Strong indications emerged on Sunday that the Peoples Democratic Party might no longer give preference to retired generals and other former military officers in the sharing of positions.
Sources, who confided in The PUNCH, explained that the party’s 13 governors were unanimous in their conviction that it was time to allow “politicians to play politics and do away with ex-generals.”
A few weeks before the PDP national convention, the governors had agreed on a former President of the Senate, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, as the consensus candidate for the national chairmanship position against an ex-Senate President, David Mark, who is a retired general.
Also, the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, who had supported a former Osun State governor, Brig Gen Olagunsoye Oyinlola (retd.), for the position of deputy national chairman (South), made a U-turn when his colleagues convinced him to go for a civilian.
It was learnt that political calculations ahead of the 2023 general elections were responsible for the decision of the governors to support the emergence of Taofik Arapaja instead of Oyinlola.
Arapaja, who until his emergence was the national vice chairman (South-West) of the opposition party, became the toast of the governors, who felt it was time to end the era of ex-military generals calling the shots in the party.
A party leader said, “What transpired at the Eagle Square was a culmination of several months of planning and realignment of interests. It is on record that the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, had earlier presented a former Osun State governor, Olajunsoye Oyinlola, to his colleagues as his choice for the position.
“This changed when after consultation, most of the governors expressed their fears. Makinde felt that the South-West, where he is the leader, would be better off with a trusted politician at the helm in the event that a northerner emerges as the PDP presidential candidate in 2023.
“Ayu will then step down for Arapaja, who is the deputy chairman, South, for balance.
“A similar scenario played out with the emergence of Ayu. David Mark was initially on the card, but Ortom had a change of heart for the same reason.
“To ease the Benue State governor’s dilemma on how to approach Mark, a team of governors was dispatched to sound the ex-Senate president out to see if he was interested.
“In response, Mark told the team that he wasn’t interested in contesting with anyone.
“He added a caveat that if they needed his services, they were free to confer among themselves and let him know. That settled it. Ortom threw his weight behind Ayu and the rest is history.”
In response to claims that the governors moved to end the dominance of retired generals in running the party, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said, “I don’t know those carrying such speculations. One thing I know is that we in the PDP do not discriminate against fellow citizens.
“Our party is a party for all Nigerians, who are genuinely interested in reclaiming our land from the corrupt and irresponsible regime of the All Progressives Congress. We, like most Nigerians, have started the countdown to 2023; we will not be distracted from the task of rescuing our fatherland.”
Some Osun State delegates, however, alleged that Makinde was taking undue advantage of his position as the leader to position his men to the exclusion of other states in the zone.
One of the delegates, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said, “What happened at the end of the day is that Makinde saw him (Oyinlola) as a threat and if he must continue to maintain his dominance in the South-West, he must install his person in that position.
“He knows that Oyinlola is close to most of the power brokers in the country and cannot be kicked around. This was why Makinde used everything within his reach to stop him. But this is not fair.”
Another delegate from the state, Folorunsho Babarinde, said, “The governors decided who they wanted; they are the ones calling the shot in the party. It didn’t start now, and this won’t be the last.”