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National Convention: PDP leaders in crucial meeting over Oyinlola, Arapaja

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Leaders and stakeholders in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) met on Friday night to resolve the lingering stalemate over the position of Deputy National Chairman (South).

Those at the enlarged state holders meeting holding at the Akwa Ibom Governor’s Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja, included the 13 Governors elected on the platform of the party.

Others are NEC members, Board of Trustees (BoT) members, National Working Committee members, National Assembly members, former Governors and former cabinet ministers among others.

A former Osun Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and a former Oyo Deputy Governor, Taofeek Arapaja are contesting for the position.

Efforts by party leaders to pick one of the contestants as consensus candidate have failed to yield positive results.

Oyo Governor Seyi Makinde is believed to be backing Arapaja for the position and has secured the buy-in of his 12 other colleagues on the choice.

But some elders and leaders of the party have a different opinion on the matter, as many of them have expressed preference for Oyinlola.

Their position is premised on the need for the party to beef up its support base in States where the PDP does not have a sitting Governor.

They have argued that while Makinde is on ground in Oyo to lead the party’s mobilisation drive toward the 2023 general election, Oyinlola should be on ground to strengthen the party structure in Osun and be a rallying point for the party.

It’s on the basis of this permutation that the PDP deliberately zoned virtually all its critical elective positions in the National Working Committee (NWC) to States where the party did not have Governors.

“It was for this reason that the National Secretary was micro zoned to Imo state and the Deputy National Chairman (North) micro zoned to Yobe state where the PDP does not have sitting governors.

“The argument of some of our leaders who expressed a presence for Arapaja was that Oyinlola defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2014.

“These leaders have chosen to forget that Arapaja also defected to the APC about the same time. What about some of our high ranking chieftains who defected to the APC in 2014 and who worked hard to ensure that the PDP lost the 2015 presidential elections.

“Some of these leaders are occupying prominent elective positions in government on the platform of the PDP today with some of them aspiring to get the party’s presidential ticket for the 2023 election.

“To some of us, this is double standard which may not help the party in the long run,” a member of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) told our correspondent on Friday night.

The meeting was also expected to take a final position on the Deputy National Chairman (North), which is being contested for by Alhaji Umar Damagum and Mrs. Inna Ciroma.

The party was yet to take a final position on who to consider for the position between the two contestants from Yobe State.

Answering a question on the party’s position on the matter, the chairman of the Convention Organising Committee, Governor Ahmadu Fintiri of Adamawa State said during a briefing earlier on Friday that matter was still being resolved.

Fintiri had said: “We are still deliberating on who to go for the office between the two contestants but we have resolved that the two will not contest at the convention. One of them must step down for the other”.

Meanwhile, last minute preparations for the convention continued in earnest up to Friday judgement.

There was a flurry of activities at the expansive Eagle Square, Abuja, designated venue for the convention as party members and hired hands were observed performing one task or the other.

Tents have been erected and the main podium has been put in place, brightly decorated in the red, green, white signature colours of the PDP.

Also, posters of contestants in varying sizes adorned strategic locations at the venue.

The various committees and subcommittees set up by the party for the purpose of the convention were working round the clock to ensure meeting deadlines.

The meeting was still in progress as of the time of filing this report.

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