Victor Ogunje writes that former Ekiti State governor, Chief Segun Oni and the incumbent governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi have been at daggers drawn since 2007, when they first engaged in an electoral bout

What may be regarded as a wide gulf is presently surfacing in the Ekiti State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The suspension slammed on former Governor Segun Oni, is creating a centrifugal force that is resonating a wind of enmity and ripping the party apart.

In actual fact, the party through its apparatus at the Ifaki Ward II slammed the hammer of suspension on the former governor even without expressly stating what particular offence he had committed.

Going by a terse statement issued conveying the sour and derisive message to Oni, it was succinctly stated that he committed an anti- party offence, which had been the usual mantra deployed to deal with a perceived enemy in a political setting.

Though the actual offence was not stated, but there is an overriding suspicion that Oni was punished for disrespecting party supremacy over the issue he had with Governor Kayode Fayemi on his eligibility to vie for the May 12, 2018 governorship primary.

Oni clinched onto the fabric of the party’s statutes on what qualifies a candidate to contest a primary in APC. In line with Article 21 which states that any public servant intending to stand for an election must resign 30 days to the primary, Oni held up this provision to insist that Fayemi was not eligible to participate in the primary.

Fayemi, who dissented to the statute believed he was not a public servant, but a mere appointee of President Muhammadu Buhari , who could be fired anytime and that his hands were not in any way fettered by the provision. He participated in the primary and won. Fayemi thereafter trounced the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the July 14, 2018 poll to win a second term as governor .

Before Oni crossed the line on his intention to go to court, a warning had come from the South-west leadership of the party, led by former Lagos state , Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu , Chief Bisi Akande, Segun Osoba and Otunba Niyi Adebayo that litigation shouldn’t be part of the game. Oni defied this stern directive, saying the section propelled him to resign as the Deputy National Chairman, south of the party.

He never foresaw a lugubrious end as he unwaveringly believed he could have his way in court but the Supreme court proved him wrong and dashed his hitherto glowing hope by expressly stating that Fayemi didn’t breach any law by his participation in the highly pulsating and tension soaked primary.

A lot of meanings have been read into the recent judicial duel between the two personae. The duo have refused to allow the courts rest since 2007 when they first engaged in an electoral bout.

Before the election, Fayemi and Oni were best of friends. They belonged to an aristocratic group called E-11 , which fought former governor Ayodele Fayose in his first term and removed him from office via an ill-fated impeachment. They are both gentlemen and members of the intelligentsia, who are working towards making Ekiti great in all spheres.

The governorship election of 2007 brought the seemingly protracted enmity between them. At that time, Fayemi, candidate of the Action Congress pursued his case up to the appeal court level in Ilorin until Justice Mohammed Dattijo on February 17, 2009 sent Oni packing and ordered a rerun.

The rerun could not even settle the scores. It reopened another vista of litigation filed by Fayemi. Like a repeat of history, the appeal court led by former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami ousted Oni from office and returned Fayemi on October 15, 2010.

But in 2014, Fayemi as governor was desperately in search of how to scale the hurdle of second term owing to his waning and critically reduced popularity. To accomplish this herculean task, he made rapprochement to Oni and settled with him. Oni dropped the toga of enmity and backed Fayemi’s second term bid. However, they both suffered calamitous defeat to Fayose in the poll , branded the worst electoral defeat ever suffered by an incumbent governor in the history of the country.

Part of what motivated Oni to work
with Fayemi was his unwavering trust in Fayemi’s ability to lead the state better than Fayose. Meanwhile, Oni’s action looked vindictive, because Fayose worked with Fayemi in the rerun held on April 26 and May 5, 2009 , despite being a member of the PDP, the platform under which Oni contested.

Oni while mending fence with Fayemi in 2014 said: “I have to think about the corporate benefit Ekiti will get from this. I have no doubt in my mind that Fayemi is a better governor. No killing, no harassment and molestation suffered by anybody in the last four years. I hereby direct all my loyalists and supporters to support him in the June 21, 2014 election.”

Following the synopsis of what happened since 2014, the relationship between the duo had been robust and solid before the recent debacle that reignited the old enmity.

Immediately Fayemi won the Supreme Court case filed by Oni, a public procession was held by APC to rejoice. That day, the leaders and party members said all manners of repugnant and irritating things against the former governor. Some of Oni’s supporters sighted were heckled by the rampaging party members, who clearly stated that those behind the action must be punished.

