Former Oyo Deputy Governor Taofeek Arapaja has emerged winner of the chairmanship election at the South-West Zonal Congress of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Mr Arapaja, staunchly supported by Oyo governor Seyi Makinde narrowly defeated Dr Eddy Olafeso who is supported by former Ekiti governor Ayo Fayose.
The election took place at the Women and Children Development Initiative Foundations Event Centre, Oshogbo, Osun State on Monday after it was recently moved from its previous venue in Oyo State following a rift between both party leaders.
Benue deputy governor, Benson Abounu who stood in as congress chairman for his principal, Governor Samuel Ortom, declared Mr Arapaja winner of the keenly contested election after scoring 343 votes against 314 votes polled by Mr Olafeso. 667 delegates were accredited for the election while 10 votes were voided.
Mr Fayose had in a shocking change of stance declared governor Makinde as his leader, just before the commencement of the election. The due have been locked in supremacy battle over leadership of the party in the zone.
Mr Fayose had at different times thrown verbal invectives at Mr Makinde over the tussle.
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The party hierarchy in Abuja had, however, in the last few days, stepped in to close ranks between the two gladiators towards ensuring party cohesion and a successful zonal congress.
“The issue at this congress is circumstantial, the question is who is our leader, Governor Seyi Makinde is our leader, therefore, our supporters and lovers should not be putting a wedge between us.
“Distinguish leaders, I want to assure you that we will make exploits together and anywhere it goes, I will accept. In any family where there is cause to vote, there will be a divide, but I assure you, wherever it goes I will abide.
“Arapaja was a Deputy Governor and is not a small man, even if he has abused me so much, that is politics, if you emerge the Chairman, I will be the first person to visit you in Ibadan, because there is nothing that lasts forever.
“No one offends me and if I have offended anybody, I apologise. I and Makinde were one since the beginning, politicking leads to this misunderstanding, but notwithstanding, you [Makinde] are our father,” Mr Fayose said before the gathering.
On his part, Governor Makinde said: “This is a family affair. It is an attempt to reposition our party in the Southwest. It has ramifications for our party nationally. Whatever the outcome is, we will take it in the spirit of a family contest. We don’t want to defeat ourselves, we want to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“At the end of this exercise, there will be no victor, no vanquish. As the only Governor of the party in the zone, whoever emerges, I will work with them to reposition the party. I thank you for the peaceful conduct.”
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