Strong indications emerged on Sunday that the Peoples Democratic Party might no longer give preference to retired generals and other former military officers in the sharing of positions.
Sources explained that the party’s 13 governors were unanimous in their conviction that it was time to allow “politicians to play politics and do away with ex-generals.”
A few weeks before the PDP national convention, the governors had agreed on a former President of the Senate, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, as the consensus candidate for the national chairmanship position against another ex-Senate President, David Mark, who is a retired general.
Also, the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, who had supported a former Osun State governor, Brig-Gen Olagunsoye Oyinlola (retd.), for the position of deputy national chairman (South), made a U-turn when his colleagues convinced him to go for a civilian.
It was learnt that political calculations ahead of the 2023 general elections were responsible for the decision of the governors to support the emergence of Taofik Arapaja instead of Oyinlola.
Arapaja, who until his emergence was the national vice chairman (South-West) of the opposition party, became the toast of the governors, who felt it was time to end the era of ex-military generals calling the shots in the party.
A party leader said, “What transpired at the Eagle Square was a culmination of several months of planning and realignment of interests. It is on record that the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, had earlier presented a former Osun State governor, Olajunsoye Oyinlola, to his colleagues as his choice for the position.
“This changed when after consultation, most of the governors expressed their fears. Makinde felt that the South-West, where he is the leader, would be better off with a trusted politician at the helm in the event that a northerner emerges as the PDP presidential candidate in 2023.
“Ayu will then step down for Arapaja, who is the deputy chairman, South, for balance.
“A similar scenario played out with the emergence of Ayu. David Mark was initially on the card, but Ortom had a change of heart for the same reason.
“To ease the Benue State governor’s dilemma on how to approach Mark, a team of governors was dispatched to sound the ex-Senate president out to see if he was interested.
“In response, Mark told the team that he wasn’t interested in contesting with anyone.
“He added a caveat that if they needed his services, they were free to confer among themselves and let him know. That settled it. Ortom threw his weight behind Ayu and the rest is history.”
In response to claims that the governors moved to end the dominance of retired generals in running the party, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said, “I don’t know those carrying such speculations. One thing I know is that we in the PDP do not discriminate against fellow citizens.
“Our party is a party for all Nigerians, who are genuinely interested in reclaiming our land from the corrupt and irresponsible regime of the All Progressives Congress. We, like most Nigerians, have started the countdown to 2023; we will not be distracted from the task of rescuing our fatherland.”
Some Osun State delegates, however, alleged that Makinde was taking undue advantage of his position as the leader to position his men to the exclusion of other states in the zone.
One of the delegates, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said, “What happened at the end of the day is that Makinde saw him (Oyinlola) as a threat and if he must continue to maintain his dominance in the South-West, he must install his person in that position.
“He knows that Oyinlola is close to most of the power brokers in the country and cannot be kicked around. This was why Makinde used everything within his reach to stop him. But this is not fair.”
Another delegate from the state, Folorunsho Babarinde, said, “The governors decided who they wanted; they are the ones calling the shot in the party. It didn’t start now, and this won’t be the last.”
Oyinlola congratulates Arapaja, others
On his part, Oyinlola conceded defeat and congratulated Arapaja and other newly-elected national officers of the party. He also promised to continue to do all within his power to support and strengthen the party.
This was contained in a statement he issued in Osogbo on Sunday, where he revealed that he had earlier sent a private message to Arapaja congratulating him on his victory and wishing him a successful tenure.
He also said the newly-elected PDP deputy national chairman acknowledged his message and replied the same with warm regards.
A PDP faction in Osun State backed by the party’s 2018 governorship candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke, accused Makinde of hijacking the deputy chairmanship position zoned to the state.
But the South-West Publicity Secretary of the party, Chief Sanya Atofarati, faulted the claim of the Osun members.
According to him, the position was zoned to Oyo and Osun states, adding that Oyinlola contested and lost.
The Director of Research and Publicity of the Adeleke faction of the PDP in Osun State, Oladele Oluwabamiji, insisted that the position of the deputy national chairman (South) was micro-zoned to the state.
But the faction of PDP in the state backed by Dr Akin Ogunbiyi, a former governorship aspirant, said the Adeleke group should be held responsible for Makinde’s decision to dump Oyinlola for Arapaja.
But Makinde described what happened at the convention as a family affair, which would be managed in a way that would not cause any crisis between the Oyo and Osun state chapters of the party.
The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Taiwo Adisa, said, “What happened at the national convention of the PDP cannot break the cord between Oyo and Osun. We are brothers in every sense of the word and we have come a long way.
“Remember also that the PDP has over the years perfected ways of managing issues classified as family affairs. This matter you referred to as fallout of the 2021 national convention will not be an exception.”