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The Tinubu grip on Lagos PDP

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BY AYO JONES

Gritted teeth and simmering anger dogged the outcome of the Lagos Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Congress last weekend as many aggrieved party members openly protested the failure of the consensus option in the conduct of the much-awaited exercise.

The congress which had over 4,000 accredited delegates started on Sunday at 11am and the accreditation of delegates did not end until the next day, Monday. The emergence of Mr. Philip Aivoji, a former commissioner for Commerce, Industry and Tourism during the military administration in Lagos State, as Chairman of the PDP in the state, after an intense and rigorous election which stretched to the early hours of Monday did not douse the brewing tension when many delegates insisted on the agreed consensus option. In the ensuing confused state of things, Philip Aivoji got 839 votes while Dr. Amos Fawole came second with 816 votes, to the chagrin of his numerous supporters who were supremely confident that he would have emerged the winner if the Congress had used the earlier agreed consensus option. And more importantly many of the delegates had been directed by Bayelsa State Governor Diri, who conducted the election, to vacate the hall, claiming that they were too many and that it was a consensus congress anyway. This turned out not to be the case. Trouble started with the display of two unity lists at the venue of the congress. One list had Dr Amos Fawole from Surulere Local Government as the preferred candidate while the other list had Phillip Olabode as the consensus candidate. Staunch PDP loyalists including Senator Bucknor, Mrs Aduke Maina, Mrs Onikepo Oshodi, Dr Remi Akitoye all supported Chief Bode George and were opposed to Governor Diri’s elective congress because Deji Doherty, a Tinubu stooge , had doctored the list.

Perhaps Aivoji’s emergence as Lagos PDP chairman would have been overlooked if not for some underlying, simmering issues affecting the fortunes of the PDP since 1999 when the All Peoples Congress (APC) assumed the reins of political power in the Centre of Excellence and has tenaciously held onto that control in a vice-grip. Sources pointed out that previous chairmen in recent times like Salvador, Dr Dominic, Doherty all came from the West Senatorial district. This is the same West Senatorial district that Aivoji comes from. The chairmanship had been zoned to Central Senatorial district where Fawole hails from.

The outcome of the election did not please party members because it did not reflect the wishes of the majority who were hoping that the outcome would produce Fawole. In any case, many members pointed out that Fawole had earlier been adopted as the consensus candidate during a meeting presided over by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State where the 39 offices were shared across all tendencies.

Sources even pointed out that Fawole was emotionally and physically harassed by top members of the Congress Committee, including the chairman and was reportedly sent out of the venue of the election thrice, to the chagrin of his supporters. That particular development laid the foundation for the grouse and discontent trailing the outcome of the election.

At a stage, Governor Diri, with the support of other members of the committee including Erelu Olusola Obada, former deputy governor of Osun; Sarkin Bello, Awwal Tukur, Peter Atofarati and Peter Orji, reportedly ordered a recount when supporters of Fawole rejected the number of votes cast for Aivoji, alleging that some of the votes for other candidates were given to Aivoji.

Diri after announcing the results, appealed to party members to see the election as ‘a family election’ with no winner and urged true members of PDP to embrace unity and forge ahead to win the state for the party in 2023. “All we want is unity in the Lagos State chapter and if you don’t want unity then you are not a PDP member. PDP in Lagos will not be in disunity again after this Congress. “It is only unity that will make PDP occupy the governorship position in Lagos State. We expect that this Congress will build the Lagos State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) together’’, he said.

Political observers believe that the Congress may be a last ditch attempt to bring the warring factions in Lagos PDP together. However, the conduct and outcome of the exercise raked more dust than what it settled. Many went as far as describing the exercise as a charade which would further decimate the clout and strength of the party rather than foster unity . It is believed that there are some powerful forces within and without the PDP in Lagos working assiduously to weaken the party by ensuring the emergence a weak Executive Committee in Lagos PDP.

More importantly the political scenario playing out is the connection between the National Chairman of the PDP, Iyorchia Ayu and Asiwaju Tinubu. Both of them were senators and close pals in the National Assembly during the Third Republic. It is believed that both politicians, even with their belonging to different political parties still maintain a closeness that could sway the fortunes of Lagos PDP in Tinubu’s direction. Interestingly, when Ayu was Senate President, he had a notable Tinubu associate, Segun Ayobolu as a media aide. The same Ayobolu also served as Tinubu’s media aide during his first term as Lagos governor between 199 and 2003.

The simmering rivalry between the former Deputy National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George and the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu also comes into play. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has the clout to direct the political direction of Lagos within and without his own party. Chief Bode George, on the other hand, is a national chieftain of the PDP and also a formidable leader/ elder in the opposition PDP in the state. Both men have always been at loggerheads about the political control and affairs in Lagos.

Their rivalry was believed to have reared its head in the way and manner the Congress exercise played out. There were feelers that the hand of Asiwaju Tinubu was apparent in the affairs of the PDP in Lagos. Some sources within the PDP in Lagos actually claim that the party has more or less become an extension of the Tinubu empire. Mention was made of the many attempts to whittle the clout of Chief Bode George in Lagos PDP. Particular mention was made of the ‘closeness’ between former Ekiti State governor Ayo Fayose and Tinubu in recent times. Specifically, mention was made of the source of the millions Fayose doled out during the 2021 South West PDP Congress with fingers pointing towards a Bourdillon connection.

Besides the presence of former Minister of state {Defence), Erelu Olusola Obada and Deji Doherty in Lagos PDP is seen as another way the APC national leader is monitoring and directing the trend of affairs in the party . There are also some mixed feelings about the role and influence of the LAGOS4LAGOS, a political movement that seeks to ‘free’ Lagos State from the control of Asiwaju Tinubu. The organisation led by Abdul-Azeez Olajide Adediran popularly known as Jandor, recently shifted allegiance to PDP “because of a lack of level-playing field in the APC”. The late former Secretary to Lagos State Government, Adenrele Adeniran Ogunsanya , played a significant role in APC before joining Lagos4Lagos organisation. It is believed to be exploiting the dicey rivalry between Tinubu and George to get some political benefits. In the organisation’s thinking, “If the level playing ground is not available in APC, we are ready to move to PDP. That is why we are moving out with our large members because we have the numerical strength to deliver Lagos.”

As things stand today, the struggle for the control of Lagos PDP is real . However, how things turn out remain shrouded. While Lagos PDP is fighting to wrest control from the Tinubu machinery, It still needs to look inwards for ‘moles’ or supporters of Tinubu within.

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