There seems to be no solution to the crisis rocking the Ogun State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In spite of efforts to bring the warring factions together, the party remains polarised. Factional Chairman Chief Adebayo Dayo blamed the protracted crisis on the Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) for taking side with the opposing group. In this interview with Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN, he highlighted the factors that led to the crisis.
What is the situation in the Ogun State chapter of the PDP?
Our efforts to unite the feuding members and dissenting groups have not much success. The opposing groups are still waxing stronger. They are not ready to listen to elders in the party. Our tenure will expire next month (April 4). We have to conduct congresses that would produce a new executive committee that would manage the party affairs in the state in the next four years. But the national secretariat is insinuating that congresses would not hold in Ogun PDP because the Sikirulai Ogundele-led executive came into office in 2017 and its tenure will expire in 2021.
The congress that brought me and members of the state executive committee to office was held in 2014. The result of the congress was validated by the High Court, Appeal Court and the Supreme Court judgments. By the virtues of the courts’ judgments, we are allowed to perform the functions of the state executive of the PDP and remain in office for four years. Now that our tenure is about to end, it is our right to conduct congresses and forward results to the national secretariat before we hand over to the new executive.
But the national secretariat did not list Ogun State chapter among the states where congresses will hold. Are you aware?
The State Executive Council of the party determines when the ward, local government and state congresses will hold. The PDP constitution says the state chairman of the party shall be the chairman of the congress. We don’t need permission from the National Executive Committee to hold the congress. All we have to do is to follow the party’s guideline and submit the report to NEC. Being the only recognised executive of the PDP in Ogun State by the Supreme Court, we are empowered to conduct congresses and send the report to the national secretariat in Abuja before we hand-over to a new executive.
Is it true that a Federal High Court, Abuja stop your faction from conducting congresses?
There was no court injunction that barred the ward congress from holding. The court order only directed both the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) and our state executive committee to allow the status quo to remain. To me, the status quo means to go and hold on to whatever you have for now until the court decides. That is what I’m doing as Chairman of the party. On February 19, this year, we wrote a letter to the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus to notify the national leadership of the decision of the Ogun State PDP executive to conduct congress to elect new members of the executive committee. The PDP constitution empowers the state committee to conduct congress at the ward, local government and state levels.
The state secretary said you have been suspended as party chairman. What’s your reaction?
He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He (Semiu Sodipo) was suspended from office after an investigation had shown that he misappropriated campaign funds for 2019 general elections. He thought the next thing to do is to join the dissident group who are no longer PDP members. The PDP constitution says no organ of the party except the national leadership of the party can discipline a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) and by the virtue of being Ogun State Chairman of the party, I am a NEC member, so no disciplinary action can be taken against me except by the NEC.
The dissident group are used to illegality because when I emerged as PDP Chairman in 2016, there was a court judgment that validated my election and my tenure that will end in April 2020. The Ladi Adebutu group contested this judgment up to the Supreme Court but they failed. At a time that I am rounding off my stay in office by performing my last assignment of conducting the congress through which a new set of executives will emerge, the disgruntled elements have resorted to another form of illegality again thinking that they will have their way with millions of naira on the table.
The arrowhead of the opposition group, Ladi Adebutu was formerly in the Labour Party until he returned to the PDP in 2014. I had to go to Abuja twice to plead for him to get waiver because, according to the party’s constitution, you must have been a party member for at least 24 months before you can contest an election. So, when you leave the party, you have lost your seniority and you are expected to go back to your ward and start afresh. A year after Adebutu was re-admitted into PDP and elected member of House of Representatives to represent Remo Federal Constituency, he started nursing the ambition to become the governor of the state and since then there has been no peace in the party.
Is it true that 13 out of 15 state executive members have left your camp?
In politics, you are free to join any party or group of your choice. It is a free market. In the same vein, we can’t stop people from leaving. However, we have replaced those that left. For instance, Boye Adesina, the Deputy Chairman left to join the camp of Gboyega Nasir Isiaka (GNI), the governorship candidate of African Democratic Congress (ADC) in the last general elections. Similarly, Bolaji Adeniji, our former Public Relations Officer (PRO) left to work for GNI. Leye Odunjo also resigned to contest in 2019 and he was replaced by Tajudeen Aina as chairman, Ogun West Senatorial District. When Prince Akintan, Ogun East Chairman left because he wanted to contest, he was replaced by Barrister Bolujoko. However, Semiu Sodipo was driven by his ambition to pitch his tent with Ladi Adebutu group . He wanted to become the state chairman of the PDP. He left because he knew he may not get it if he remains with us. We have zoned the chairmanship of the party to Ogun West but he’s from Ogun Central. Let’s wait and see how he would actualise his ambition in his new camp. He was suspended because he could not account for a huge amount of money given to him to disburse during the last general elections. He has since been replaced by Barrister Balogun.
Does PDP constitution allow state chapters to conduct congress without approval from the National Working Committee (NWC)?
It’s wrong of the National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus to say that the NWC has the power to conduct congresses in the states. His position was against the judgment of the Supreme Court with Suit Number SC 968/2018, which validated the election of our executive council and empowers it to conduct congresses. It’s only the state working committee that has powers to conduct congresses and submit reports to the national executive. It’s unfortunate that the national secretariat doesn’t go through letters. It is bread and butter politics they are playing. They said they don’t recognise Engr. Adebayo Dayo-led Executive but they recognise Sikirulahi Ogundele’s exco. The funny thing is that the NWC has recognised the state secretary that was suspended by us.
What role do you expect the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) to play in resolving the crisis?
As a founding member of PDP in 1998, I can tell you that the incumbent National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus is the worst to have sat over the affairs of our party, the PDP. When there is a crisis in any state chapter, it is the responsibility of the NWC to wade in and ensure peace is restored. Secondus doesn’t want peace to reign in many state chapters because he is benefitting from the crisis. In the case of Ogun PDP, Secondus has taken side with the Adebutu group because of what he is benefiting from the faction. Secondus lacks leadership capacity that is expected of national chairman of a party like the PDP. He has sacrificed the party’s interest for personal interest. Can you imagine the PDP national secretarial disowning the party governorship candidate in the state during the 2019 general elections? It’s unbelievable that a political party would come out to say that it had no governorship candidate and its members should vote for the opposition candidates. It’s a shame. Secondus should bury his head in shame.
What do you think should be done to save the PDP in Ogun?
The last time I spoke with Adebutu, I told him the only way out is to come together and plan the congress. I proposed to him that we should share the offices 50/50 between the two groups so that both sides would have a sense of belonging. I told him we should forget the past, move forward and chart a new course for the party. Unfortunately, Adebutu rejected all the offers. All he wants is to hijack the party. Even if he eventually gets the party structure by whatever means, I can assure you that Adebutu will get nowhere with the fragmented party. He will find it difficult to unseat Governor Dapo Abiodun who is loved by the people for his humility. Both of them are from Iperu. The people of Ogun State will not take power from one man and give to his kinsman. Besides, the people of Ogun West and Ogun Central are also eyeing the governorship seat come 2023.