Ekiti APC, PDP: The crisis within

‘YOMI AYELESO examines the protracted internal wrangling in the Ekiti State chapters of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with the combatants not bathing an eyelid so far.

 

THERE is protracted disquiet and mutual distrust in both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State. The only difference is in the velocity of the crisis in each of the parties. The other perspective to the crisis is the underlying factors for the prevalent situation in both the PDP and the APC. One is the desperation of the various actors to the control the structures of the parties at various levels. Coupled with that is a related battle: subsequent elections, first the 2022 governorship poll and the 2023 general election in the country. Therefore, the whole brouhaha is nothing but a supremacy battle among the rival power centres and power brokers in the parties.

For instance, the Ekiti PDP has been enmeshed in a deep crisis, which had seen it ostensibly divided into two distinct tendencies.. The conflict, which could be traced to 2018 governorship election, took a twist in March this year, as parallel ward executive members emerged after the congress of the PDP. The dramatis personae in the muscle flexing are former Governor AyodeleFayose and the lawmaker representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Senator BiodunOlujimi.  The contest for power took a different dimension in the buildup to the 2019 general election, when Fayose went on a private radio station in the state to campaign against the re-election of the former senate minority and candidate of his party. Olujimi lost at the February poll but reclaimed her mandate in November last year through the court. She has since returned to the Senate.

For instance, the Ekiti PDP has been enmeshed in a deep crisis, which had seen it ostensibly divided into different tendencies within the party. The conflict, which could be traced to 2018 governorship election, took a twist in March this year, as parallel ward executive members emerged after the congress of the PDP. The dramatis personae in the muscle flexing are former Governor Ayodele Fayose and the lawmaker representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Senator Biodun Olujimi.  The contest for power took a different dimension in the buildup to the 2019 general election, when Fayose went on a private radio station in the state to campaign against the re-election of the former senate minority and candidate of his party. Olujimi lost at the February poll but reclaimed her mandate in November last year through the court. She has since returned to the Senate.

 

Fayose versus Olujimi in PDP

The gulf within the party widened after the March 7 ward congress, where both leaders disagreed on the conduct and outcome of the intra-party poll. Ahead the 2022 governorship election, the two party leaders obviously perceived the congress as an opportunity to control the party structure. Having sponsored separate candidates for the congress, the camps came up with parallel executives. While the Fayose-led group swore in its ward executives on April 30 supervised by a notary public, Niyi Idowu, the Olujimi-led group inaugurated its own on May 1. The seeming confusion threatened the conduct of congresses in electing officials that would administer the party in the state before the lockdown declared by the stage government as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in the state.

To avoid a vacuum and the need to restore peace to the state chapter, the national leadership of the party constituted a seven-man caretaker committee comprising eminent party faithful to oversee the PDP in the state party for 90 days at first instance.  A statement to that effect issued by the national organising secretary of the party, Austin Akobundu in May, named a former Senate deputy Chief Whip and former lawmaker representing Oyo North,Senator Hosea Agboola, as chairman, while Mr. Yinka Akerele, Honourable Samuel Omotosho, Honourable Tunji Odeyemi, Ariyo Afolabi, Adeyemi Abiodun Sunday as members. The deputy national publicity secretary of the party, Prince Diran Odeyemi is the secretary of the committee.

While Akerele and Tunji Odeyemi represent the camp of Senator Olujimi, Omotosho and Afolabi were picked from the Fayose group. But the Olujimi camp soon raised an issue: that the composition of the caretaker committee was not fair, stressing that Fayose nominated Mr. Adeyemi to make it three representatives from his side.

Another twist to the crisis is the ongoing suit before Justice U. N Agomoh of the Federal High Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti against the outcome of the ward congress by one Oladimeji Samson Olalekan from the Olujimi’s camp. In the suit number, FHC/AD/CS/14/2020, the plaintiff sought an order restraining the NWC from going ahead with the local government, state and zonal congresses without first resolving the issue with the ward congress. Hearing is slated for July 3 in continuation of the suit. A source, who was privy to the meetings the committee had with the gladiators, told Midweek Politics that the Fayose group insisted on the withdrawal of the case instituted by the Olujimi group as a prerequisite in ending the crisis. He said the senator’s group appears not keen on the suggestion, as it regards the matter as their “bargaining power” in the whole crisis. “The committee has gone to meet the former governor and the senator, where discussions on how best to end the crisis in our party in Ekiti State. But the challenge now is that Fayose said the Olujimi people should withdraw the case in court after which compromise will be easier.

