- Rancour persists as leaders battle for Ekiti PDP’s soul
ADEWUMI ADEMIJU reports on the lingering crisis rocking the Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has defied interventions by party stakeholders, especially in the South-West
The battle for the structures Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) between former Governor Ayodele Fayose and the senator representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, began during preparation for the state’s governorship election in 2018.
The then governor, Fayose openly declared interest to field his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, as the candidate of the PDP. That decision didn’t go down well with some leaders and members of the party. Those who were also nursing governorship ambition at that time went ahead to declare their aspirations.
Notable among them were Senator Olujimi and a former Minister of Works, Prince Adedayo Adeyeye. Apparently seeing Fayose’s determination to ensure the candidacy of Olusola – his anointed candidate – Senator Olujimi , few hours to the party’s primary election pitched her tent with Prince Adeyeye and consequently instructed her supporters to vote for him. Unfortunately, the plan to stop Fayose failed. At the governorship primary election on May 8, 2018, Olusola emerged the party’s candidate with 1,191 votes to defeat Adeyeye, who garnered 771 votes.
The PDP, however, lost the governorship election to the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr Kayode Fayemi. After the election, Adeyeye defected to the APC and was lucky to secure the party’s senatorial ticket for Ekiti South Senatorial District. Olujimi on the other hand contested for the same position on the platform of the PDP.
The aftermath of the 2018 governorship election impasse became very obvious when during the preparation for 2019 presidential election, Ekiti PDP failed to organize a unified campaign committee for the the party’s presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
The issue degenerated to a big controversy as parallel campaign committee tended towards two sections of Fayose and Olujimi were formed for the PDP presidential election few days to the poll. Fayose urged party faithful and supporters to vote for the party’s preferred candidates but with specific instruction not to vote for Oluijimi, an action, some party chieftains described as anti-party.
Eventually, PDP lost in the presidential election and all seats at both upper and lower legislative chambers. Adeyeye of the APC emerged the senator for Ekiti South Senatorial District but Olujimi who was dissatisfied with outcome of the election headed to court to challenge the result. She won the case and eventually returned to the Senate.
It was at this point that the question over who leads the party in the state arose between Olujimi and Fayose.
While the latter claimed that a senator is not at par with a governor or an ex-governor, the former attested to the fact that since Fayose, as a former governor, failed to produce even a councillor for the party as PDP lost all political seats in the state during the election and being the only serving senator cum principal officer holding the soul of the party in the state, she is indisputably the PDP leader in the state. The supremacy contest led to Ekiti PDP splitting into two factions –Fayose and Olujimi camps.
The rift deepened on March 7 this year during the ward congress of the party as the two factions held parallel congresses to elect their respective officials. The duo saw the congress to elect party officials at the ward level as an opportunity to firmly capture the party’s structures.
The outcome of the congress favoured the Olujimi group as Fayose’s group lost in all the 177 wards of the state. Senator Olujimi claimed that the ward congress was conducted in the presence of other election stakeholders, following the late arrival the party’s election committee led by the deputy governor of Taraba State, Engr. Haruna Manu. The senator alleged that Fayose was behind the lateness of Manu-led committee to the election venue.
She added that the election was scheduled to commence by 8.am with the stakeholders fully on ground, but as at 4.pm, members of the committee were yet to arrive the venue. Despite her claims, the Manu committee later conducted the election.
This was even when party members loyal to Olujimi raised objection and proposed the approval of the ward congress election earlier conducted or postponement of the election.
Olujimi argued that instead of conducting the election in the evening, it could be shifted even to the following day as members from different communities have left that evening. She added that she would seek redress if the result of the earlier congress was cancelled as according to her, going ahead with exercise was a ploy to manipulate the process in favour of Fayose.
Fayose’s media aide, Lere olayinka who denied allegation of writing of results, said Olujimi and her loyalists invaded the hotel where the congress committee from Abuja lodged with the aim of hijacking the materials but failed to achieve that.
The claims and counter-claims, notwithstanding, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) eventually approved the result of the ward congress presented by the Manu-led electoral committee. Against this backdrop, the crisis escalated. This prompted the NWC set up a seven man caretaker committee with the aim of keeping alive the activities of the party.
A letter dated May 8, 2020 and signed by the PDP National Organising Secretary Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd) stated that from May 10, the affairs of the party would be run by the caretaker committee till the expiration of the tenure of the State Executive Committee (SWC) headed by Barr. Gboyega Oguntuwase.
