The elections to the regional positions may have come and gone, with winners having emerged. But to some party leaders, an internal election where a faction out of two won all seats by narrow margins coupled with the policy of winners-take-all, has thrown up new provocations, which must be well managed.
Before the congress, Southwest PDP was divided. Oyo State Governor, Mr. Seyi Makinde led a clique while former governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose led the other camp. The clique engaged each other in war of words and campaign of calumny that almost made reconciliation impossible.
The peace committee of the party, led by former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, held series of meetings with gladiators of the two factions in Lagos and Abuja before the National Working Committee (NWC) intervened. The national leadership was able to avert parallel congresses and made the factions commit to free and fair elections. Besides, it also succeeded in reconciling Makinde and Fayose, and made them to seat under the same roof for a congress.
The congress, which was presided over by the Deputy Governor of Benue State, Chief Benson Abounu, who stood in for his boss, Governor Samuel Ortom, as the Chairman of the Electoral/Congress Committee, was deemed transparent and credible. But how eight extra votes got into the ballot boxes remains a puzzle to a good number of party faithful and keen followers.
The Abounu-led electoral committee announced that for the chairmanship position, “a total of 674 votes were cast while there were 10 voided votes.”
Abonu further disclosed: “Out of 115 Ekiti delegates, 104 were accredited and voted. For Lagos delegates, 90 were accredited out of 101. From Ogun, out of 114 only 101 delegates were accredited. Out of 113 Ondo delegates, 104 were accredited. 111 delegates were accredited out of 134 delegates from Osun, while 165 were accredited out of 171 delegates from Oyo state. 675 delegates were accredited from the six states and 42 aspirants were cleared by the PDP screening committee chaired by former Senator, Dino Melaye.”
But after the election, Ambassador Taofeeq Arapaja, who represented Makinde’s camp, scored 343 while Dr. Eddy Olafeso, who had the support of Fayose’s faction, pulled 330 votes and 10 votes were declared void. The total votes cast was 683 as against 675 accredited delegates, leaving a difference of 8 votes.
Some analysts expressed the opinion that a subtraction of the ‘miraculous’ eight votes and a complete scrutiny of the 10 void votes may present a different result. But others were quick to argue that the void votes might have come from supporters of the two factions, which may make a second look at the ‘magical’ eight votes inconsequential on the outcome of the election.
With a difference of 13 votes, Arapaja emerged the zonal chairman of the party, with all other contestants in Makinde’s group also winning elections to their various posts.
Arapaja is no novice to the politics of the region having been a student and strong ally of the late strongman of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, who made him deputy governor to Otunba Christopher Alao-Akala. When the crisis in Oyo PDP worsened, Arapaja decamped to the African Democratic Congress (ADC), where he had hoped to contest the governorship.
When that ambition failed, he was among the forces that joined hands with Makinde to form a coalition to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the State. Only in March last year, Arapaja returned to the PDP and got a waiver, which gave him the opportunity to vie for the zonal chairmanship of the party.