Olakiitan Victor, in Ado Ekiti, looks at the disagreements tearing the association of political parties apart

Before now, the Ekiti State chapter of the Inter-Party Advisory Council was a largely unknown political group. It enjoyed little or no prominence since it came to Ekiti State in 2014, after its formation at the national level. But recent events have made IPAC in Ekiti State relatively well known, though, for the bad reasons.

Disagreement has become the order of the day in the hitherto peaceful group. IPAC has become a name that resonates so easily in the minds of the people because of the war of attrition among the major players in the group.
With the way things are going, the heat has become too intense for the IPAC state chairman, Dr Dele Ekunola, to handle. Many members have pulled out and there is very hope of resolution of the disagreements threatening to consume the body. Many fear that except expeditious fence-mending steps are quickly taken to quench the raging flame, IPAC may soon become history.

On Monday, 15 political parties resigned their membership of the body, which was formed by 21 political parties in the state. They called it quits over allegations of corruption, bribery, exclusion, and compromise levelled against the leadership of the group. With what is on the ground, IPAC would find it difficult to regain its vigour after this fierce battle because of the politics involved.

Formation of IPAC
According to chairman of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties in Ekiti State, Hon. Tunji Ogunlola, the Independent National Electoral Commission formed IPAC with the intention of using it to reach out to opposition parties, particularly, for political sensitisation, education and organisation of seminars. Ogunlola said though the body came into being at the national level about five years ago, it was set up in 2014 in Ekiti under the Kayode Fayemi government.

Undue Fraternity
The CNPP chieftain added that the leadership of IPAC was drawn from the existing political parties in the state, but with instruction not to fraternise with the government of the day, to prevent compromise. He said the body actually complied with this until the disturbing event witnessed recently.

Ogunlola, who described the crisis rocking the body as unnecessary, said, “INEC sees CNPP as umbrella body for opposition parties and it thought that dealing with it directly may create the impression that it was partisan. That was why the idea of IPAC came into being and it gained full recognition in 2014 in Ekiti.

“We have been cohesive and running our affairs with dignity until recently when our leaders, under Dr Dele Ekunola began to fraternise with Fayose’s government.”
To Ogunlola, the association with the Fayose government has soiunded the death knell for the IPAC.

Genesis of Crisis
Ogunlola said the crisis in IPAC started shortly after the last December 19 local government elections in the state. The Peoples Democratic Party won all the 16 chairmanship and 177 councillorship seats in the much-criticised polls.

Though, the main opposition party, All Progressives Congress, boycotted the elections, while also challenging the composition of the Justice Kayode Bamisile-led State Independent National Electoral Commission in court. APC contended that some members of the seven-man SIEC were card-carrying members of the PDP and claimed that such suspicion had vitiated whatever would be the outcome of the elections.

Ogunlola said there had been a cold war among the gladiators in IPAC since Governor Ayodele Fayose came on board, stressing that several allegations relating to financial inducements running into millions have been levelled against the Ekunola-led IPAC, but the leaders craftily resolved them to forestall implosion.

But the last straw that broke the camel’s back was the exclusion of some parties from the local government elections by SIEC. The IPAC leadership was accused of compromise in the whole saga.

Ogunlola said, “About 18 parties had earlier shown interest in the polls, only to be screened out and compressed into four because IPAC leaders actually compromised. We asked them but they could not offer any useful explanation.
“Bribes that were offered to carry out the hatchet job later blew open when they were asked to write letter of appreciation to the governor. Some executive members were not carried along and they must sign the letter, which was where the problem began.”

THISDAY learnt that the first plan was to impeach Ekunola and other members for alleged corruption, but they rescinded the action and opted to move out massively because impeaching the executive might have no effect, taking cognisance of the fact that the government may decide to recognise them despite being ousted.

How 15 Parties Pulled Out
Last week, the crisis reached a dead end, as 15 political parties resigned their membership of IPAC due to alleged undemocratic tendencies and corrupt practices by its leaders.

Subsequently, the aggrieved political parties announced their fusion into the CNPP to advance the cause of democracy in the state and protect their collective integrity, according to the faction that pulled out of the union.
Aside APC, parties that pulled out of IPAC include KOWA, Alliance for Democracy, United Democratic Party, Hope Democratic Party, Progressive Peoples Party, National Conscience Party, and African Democratic Congress.

