Untold story of Ekiti PDP chairmen’s defection to APC

‘YOMI AYELESO writes on the untold stories behind the recent defection of serving local government chairmen in Ekiti State from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (PDP), few weeks to the end of their tenure.

AS the countdown to the December 7, 2019  local government election in Ekiti State peaked, seven council chairmen and their supporters recently dumped the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Their action is coming a few weeks to the end of three-year tenure. They were received into the party by the state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, represented by his Chief of Staff, Honourable Biodun Omoleye; the state APC chairman, Mr Paul Omotoso, and the APC South-West zonal publicity secretary, Honourable Oladapo Karonwi.

In a trend a number of observers described as unprecedented in the state since the administration of Dr  Fayemi was inaugurated in 2018 , the council chairmen elected in 2017 by the then ruling PDP government of Mr Ayo Fayose, remained in office to finish their term as against the wishes of many APC supporters in the state.

It is common for governors, upon assumption of duty, to dissolve local government administrators through diverse means and install their cronies, either through election or selection in the name of caretaker chairmen and councilors. However, Fayemi chose against such tradition, as he retained the structure inherited by his administration at the local council level. Last Friday, seven council chairmen: Ayodeji Daniel (Ekiti West), Abiodun Dada (Ijero), Yemi Ayeni (Ikere), Tunde Aladegbami (Ido/Osi), Sikiru Ogundana (Ekiti East), Olubayode Okeya (Emure) and Yemi Owoeye (Efon), their deputies and other supporters, renounced their membership of the PDP in what many analysts described as a new twist in the political space of the state.

Though the authorities believed that the action of the defectors might have been altruistic, there are raging controversies over the real motives and the circumstances that may have warranted the defections. One of school of thought claimed that the chairmen were promised their severance packages after the completion of their tenure. Another narrative is that the decision of defection by the erstwhile PDP stalwarts was because of the intractable leadership crisis in the PDP since the defeat of the party at the last general election and the exit of Fayose as the governor of the state.

For the defectors and the leaders of the APC, it is yet another major stride in the drive to strengthen the ruling party. For the stalwarts of the PDP, it is a sad commentary on the opposition party which is still trying to rediscover itself after a series of electoral setbacks. Speaking on the development, a member of the PDP, Mr Segun Olatunde, said the defection of the chairmen was a bad omen for the party but that he could not rebuke them for their action.

“I will not blame the chairmen for their decision because we know what is happening in the party at the moment. The truth is that we can’t be happy seeing seven of our strong members joining the APC at this period. We can only wish them well but, we have to tell ourselves the truth. The PDP in Ekiti State now is facing a major leadership crisis. You should know what I am talking about because, since we lost power to the APC last year, the party has not been able to pick its self for the future. The former governor has more or less abandoned the party to the extent that the party is having difficulties meeting the day-to-day running of the PDP. That is how bad it is now and I am not surprised those chairmen left the party,” Olatunde said.

The defected local government chairmen, along with their councilors, described Fayemi as “a true leader who plays inclusive politics and never victimises them since coming to power,” promising to work hard for their new party in future elections. To Yemi Ayeni, the chairman of Ikere Local Government area, his decision to defect to the APC is as a result of the way the incumbent governor treats them while in the opposition. He said: “I left for three reasons: Governor Kayode Fayemi never lies. While we were in the opposition, we got our money as local government chairmen. The second reason is that we were on suspension for months and he told us he was interested in Ekiti project and he never gave condition for our reinstatement. If it was another person, he would have conditioned us to defect. Thirdly, in my local government where the Commissioner for Information, Muyiwa Olumilua and the Speaker, Honourable Funminiyi Afuye, come from, the way the two people relate with us is excellent. Those are the things that inspired me to join the APC.”

While thanking Fayose for his support two years ago, Ayeni, however, said he was old enough to take political decisions on his own based on the overall interest of the people. “I want to tell you categorically that when we were invited to the State House of Assembly by the Public Account Committee, I was drilled for one and half hours and I never implicated him even on the condition then that if I should implicate him, I will go back to my office as chairman. It is my decision and I will stand by it that I joined the APC to add value to the party and of course the people,” he said.

Also speaking on the development, Aladegbami said Fayemi had set a record by ensuring harmonious relationship with opposition parties and that the governor never deceived nor coerced them to join the APC. Aladegbami, however, advised the remaining local government chairmen still in PDP to accept the reality and cross over to the APC, which he described as the “party Ekiti people are in love with.”

Receiving the new members, the chairman of the APC in the state, Omotoso who described the defectors as a great asset, promised that they would not be discriminated against as they would enjoy same privileges with old members. He said: “Nobody is a latecomer in our party; we are ready to accommodate you. You have seen the light and you will never go back to darkness again and, together, we will move Ekiti forward. I want to say that our doors are open to those who are still in opposition to join us; come over to the APC, the party of the people.”

Omotoso said the APC would give them a better platform to contribute to Ekiti development, urging them to join hands with the governor in taking the state to greater heights.

However, a former deputy governor of the state and chieftain of the PDP, Dr Tae Lawal, said the chairmen joined the APC because of an alleged promise of financial reward. He noted that the defection would not in any way affect the fortune of the party, because “other council chairmen are still with the PDP.

“The defection is normal because they have been serving under the APC-led government and it is still a pass mark for the PDP because only seven out of 16 serving chairmen defected. You know if you want anything from this government in Ekiti State, you just have to be part of the APC. They believe if you are not in the APC, you can’t get anything. I learnt he (Fayemi) promised them some packages now that they are completing their respective tenure. That is the joker. A lot of politicians will fail this test in terms of integrity. Let me tell you those who are running to the APC will soon come back to the PDP because you can be assured that all those promises to them will fail and they will not have no alternative but to come back home,” he said.

On his part, the immediate past Commissioner for Information in the state, Mr Lanre Ogunsuyi, alleged that the chairmen were cajoled in joining the party because of a promise that they would be paid their outstanding salaries. Ogunsuyi, a chieftain of the PDP said:  “The governor is using the instrument of office as political blackmail to get those people into his party. The idea is that if they defect to the party, they will be paid their emoluments. These people are being owed over 10 months’ salary. I think this is bad for democracy because the money is their entitlement; it should not be a condition. If they defect on their free will, it will be another thing but if they are defecting 20 days to the expiration of their tenure, it is desperation to get their entitlement. They are on loan and I can tell you their hearts are not in the APC.”

But Ayeni denied joining the APC so as to get his outstanding salaries which he said was about 18 months. “It is our entitlement because we were elected for two years and if that is the condition, I don’t mind but Governor Fayemi never give us any condition,” he said.

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