‘YOMI AYELESO reports that ahead of the 2022 governorship election and the 2023 general election, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State are still locked in internal wrangling which has defied all troubleshooting efforts.
The internal wrangling in both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti state is unabated. The crises rocking the parties is not unconnected with in fierce battle over party structures. In particular, the political atmosphere in the state has got charged, the more, with the announcement by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of June 18, 2022 for the next governorship election in the state. As each day passes, politicians and residents continue to strategize for the poll. While many of those who intend to contest for the poll, especially those close to the governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi are still keeping it to their chest, those in the opposition party are already out in the streets galvanising supports and selling their programmes to the people as well as party delegates.
Battle for supremacy in PDP
The battle for supremacy between the former governor, Ayo Fayose and the lawmaker representing Ekiti south, Senator Biodun Olujimi has continued unabated resulting in the polarization of the party into two major factions. The battle of wits between the duo for the control of party structures and lack of consensus led to the conduct of parallel congresses in 2019 with both camps producing their executives though the National Working Committee (NWC) accepted the executives of the party backed by Fayose who have since been running the affairs of the party.Dissatisfied with this NWC’s verdict, the Olujimi group approached the Federal High court to seek redress. The court struck out the suit and advised the groups to settle their grievances internally. Similarly, the Appeal court upholds the congress of the Fayose-led group.
In a bid to exhaust all legal means, the Olujimi group has approached the Supreme Court for respite. As of now, both groups await the verdict of the apex court to lay to rest the contentious congresses and confirm the legitimate executives of the Ekiti PDP. While these legal fireworks are ongoing, the leaders of the party, both at the zone and the national levels, put together reconciliation committees to resolve the differences. The governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde also intervened in the crisis, suggesting the sharing of party positions between both camps, but this was out rightly rejected by the Fayose camp. Among other troubleshooting measures is the composition of the former senate president, Bukola Saraki-led peace committee.
The Saraki committee met with the leaders of both groups in Abuja where it was agreed that they will follow it up with another meeting which was held in Lagos in March between Olujimi and Fayose groups.
A communique released after the reconciliation meeting held in Lagos, read that the major gladiators had resolved to sheath their swords and form a common ground in the interest of the party. They also agreed to embrace one another and resolve all contending issues in the interest of the party. The leaders also agreed that peace and unity of the party cannot be compromised, calling on followers to desist from attacking opposition leaders.
Alas, the reconciliations move appeared to have failed as both parties are yet to sheathe their swords and form a united front to play the role of the real opposition to the ruling APC. The opposition has looked docile, inactive and lacking the cutting edge to engage the present government on their policies and plans for the people of the state.
Seeking solutions to the crisis in the party, some leaders of the party, under the umbrella of “The Repositioning group”, petitioned the South West chairman of the party, Ambassador Taofeek Arapaja to quickly step in and save the party from experiencing what befell the APC in Zamfara state in 2019 due to protracted internal wrangling that was decided by the court. They said that the aftermath of the congresses, which it alleged were manipulated, had polarised the party into “Osoko Political Assembly led by our former governor, Ayo Fayose and the collegiately led Ekiti PDP Repositioning Movement.”
In a petition dated June 23, 2021 addressed to Arapaja, titled “Need for immediate intervention in the unresolved dispute over the Ekiti State congresses of 2020”, and signed by Senators Olujimi; Duro Faseyi; a former Ekiti Deputy Governor, Dr Sikiru Lawal and several others, the group members, demanded the PDP South West to urgently address the issues in the party in Ekiti State preparatory to winning the 2022 governorship election and other future elections.
Among issues which the group wants Arapaja to consider include the “manipulated ward congresses of March 7, 2020 which is still pending before the Supreme Court and the local government and state congresses which the monitoring authority, INEC, has disclaimed for not taking part in the said congresses.”
They said, “all efforts to make the leadership of the party treat the matter with truth and fairness have so far not yielded positive results.”
But, disagreeing with their position on the issue, the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Raphael Adeyanju said if the group desires genuine reconciliation, all suits in the court should be withdrawn. He added that the congresses had been concluded and that the zonal chairman of the party does not have the power dissolve the executives.
The PDP parades governorship aspirants such as a former governor, Chief Segun Oni; national treasurer of the party, Femi Aribisala, financial expert, Kayode Adaramodu; party chairman, Bisi Kolawole; former deputy governors, Professor Kolapo Olusola and Dr Siriku Lawal, the extent to which the party manages the ambitions of the gladiators will determine the success or otherwise of the party in next year’s poll.
APC crisis deepens
Ostensibly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti is divided into groups which are battling for the soul of the party. While the governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi has firm control of the structures at the moment, pending the congresses, the other tendencies are strategizing to hijack the control of the party from him.
The crisis and the division in the party could be traced to the poor management of the outcome of the 2018 governorship primary election which was won by governor Fayemi. Many of the other aspirants who contested the primaries against the governor felt aggrieved that they were not properly and adequately carried along in the running of the party’s and government affairs.
