Alhaji Bisi Olopoeniyan is a grassroots politician in Oyo State and one of the pillars of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who was key in Governor Seyi Makinde’s emergence as governor in 2019. Unfortunately, they both fell apart just after the governor assumed office. He spoke to SEYE OLUMIDE (Southwest Bureau Chief of The Guardian Newspaper) on the party’s internal crisis and the chances of the incumbent getting a second term in 2023, among other issues.
Oyo State chapter of PDP risks losing the next governorship election if it fails to resolve its internal crisis before 2023. What is your take on this?
IT is possible for the party to lose but you must also realise that the two major political parties, the PDP and All Progressives Congress (APC) are having serious crises. It is possible for our party to lose because as long as this kind of crisis that is based on a lack of trust and confidence continues, it may find it difficult as a party to win.
For example in 2007 when former Governor Rasheed Ladoja was in office and he had issues with the late Chief Lamidi Adedibu, though PDP managed to win, it wasn’t easy. Despite that victory, it was the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) that won all legislative seats. If there is a crisis in any political party, such a party is bound to face challenges.
What is the real contention between the aggrieved members and Governor Makinde?
This question should be thrown at Makinde. He is in a better position to respond since he is the one fighting with members of the party. He is only giving the false impression that we are the aggressors to the public. What the members were saying is that Makinde should bring them closer. People cannot work for you to attain victory and then you shun them. Politics is never like that. When we started saying this, it looked as if we wanted to collect money from him or because he is not giving us money. That was the wrong impression Makinde has been giving to outsiders that we wanted him to be dolling out government money to us.
But I can say it clearly to citizens of Oyo and Nigerians that such negative impression Makinde is creating is wrong and malicious. Nobody is asking him for money. It is not possible for anybody to ask a governor to be bringing government money. This is one of the reasons the crisis is getting worse. The truth that we are telling the governor is that it is the party that makes the electorate vote, it is the party that puts down a candidate and if such party is in shambles, it is always very difficult for it to get the electorate to vote. We are only asking the governor to make members of the party happy. It is practically impossible to discard members of the party that facilitated your victory.
Makinde has no political structure in the party that brought him to power in 2019 and up till now, he hasn’t built one. We are just telling him to bring people closer to himself and to also do the needful by positioning them. Of course, these people will need to return to their various bases to mobilise voters for the next election. Immediately Makinde got into power, he just discarded people as if he won the election on his own. Anywhere he goes, he is fond of saying he doesn’t have a godfather whereas when we were taking him all over Oyo state, we were his godfather then. He was following us all over the place. At that time, Makinde used to come to my house and I took him to all the politicians in Oyo. I remembered after the governorship primary when Senator Adesun was angry, I am the one who was carrying Makinde all over the place to meet Baba Saka Balogun, Chief Oyelese, Taoheed Adedoja and others. These people are still alive; you can go and verify. I am the one that stood as his mouthpiece to pacify the aggrieved leaders.
Nobody is asking Makinde for money; I am saying it confidently that all the stakeholders he (Makinde) is now fighting are comfortable. Makinde drove people from himself; he didn’t allow people to have that sense of belonging. I went to London to convince Makinde to return to PDP. I introduced Makinde to almost all those he knows at the party today.
When the crisis started, what did the elders and stakeholders do to restore peace?
It is the elders and the same stakeholders you are referring to that Makinde is fighting. We couldn’t talk to him. A committee was set up, headed by Dr. Saka Balogun, who is a former BoT member of PDP. The committee couldn’t do anything. Another committee, headed by former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, was set up. It also failed to achieve anything. Chief Olabode George also came to Oyo from Lagos to resolve the issue, yet nothing positive came out of it. These are leaders of PDP.
Former Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki called all of us to Abuja and he also came to Ibadan to reconcile us, the effort ended in futility. When Taofeek Arapaja emerged as national vice chairman Southwest, he moved around to resolve the issue but his efforts ended in vain. As a matter of fact, what Arapaja did throughout the little period he spent as national vice chairman Southwest, was to reconcile us but his efforts ended in vain. So, which leader of the party are you expecting to come and settle what? God will not come down to settle our crisis.
Are you saying Makinde is the one averse to reconciliation or you people are also playing deliberate politics to get him out?
I say it without fear of contradiction that in the Oyo chapter of PDP, Makinde is a stranger. He can afford to do whatever he likes. He doesn’t know what it took us to build this party, so he wouldn’t care if it collapses. He is the one fighting with people and nobody is fighting with him. It is not possible to fight with a governor because a governor has everything to his advantage such that nobody can afford to confront him as far as Nigeria politics is concerned. But Makinde is misappropriating that power. It is disgusting that things that have never happened are now taking place under Makinde in Oyo PDP. Those that are not supposed to speak are the ones boasting now because they feel that they have the governor’s backing. The whole problem is about Makinde.
