Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, are to test their popularity with 756 delegates that will elect officials of the Peoples Democratic Party in the South-West on Monday.
While Makinde is backing a former Deputy Governor of Oyo State, Taofeek Arapaja, for the position of chairman, Fayose is mobilising for Dr Eddy Olafeso.
Olafeso, who is from Ondo State, is a former occupant of the office.
He resigned to contest the party’s governorship ticket in the last Ondo State election, which he lost to Eyitayo Jegede (SAN).
Makinde had wanted the congress to hold in Ibadan, but the Fayose faction wanted it in another venue, saying the Oyo State capital was not safe for it and its supporters.
However, two days ago, the National Working Committee of the party announced Osogbo, Osun State as the venue of the congress after it met with both factions.
A list of delegates to the congress obtained by our correspondent indicated that Arapaja might have been granted a waiver by the NWC, as his name was listed as one of the delegates from Oyo State.
The former Nigeria’s ambassador to Jordan had earlier defected from the PDP to the African Democratic Party, but returned to the PDP a few months ago.
While the names of Makinde and his deputy, Rauf Olaniyan, were listed as number one and two respectively, the name of Arapaja came third on the list of the 177 delegates for the state.
Oyo State, which is the only state being governed by the party, in the South-West has the largest number of delegates among the six states in the geo-political zone.
The list released by the PDP headquarters in Abuja also put the number of delegates from Osun State at 132, followed by Ekiti (119), Ogun (114), Ondo (112) while Lagos State has 102 delegates.
Aspirants to different offices are to learn their fate on Saturday (today) after the screening exercise, which holds in Osogbo.
Those not satisfied with the outcome of the screening are to appeal to a committee set up for the exercise.
According to the party’s letter with reference PDP/DOM/GF.2/VOL.1A/21-036 dated April 8, 2021 and signed by the National Organising Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (retd.), the appeal would sit on Sunday.
The letter, which was addressed to the South-West Zonal Caretaker Committee chairman of the party, Mr Dayo Ogungbenro, was titled, “Re: Notice of zonal congresses in the six (6) geo-political zones change of date.”
In another memo, Akobundu also named Senator Dino Melaye as the chairman of the screening committee while Senator Shetimma Danjuma, Chima Ikieje and Mrs Emilia Ezeude are members of the committee.
Ogo Isreal is to serve as the secretary.
The division between Makinde and Fayose had polarised the party in the zone, just as some state chairmen had pitched their tents between the two former friends.
However, the National Chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus, told our correspondent that the national headquarters of the party would remain neutral in the election, just as he vowed that none of the party members would be treated as an outcast “in our quest to wrest power from the All Progressives Congress.”
He said, “We know how important the South-West is in the political calculation of the country. We know how sophisticated the people are and we also have to say that as a political party, the PDP respects them so much.
“The South-West is a zone that would always want to be under the umbrella of our party. We are therefore treating them with utmost respect. That is why we are doing what we know how to do best in the zone by holding a transparent congress there.
“We do not want an acrimonious congress. Everyone will definitely be a winner at the end of the day.
“I am appealing to our members not to see the congress as a war, but as a mere family contest where winners must emerge.
“At the end of the day, we will all work together to fight a common enemy in the opposition that has improvised the people and made the country insecure for all.”
Meanwhile, the Fayose group which had earlier rejected the choice of Melaye as the chairman of the screening committee had withdrawn its objection.
It said Melaye assured its members of fairness, equity and transparency of his committee.
The group, in a statement by the Ogun State Chairman of the party, Dr Sikirulai Ogundele, said Fayose had spoken with Melaye on phone and he (Fayose) was convinced that the “committee will do its job with a fair mind.”
“We write to withdraw our objection to the appointment of Senator Dino Melaye which was as a result of some misinformation.
‘Our group leader, former Governor Fayose has personally spoken to him expressing confidence in his nomination.
“He remains one of the pillars of our party and we will cooperate with him and the party to make a success of the South-West Zonal Congress,” Sikirulai said.