Before now, the crisis was evident among the political gladiators mostly those outside the state and the governor for the control of the party, but it has now snowballed into creation of groups within the government and outside obviously because of the coming 2022 governorship election and 2023 general elections.
These groups include the ‘Tokan Tokan’ who are the core loyalists of governor Fayemi; the foundational members of APC; the aggrieved members and lately members of the South West Agenda 2023 (SWAGA) who are rooting for the rumoured presidential ambition of the former Lagos state governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
In view of the lingering crisis, the national caretaker committee of the party had set up a reconciliation panel headed by the governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai to bring together aggrieved leaders and resolve all contending issues in the overall interest of the party. Unfortunately, events in recent time have proved that the panel failed to genuinely reconcile the warring groups and this portends a great danger for the ruling party.
Also, Governor Fayemi constituted a local reconciliation committee headed by an elder statesman and immediate past chairman of the party, Chief Jide Awe to meet aggrieved leaders and members and collate their grievances to the government for necessary action. The committee submitted its report to the governor where it called for more inclusiveness and opening windows of sense of belonging to the aggrieved.
After waiting for months without any deliberate efforts by the governor as the leader of the party to end the intractable crisis, Awe expressed his frustration saying, “when members are complaining and those at the helm of affairs are behaving as if they are angels and operating within iron cast habitat, when they are not relating well with members, that is causing a lot of problem within our party. That may be some of the problems we are going to encounter as we go into the election year.”
According to him, the APC has mismanaged itself both at the state and national levels, stressing that the primaries for the 2022 governorship election must be conducted in a transparent and acceptable manner if the party wanted to remain in power. The APC chieftain urged the party to jettison the idea of ‘winner takes all’, adding that “Up till now, the ghost of the primary election which was conducted in 2018 governorship is what we are still battling with.”
He however admonished the party not to wait on the time of electioneering before correcting the alleged anomalies.
Perhaps when the aggrieved leaders and members are beginning to see the reason to sheathe their sword and embrace one another, the party in the state began the now rampant suspension of members perceived to be working with the SWAGA group because of the 2023 poll. To government officials and party leaders, members in the pro-Tinubu’s group are working against the reported presidential ambition of governor Fayemi, who is the leader of the party in the state.
First in the series of the suspension was the suspension of the Ado-Ekiti ward 8 chairman, Mr Clement Afolabi for fraternizing with the SWAGA group. Afolabi who frustrated the moves last year for the suspension of presidential aide, Senator Babafemi Ojudu was accused of anti-party activities for coordinating the, “unauthorized group.”
Barely three days after the launch of SWAGA in the state where party members from the 177 wards in the state attended amidst threat and intimidation recently, two other leaders were suspended allegedly for fraternizing with the group. The two victims , Messrs Kayode Adetifa and Jide Oso, who were APC members in Ward 9, Owaye quarters in Ayede Ekiti, Oye local government area of the state
The Special Adviser to the president on political matters, Babafemi Ojudu described the decision of the party as an assault on the freedom of association as enshrined in the nation’s constitution. Ojudu explained that the ward chairman had not committed any infraction by identifying with a member of the party ahead of the 2023 general elections, describing the action by the party as an act of dictatorship in a democracy.
While declaring that all efforts would be coalesced to challenge the removal of his ward chairman in the court, he cautioned Governor Fayemi to be mindful of his actions as governor, adding, “he should realize that though he is in power today he will not be there tomorrow.”
Also, the national chairman of SWAGA and former Minister of Works, Senator Dayo Adeyeye described the political happenings in Ekiti state under the watch of the governor as, “a theatre of the absurd by an evil intending vicious leader with mission to smash the eggs, kill the hen and put the entire poultry on fire.”
According to him, SWAGA is a pressure group within the APC, which emergence few months ago has boosted the electoral credentials of the party with massive influx of new members. However, the APC director of Media and Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Party Matters, Sam Oluwalana, exonerated the party at the state level and Governor Fayemi of blame, describing the governor as a democrat who will not involve in anti-party activities. Obviously angered by Adeyeye’s outburst, the governor himself fired back at him. According to the governor, the South West Agenda (SWAGA) being headed by Adeyeye to promote the reported 2023 presidential ambition of Tinubu is a misnomer and unknown to the hierarchy of the party.In a move to ensure unity ahead of the congresses, the APC held a stakeholders’ meeting. The communiqué warned against divisive tendencies. While Adeyeye and some other leaders of the party protested their exclusion from the meeting, the party disagreed and said all leaders were duly invited through text messages and notices placed on national dailies.
As different camps continue the brickbats, the forthcoming ward, local government and state congresses will no doubt be a battle for survival among the APC gladiators and set a direction either positively or negatively for the party ahead of the 2022 primaries and the governorship poll.
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