“However, the Olujimi group seems not to be on the same page with Fayose on this issue. From what I gathered, they want to hold on to it in order to be on a strong footing in the whole matter,” the source said.He advised the committee to engage the duo more on a “win-win situation,” suggesting, “let them share among themselves the available positions from the ward down to the state level in the interest of the party.”

But, speaking on the reconciliation exercise, which commenced on May 17 , 2020, the secretary of the committee, Prince Odeyemi expressed optimism that the crisis rocking the state chapter of the party would soon be laid to rest because the major actors had indicated their readiness to embrace peace. Odeyemi explained that the committee met with Fayose and Olujimi to ascertain their grouse and concern, adding that they suggested workable ways in resolving the crisis. According to him, “We are making progress in the assignment and I can assure you that everything will soon be resolved. We have met Fayose, Olujimi and other stakeholders and they are all for a united PDP.  Don’t forget we started on May 17 and have 90 days to complete this very important assignment. I can tell you everything will be settled before our tenure ends.”

 

The festering crisis in Ekiti APC

Just like the crisis which rocked the national leadership the ruling APC that led to the dissolution of its National Working Committee (NWC) at the emergency meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari last week, the Ekiti state chapter of the APC is battling some internal contradictions.  Following the return to power of the party after defeating the then ruling PDP in the 2018 governorship election, some leaders and members of the party are disenchanted with the winner of the election, Dr Kayode Fayemi on a number of issues. They are of the view the problem is capable of jeorpadising the chances of the APC in subsequent elections if not resolved amicably.

According to sources in the party, the current crisis is a fallout of the governorship primaries of the APC in 2018 where Fayemi emerged as candidate. The aggrieved members claimed that they have been tactically shoved aside from the party by the governor and that all efforts by the leaders of the APC at the state and national levels before the dissolution of the National Working Committee (NWC) were unsuccessful. Having won the election, many had thought that all the APC stalwarts would collaborate in order to run an inclusive administration. The crevices occasioned by the pre-election issues widened, resulting in the defection of a former governor of the state, Chief Segun Oni to the opposition PDP over what he described as alleged marginalisation and high-handedness in the APC and its state administration.

Many of the aggrieved party members claimed that the governor made sure that only his allies fondly called ‘Core Fayemis (Fayemi tokantokan) were favoured in appointments and in the mainstream of things. The aggrieved leaders, including Senator Dayo Adeyeye, Bimbo Daramola; presidential aide, Senator Babafemi Ojudu and others alleged utter marginalisation. So, they soon resolve to embark on a mission to rescue the party and reposition it ahead the 2022 governorship election. One of the ways to achieve the mission, according to them, is to challenge the legal status of the party executives at the ward, local government and state levels. In a suit filed at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja by Senator  Ojudu, Dr Wole Oluyede, Honourable Oyetunde Ojo, Chief Akin Akomolafe, Ayo Ajibade, Akogun Bunmi Ogunleye, Otunba Ben Oguntuase and others against the APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the Inspector General of Police and the chairman of the party in the state, Mr. Paul Omotosho and all members of the State Executive Committee (EXCO), their prayer is the structures be sacked. The plaintiffs claimed that the party did not conduct ward, local government and state congresses in Ekiti and that members of the executive were handpicked by Governor Fayemi in his private residence in Iyin Ekiti, the governor’s hometown.

Ojodu shed light on why they had to resort to the option of ‘seeking’ redress. According to the presidential aide, the aggrieved leaders claimed to have exhausted all the internal conflict resolution mechanisms to no avail, adding that: “We complained loudly and got lawyers to write to the APC national headquarters. We exhausted all avenues to resolve the matter. But we were ignored. There was no congress. What happened was arranged. It took us this long to go to court because our constitution prescribed some steps that should be taken before a matter affecting the party could be taken to court. We took our time to go through all the steps and this took a lot of time.”

