There is division in the Southwest Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the disqualification of chieftains contesting for party offices at the proposed national convention.
The disqualification, it was learnt, has also deepened the friction between the camps loyal to Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde and former EKiti State Governor Ayo Fayose.
The disqualified chieftains – Prof. Adewale Oladipo from Osun State, Dr. Eddy Olafeso and Akintan Daisi from Ondo State – have rejected the ban and appealed to the PDP Appeal Committee.
Oladipo, who hails from Osun State, is contesting for the position of Deputy National Chairman (South). Other aspirants include former Osun State Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola and National Vice Chairman (West) Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja.
Olafeso, former National Vice Chairman (West), who belongs to the Fayose camp, is contesting for the position of publicity secretary.
Also in the race for the spokesman, which was zoned to Ondo State, are Debo Ologunagba, Kayode Akinmade, Ayo Fadaka and Zadok Akintoye.
Daisi is contesting for the position of deputy national secretary.
Also, Chief Okey Muo-Aroh, who is challenging the endorsement of Senator Samuel Anyanwu for the position of National Secretary, was disqualified.
Announcing the disqualification of the four aspirants at the PDP National Secretariat in Abuja, Adamawa State Governor Ahmadu Fintiri said they were disqualified for taking the party to court in the past.
Fintiri said: “I want to tell you that the three that could not meet the standard of the screening committee -Dr Olafeso Eddy Eniola, who initially had put his interest to contest for the office of the National Publicity Secretary.
“The other persons are Prof Adewale Abiodun Oladipo and Chief Okey Muo-Aroh. All these have been disqualified for reason that they took the party to the court. Their intention also was to stop the national convention.
“So, if you have taken the party to court without exhausting the internal mechanism for settling whatever grievances you have and you tried to stop the convention.
“More so, the provision of Section 51 (1)l of our party constitution has clearly spelt out that you must exhaust all the internal conflict resolution mechanism in the party.
“The same constitution of our great party has also made a provision that if you have not exhausted Section 58 (1)l, you can be punished under Section 59 (1)e. So, you can see that the screening committee has done what is needful of them.
“You must be disciplined in the party for us to survive. And I think we have to move away from the past as we are trying to open a new chapter for the party”.
However, Muo-Aroh, a lawyer, said there was never a time that he took the party to court, adding that he has always been part of the legal team defending the PDP in court cases.
Makinde, who is the Secretary of the Convention Planning Committee, defended the decision to disqualify the chieftains.
Makinde said the disqualification was necessary to instill discipline in the party, adding that those disqualified had attempted to truncate the convention and they cannot reap from where they did not sown.
He said: “At some point, we have to draw the line. Yes, people have been doing some things and getting away with them. Now, we needed to put our feet on the ground. And we are using this to tell Nigerians that we are disciplined party and we have the wherewithal to redeem this country from disintegration.”
However, Muo-Aroh vowed to challenge his disqualification at the Screening Appeal Panel set up by the party.
He said: “I have never taken the PDP to court since I joined the party in 1998. On the other hand, I have been part of the legal team that defended the PDP in many court cases in the past, especially in Anambra State.
“As a matter of fact, I was a member of the team of lawyers that defended Valentine Ozigbo, the PDP governorship candidate for the November 6 governorship election in Anambra State. We won the case for the PDP candidate and I was one of the lawyers that defended our candidate and the party at the Supreme Court.
“Are those that disqualified me now penalising me for always defending the PDP in court? And to add to my injury, the PDP has never paid me one Naira for all the court appearances I have made for them in the past. This is injustice and I am going to challenge it”.
Oladipo had, during his tenure as National Secretary, joined forces with a former PDP National Chairman, Alhaji Ali Modu Sheriff, in a legal tussle over the control of the party.
Sheriff, had, in 2016, dragged the PDP to court in a bid to take over the party from the Ahmed Makarfi-led National Caretaker Committee.
The protracted legal battle dragged for 16 months during which the party’s national secretariat was sealed by the police.
But, defending himself, Oladipo said: “During the crisis that engulf our party between Ali-Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi, they said I was on the other side. That is an unfortunate assertion because when you have two factions in a party you must belong to one and immediately there is finally adjudication on the matter, I moved on.
“Some party members who belong to the factions (Ali-Modu Sheriff and Ahmed Makarfi) are doing very well. Some are even in elective offices today, like House of Rep, Senate, even governor.
“What you call reconciliation is when the party breaks into factions, immediately there is a resolution you come together and move on. I am going to appeal this using the internal mechanism of the party to make the sound case. I am very optimistic, there is no cause for alarm.”
Ologunagba, a lawyer, is believed to be backed by Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde and Eyitayo Jegeda while Olafeso is supported by other PDP leaders opposed to Jegede.
A PDP chieftain, Pastor Akinrinola Olumide, said Ologunagba lacked the requisite expertise and professional qualification to be party spokesman.
He said the party needed an experienced journalist or a specialist in relevant field to tackle the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of 2023 general elections.
“PDP may lose the next election if they fail to produce a qualified spokesman. This is because if they can’t produce an experienced and qualified spokesman to tell their story, no one will reckon with the party.”
Olafeso denied taking the party to court to stop the convention.
He said he approached the court to interprete the constitution of the party on the controversy surrounding the tenure of the ousted National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus.
He said: “This was done with good intention to save the party from further crisis. And the case has since been withdrawn from the court a long time ago to exhaust internal conflicts resolution mechanism.
“I wasn’t disqualified and no one was disqualified. We were not cleared by the screening committee and that is why we have appeal screening committee. The appeal has the final say. I have already appealed the verdict of the screening committee. We have evidence of withdrawal of the court case a long time ago.
“This is pure politics to scheme me and others out of the race.