It would be recalled that in some other states where the party had crisis, the executive members were transformed to caretaker committees but the situation in Ekiti was so tense that the SWC members were jettisoned for their alleged involvement in the factionalization.
The NWC approved seven-man caretaker committee was chaired by Senator Hosea Agboola, while Hon Diran Odeyemi served as secretary. Other members are Otunba Yinka Akerele, Hon. Samuael Omotosho, Hon.Tunji Odeyemi, Ariyo Afolabi and Hon Adeyemi Abiodun Sunday.
Addressing journalists on their determination to diligently carry out the assignment before his com-mittee, Senator Agboola gave assurance on prompt reconciliation of the warring factions before the conduct of local and state congresses of the party.
He added that the primary assignment of the party is to unite all the groups for harmonious relationship in order to work for the success of the party come 2022, when governorship election will hold in the state.
Agbola, also disclosed that the tenure of the caretaker committee was extended to enable ample time for optimum performance. His words: “I can confirm to you that the tenure of the caretaker committee has been extended by the NWC by another three months for us to achieve the desired results.
We have met all the gladiators and we will continue in that effort towards ensuring peace for Ekiti PDP before we can conduct the outstanding local government and state congresses.”
On Friday July 17, the Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti dismissed a suit filed by group loyal to Olujimi, challenging the outcome of the ward congress conducted by the Manu committee.
The outcome of the March 7 ward congress conducted by the committee favoured the Fayose group, a development which Olujimi described as impunity. Joined in the suit were the PDP (1st defendant), INEC (2nd defendant),
Inspector General of Police (3rd defendant), Taraba State deputy governor and chairman of the congress committee (4th defendant), Chief Olusola Akanmode and others (5th defendant) Justice N U Agomoh, while delivering her judgement on the issue of preliminary objection, stated that she agreed with the argument canvassed by the defendants that the ward chairmen whose elections were being contested in court were necessary parties and ought to have been joined as defendants in the suit.
Responding to the judgement, counsel to the plaintiffs, Barr. Stephen Ademuagun, said his clients would appeal the case, while counsel to the defendants, Barr. Kolapo Kolade, said the judgement was a clear confirmation that issues bothering on internal affairs of the party can only be tackled through the party’s internal mechanism.
At this time, the Ekiti PDP has received a former governor of the state, Engr. Segun Oni, who had earlier left the party for the ruling APC. Fayose, who congratulated Oni on his decision, added a clause that the former governor shouldn’t expect a red carpet welcome. This is even as Oni had stated that his defection was not based on desperation of gubernatorial ambition in 2022 but rather over alleged discrimination against his supporters by the ruling APC.
The appointment of caretaker committee to bring the warring factions of the party together ahead of the remaining congresses of the party obviously proved abortive as the outcome of the August 29 PDP state congress produced parallel executives .
Secretary of the caretaker committee, Odeyemi, had a day before the election, during an interaction with newsmen in Ado Ekiti, announced the date for the congress was based on the directive of the PDP NWC.
When asked why the caretaker chairman, Senator Agboola, has not been visible as regards the activities of the committee, Odeyemi disclosed that the chairman is of the opinion that the executive positions of the party should be shared between the two warring groups.
“If for one reason or the other the chairman believed that what the party should have done is to allocate the position between Olujimi and Fayose; that is his personal opinion. The party’s understanding is that if you are going to share positions among these warring parties, there must first be an agreement. The party cannot force anybody; the constitution says it is either by consensus or election.
If the two of them, Fayose and Oliujimi cannot agree between themselves, then the consensus option is closed. “In this case, they did not agree among themselves. The caretaker chairman, Senator Agboola has sympathy towards having the party to share the positions but the party said no. This is politics and democracy, if they agree, well for them. The caretaker committee cannot continue to be there.
Even when we feel that the committee has done its best within three months, the committee was given extra one month,” Odeyemi explained. The outcome of the state congress was a clear reflection of rancour within the party as each faction proved that it is very much on ground and conducted different congresses.
While a former commissioner for Environment in the state, Hon. Bisi Kolawole, emerged as chairman of group loyal to former Governor Ayodele Fayose, a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Kehinde Odebunmi became chairman of Olujimi’s group.
