The National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, and the party’s presidential candidate for the February 25, 2023 election, Atiku Abubakar, have come under criticism by party members and chieftains for failing to go to Ekiti State to campaign for the party’s governorship candidate in the June 18 election.
The party stalwarts said their neglect of the candidate, Bisi Kolawole, contributed to the party’s loss at the poll as well as created a bad impression about the party and its candidate.
Kolawole, who polled 67,457 votes, came third, while Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party came second with 82,211 votes, and the winner, Biodun Oyebanji, of the All Progressives Congress scored 187,057 votes. Not less than 15 political parties partook in the exercise.
Ahead of the election, the party on June 9 constituted an 80-member National Campaign Council, but the council, like Ayu and Atiku, didn’t visit the state to campaign for the candidate.
But, conversely, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, led 14 APC governors to the state to campaign for Oyebanji. The party’s chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and its pioneer interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, were also present at the mega rally.
The PDP campaign council was to be chaired by Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State was named as the deputy chairman, while Adedamola Adegbite was to serve as the Administrative Secretary. Governors Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State; Deputy National Chairman (South), Taofeek Arapaja, and Samuel Anyanwu were among the members.
While expressing his dissatisfaction over the issue, a PDP chieftain in Osun State and immediate past deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, Diran Odeyemi, said in a telephone interview with Saturday PUNCH that Ayu and Atiku’s absence contributed significantly to the party’s loss in the election. He argued that the refusal to openly campaign for Kolawole before the poll created a negative perception for the party and its candidate.
He added, “Atiku, Ayu and PDP governors left the people of Ekiti, majority of whom supported PDP in the cold. They looked up to these personalities but they never showed up before or during the poll.
“The National Campaign Council constituted by Ayu was put in place just four days before the poll whereas Senator Bola Tinubu was in Ekiti with many APC governors, campaigning for Biodun Oyebanji.
“Now that the chances of PDP winning Ekiti have been thrown out by the Ayu-led national leadership, we need to remind Atiku, Ayu and other today’s leaders of the PDP that the fate of our party in 2023 election now rests on the outcome of Osun State governorship poll.”
However, a member of the party’s Board of Trustees from Oyo State, Dr Saka Balogun, blamed the party’s loss in the election mainly on leadership crisis in Ekiti State, noting however that if all the leaders had worked together, the result would have been different.
Balogun, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday, argued that the former National Chairman of the party, Uche Secondus, committed some blunders, as applicable to the state by relating with individuals instead of leaders, but that Ayu ratified the blunders.
He said, “In Ekiti State, the problem really has to do with leadership. With all the activities, dynamism, passion and courage which you can identify with former Governor Ayo Fayose, he appeared to be playing the role of a lodestar. Until we are able to resolve the leadership problem in Ekiti, I don’t think we are going anywhere.
“We are divided in Ekiti. How can PDP fail in Ekiti East Local Government Area, where Senator Biodun Olujimi comes from? We succeeded only in Efon Alaaye LGA (where Kolawole hails from). I think what happened was a collective tragedy for the PDP, including myself.”
Ogun leaders disagree
Meanwhile, party members in Ogun State expressed mixed reactions over Ayu and Atiku’s absence during the campaigns.
The youth leader of the party in the state, Sunkanmi Oyejide, said Ayu and Atiku’s presence would have boosted the morale of party members , but the party had other assignments.
He added, “The party raised a campaign council and the chairman can grace rallies in states, but that does not win elections; it is about reaching out to the grass roots. Also, the national chairman and Atiku cannot be everywhere. The party was busy with how to reconcile the aggrieved members after the convention. Atiku cannot neglect that. It is not about the national chairman not coming to the state. That election was not free and fair.”
A former member of state House of Assembly and party leader, Fasiu Bakene, disagreed that the absence of the two party leaders was responsible for the outcome of the election.
He added, “The party’s loss cannot be because they were not there. It was a one-day programme. Anybody who wanted to vote PDP must have developed that interest with or without the final rally. Their presence would have added colour to it but it would only ginger party members.”
Meanwhile, the acting chairman of the party in Ekiti State, Lanre Omolase, said in an interview with one of our correspondents on Saturday that the failure to hold the mega rally and the absence of the party’s leadership was a setback to the party.
He added, “Definitely, not having a mega rally and the absence of the leaders (to campaign in the state) affected the performance of the party because that would have boosted our morale more.
“The national leaders asked us precisely on Tuesday of that (election) week but it was already booked by the APC. They asked for Wednesday, there was no way we could use one day to prepare for a mega rally, and Thursday, being the last day for campaigns, was already booked by the SDP. There was no way the police commissioner could give two political parties approval for political rallies on the same day. It affected us and there was no sufficient time to prepare.
“Above all, we have put all those ones behind us and we have started moving on with the party because we know we still have crucial elections – presidential, National Assembly and House of Assembly – coming up. We won’t leave anything to chance.”
Also, the Publicity Secretary of the party in the state, Raphael Adeyanju, who corroborated the chairman’s account, added that there was no way the national leadership, the presidential candidate and the governors would have come since the rally didn’t hold.
Speaking on the likely effect of not holding the rally, Adeyanju admitted that it could send a wrong signal that the party was not on ground and even affect the result because the majority of voters like to vote for parties they believe could win.
He added, “When voters see crowds, which would naturally have happened at the mega rally, it can sway them. The electorate believe that such a rally would show the strength or weakness of the party and they get on the bandwagon, believing that rallies that have crowds would win. So, it can be a factor for our loss.”
Corroborating him, a PDP member, Omotoso Okeya, said, “I can rightly adduce that (absence) as one of the reasons for the poor performance of the party because many party members actually expected that they would come. Parties like the APC and SDP had their mega rallies in which their leaders came to campaign for their candidates. That the PDP did not have such, no doubt, contributed to the poor performance of the party.
The Ekiti party leaders said Kolawole was duly elected as the party’s candidate, adding that insinuations that he was imposed by Fayose were false.
S/West leader speaks
The General Secretary of the party in the South-West, Rahman Owokoniran, said the party lost the election due to some internal crisis, noting that Atiku, Ayu and other leaders were absent because the party managers in the state did not plan the campaign properly.
He stressed that the party had begun reconciliation and consolidation processes that would ensure the party’s victory in the July 16 governorship election in Osun State.
He added, “There was some crisis within the party. As you can see, the campaign wasn’t as successful as it should have been. You also notice that (Segun) Oni’s movement to the SDP was the aftermath of the crisis within the party. That informed most of the challenges the party faced during that particular election and that was what brought us to the finishing line. So, we have to go back and reorder our steps and bring everybody together.”
Speaking to Atiku and Ayu’s absence, he stated, “It has nothing to do with Atiku and Ayu, it was the party’s managers in Ekiti that created a problem in the state. Atiku had won the primary then, so if the managers wanted Atiku, he would not be the one to organise the campaign, he would only be part of the process as a stakeholder, but the managers in Ekiti let themselves and the party down. That was what led to the failure of the party in Ekiti.”
‘We lacked funds’
Meanwhile, the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr Debo Ologunagba, said the campaign council constituted for the election could not go to Ekiti due to paucity of funds.
He told one of our correspondents in an interview, “It is quite true that the party constituted a campaign council that will go for the Ekiti election. However, there were no funds at the time that would take care of them; therefore, they were unable to go.”
On the preparations for the Osun governorship poll, he said, “The party is very prepared to go to Osun to support the party’s candidate, unlike in Ekiti.”