Ojudu stated that their action had nothing to do with 2022 governorship election, but a wakeup call to Fayemi, the party and our leaders, both at the local and national levels, that things are not going well here. If he comes up in 2022 and brings a candidate, will it be the only one who will campaign for him then? If what is happening now continues, will you call me to come and campaign for a candidate brought up by him in 2022,” Ojudu queried. He accused the governor of violating APC constitution by appointing his political associations to serve in multiple offices simultaneously at state and federal levels while other party faithful are sidelined. He alleged: “There are people, who are commissioners who are holding board appointments at the national level. There are members of the House of Representatives, who were appointed to boards at the federal level. How can you give one person three appointments, when we have our educated party members roaming the streets without one single appointment? One individual will be a commissioner, he will be on the board of two other agencies or departments in Abuja. Somebody will be elected to the House of Representatives. He will also be on a board of a major parastatal in Abuja. You have the state party chairman who is also special adviser to the governor, a state executive position. This is illegal; our constitution does not allow it. What stops him from putting someone as chairman and putting another as a special adviser?”

In a swift reaction, the Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Party Matters, Mr. Sam Oluwalana, described the allegations of dictatorship and abuse of powers raised against the governor “as mere selfish and fault-finding claims.” He said Fayemi had been carrying all the party members along and never violated the statute regarding appointments or favouring anyone at the expense of others. Oluwalana wondered why such issue would be a priority for Ojudu in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the world.

Ojudu, who appears to be the arrowhead of the opposition within the Ekiti APC also alleged that the party had become a personal estate of the governor and that he not called any meeting of party leaders or caucus since he was sworn in almost two years on. “He beats the drum and others just dance to it. Most of us have been observers; ex-senators, ex-House of Representatives’ members, ex-speaker of the state House of Assembly, ex-members of the House of Assembly, leaders of repute. Nobody has been asked to come for any meeting,” Ojudu claimed.

Hope for compromise dimmed two weeks ago, when Ojudu again that his Ado-Ekiti Ward 8 executives had been instructed by the APC State Working Committee (NWC) to begin the process of suspending him from the party. It came against the backdrop of a decision by some executives across the various ward in the town to return rice distributed by Ojudu in March to his residence. The materials were given to the party leaders to cushion the negative effects of the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic in the state. Many stakeholders condemned this action, describing it as an act of pettiness.

However, after an emergency ward meeting, members of the executive  resisted the move to suspend the presidential aide; instead, they passed vote of confidence on him, stating that he had done nothing wrong to warrant his suspension. The chairman of the ward, Mr. Clement Afolabi said that no amount of intimidation and financial inducement from any quarters would make them to suspend Ojudu, who remained a major backbone of the party. Hisd words: “Senator Babafemi Ojudu hails from Ward 8; he is our ambassador and representative. He is very diligent, bold, hardworking and responsible son. There is no doubt he is a well-recognised stakeholder in the party and in the community at large. Ojudu has committed no offence as such deserve no punishment or victimisation at all for merely expressing his displeasure over issues. That on the basis of above, we jointly pass a vote of confidence in him as a loyal party member.”  According to the chairman, the executives align themselves with all the issues raised by senator Ojudu concerning the state of affirs in the party and government.

Of course, the governor had to break his prolonged silence on the claims by the aggrieved APC leaders, especially the allegations made by Ojudu on different media platforms. His position was conveyed in a statement by his chief press secretary, Mr Yinka Oyebode. Dr Fayemi accused the presidential aide of sponsoring false and misleading reports in the media in a bid to tarnish his image and reputation. “We are aware of surreptitious efforts to demonise and blackmail Governor Fayemi on account of the challenges the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is undergoing. It is on record that Senator Ojudu, in his desperate bid to rubbish Governor Fayemi, had told his close associates that he would battle Governor Fayemi, who is also the chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) with falsehood and cheap blackmail in his nefarious attempt to destabilize APC in Ekiti State,” the governor stated.

Oyebode averred that as a true democrat, the governor will not join issues with anyone in the media. He said Fayemi, who is the chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) was committed in entrenching the principles of democracy in the APC in Ekiti and the country at large. “We have tried not to join issues with the barrage of falsehood, personality attacks and campaign of calumny against Governor Fayemi on social media in the last two weeks because it is not in Dr Fayemi’s character to engage in unintelligent rabblerousing in the media. As a principled democrat, Dr Fayemi is committed to fighting for the principles of democracy within the political party he laboured with other notable Nigerians to birth. It is normal for political leaders to be in disagreement, but it should not lead to campaigns of calumny based on falsehood.”

