Osun PDP: Adeleke, Ogunbiyi renew battle for gov ticket

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By Bola Bamigbola

THE PUNCH

The bitter rivalry that characterised the ad hoc ward congress of the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State which led to the killing of two persons may be an indication that the governorship primary of the party may be marred by violence, reports BOLA BAMIGBOLA

The dust raised by the last ad hoc ward delegate congress of the Peoples Democratic Party in Osun State has yet to settle days after the exercise took place across 332 wards in the state. Violence was reported in many of the wards, and two persons were reportedly killed in two of the venues where the exercise took place, raising concerns about what lies ahead in the party’s governorship primary slated for March 8.

In the exercise, the two camps struggling for the control of the PDP in the state held on to their grouse, bickering and aimed for each other’s jugular, while the congress lasted. Findings by Sunday PUNCH indicate that one of the two groups, which is led by Sunday Bisi is loyal to the 2018 governorship candidate of the party, Senator Ademola Adeleke. The other group, led by Wale Ojo, an ally of Soji Adagunodo, is leading a caucus supporting the person that came second in the 2018 primary, Dr Akin Ogunbiyi and other four aspirants seeking the PDP ticket for the July 16, 2022 governorship election.

Other aspirants that have obtained nomination form to vie for the PDP governorship ticket beside Adeleke and Ogunbiyi are Dele Adeleke, a relation of the 2018 candidate of the party; Prince Dotun Babayemi, Mr. Sanya Ominrin, and ex-Secretary to Osun State Government, Fatai Akinbade. While the camp led by Bisi has not hidden its intention to hand over the PDP governorship ticket to Adeleke, Ojo, who has also been laying claim to the seat of the state PDP chairman, but was rejected by the national headquarters of the party in Abuja, has been enjoying the attention of other five aspirants in the race.

Through the ad hoc delegate congress, the party had wanted to elect three delegates in each of the 332 wards that would later elect the governorship candidate of the party. But some political observers had assumed that the congress, if held without major rancour, would unite various interests battling for the control, and position the opposition party in a good stead for another opportunity to occupy the biggest office in the state.

On the other hand, many followers of affairs of the PDP said the stratification of the party into the camp of two major groups, contending for the governorship ticket had lasted too long, thus posing a huge barrier to an amicable resolution of the crisis.

The first sign of an impending crisis hovering round the neck of the PDP before the congress was the verbal attack that the former state governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, was subjected to during a meeting he held with the members of the committee organising the exercise in Osogbo.

In a video of the incident that has since gone viral, Oyinlola was walking along the lobby of a hotel in Osogbo when some people, believed to be supporters of Senator Adeleke, subjected him to verbal assault. Security men attached to the ex-Osun State helmsman had a hectic time ferrying him to safety as the motley angry crowd kept shouting that he should let Adeleke, their preferred man for the governorship ticket, be.

In retaliation, members of the PDP in Odo Otin Local Government Area staged a peaceful protest in Okuku to express their displeasure. Oyinlola hails from the area. The protesters, bearing placards with inscriptions such as ‘PDP, Odo Otin, says no to impunity and arrogance of Adeleke’s family’, ‘Adeleke, stop intimidating our son’, among others, threatened to work against Adeleke during the ward congress of the party.

Addressing the protesters, a former member of the House of Assembly, Mr Lekan Oyediran, said a faction in the party supported by Adeleke was behind the attack on Oyinlola. He said, “Our leader was attacked in Osogbo while visiting the committee sent by the national headquarters of the PDP. A faction of the PDP led by Adeleke is behind the sponsored attack on him.

“If not because of the quick intervention of security agents, only God knows what would have happened. Oyinlola is a person that has respect for elders. That is why they asked us to allow peace to reign.

“Nobody has a monopoly of violence. The National Working Committee of our party must be unbiased. Our elders must be respected. The National Chairman of the PDP, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, should be unbaised.