Others are Democratic Peoples Party, Citizens Popular Party, Progressive Peoples Alliance, Independent Democrats, New Nigeria Peoples Party, and Allied Congress Party of Nigeria.

Parties still fraternising with the Ekunola-led IPAC include Social Democratic Party, African Peoples Alliance, Accord Party, Progressive Party of Nigeria, Unity Party of Nigeria, and All Progressives Grand Alliance.
The spokesman of the aggrieved parties and chairman of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, Deacon Olu Akomolafe, said the step became imperative to safeguard the leaders of political parties in the state from being smeared by alleged unscrupulous activities of some IPAC leaders.

Akomolafe accused IPAC leaders of hobnobbing with the government and some notable leaders of APC to extort money, describing this as the major problem bedevilling IPAC. He said Section 2 paragraph 4 of the IPAC constitution stipulated that all the leaders of the parties in IPAC must be involved in decision-making, alleging that only four members, including Ekunola, have been controlling the affairs of the body, while others were being ostracised.

According to Akomolafe, “We will no longer tolerate any attempt to coerce, compel, impose, stampede or force us into marriage of inconvenience that could be detrimental to the collective interest of other political parties by a certain group. We have witnessed a lot of rows because some people were using IPAC to reach out to politicians to make money and to pursue primordial interests. This is unacceptable to us because we have our integrity to protect.

“We, as chairmen of political parties that constitute IPAC, wish to notify all government agencies, political leaders, INEC, security agencies, and member of the public not to henceforth identify us as members of IPAC with immediate effect. Forthwith, we have fused with CNPP, an umbrella body for all registered political parties, for us to be able to have a strong and solid platform to operate.”

SIEC’s Position
The chairman of SIEC, Bamisile, had while rationalising the pruning down of the number of political parties that participated in the local government polls, stated that only four political parties collected nomination forms before the expiration of the time stipulated for procurement of forms.
Bamisile said, “There was no conspiracy in this. We advertised for the nomination forms for councillorship and chairmanship positions. We came out with the dates for the procurement of the forms and only four identified interest and there is nothing we can do about this.”

The embattled chairman, Ekunola, has left no stone unturned in his effort to wriggle out of the quagmire he found himself. He said he had been running the affairs of IPAC by carrying everybody along, describing the allegations as figment of the imaginations of those peddling them. He claimed he was not aware of the pull-out of the 15 political parties because it has not been made official.

Ekunola said it was illogical for the political parties to be mooting the idea of resigning their membership of IPAC, explaining that it remains the only recognised umbrella body for the opposition parties in Nigeria, adding that those threatening to resign may stand the risk of being derecognised by INEC.

He alleged that the law establishing the body prohibited it from being used to attack any sitting government, but it could only play an advisory role. He expressed sadness that Ogunlola and his ilk had at various times tried to compel him to attack Fayose, albeit unsuccessfully.

Ekunola alleged, “Ogunlola and his people had been going round extorting money from politicians and we frowned at this, which caused serious friction between us. Up to now, Governor Fayose has not met with IPAC leaders since he assumed office, contrary to allegation that he has bought us. Bought who? Even when we met with Senator Babafemi Ojudu after he was appointed as the Special Adviser on Political Matters to the President, he didn’t offer us a dime. So, I wonder what kind of bribery they were talking about.

“IPAC is being monitored by INEC under the presidency and there is no way we would misbehave when we have people monitoring us as well. Throughout the time the local government polls were being prepared for, we were busy holding meetings periodically and telling our members about our dialogue with SIEC. So, I don’t know where the compromise came from.”

Ekunola assured that the body will continue to keep the government of the day on its toes to be able to discharge its duties to the people of the state as demanded by the constitution. He urged his members to sheath their swords and embrace the leaders, who were constitutionally installed to pilot the affairs of IPAC, rather than cause unnecessary division that could rob them of relevance.
“Having rapport with all political parties, including the government of the day by IPAC, is obligatory. Even when we are meeting with the political leaders, including those in government, we have not committed any offence,” he clarified.
For now, there seems to be an irretrievable breakdown of the unity of purpose that motivated the formation of IPAC in Ekiti State. How this would affect politics in the state remains to be seen.