In another twist to the whole crisis, some leaders of the party under the auspices of Ekiti APC Stakeholders Forum joined the fray, calling on the jus- inaugurated Governor Mai Mala Buni-led  National Caretaker Committee of the party to quickly arrest the alleged use of party machinery to punish members through illegal suspension and ostracisation  from party by the state governor.IN a statement,  15 leaders expressed fears that the party risked losing 2022 poll because of its waning popularity in the entire 16 local government areas, due to the leadership style of Dr Fayemi. Apart from Ojudu, the leaders included a former Minister of Works, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, Senator Tony Adeniyi, former  House of Representatives members,   Oyetunde Ojo,  Bimbo Daramola and Robinson Ajiboye, as well as a former Speaker of the Ekiti State Assembly Speaker, Adewale Omirin. Others included Honourable  Femi Adeleye, Dr. Oluwole Oluyede , Akogun Bunmi Ogunleye, Mr. Shoga Owoeye, Omoba Bamgboye Adegoroye, Mr Ben Oguntuase,  Chief . Akin Akomolafe, Engr. Ayo Ajibade, Mr. Dele Afolabi and Tayo Oluwasola. In the statement entitled: Time to Take a Stand, the leaders applauded  President Muhammadu Buhari for spearheading  the dissolution of the APC NWC and the inauguration of the caretaker committee with Governor Buni’s as chairman in the bid to restore order and sanoity to the APC.

The aggrieved APC leaders listed  Senators  Adeniyi and Ojudu,  Daramola,  Ojo, Ogunleye,  Oguntuase,  Afolabi and Diran Fadipe as among those that  had either been “unjustly” suspended or at various stages of suspension in their respective wards. They added that the victory of the APC in the  2018 election was not solely through the governor’s efforts but all party members. They advocated the dissolution of the APC state executives across all strata, alleging that names were allegedly compiled through undemocratic means at a private residence in Iyin-Ekiti by the governor.

“Today, any member who expresses a contrary view is seen as a dissident that must be harassed and intimidated, notwithstanding the status, stature, profile , reputation and above all contributions of such person. The state, local government and ward executives, who see the governor as their benefactors, capitulate under such threats of removal and denial of patronage to carry out the marching orders to suspend party members without recourse to constitution, just to please their masters, except in Senator Babafemi Ojudu’s ward where the chairman stood his ground not to oblige such a perfidious request, “ they claimed.

But responding, the state publicity secretary of the APC, Mr Ade Ajayi, urged the aggrieved members to reexamine themselves, saying Fayemi was not meddling in the party’s operations.  Ajayi said: “They were only engaging in blackmail, because they knew that those suspended took the party to court and the sanction is expulsion if the  law is to be followed to the letters. We enjoy the freedom to run the party without Governor Fayemi’s interference. But it is sad that Senators Ojudu, Adeniyi, Adeyeye, Honourables Ojo and Daramola who were abusing Fayemi  all owe their victories to the National Assembly to the  governor’s support. They should reexamine themselves and see where they got it wrong. Let them tell us one ward where Governor Fayemi tele-guided the executives to suspend anyone? These are mere blackmail.”

Worried by the ongoing wrangling within the party and the implications on the fortunes of the APC, an elder statesman and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti state, Chief Biodun Akin-Fasae called on warring members of the party to sheath their swords and embrace peace in the best interest of the ruling party. The publicity secretary of Afenifere in the state advised them to explore the internal mechanism of the party in resolving their grievances rather than working for the downfall of the APC. He stated that the administration of Dr Fayemi must not be distracted in fulfilling its promises to the people of the state, adding that the leadership of the party was aware of some concerns raised by members but assured them that reconciliation moves had commenced for all members to be on the same page ahead the 2022 election. “The house of this party must not fall;, the walls must not be broken. We will not allow anybody to desecrate the office of the governor and government the people of Ekiti brought into power. I want to advise our people and the aggrieved party members to do less of talking in the public and support the government in giving back to the people of the state. We should not allow the platform of the APC to be weakened. Let everyone, who is aggrieved approach the leadership of party to resolve all contending issues.”

Fasae added that party elders were concerned with events in the party in the last few weeks, assuring that “things will change very soon and you will see.” Nonetheless, he urged the governor, as the leader of the party, to extend hands of fellowship to the aggrieved members by calling an elaborate meeting where all grievances would be discussed. Fasae added: “We must say this; that the governor is doing better now compared to the first term. Every aspect of the state is experiencing development; investors are in the state now, except some people are blind. However, we should encourage him to do better; there is room for improvement; that is a fact.”

Will the gladiators heed Fasae’s proposal on the way to achieve truce in the raging power tussle in the APC in Ekiti State?

 

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