BUT for the emergence of the dreaded Coronavirus, members of the Ondo State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would have picked their leader. The party has concluded its wards and local government congresses peacefully and was on the verge of holding state congress for the election of new state executives when the state government placed a ban on political gathering, following the outbreak of Coronavirus.
The Ondo State Government, as part of measures to curb the spread of the virus, otherwise known as COVID-19, placed a ban on all political, social and religious gatherings for 14 days in the first instance. It urged the PDP to consider postponing its state congress, which was scheduled for March 24.
In a statement by its spokesman, Zadok Akintoye, the party postponed the congress, in obedience to the government’s regulations. The statement reads: “However, based on the order and instruction of the Ondo State Government and its directive banning all social gatherings, we hereby announce the postponement of our state congress scheduled for tomorrow for 14 days in line with the instruction of the state government.
“Our party shall engage the Ondo State government in discussions to find a way around resolving this issue. All members of the PDP in Ondo State are therefore advised to remain in their respective locations in line with the directive of government.”
Incumbent Chairman, Clement Faboyede is not seeking another term in office. The major reason is that the Ondo Central senatorial district has held onto the position for 13 years and the position this time around has been zoned to Ondo North senatorial district.
Two persons are in the race to succeed Faboyede. They are Fatai Adams and Arole Dennis Alonge-Niyi. Adams is the incumbent Deputy Chairman. He was a former lawmaker in the Ondo House of Assembly. Alonge on his part served as Chairman of Ose Local Government. He was also a Senior Special Assistant to former Governor Olusegun Mimiko and a National Youth Leader of the party.
Faboyede is in support of Adams, a decision many party members have viewed as undemocratic and a plot to block other contestants. They accused the incumbent chairman of plotting to put his stooges in the executive when he leaves office.
The party members said the Ondo PDP has been weakened under Faboyede and his executives. To them, the PDP cannot win any election with Faboyede pulling the strings after he has left office. Critics of the outgoing executive said the party has been docile in the state is the main opposition party.
Alonge-Niyi said the Ondo PDP is not doing enough as a party in opposition. His words: “An opposition party should seek themselves as an alternative government. As it is today, the PDP should be looking at itself as the party people are looking up to or a government in waiting.
It is quite unfortunate that the party structure and organs as presently constituted are weak. There is no argument about that. Thank God there is no crisis in the party. When an organ of a party is weak, hardly can it meet up with the yearnings of the people.
“The Ondo people yearn to see a vibrant opposition which virtually is not on the ground. The state party presently led by Faboyede is busy on how to install a successor rather than putting the government on its toes. Unless there is a change, unless there are highly determined party members who will be constituted as a new executive of the party with the blessing of the people, the ability to be a vibrant opposition will be missing.
“The PDP will win if I become the chairman because of my fighting spirit. We are talking to the Unity Forum of the APC. The larger majority want to come back to the PDP. Even those who were in AD are talking to us. They want to come back. They want a dogged fighter and a man they can queue behind and not just a dummy. We will win the election based on projected new executives to pilot affairs of the party.”
On what he hoped to do if elected, Alonge promised to restructure the Ondo PDP, prompt payment of staff salaries and allowed young party members to grow. He said: “Our party needs restructuring but some of our people termed it sending some people packing or retiring some leaders.
That is not restructuring. The restructuring I mean is that we go for aggressive recruitment. We have not had enough members and people say we want to send some away. We do things along with the constitutional provision of our party.
The constitution the PDP will come first. That will be our bible. It was from the PDP constitution that the APC and other parties copied theirs. The only way we have gone astray is that we have brought in impunity. We have decided to throw the party’s constitution aside. Our restructuring means doing things in line with laid down principles of our party. If we do that there will be a reward for hard work.
“We will not be promoting failures. We will not be promoting men and women who have chosen to stay away but when the food is ready, they are waiting to be served. We will play our role as opposition in this state. By the time we play our role as expected by the people, the party will get the people’s sympathy.
The sectors where this government failed to exceed those it performed. We will use the party to promote young men and women in the streets. If I win, I will give recognition to the young and the old, women and our youths. Funding will be given adequate attention. As it is today, Ondo PDP staffs are being owed 14 months’ salary. Such a party is already dead and we will wake it up.”
Adams, on his part, denied being a stooge of the outgoing chairman. He said he can lead the Ondo PDP to victory in the forthcoming governorship election. He said he was a former lawmaker and has his independent mind to operate without interference.
He said: “I will reconcile all members and unite all factions. Some saw themselves as new PDP and others have an inferiority complex. I have been a PDP member and I have not defected to any other party. The PDP will be strong under me.”
But, the outgoing chairman denied attempting to impose a successor, saying he equally reserves the right to support anybody capable of leading the party. He described Adams as a wonderful and loyal party member that deserves his support. His words: “I am not projecting anybody.
I have a right to support anybody. I am leaving this seat and I have the right to support a candidate to succeed me, but I do it in a civilised way. I am not doing it in a do or die affair. I announced that I am stepping aside.
The State Executive Council met and they zoned the chairmanship position to the North and my deputy hails from that senatorial district. He said he wants to contest. Dennis said he wants to contest. I have a right of choice and my right of choice is Adams Fatai. I believe that with him it is like the continuity of the process.
“Apart from being a gentleman, he is a man of administration. I met him in the PDP as a deputy chairman and he became my deputy. He has a lot of experience. The man is endowed. He has not given me trouble. What I don’t understand he will explain to me. He keeps records of everything.
When this secretariat was abandoned after we left power, he was the only person coming here and attending to party members and staffers. He was in the House of Assembly even before I was made a commissioner. He was Chairman House Committee on Works.
How can he be my stooge? When you have mechanical efficiency that is very high, people tends to talk rubbish of you to demean you because of envy. He is not my stooge. He is a disciplined man. He is serious with his work. I see in him an embodiment of administration. He has been deputy chairman of the PDP in Ondo State for the past eight years. He has been here all through the crisis.
“He will be able to synergies the party secretariat. If we bring a professor to this seat, we will fumble in the election. Politics is about knowing who is who at the appropriate time. It is about fixing the right people at the right time and the right character for the right obligation. We have elections and he is the man that understands the terrain and will not give anybody a problem. I will campaign for him and I have no regret about that.”
On allegations that the party has been weakened, Faboyede said those criticising his administration were unjust, blind and wrong. He said Ondo PDP has no crisis under him as what is happening other Southwest states.
“The zonal chairman was almost sleeping in Lagos to settle quarrels. Ogun had a parallel congress. Ekiti is having problems. But in Ondo it is peace. Is that a weak administration? They may say we are weak because we are not abusing the governor.
They may say we are weak because we are not tackling Akeredolu. We don’t believe in that tactics. We do constructive criticism. We have told the governor severally that he is not performing. That has manifested in the presidential and National Assembly elections in this state. You are all witnesses. In this state where we have a sitting governor, the PDP got two senators out of three.
We got 35,550 votes ahead of Buhari in the presidential elections. That was first in the Southwest. Out of nine House of Representatives seats, PDP has three. APC has four which was contested at the tribunal. Is that a weak PDP? Detractors are like that but God has been with us. We are winning the October 10 governorship election in Ondo because there is no rancour in the PDP.
Those APC stooges, those insatiable politicians that want to cause rancour in the party we will not allow them. I have an aura of positivity; I have an aura of progressivism. I was a commissioner for six years in Ondo State. They know my track record and the energy God has bestowed on me. PDP is number one in Ondo State. We will prove that on October 10 and by the grace of God PDP government will be sworn in by October 12.”