Southwest Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) delegates were on the edge over the modalities for the zonal congress holding today in Osogbo, the Osun State capital.
Fears are rife that two factional chairmen may be produced by the two camps struggling for the soul of the party.
The camp led by Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde is backing former Deputy Governor Taofik Arapaja for the national vice chairman (Southwest) while the camp led by former Ekiti Governor Ayodele Fayose is rooting for the former occupant of the position, Dr Eddy Olafeso.
Chief Rahman Owokoniran and Rev. Bunmi Jenyo will contest the position of zonal secretary; Ogunye Omotoyosi and Oke Michael will slug it out for treasurer.
Amuwa Adegbenro/Bakenne Adewale (Zonal Organising Secretary), Olusanya Adefarati/Fadaka Ayodele (Zonal Publicity Secretary), Adewoyin Babatunde/Aivoji Olabode (Zonal Financial Secretary) and Babatunde Samuel/Monsuru Kukoyi (Zonal Legal Adviser) are the other candidates.
The crisis deepened following the allegation of exclusion of some aspirants and delegates by the Screening Committee chaired by Senator Dino Melaye.
Also, there was uproar as four of six state chairmen alleged that the Electoral Panel, led by Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom, planned to rig the intra-party poll in favour of candidates backed by Makinde.
Last night, party elders who expressed concern over the possibility of violence and inconclusive exercise appealed for calm, urging the gladiators in the two antagonist camps to sheath their swords.
A source said these elders may propose a sharing formula that will ensure equitable distribution of the positions between the two camps.
Speaking in Ogbomoso, Makinde exuded confidence, saying Arapaja will become the next zonal chairman.
Also, in a statement, his media aide, Taiwo Adisa, said: “Anyone who loves the PDP will know that the time is ripe to redeem the party, especially in the Southwest zone.
“The party has suffered enough haemorrhage to enable stakeholders to know it is time to move forward.
“I believe that all well-meaning party stakeholders will have no reservation in joining the push by Governor Seyi Makinde to stabilise the party this time.”
Explaining why some aspirants were ‘screened out’ during the pre-congress process held at Aenon Suite, GRA, Osogbo, Melaye said they were not qualified.
Melaye, who refused to disclose the identity and the number of disqualified aspirants, said conciliatory meetings were being held to foster unity and peace in the party.
He said: “Not every aspirant will partake in the congress because those who made the required or minimum standard were cleared and those who did not meet the standards will not participate.
“Not everyone who wishes to have a clearance certificate got it today (yesterday). I can’t reveal those that did not meet the required standard. There will be a free and fair congress tomorrow (today) and today’s (yesterday’s) clearance has given us a sample of what tomorrow (today) will be.
“We are one political family. We have a spirit of give and take. I can assure you that the meeting will still hold tonight (yesterday). We expect a peaceful congress; forget about the propaganda on social media.”
Four state chairmen have complained to National Chairman Prince Uche Secondus about an alleged plan by the electoral committee to rig the poll.
In a letter by the Ogun State Chairman, Dr Sikirulai Ogundele, to Secondus, on behalf of his colleagues from Lagos, Osun and Ekiti states, he alleged that 150 ballot papers had been released to Makinde by the National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu, to rig the election of National Vice-Chairman and Zonal Secretary.
Ogundele believes only a free, fair and transparent congress would be acceptable.
“We have been reliably informed that over 150 ballot papers for the election of National Vice-Chairman and Zonal Secretary have been released to the group led by Oyo State Governor Seyi Makinde, to manipulate the zonal congress on Monday (today).
“This is coming after the failure of the clandestine plots to manipulate the delegates lists.”
The chairmen alleged that Senator Anyanwu from Imo State may not be fair. “All ballot papers to be used for the congress must be signed by your good self and they must not exceed the number of delegates.
“All congress materials, especially the ballot papers and result sheets must be inspected and agreeable to all aspirants before voting.”
The chairmen urged the national leadership to deploy observers or monitors to save the party from what they described as the impending anarchy.
They added: “We hope that the Deputy Governor of Benue State (who is representing his principal) will ensure that the uprightness and integrity that Governor Samuel Ortom is noted for will manifest in his handling of the congress.”
Ondo State delegates have failed to agree on a particular candidate for zonal chairman.
The chairman, Fatai Adams, in January said party leaders would meet and decide on aspirants to support.
He said: “We are solid in unity, solid in understanding and political strategy. There is nothing like a clash among us. The fact that you have ambition does not mean a clash.
“We don’t have anything against any of our sons contesting any position at the Zonal Congress. We are very intact in Ondo PDP. Before the zonal congress, all of us will sit down and agree on our position.”
But, the publicity secretary, Kennedy Peretei, said Ondo PDP leaders had agreed to support Arapaja in appreciation of the leadership offered by Makinde in this trying time.
He recalled that Makinde, as leader of the Southwest PDP, stood by the Ondo chapter during the governorship election.
Peretei said: “It is delegate elections and this is payback time for Makinde. Ondo PDP leaders have agreed to support Arapaja. We are not against Olafeso but his interest is not in our interest.”
A chieftain, Dennis Alonge, who objected to Peretei’s claim, said there was no meeting held by the party leaders where Arapaja was adopted.
Alonge said Olafeso had garnered over 60 per cent of Ondo PDP delegates, adding that four of six states in the Southwest have pledged support for him.
He listed the states as Osun, Lagos, Ekiti and Ogun.
Alonge said they trusted Olafeso because of his experience and exemplary leadership style.