But while reacting, Senator Adeleke, who spoke through one of his associates, Prince Diran Odeyemi, appealed to PDP members in Odo Otin not to further escalate the matter. He said, “Senator Adeleke personally met ex-governor Oyinlola and the matter was raised. As an elder, he took the incident as a sacrifice he must pay for the party. I appeal to our members in Odo Otin not to further escalate the matter.”

Despite the appeal, the warring groups appeared resolute not to blink first as they carried their non-conformist posture into the ward ad hoc congress that could not be said to have been held under a peaceful atmosphere.

How killings, burning of cars marred congress

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The rest of the state was obviously not paying attention to the ward congress of the PDP in Osun State held on Wednesday, February 23, until news filtered in towards evening that a man had been killed in Agberire community near Iwo. While efforts were on to get details of the incident that led to the death of the unidentified man, another heart wrenching report surfaced about the death of one Olamide Aremu in Ipetumodu, not long after he was shot in front of the PDP secretariat in Ife North Local Government Area, during the collation of result of the congress.

It was also learnt that the suspect who was alleged to have fired the shot was later seized by residents and beaten to a coma before policemen later rescued him. A vehicle said to belong to the suspect was reportedly set ablaze by a mob. The Osun Police Command spokesperson, Yemisi Opalola, during an interview, confirmed the death of two persons during the congress.

Also, during the exercise, there were reported skirmishes in Oba Oke town, and in a ward each in Osogbo and Olorunda local government areas. Parallel congresses were also allegedly held in some wards. A chieftain of the PDP belonging to Wale Ojo faction from Ife North Local Government Area, Funmiso Babarinde, while speaking with our correspondent, said parallel congresses were held by the two factions in some wards in Ife North Local Government Area.

But the Director of Research and Publicity of the Sunday Bisi faction, Oladele Oluwabamiji, said there was no parallel congress anywhere in the state. Although he admitted there were pockets of violence in some of the local government areas, Oluwabamiji, however, said the exercise was largely peaceful.

Fears ahead of governorship primary

Peeping to the March 8, the day picked for the indirect governorship primary of the party, many members of PDP are obviously feeling uneasy, the concerns predicated on the way and manner the ad hoc ward congress went. Asked for his expectations from the governorship primary, a PDP chieftain belonging to Wale Ojo faction, who simply identified himself as Babarinde, said his group had approached the Appeal Committee, asking it to reject the list of those said to have been elected during the ward congress. Babarinde, who said if not resolved, complaints of his group against ad hoc congress constituted serious landmines that might affect the fortunes of the candidate of the political party.

He said, “From all the wards, three names each were written as the winners of the ad hoc congress that was keenly contested between two groups. Those that perpetrated the fraud were not smart enough. If two groups were in contest in Osun State, what was the score of members of the other group that also fielded candidates for the same exercise? The two groups in the PDP in Osun submitted lists of different winners. We have approached the appeal panel to look into our compliant. If that is not done before the governorship primary, then those issues may become landmines for whoever gets the ticket.”

But Diran Odeyemi, an associate of Senator Adeleke, dismissed concerns regarding the PDP governorship primary, and expressed optimism that the delegates elected during the ward ad hoc congress would pick a governorship candidate that would be acceptable to all interest groups in the party.

Odeyemi said, “Our ward ad hoc delegate congress was not marred by violence as many people have assumed. We are still awaiting police report on the killing in Iwo. But as a political party, we have realised that the incident was a cult clash and the police have apprehended the perpetrators. The incident had nothing to do with our congress.

“If we conduct election in 30 local government areas plus one Area Office and the only incident of violence occurred in Iwo and Ipetumodu, it will be wrong to say the exercise was marred by violence. We are advocates of peace because it is only through a free and fair election that a good candidate would be produced and we can convince others to work with us.

“We don’t have any fear regarding the governorship primary. People coming to conduct it are not individuals that can be bribed by anyone. They were carefully selected by the national leadership of our party. I believe all the aspirants are getting across to the delegates that will vote during the exercise. It is going to be peaceful.”

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As copied from The Punch Newspaper