Some months to the party primaries to elect governorship flagbearers in Ondo State, leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is in disarray over the crisis that has pitched the state executive members against the National Working Committee (NWC). While some party men have dismissed likely impacts on the elections, the crisis is weakening its stake as a viable opposite party and chances of its aspirants,ADEWALE MOMOH reports. Internal crisis rocking the Ondo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is unsettling its members as the April deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the party primaries to elect their governorship candidates is approaching. Three months to the primaries, members of the party are still divided over the State Working Committee’s (SWC) recent suspension of its chairman, Fatai Adams, and counter directive by the national leadership of the party, describing the punishment meted out to Adams as null and void. But members of the SWC have rebuffed the decision of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party and announced its deputy chairman, Tola Alabere as acting chairman. Although the off-cycle governorship election will hold on November 16, 2024, keen observers of the rumblings believe that Ondo PDP has not positioned itself as an alternative to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state. For the party that lost the governorship election to the APC in 2016, its political situation has been from one crisis to another. However, Ondo State PDP displayed a glimmer of hope during the 2019 general election when it defeated APC in the presidential election and won two senatorial seats out of the three representing the state in the ninth senate and four out of nine for the House of Representatives. But the party could not achieve the same feat in the 2023 general elections as APC polled 369,924 to defeat PDP that scored 115,463 to come distant second. Besides, APC also won all the three seats in the senate and majority of the seats in the House of Assembly. While the fortunes of the party continue to nosedive, some of its leaders defected to the APC, citing leadership failure and irreconcilable differences. Some of those who defected included a former lawmaker, Adeyinka Banso; former publicity secretary of the party, Banji Okunomo; two-time council chairman of Akure North, Dele Fagoriola; former secretary to Odigbo Local Government, Femi Akinwehinmi; and former chairman of Ondo East Local Council, Charles Adeduro, Olumuyiwa Adu, among others. More so, party members who thought the return of the former governor of the state, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, will impact the party and solve the leadership crisis have not seen any move by him to confirm their optimism. The structure he left behind is still being controlled by Eyitayo Jegede (SAN), a two-term governorship candidate of the party. Speaking on the situation, a political analyst, Dare Babajide said, “It is unfortunate that PDP is dying in Ondo State. How will a major opposition party like the PDP appear unorganised and want to win the election? I don’t see that happening. The party is not serious about winning elections.” “Three months to the primaries, the best we see in PDP is another round of internal crises. What they just did for Fatai Adams ought to have been done a long time ago. We all know that Jegede is the one calling the shots.“I think they should get the leaders of the party, who really have the capacity to come to the rescue. People like Mimiko, Eddy Olafeso, and other leaders should rise up to save the situation.” But the state Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kennedy Peretei, said all is well with the party and it is preparing for the forthcoming governorship election in the state, noting that it would be wrong to disclose PDP strategy to unseat APC in November. Peretei stressed that members were happy with the recent developments within the party, disclosing that that the party is set to win convincingly the February 3 by-election in Akoko North-East/North-West federal constituency and the November 16 governorship election. Olafeso He said: “While the suspended chairman faces disciplinary measures, the party in the state has moved on. You will recall that we conducted a hitch-free party primary to nominate a candidate for the by-election. The February 3 by-election is our main focus, after which we can begin to talk about the governorship election. “The change in leadership has nothing to do with our preparations. Fatai Adams has been in the saddle since August 4, 2020. His scorecard is in the public domain. Therefore, his suspension has only attracted jubilation amongst our ranks as a party. How will that adversely affect our chances at the polls? The reverse is more likely to be the case. “APC is the party in government both at the state and national level. Naturally, more politicians will gravitate in that direction. However, there are none of those jostling for the APC ticket who can, in good conscience, say their party has improved the lives of the people. They know too that their party and government have failed the people. That is why their party ticket may not be different from a mere piece of paper, as the people who have endured them these seven years will reject them at the polls. “The PDP, on the other hand, has a few who have indicated interest in flying the party’s flag at the November 16 election. All things being equal, we shall prune them to one and go ahead to win the election. We do not intend to make our strategy for taking over Ondo State in the next election public. However, as a political party, we have put in place measures that will put us well ahead of the APC when the election comes. The people will speak clearly and loudly enough.” Also, PDP governorship aspirant, Sola Ebiseni said the victory recorded by the APC in the last general elections in the state was due to the popularity of the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.He said: “The endemic crises in the Ondo APC, even before the sickness of the governor, were enough for its imminent implosion. APC has no foot in Ondo State. As a party in power, during its first term in 2019, it lost to the PDP in all the elections. PDP won the presidential election with over 35,000 votes, winning 2 out of the 3 senatorial seats and 4 out of the 9 House of Representatives seats. “I was the state chief returning officer of the PDP. APC had 1 senator, 4 Reps members with SDP having 1 Rep. In last year’s election, APC candidates were mainly unknown in the state’s political equation but merely rode on the train of its presidential candidate.“It was not out of any perceived weakness of the PDP. The gubernatorial election will be different as it is going to be amongst ourselves and will be determined by our peculiar and known political culture.” Adams However, the hullabaloo over the suspension of the party chairman by the SWC and the position of the national leadership of the party is yet to settle. Adams was suspended over alleged anti-party activities as well as purported infiltration of the party by APC. His suspension letter was approved and signed by nine of the 11 SWC members, including the state Deputy Chairman, Tola Alabere, Secretary, Oluseye Olujimi, and Publicity Secretary, Kennedy Peretei. They alleged that the action of Adams against the party was capable of bringing disrepute to the PDP, stressing that his suspension was in tandem with the constitution of the party. The suspended chairman was also given one week to appear before the disciplinary committee of the party to answer questions about the allegations. In his reaction Adams stated that his purported suspension would not stand, disclosing that it was politically motivated to ease him out. According to him, the suspension was done, so the alleged agenda for the Akoko North East/North East Federal Constituency by-election in February would be executed. While insisting that he remains the chairman of the party, he maintained that the party will not be taken over by those he described as unscrupulous elements out to destroy the democratic values that the party is known for. Adams, who is still parading himself as the state chairman of the party is relying on the order of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP that dismissed his suspension and described SWC action as “null and void.” The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, said the suspension was not in tandem with provisions of the Constitution of the PDP (as amended in 2017) and laid down rules. Ologunagba further stressed that the SWC lacked the power to contemplate or suspend a state chairman without due recourse to the NWC, as stipulated in the constitution of the party. While disclosing that the NWC will not hesitate to take action against the development, Ologunagba urged the SWC members to retrace their steps. But members of the SWC stood their ground that Adams remain suspended, noting that all levels of the party have powers to discipline erring members of the executive, whether at the ward, local government, state, or zonal levels. Peretei described the statement by Ologunagba as embarrassing, saying that he is ignorant of the Constitution of the party, as well as what is happening within the party in the state. He said: “Adams, is a member of the SWC and can therefore be sanctioned in the face of his activities with flagrant disregard for SWC decisions. To this end, the suspension of Fatai Adams remains. “Unfortunately, Ologunagba, who is from Ondo State, appears not to have up-to-date information about the party in the state. If he had, he would have been the last person to issue such a misleading statement.” Shortly after the suspension of Adams, the party’s deputy chairman, Tola Alabere, was ratified as acting chairman by the SWC. With this development, members of the SWC in Ondo State have drawn a battle line with the national body of the party, which further deepened the crises and polarised the members.