The chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State, Alhaji Gani Olaoluwa, in this interview with MOSES ALAO, speaks on the state of affairs in PDP at the national and state levels, among other issues. Excerpts:
OSUN PDP stakeholders recently held a meeting where they criticised former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola for joining the New PDP as its national secretary when a court case he instituted for the manner he was treated as PDP national secretary was still pending. What informed that position?
I am happy that reporters were present at the meeting and saw the massive attendance; we want people to know that Osun PDP is still one and we are not divided. The meeting was necessitated by the breakaway of some people to form a faction of the party in which our leader, Oyinlola was made the secretary and our leaders felt we should address the situation.
We held two meetings in Abuja at the NICON Hilton and then, we called a stakeholders’ and general meeting and afterwards addressed newsmen.
Our position was informed by the need to ensure that the party is united ahead the 2014 governorship election, because an Osun is different from others. Other state chapters can continue with their crisis till next year, but we cannot because election is next year. So, we warned our members not to attend any factional meeting. If anyone wants to be a PDP member, he should stay committed; we do not want ‘One in Ghana, one in Togo’ dealing. If anyone wants to be a member of the original PDP, he should be and if you decide to join the fake PDP, go ahead but we do not want anti-party activities.
At the meetings we had in Abuja, most of our leaders were present, including some of the governorship aspirants and those who could not make it there, sent representatives. It was at the meeting in Abuja that we decided that a stakeholders’ meeting should be convened in Osogbo, so that people would know the stand of the party. This same person went to court to challenge his ouster as the national secretary of PDP and it was because of that case that the election was not held for the post of national secretary at the special convention. But he went ahead to become secretary in the factional PDP and one person cannot be secretary in two places, that can destroy the party and that was why we took the decision.
Before matters got to this point, did the stakeholders and the party make any effort to know Oyinlola’s side of the story and why he did what he did?
Yes. The party in Odo-Otin Local Government has taken steps to investigate why he took such step and they have promised to give us a feedback. But the funny thing that will really not make anyone probe for too long or ask him why he took the step was the fact that he was the first to get to the Osun pavilion at the convention. I led the delegates to the pavilion and we met Chief Oyinlola, we greeted him and we all sat down, exchanging banters as brothers and sisters. This continued till the time to cut the cake, Oyinlola led Osun delegates to the cake and we all danced and made merry; our pavilion was a cynosure for others and we were all convinced that with that level of unity, the 2014 governorship election would be a sure victory. When it was also time to vote, he voted and then said he wanted to leave. I asked him to wait till we finished the voting process, but he said he wanted to use the toilet; he excused himself to people that he was going to ease himself and we knew nothing until we got to the hotel room and saw on TV that he had been made the secretary of the so-called new PDP.
Don’t you think the unity in your party is already heading for the rocks with three of your four governorship aspirants said to be loyal to Oyinlola?
I do not agree with you. Any of them that say he doesn’t agree with the decisions taken by the party on Oyinlola should hold a press conference or make a statement.
Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi said the meeting in Osogbo was not representative enough while Alhaji Fatai Akinbade said he was not a party to the decision.
They could say that to the press, but Olasunkanmi cannot sit among the leaders and say such thing because he was one of the most vehement at the meeting in Abuja while speaking on what Oyinlola did. He has pledged his allegiance to PDP, so saying the meeting was not representative is a non-issue because he was among those who took the same decision earlier in Abuja and even promised to be in Osogbo. As for Akinbade, he could say whatever he likes because when we invited him to the first meeting, he didn’t come and the second meeting, he told us that he would have been present but he sent Honourable Gbenga Onigbogi, saying he didn’t come because he could not get a plane. For the meeting in Osogbo, I invited him and he told me that he had a management meeting in Ibadan that he would come when he was through. How else do we carry him along?
He also spoke with some stakeholders and he assured them that whatever was agreed upon at the meeting was okay with him. He was a former party chairman in the state and he knew the importance of the party. Look, Oyinlola is not anyone’s enemy in Osun PDP. I was once his Special Adviser, but party matters are separate from individuals’ When Oyinlola was to be governor in 2003, Akinbade was the party chairman in the state; the aspirations of 23 governorship aspirants were sacrificed for him and all of them except, Bibilari supported him for more than seven years before the court ruling that ended his government. Also, when he was to be PDP national Secretary, all the party leaders in the state had agreed that Chief Ebenezer Babatope, should be supported for the post but Oyinlola later came out and the leaders all supported him. If Akinbade wants to be governor, he has to respect the party leaders at the national and state levels because people respected him when he was chairman. So, if any of our aspirants is showing loyalty to the new PDP, he should have a rethink, as the position he is gunning for requires that he should be seen to be 100 per cent loyal to the president and party at the national and state levels.
With the crisis in the party from the state to the national level, is there any chance for your party in the 2014 governorship election and the 2015 general elections?
What you call crisis cannot hinder us from winning. Have you asked yourself why all these are not happening in the All Progressives Congress (APC) or Labour Party or any other party at that? It is because in Nigeria today, PDP is the only strong and stable party and it is in a party in which you are guaranteed victory if you can get its ticket. More than 50 parties were registered, if anyone says he is powerful; why not go to any of them where no one will struggle with him? But no one wants to leave PDP, knowing that if he wins the primaries he is confirmed to win the main election. You saw our national convention, look at the beauty of democracy. Other parties, especially APC did their convention and you saw what happened, can you compare it with the PDP convention?
Have you forgotten the strength of a majority which, APC comprising more than three parties, will bring to the field, especially with the fact that they have no internal crisis?
Who told you they have no crisis? Have you even seen anywhere more than two people with different interests will gather and not have crisis? When it is time to share posts, you will see what will happen in APC; in fact, their crisis will destroy the party outright. We will solve our disagreements in PDP but by the time their crisis begins, it will be terrible.
Are you really sure the people of Osun will favour your party against the government of Governor Rauf Aregbesola which many say has been performing wonderfully well?
What performance are you talking about? Tell me; is it the demolition of people’s houses and properties or the huge amount wasted on Opon Imo? They said they would turn Osun to small London, constructed huge bill boards of how the new Osun would be but we have not seen the reality after three years. Aregbesola is running a government of signposts and billboards but you journalists don’t go verify. These are what you tag performing wonderfully well?