Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors may have rejected the ambition of former Osun State Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola to serve as the next deputy national chairman (South) of the opposition party, it was learnt yesterday.
The governors have resolved to back the National Vice Chairman (Southwest), Alhaji Taofeek Arapaja, who is eyeing the slot, a source said.
Despite the governors’ endorsement of Arapaja, Oyinlola has not indicated that he would withdraw from the race
The third contender, Prof. Adewale Oladipo, has been disqualified from contesting for taking the party to court in the past.
The Deputy National Chairman (South) has been micro-zoned to the Southwest, which only produced the lone PDP governor, Seyi Makinde, during the 2019 elections.
The calculation is that since PDP is likely to pick its 2023 presidential candidate from the North, whoever emerges as the national chairman at the national convention is expected to step down in the spirit of equity and balance.
If he steps down, the Deputy National Chairman (South) may automatically succeed him as national chairman.
Arapaja, a former House of Representatives member and one-time deputy governor of Oyo State, is being sponsored by Makinde, the secretary of the National Convention Committee, who has rallied his colleagues at the PDP Governors’ Forum for support.
Giving an insight into why Oyinlola, a retired Brigadier-General, was rejected by the governors, the source said the governors were uncomfortable with his closeness to former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, who were his bosses in the Army.
“They felt that he will take party decisions to Abeokuta or Minna, where his primary loyalty lies as a soldier. It appears the young men who decide what happens now in PDP want to resist the influence of the Generals,” he said.
He explained that the leaders of the party today are pushing for generational shift.
According to the source, the governors felt that as the national secretary, he betrayed the party which he dumped for the “N-PDP,” from where he defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and campaigned for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.
The source added:”Things have changed in the PDP. Oyinlola’s support base now is not big to command recognition. In Osun State, it is evident that the machinery is controlled by the Adeleke camp.
“Oyinlola’s attachment to his old military leaders, Obasanjo and IBB is now a disadvantage. The governors wand to reduce their influence and they know that Oyinlola is a link to them.
“Also, the governors are looking beyond the convention which is expected to produce a temporary chairman who will be compelled to step down once the presidential ticket is zoned to the North as both the chairman and the standard bearer cannot come from the same region.
“The current PDP leaders are also looking at discipline. They have not forgiven Oyinlola for abandoning the party at a critical time and they are unanimous that if he has come back, he should not eye a big position.”
Although Arapaja also defected briefly from the PDP to the APC, the source said the impact of his defection was not felt like that of Oyinlola, who was perceived as one of the top party leaders at state, regional and national levels