But Fayemi quickly doused the tension by telling the irate APC members that nobody will be victimised over the matter, saying the party remains one indivisible entity in spite of the long drawn litigation. He said: “Don’t let us fight any of them, because I have forgiven those behind this. I dedicate this victory to all of you. Our party must be united and I am ready to work with everybody, including my brother, Asiwaju Segun Oni to make our party and Ekiti better.”

The top hierarchy of the party was not in any way swayed by the gospel of unity preached by Fayemi. The State Working Committee, in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Hon Ade Ojo congratulated Fayemi on his judicial victory and asserted that Oni and his ilks won’t be victimised over the action.

Hardly had the statement been issued when events changed and the party SWC had to pander to deafening calls for a stick approach, rather than carrot, citing allegations of several petitions written by party members. Latching on this, Oni was to face the consequence of his actions.

Not bearing in mind his status, the APC executive in Ifaki Ward II on May 1, 2019, slammed Oni with indefinite suspension from the party.

The letter conveying Oni’s suspension was signed by the Chairman and Secretary of Ifaki Ward II, Shina Akinloye and Ogunyemi Taiwo, respectively and 24 other executive members in the ward.

Oni’s suspension from the party also enjoyed the backing of the APC executive in Ido /Osi local government through its Assistant Financial Secretary and Assistant Organising Secretary, Messrs A. Suleiman and Olanrewaju Olamope.

Apart from being a former governor, Oni also served as the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the party under the tenure of Chief John Oyegun.

The letter titled: ‘Suspension From All Progressives Congress Ward II, Ifaki Ekiti’ reads, ” Subject to Article 21 Subsections I, II and X of the APC constitution 2014 as amended, we undersigned executive members of the APC hereby suspend you indefinitely from our great party, based on your refusal to honour our invitation for investigation and fact finding into the allegation of anti party activities leveled against your person by the members of our party.

“We are by the copy of this letter informing both the local government and state working committee of the party for necessary information and action”

Earlier, the party, had in a letter dated April 24, 2019 and signed by the ward executive invited Oni to appear before a fact finding panel.

The letter readd, “We the executive members of the APC in Ifaki Ward II, hereby request your presence at the Ilero Town Hall, Ilogbe, Ifaki Ekiti to clear the air about the allegations by members of the APC in your ward”

However, Oni’s backers in the party didn’t take the matter with levity. They were determined to fight back in a hard way. The leaders of the party in the two wards in Ifaki Ekiti , in Ido/Osi local government, rose to condemn the suspension. They branded it as shameful and illegal, having allegedly violated the procedure of the party.

Those who signed the statement from the two wards, rejecting the party’s position are: Michael Durodola, Tayo Okanlawon, Ebenezer Ogunlana and Sola Ilori. They dissociated themselves from the suspension, saying it was an act of disrespect .

The statement said: “The ward executives’ decision to suspend Segun Oni did not receive the blessing of generality of Ifaki wards APC Leaders.

“The concocted allegations were unfounded. Names of those said to have raised allegations of anti party against Oni were not mentioned, neither were they invited.

“The faceless committee they said they set up did not properly invite the former governor. The suspension letter written to the former Governor has no signatories and this rendered it useless.

“With the above, we the entire elders of the APC in the two wards in Ifaki reject this suspension and we urge the party members and the public to discountenance it,” they said.

” Kindly indicate by informing the APC chairman the convenient time and date to appear before members within the next seven days of the reception of this letter.”

The letter of invitation was received on Oni’s behalf by one Segun Adetunji on 25th April, 2019.

Reacting personally to his kinsmen’s action, Oni said he was not sure that a sane person could contemplate suspension against him despite taking the most conventional way to fight hi course.

He said: “They must be joking, I am not sure this could happen. There is a structure in the party. There is a way things are done in the party and I don’t think any sane person can contemplate this.”

On his failure to heed the invitation of APC Ifaki Ward as conveyed in a letter dated April 24, the former governor queried the people behind the said invitation. Hr contended that no ward officer enjoys the constitutional power to disparage a former governor and ex- national officer of the party in such a brazen manner.

He said: “Who are they? I am not a nobody in the party. So I cannot be expected to honour such a faceless invitation.

“Who are they? What is their pedigree? If a group of rascals signed a letter, how can they expect me to give any thought to such. Let those who wrote the letter show face and level allegations,” Oni said.

Another set of executive members had risen from the ward to to reaffirm its stand that Oni’s suspension subsists in spite of the ward leaders’ opposing view.

The question on the lips of Ekiti people now is, where will Oni go from here? Will he stay in APC and fight to retain his position and recognition? Will he jump the boat and return to PDP where he served as governor? Time will tell.