positioned to build the confidence needed to see the success of Lagos PDP in future elections.

They say fingers would have to be crossed until and the party gives her the lead role. But, some members who want to remain anonymous say when they reach the bridge, they will decide how to cross the river.

Olafeso appealed to aggrieved members to come together to build the party. He said it was time to forge ahead and leave every acrimonious feeling to make the opposition live up to its constitutional requirement.

He said: “The present exco is the best our party could have here and we want to appeal to all the leadership of the party to give us a chance to reorganise the party in Lagos so that we can deal with the monolithic, unproductive and backwards APC-led government in the state.

With the resources available to government, the mediocre achievement is nothing to celebrate and unfortunately, people are not looking into the situation.

“We will try to reconcile people; it is important. Unity is critical in any government, but the truth is that we are not going to wait for a pessimist that will continue to act the same way and expect different results for us to move forward.

“Now we have a state chairman, we are gearing to go and we are going to plead with our leaders to give us a chance to grow the party. Some of them should be blamed for the non-performance of the party for over 20 years.”

But, the former chairman, Dominic said the matter was already in court and it was only when the court makes its final pronouncement of the suit it filed against Doherty that peace can return to Lagos PDP.

He said for now, the current executive is not recognised because the administration is illegal. He added that when the court makes it final pronouncement on the matter, it is then that members will know when and what to do about the party.

Political commentators say the party may not unite in view of the dimension the division has assumed. They said if people like George leave the party, the PDP is gone.

They said there is no single PDP stalwart in the state that is committed to the party and that it is unfortunate that the party has not won any major election under his leadership.

As a loyal party man, they believe George has paid his dues and that he has kept the party intact in spite of the challenges.

He has not been only financially supportive of the opposition party, but also came forward to look the ruling APC in the face when it trampled on the PDP.

Though some believe that Doherty and Dominic are political godsons of George, but the action of the NWC in conducting a congress, when a court injunction stopping the congress was already in motion was an abuse of due process. This, the George camp is contesting vehemently.

The crisis in Lagos PDP has deepened in dimension. Babatope said: “If the committee set up by the NWC to conduct a special election in the Lagos PDP went ahead, then they had caused a major crisis for the party because there was a court injunction that restrained them from doing so. It will be very unfortunate.”

The former Minister of Transport added that the PDP NWC must be very careful not to throw the party into a major crisis, noting that if this was the case, they would have set in motion the perpetual domination of Lagos by the APC administration.

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