High Chief Simeon Adebayo Ajeigbe, an engineer, is an elder in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State. The 77-year-old member of the elders’ caucus of the party speaks with KUNLE ODEREMI on the interplay of forces within the party and the PDP national leadership’s step aside order on the state chairman, Honourable Soji Adagunodo. Excerpts:
WHAT do you think is the underlining issue in the simmering leadership crisis in Osun State PDP?
First and foremost, it is very important to correct the erroneous impression that there is leadership crisis in Osun State PDP. It is not about the entire leadership of the PDP in Osun but about Honourable Soji Adagunodo, the former state chairman, and no more. It is about enforcement of rule of law, transparency, probity and accountability, such that anyone occupying the position of authority in the party bows to the constitution of the party no matter how highly placed. Integrity must not be sacrificed on the altar of politics. It is therefore a misnomer to describe the current issues in Osun PDP as a leadership crisis. How can one describe the alleged anti-party activities of the PDP state chairman as a leadership crisis? The truth of this matter was that there were petitions written against the former chairman Honourable Adagunodo, by party members. These petitions were not anonymous. In the wisdom of the party at the national level, a high level panel made up of senators and a former minister was sent to Osun to investigate these allegations. The panel came and heard all the parties. The petitioners and the former chairman gave evidence before the panel. The panel submitted its report to the national body of the party and in their report, they came to the conclusion that there were merits in the allegations levelled against the former party’s state chairman Honourable Adagunodo. The national body of the party after reviewing the report, came to a conclusion that Adagunodo should step aside while his case was further referred to the National disciplinary committee before a final position will be taken. The national body issued a letter to him to step aside and hand over his office to his deputy who will be holding forth in acting capacity.
There are insinuations in certain camps in the Osun PDP that the crisis is about a plan by the loyalists of the governorship candidate of the past in the 2018 governorship candidate to hijack PDP machinery?
I have read Dr Olu Alabi’s interview in the Nigerian Tribune and to say I am disappointed like most members is to put it mildly. Firstly, his unsubstantiated allegations and wild rhetoric against the Adeleke family, to say the least, reflects an unacceptable mind set from someone who is a BOT member and should be seen as a rallying person within the party for peace rather than being very acrimonious and being an agent of discord in the party. Can you imagine a PDP BOT member saying that the PDP victory in the Osun State gubernatorial election was quashed at the Supreme Court based on senator Ademola Adeleke’s qualifications, when it was crystal clear to the whole world and even to the All Progressives Congress (APC) that the PDP’s candidate won at the tribunal but the victory was upturned by the appellate court for reason of absence of a member of the panel from the proceedings for just one day.
How Dr Alabi could forget so soon how a kangaroo re-run election was done in some wards in Osun State, during which the APC-led government arrested and brutalised many PDP leaders and members, remains a puzzle.
Insinuations, gossips and what have you are not uncommon in political space. The important thing to find out is whether there is any iota of truth in these gossips and speculations. It is common knowledge that the Adeleke family has been involved in the politics of this country many decades before now. The patriarch of the dynasty, who was the father of the Adelekes, was himself a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Senator Alhaji Isiaka Adetunji Adeleke, of blessed memory was the first executive governor of Osun State and was a two time senator. In the recent past, Senator Ademola Adeleke was also a senator and the Governorship candidate of the PDP in the 2018 election, an election he won but the Federal Government using the instrumentality of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and judicial process, robbed the PDP of its hardearned victory. In all these, no one came with the theory that the Adeleke dynasty wanted to hijack the party.
Let me stress at this point that parties in all democracies are jointly driven and no one can ascribe this nebulous assertions that a family wanted to hijack the party. It is on record that Senator Ademola Adeleke participated in a keenly contested primary which he won. The dynasty is also being blackmailed in order for them to withdraw their support for the party. It is necessary to put things straight. It must be recalled that after the Supreme court judgment, Adagunodo led the entire State Exco of the party alongside leaders of the party like Prince Diran Odeyemi, Dr. Peter Babalola, Akogun Lere Oyewumi and many others to Ede country home of the Adelekes, where a motion was moved unanimously adopting Senator Ademola Adeleke as the candidate of the party for the 2022 election. The Adelekes retorted by rejecting the offer stating that internal democracy as enshrined in the PDP’s constitution be followed and that all interested parties be given a level playing ground as a matter of fair play. Is it therefore reasonable to postulate that the Adelekes wanted to hijack the party at the state level?
Senator Olu Alabi claimed the Adeleke group was behind the travails of Honourable Adagunodo because he is seen as the possible obstacle to Ademola Adeleke emerging as PDP’s candidate in 2022. Why such stance?
I consider it unfair on the family of the Adeleke for anyone who has no courage to blame Adagunodo for betraying his oath of office and allegiance to PDP. How can the anti-party acts of the state chairman as alleged by the petitioners which was brought to his notice is now being explained on the basis of wanting to hijack the party. Let Adagunodo come out clean and let him present himself to the National Disciplinary Committee in Abuja and once he is free, the same national body will reinstate him and he will become stronger. Some of us, who believe in the leadership of Adagunodo were shocked to hear these allegations against him.
Senator Alabi is also a member of the BoT of the PDP. I have gone through his press release and I am saddened that he is neck deep in the blind defence of Honourable Adagunodo. With apology to Dr Alabi, I want to believe that he only spoke for himself as a member of the BOT or at least, the extreme minority in the BOT, and not for the entire BOT members. How can you claim in all sincerity that the PDP lost at the Supreme Court because Senator Ademola Adeleke had no qualification to contest the elections. This is farther from the truth. The sole question relied on by the Supreme Court was the absence of the Justice Obiorah (who was said to be absent) in court on the 7th February 2019 but gave the leading judgment. The matter is of history now. It is clear now to the Thomases that the heart of Dr Alabi is with the APC while his body is with the PDP. For fear of repetition, Senator Ademola Adeleke in 2018 did not muzzle his co-aspirants but the mass support of the party faithful saw him to victory. It must be clear to the likes of Senator Alabi that it is only God that can position us to high offices not by human manipulations. I have no doubt in my mind that if they call for primary election today in PDP, Senator Ademola Adeleke will win Dr Alabi cum Adagunodo and their surrogates hands down. The Adelekes believe in free and fair election that was why the 2018 primary election was held. The same people who are crying now, were the same people who wanted to encourage Senator Ademola Adeleke as the sole candidate of the party in 2018 which was rejected by the family.
What are your fears if the current crisis is not resolved quickly, given the trajectory of the Osun PDP?
It’s a simplistic fact that in unity lies strength and that’s why, I as an elder,will always appeal for unity; let’s remember that Adagunodo has not been removed as chairman. As earlier said, the current upheaval has nothing to do with 2022. The party is not losing its sleep on this matter. The party is intact.
What will be your candid advice for the stakeholders on the current situation before it gets out of hand?
I and many others will continue to strive for unity and peace in the party,recognising that progress and victory is achievable when all are genuinely faithful and committed to the party’s wellbeing (not as traitors, fifth columnists or saboteurs) let there be due process. Let the party’s constitution be respected, the Executive Committee (EXCO) at all levels be allowed to function optionally by members and including the BOT members who should act as agents of concord not discord. In the light of the foregoing, all party faithful are enjoined to give their maximum support to the party as currently being led by Honourable Sunday Akanfe. Members of the party should not be disillusioned by the stepping aside of Honourable Soji Adagunodo. The party is greater than any individual. Members of the party should close ranks, work together and united in the onerous task of wining the Governorship election in 2022 by the grace of God. The PDP will come out of this current misunderstanding stronger than before.