In 2019, almost three governorship aspirants stepped down for Makinde on the basis of an agreement that was reached but they have all turned against the governor. Would that not also affect PDP in 2023?
This is an indication that there is a problem in Oyo PDP. The governor knows there is a serious issue in the party. He may be boasting openly that there is no problem but in his mind, he knows there is a serious problem. I know that Makinde is conscious of the fact that Oyo PDP at present has a terrible problem. He cannot continue like this and win the second term. Can you imagine some set of new breed governors of PDP boasting that they are taking over the party’s structure from the founding members of the party?
All these cannot help the party and that is exactly what Makinde is doing in Oyo.
However, let me tell you the way things are in Oyo PDP, other governorship aspirants will contest the party’s ticket with Makinde in 2023. For instance, Olukayode Popoola has indicated interest, even the deputy governor to Makinde is also bracing up. They are many who wanted to contest. The fact is Oyo PDP now has two factions – one loyal to Makinde and the other belongs to those of us who are the godfathers that brought the governor to power.
Are you saying PDP may likely have two candidates in 2023 with the separate executives in place now?
There cannot be two candidates for election but at the party level, there may be factional chairmen and excos. With the development at present, I don’t see what cannot happen. But with the proposed direct primary law, if Mr President eventually signs the Bill, then the struggle to control the executive and also control the delegates would not be necessary again. Every contestant will go and test his or her popularity before the people. I don’t see the significance of the executive anymore other than for all aspirants to behave appropriately.
But Makinde recently boasted that he is in charge of the executive just as he urged them to ensure peace within the party?
The question you should ask or what you should investigate as a journalist is whether there is peace among the followers of Makinde. You can see that the chairman of our own executive responded almost immediately that Makinde is not the owner of the party. We all obtained forms and contested elections.
But the governor was able to install Arapaja as deputy national vice-chairman Southwest against the desire of former governor, Ayo Fayose, who preferred Dr Eddy Olafeso. He also went ahead to also install the same man as deputy National chairman against former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Yet, you are saying he doesn’t have structure?
No, don’t rate him based on that. We call those intra-party politics. When we went to Osogbo in Osun State for the Southwest Congress election, Arapaja simply defeated Eddy Olafeso to become the Southwest vice national chairman with a 13 votes margin. About 13 out of Olafeso’s votes were voided. The election was done inside one hall. Even the national convention that was held in Abuja, was not as if Arapaja dusted Oyinlola. There was a unity list, which all the governors agreed to. I want to tell you that if Governor Nyesome Wike of Rivers State had supported Oyinlola, the result would have been otherwise. Makinde is with Wike, otherwise, our governor cannot single-handedly instal Arapaja. He doesn’t know anybody in PDP. Where did Arapaja campaign? Somebody that wanted to contest in Abuja and pasted posters at Gate in Ibadan. The governor and his followers don’t really understand the game.
Makinde doesn’t understand intra party elections, so it is not right to say that he is now the superman of Southwest PDP. Unity list has always been like that since PDP was founded. It was a consensus arrangement.
The national headquarters of PDP disqualified the likes of Olafeso from contesting for national office…
Cuts in. They said Olafeso took the party to court and likewise Professor Wale Oladipo, and Akintan in Ogun state and they were disqualified. But the same party took Adagunodo, who is still in court against the party, to replace Arapaja. Can you imagine the injustice even at the national level? You disqualified some people from contesting for national offices because they took the party to court but thereafter they went ahead to pick someone who is still in court with the party as a national officer. Adagunodo carried Osun PDP to court. You can see the level of injustice in the party.
Everything has changed in PDP except if God rearranged it. It was the same court the party used to remove former National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus. The reason Olafeso and co were disqualified is that they went to challenge how Secondus was disqualified in court. The present managers of PDP are nothing to write home about. I can say that the party is now upside down.
Are you implying that if PDP continues the way it is now, there is no hope for it in 2023?
The party disqualified Wale Oladipo from running for national deputy chairman, Eddy Olafeso as national publicity Secretary and Honourable Akintan as deputy National secretary. The managers of the present PDP know nothing. They cannot take the party anywhere in 2023. The governors are the ones controlling the party and I tell you, they will scatter later. Before Makinde can boast of anything in Oyo, let him secure the ticket and also get his second term. He will have to deliver all the national and state assemblies seats. If he does that, then he is a superman of Southwest PDP. It is an ongoing game; let us wait.
Can Makinde win second term in 2023?
He must first and foremost get the party’s ticket and if he gets it, I can bet that it will be very difficult for him to win the governorship election. With what is ongoing, I doubt, except the PDP resolves its crisis. Makinde can use the Abuja connection to get a re-nomination ticket but that will not guarantee his victory in Oyo. If they like, let them bring all the hoodlums in Nigeria to Oyo State in 2023, they will see real politics. Makinde didn’t do well at all, and I least care whether he performs or not. If he is claiming to have performed, fine; more grace to his elbows.