Ahead of the next governorship election in Ekiti State, the opposition All Progressives Congress in the state has commenced engagements to shore up its strength. Victor Ogunje, in Ado Ekiti, reports
On December 9, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress in Ekiti State, Mr Olusegun Osinkolu, convened a meeting of critical stakeholders of the party in his Ayede Ekiti country home to deliberate on how the party could launch a comeback in the 2018 governorship poll and other future elections.
Though, the meeting was basically summoned by Osinkolu to reach out to delegates from the Ekiti North senatorial district in furtherance of his senatorial ambition in 2019, it later became a huge political gathering that attracted critical stakeholders from across the three senatorial districts, where issues bordering on the chances of the party were discussed.
There is no gain-saying that winning the 2018 governorship election has become the greatest burden and albatross of the Ekiti APC. The party has not recovered from the loss of former Governor Kayode Fayemi to the incumbent, Mr Ayodele Fayose, in 2014. Then, Fayose had won in all the 16 local government areas of the state. This had spurred well-meaning stakeholders into putting heads together to wriggle out of the seemingly bleak situation, now that they are getting a relieve from the centre with the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari.
At the gathering in Ayede Ekiti, there was a consensus that the party would only win in 2018 if all stakeholders were determined to settle their differences and act as one.
Those who attended the event included former Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Hon. Femi Bamisile; acting state chairman of APC, Mrs Kemi Olaleye; APC state publicity secretary, Hon Taiwo Olatunbosun; and former Commissioner for Budget, Mr Debo Ajayi. Others were all the APC chairmen in the five local governments in Ekiti North, top party members, delegates from 57 wards in Ekiti North, among others.
Many believe the current tensions in the relationship between the APC national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and President Muhammadu Buhari would be a major issue in the next governorship election in Ekiti State. Though, the presidency has denied any rift between Buhari and Tinubu, the issues that played out in Ondo State governorship poll confirm clearly that some APC members were hiding under their privileged proximity to the president to undermine Tinubu’s influence in South-west politics.
The fact that the governor of Ogun State, Mr Ibikunle Amosun, came out to deny being the leader of the party in the region indicated that there were new forces working to supplant Tinubu.
But Osinkolu bluntly pronounced that the former Lagos State governor remained the indisputable leader of APC in the South-west. Osinkolu, who hailed the Ogun State governor for his public declaration that he is not the leader of the party in the region, added, “Tinubu’s records speak for him as the leader of the party and his leadership remains undivided and incontestable.”
The APC chieftain, who has declared his intention to represent Ekiti North senatorial district in 2019, appealed to party members in the state to refrain from incendiary comments that could portray the APC as being polarised. He said what should be the priority now was unity and mass mobilisation drive to fortify the party.
Osinkolu said, “People like me worked for President Buhari in the 2015 election because of Tinubu. I have never met the president in my life. Leadership is earned and not given. Tinubu’s roles had earned him the leadership position. Our people must stop this leadership tussle because it won’t take us anywhere. President Buhari and Tinubu are one and those who are trying to cause friction between them have failed.”
In their contributions, Bamisile and Olatunbosun tried to allay the fear being nursed by some party members that APC in the South-west was factionalised. They said the party remained one indivisible entity that cannot be disunited by the antics of the PDP.
The former speaker stated, “The issue of leadership tussle does not arise. Asiwaju is not only a leader in the South-west, but in Nigeria. Having differences in a big and popular party like APC is expected but I am particularly happy that the party has the mechanism for resolution of whatever crisis we have. So, let us forget about leadership crisis and focus more on how best to run our party for us to be able to defeat the PDP in Ekiti in 2018.”
Bamisile added that Fayose was only day-dreaming by his boast that he will defeat APC in all the 16 local government areas, the way he did to Fayemi in 2018, which had led to the political slogan 16-0, the PDP had been deploying to taunt APC.
Worried by the post-election crisis that nearly affected the APC in the Ondo State governorship poll, Osinkolu appealed to the party’s national chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, and the National Working Committee, which he leads, to foster internal democracy in APC and ensure that credible primaries are conducted in the future elections. He said it would be wrong for the party to impose candidates for the governorship, federal and state legislative polls, saying this can brew crisis.
Osinkolu said, “We expect nothing short of credible primaries. This is the best way to have a cohesive and strong front to be able to confront the PDP machine. We don’t want padded delegates’ list for any election. Let there be free opportunity for all APC members to choose whoever that will represent them at all levels.”
Olaleye, in her remarks, assured party members that all the primaries would be free, fair and credible. She said, “We are not perfect, but we will allow internal democracy to prevail in all elections. The primaries will not be tilted in favour of any aspirant. We want to make it categorically clear that all our members will be allowed to actualise their aspirations unhindered, because this party belongs to all Nigerians.”
The stakeholders at the forum viewed lack of appointments of some pivotal party members at the federal level as a factor that can undermine the party’s chances in 2018.
Osinkolu appealed to Buhari to appoint more party members from Ekiti into his cabinet, saying the delay in the appointment is adversely affecting the party’s mobilisation drives.
He stated, “The delay is worrisome because this will affect us unless something urgent is done. Now, we are not controlling the state and the only place where relieve can come is through federal appointments to our people. So I plead with President Buhari to act quickly in this regard. Most of our members are aggrieved and I believe having appointments for their people will go a long way in pacifying them.”
In similar vein, Bamisile said having appointments for key party members will help the party in galvanising support, especially at the grassroots. He, however, expressed appreciation to the president for appointing Fayemi as minister and Mr Babafemi Ojudu as a special adviser in the presidency.
“We want to appreciate the president for appointing these two great sons of Ekiti. But as Oliver Twist, we expect more in the constitution of federal boards, parastatals and commissions to help our people. Many of our people can only feel the government in terms of benefits and employments when their close relations, political leaders and confidants are given federal appointments.”
The APC chieftains also spoke on the current economic recession. They blamed the PDP for the economic downturn and called on all Nigerians to be patient with the president and his economic team as they try to devise ways to tackle the problem.
Osinkolu said, “The situation is worrisome but we plead with Nigerians to be patient with us. The APC has the capacity and capability to bring Nigeria out of this situation. But we can only get out of it when we are united as a people and not through criticisms.”
Olaleye described Osinkolu as a loyal and unique politician, who had been playing a tremendous role to unify the party. She said the long years of plundering by the PDP administrations brought the current economic woes.
Olaleye said with the palliative measures the president and his team were taking the country will soon get over the situation. “The APC has the capacity and capability to get the country out of this worrisome situation. The APC-led federal government is working hard. The inclusion of one million Nigerians to benefit from N5, 000 monthly stipends in the2017 budget and other empowerment programmes contained in the appropriation bill will help in reducing the adverse effects of the economic recession.”
She added regarding Osinkolu, “Convening this kind of meeting to rub minds with party top hierarchy shows that he has the love of the party at heart, because this will give us the opportunity to tell Nigerians that President Buhari is doing so much to end this economic recession.
The president has shown that he is a leader with a strong character that can unite the party and make other leaders to be more responsible and responsive to the plights of other less-privileged Nigerians.
“A situation whereby over one trillion dollars is looted from the treasury in a spate of four years, then one can imagine what would have happened to the economy. So, the PDP caused this problem and now that those monies are being recovered, Nigerians will soon feel a sigh of relief.”
The party leaders warned those stoking the fire of discord by dropping names of bigwigs, either at the federal or state level to get undue advantage over others in any form, to beware. They said they would not hesitate to wield the big stick on such people.
The leaders also charged party members to embrace unity ahead of the future elections.