As Lagos PDP Strategizes For Future Elections | Independent Newspapers Limited
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As Lagos PDP Strategizes For Future Elections

Tunji Shelle
Posted: Mar 6, 2016 at 5:56 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

Augustine Adah, Lagos

March 1, 2016 remains indelible in the history of Lagos State chapter of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was the day, leaders and party members gathered at the secretariat, located along Adekunle Fajuyi  Ikeja Lagos, to assess the performance of the party in the 2015 general elections, and to chart a new course for the  one time ruling party.  Analysts believe the general meeting of party members became imperative; judging by recent development in the party that has sent a wrong signal that all is not well with the party in the state.  Few months after the conduct of the general elections, some leaders of the party met somewhere and announced the removal of the state chairman of the party, Olatunji Shelle and other members of the state executive council.  Leading the group that announced the removal of Shelle were the party’s Vice-chairman and Secretary, Messrs Owolabi Olorunoje and Wahab Owokoniran respectively. Owokoniran is a former council chairman who presided over Ikeja Local Government Area during the Tinubu administration. Following his removal from office he defected from the then Alliance for Democracy to the PDP. The group regarded in the party circle as dissident members, claimed that Shelle and the team were responsible for the dismal performance of the party in 2015 general elections.

Both Chief Bode George and other leaders of the party condemned the action of the group as illegal and unconstitutional, insisting                                                                               that Shelle would remain the party chairman, until after congress to elect new leaders.

Therefore, the meeting on Tuesday was aimed at assuring members that the party was waxing strong, despite the ugly incident of last year and to task them to work towards winning the forth-coming local government election in the state. Several leaders that spoke on the occasion used the opportunity to assure the people of the preparedness of PDP to win the forth-coming local government election in Lagos State and the 2019 general elections.

Shelle, Chairman of the party set the stage rolling when he was handed the microphone to deliver his speech. He began with the assessment of the present administration of both Akinwunmi Ambode in Lagos Sate and President Muhammadu Buhari. He was equivocal in condemning the present administration of All Progressives Congress (APC) for causing pains on Nigerians. He cited the ongoing petrol scarcity in the country, high cost of goods and services to buttress his point.  “Nine months after the takeover of power by APC in the country, nothing appears to be happening both at the centre and here in Lagos,” he declared.

Shelle expressed disappointment that despite many promises made by the leadership of the party during campaigns, they could not deliver on any of the promises made, barely one year into the tenure of the administration. “They made so many promises during the election; the only one they could fulfill is corruption. The government has no clue to the economic challenges facing the country.”  He particularly mentioned increase in the number of BRT buses as the only achievement of Ambode’s administration since he took over the administration of Lagos regarded as centre of excellence. “If I am to score him it would be below average.”

On the controversy surrounding the emergence of Modu Sheriff as the National Chairman of the party, Shelle told the gathering that the appointment of former governor of Borno State   followed due process urging the Lagos State Chapter of the party to give the new Chairman massive support.

Jimi Agbaje, the governorship candidate of the party in last governorship election in the state reflected more on the disaffection in the party arising from the defeat of the party in the last general elections. He admitted that there could be reasons for disagreement among leaders and members but that should not lead to the destruction of the party.  Agbaje revealed that on several occasions, he had misunderstanding with the Lagos state chairman of the party, but they were able to resolve their differences in the interest of the party.

“We quarreled, and disagreed on several occasions but we remained together,” Agbaje said. He also stated that while some people were angry over the manner the campaign funds were disbursed and spent, he had incurred a huge debt as a result of the election. “I learnt some people are angry because they did not benefit from campaign funds, today as I am talking with you, the last governorship election has brought a huge debt on me.”  He appealed to members to go back to their respective wards and work for the victory of the party in the forth- coming local government election.  He believes the party has the capacity to win the forth-coming local government election.

Chief George, former Deputy National Chairman of the party, told the gathering that the party would no longer tolerate the existence of different groups and caucuses. According to George, the existence of such group could only be recognized and tolerated during elections. He assured that the party would give all aspirants a level playing ground in subsequent elections. “I have never imposed candidates on the people even in my ward at Lagos Island and I don’t intend to do that.” George identified indiscipline as the major impediments to the growth of the party. The situation where members fragrantly disobeyed party’s rules and constitution was condemned by the party leader as the greatest indiscipline within the party, which must not be tolerated any more.  He equally noted, “It is the enemies within that are destroying the party. We would not allow the house we built to be destroyed by anybody.”

He encouraged members to be resolute and never give up because he believes PDP would bounce back and win the 2019 general elections. He said it was an illusion for anybody to think that the party would fizzle out in the state, judging by the number of people that attended the meeting at a short notice. George promised to continue to work for the victory of the party in subsequent elections and called those who attempted to remove the leadership of the party in the state as “those who are with us but not for us. “They don’t even know the constitution of the party, because in the party constitution, it is only the National Executive Council that has the power to remove the executive.”  He punctured the claim by the same group that it was the action of Shelle that led to the party’s electoral loss in the last general election. “In the history of the party since the return of democracy in 1999, PDP has never performed the kind of feat achieved under Shelle as chairman in the state. Now we have eight members in the state assembly and six members in the National assembly, he (Shelle) has given us a voice.”
Though leaders of the party claimed there exist no rift in the party as the party has put what happened last year behind it, however, observers believe the claim may not be a true reflection of what really exist in the party.  Just a day to the general meeting on Tuesday, opponents of Shelle’s leadership described the purported meeting a huge joke. This subsequently led to the beefing up of security by the leadership on the day of the meeting with a view to averting any clash among party members. Indeed Musiliu Obanikoro, former Minister of State for Defence was absent at the meeting, an indication, according to observers, that all is not well within the party.  Obanikoro was accused last year by some people in the party as responsible for the emergence of splinter group that caused a breach of peace in the party by sacking the state working committee of the party.  However, Obanikoro who narrowly lost the party’s governorship primaries to Agbaje in 2014 denied the allegation.  “The youngest among the state executives is 40 years old and for anybody to insinuate that it is Obanikoro that created the situation for the suspension of Captain Tunji Shelle, I think it is preposterous and unfair to my person,” he had declared

A mild drama ensued shortly after Akeem Bello, Minority Leader; Lagos State House of Assembly delivered his speech and promised to deliver Amuwo –Odofin to PDP in the coming local government election. A group of youths suspected to be from the local government, carried placards with different inscriptions like; No more imposition in Amuwo-Odofin, let there be internal democracy.  It took a lot of time for the Publicity Secretary of the party, Gani Taofeek who was the moderator of the programme to persuade the aggrieved members to drop their placards.  If the party leaders carry out what they promised at the meeting, it will certainly be a battle for the soul of Lagos state between the ruling All Progressives Congress and the PDP.But whether the PDP members and its leadership would live up to their promise, only time would tell.