The congress, however, unified Fayose and Oni after several years of political differences. The duo promised to work together in order to bring PDP back to power in Ekiti come 2022. Fayose said: “I welcome Engr Oni to Ekiti PDP. I knew APC will fail him when he left. I congratulate him for becoming born again today, whoever comes back, is welcome.’’
Apparently referring to Olujim, the former governor added: ‘’Five thousand senators or House of Representatives members cannot stand any governor or former governor. There must be respect for each other.” Oni, who expressed his happiness for returning to PDP to meet politicians he had earlier worked with, said: “We are back and I thank the leader, Mr. Ayodele Fayose and other leaders. This party belongs to Nigerians and it is ready to take its rightful place. We must encourage everybody to be here. We are starting our winning from Ekiti and very soon we will get good news from Edo and Ondo states and we will sweep across Nigeria.” The affinity between Oni and Fayose reflected in the former’s congratulatory message sent to Ekiti PDP new factional executives loyal to former governor, who assumed office at the PDP secretariat on Monday 31. In the message, Oni urged the party members to come together to make a formidable force. Responding to the newfound political relationship between Oni and Fayose amidst the crisis rocking the party, Olujimi said the gubernatorial ambition of Oni explains why he has pitched to his tent with Fayose. ‘’We are not against him pitching tent with Fayose, but we are the ones who have fought for the party, the ones who have held the party and we will not relent.” Olujimi added that Fayose is taking advantage of her gender to sideline her from party activities. Dismissing the allegation that she wants to hijack the party from Fayose, the Ekiti South senator, said it was some concerned PDP members, who beckoned on her to provide effective leadership, which is lacking in the party. Meanwhile, there seems no end to the crisis as it has assumed a wider dimension. Stakeholders and Board of Trustees (BOT) members of the party in the South-West, in a recent newspaper advertorial titled: “What Does Fayose really want,” urged the former Ekiti State governor to join hands with the Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde, whom they said is now the leader of the PDP in the zone by virtue of his position and office. They also called on Fayose to cooperate with the various party elders and stakeholders to contribute to the new vision of progress and harmony in the zone, while urging the NWC to wade into the situation and take appropriate steps to nip the crisis in the bud.
“We are using this forum, to urge the managers of our party in Abuja to look keenly with all seriousness and scrutinize the various untoward activities of Fayose with the view to take appropriate actions against him for his continuous, reckless and very destructive anti-party activities.”
Corroborating the position of the zonal leaders, Olujimi declared that the PDP in Ekiti State, undoubtedly adopted Governor Makinde as the party’s zonal leader, while urging him to ignore the alleged threat from Fayose. “Ekiti PDP has adopted Governor Seyi Makinde as the leader of the party in the South-West.
That was what we did when Fayose was the sole governor of the party in the zone,” she said. Fayose had reportedly at a meeting of the national delegates of the PDP in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital, warned Makinde to steer clear of the leadership issues in Ekiti PDP and other South-West states.
He was reacting to the position of the Oyo State governor that the crisis rocking the PDP in Ekiti which has degenerated into factional groups and leadership rancor be resolved.
Fayose stated that the fact that Makinde is the only PDP governor in the zone does not give him an automatic ticket to involve in the local politics of any state in the region. He, therefore, counseled Makinde to give every state in the zone the liberty to be administered by the local leaders.
Sounding a note of warning to anyone who is attempting to take over the structure of Ekiti PDP from him, the former governor said that such will incur his wrath. His words: “There has been a reasonable cold war over who and who becomes the executive of the zone.
Governor Makinde has demanded that the zonal executives be sacked and a caretaker be foisted on the zone which the party did. But since the caretaker committee came into being, he has not allowed them to function because he produced the chairman.
“Beyond that, the fact that there is a sitting governor does not say he should go to another man’s state. Nobody should come to my state. If you come to my state, I will face you squarely. I will continue to respect him because he is my brother. I love him so much and I was part of his emergence,” No doubt, the crisis is yet to abate, but many are of the opinion that the PDP NWC is biased on the rift and tends to favour Fayose .
Those who hold this view cited the silence of the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Seconds because of Fayose’s role in his emergence.
According to them, Fayose, during the national congress at which Secondus was elected, abandoned his kinsman, Prof Tunde Adeniran and as a result, it is pay-back time for the former the Ekiti governor.