Victor Ogunje writes that the gladiators battling for the soul of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State have taken a hard stance and may not easily yield to reconciliation
The crisis rocking the Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has no doubt shaken the foundation of the party. As it stands today, the party is deeply polarised with wide gulf between the two most prominent political gladiators, former Governor Ayodele Fayose and the Senator representing Ekiti South i the Senate, Mrs Biodun Olujimi.
The crux of the crisis is the unbridled desire by the duo to have full control of the party’s structure. These tendencies had sparked up unhealthy rivalry culminating in desperation to hijack power in the recently conducted ward , local government and state congresses in Ekiti State. The dogging crisis has made Ekiti PDP an epicentre of crisis.
As things currently stand, the PDP is ripped apart, with two State Chairmen in the centre paying obeisance to either Fayose or Olujimi, which makes the dream of winning the 2022 gubernational poll seem illusive and unattainable.
In a brazen manner, the two have gone for broke in this attritional war with no end in sight to the raging crisis. As of now, former Commissioner for Environment and Fayose’s man, Hon. Bisi Kolawole has emerged as a factional leader. Though, he is the one recognised by the Prince Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee, despite this, uneasy still lies the head that wears the crown.
Though, Fayose and his backers, including Segun Oni, whose gubernatorial ambition has gained traction between the two groups, know all is not well with the game being played by Senator Olujimi to outwit them. The fact that a parallel state congress was conducted, where former House of Representatives member, Hon.Kehinde Odebumbi emerged from Olujimi’s faction has made the game more herculean for Fayose and his people.
In Ekiti politics, Fayose remains the generalissimo and the ebullient in approach and style. He is astute and down to earth, but this doesn’t mean that Olujimi is a pushover. The fact that she emerged winner in the last senatorial election despite Fayose’s opposition underscores her influence in her zone.
Prior to the election, Fayose who had suspected that Olujimi was flexing muscles with him on the leadership of the party. He mounted the rostrum and appeared in many radio and television stations where he overtly campaigned against the only PDP Senator from Ekiti.
Though, the Independent National Electoral Commission had initially announced the APC Senatorial candidate in the February 26, 2019 poll , Senator Dayo Adeyeye winner of the highly pulsating election . With vigour and bravery, Olujimi resorted to litigation and amazingly retrieved her mandate from the APC.
The current bedlam between Fayose and Olujimi has shocked observers of Ekiti politics. These two personalities were known allies in the game. Fayose was instrumental to Olujimi becoming a member of House of Representatives in the 2004 by-election in Ekiti South Federal Constituency II. He thereafter appointed her a Deputy Governor in 2005 to replace Surveyor Abiodun Aluko, who was impeached due to irreconcilable differences with Fayose.
Putting the record straight, Fayose also unilaterally ceded the senatorial ticket to Olujimi in 2015 and also did underground scheming for her to emerge the Senate Minority Leader under PDP.
But in politics, nothing goes for nothing. The gesture was a payback to Olujimi who was said to have deployed her influence in the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan presidency to kill zoning and consensus and sold Fayose’s candidacy to the then power -that -be in 2014 for Fayose to become governor.
But signs started emerging that the two had fallen out prior to the 2019 governorship election, when Fayose had endorsed his former Deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka as his successor. Olujimi, who had earlier showed interest in the governorship race stepped down and backed Adeyeye at the primary.
Since then, the duo have become arch enemies and the resonating effect of that disagreement is still playing out and unsettling the PDP .
The most dangerous of the step being taken by the dramatis personae is the fact that the group loyal to Olujimi has gone to court to challenge the conduct of the ward congress at the Federal High Court in Ado Ekiti. Though, the court dismissed the case on technical ground of non-joinder of those who were returned in the suit by claimants.he fact that the claimants appealed the verdict further corroborated the venom in the minds of those opposed to how the PDP was being run in Ekiti.
On March 7, 2020, the Deputy Governor of Taraba State, Alhaji Haruna Mani, who led the PDP electoral panel had stormed the state to conduct the ward congress against the wish of the majority, who had supported Olujimi’s leadership.
The bone of contention was that, the Mani-led committee came late to Ekiti to conduct the election and this came after the SWC led by immediate past Chairman, Chief Gboyega Oguntuase had gone ahead to conduct the congress and returned those in Olujimi’s camp before Fayose played a smart one by embracing Mani and participated in the congress conducted at dusk.
In spite of the anger in Olujimi’s camp, Fayose smarting from the tacit recognition granted the ward congress conducted by Mani, had engineered his group and manipulated the NWC to conduct the local government and state congresses. This has further created a hardline position being maintained by the duo and put a cog in the wheel of reconciliation process.
Before the crisis escalated to this point, there was a clandestine trouble shooting effort by stakeholders that the executive positions in the Ekiti State PDP be shared across all strata in a 60:40 ratio between Fayose and Olujimi. But with the level the issue has reached, it would be herculean for the two to share position as doing so will exacerbate the crisis and create more cacophony of confusion .
Those already recognised across board by NWC have been legally armed to cause serious damage to the party and any attempt to demote them will trigger another round of litigation that will spell doom for the party. With this, it would be difficult for the party to resort to power sharing and bring the two feuding leaders together, except the court disbands the congresses conducted by Fayose.
Now, two chairmen have emerged and the question reverberating on people’s lips has been, who will step down between the two to restore normalcy in Ekiti PDP? Hon Kolawole, who emerged from Fayose’s camp , who also enjoys the backing of ex-governor Oni has been basking in euphoria of being recognised by NWC.
But his rival , Hon Kehinde Odebunmi contended that there was no verifiable evidence to prove that the NWC supervised the election that produced Kolawole, describing Balogun , who claimed to have been deployed by NWC in Ekiti and two others as mere impostors.
The backing of Fayose’s group by Prince Secondus is like a payback for Fayose, who had in 2018 sacrificed a national chairmanship aspirant from Ekiti and former Minister, Prof Tunde Adeniran and other interested aspirants from the southwest for the incumbent to emerge. This had actually helped Fayose to escape disgrace, because Olujimi seemed to enjoy the backing of majority in the party before the NWC pulled the rug off her feet.
A source in the Fayose’s camp said: “It was the NWC that saved Oga(Fayose) from disgrace. In fact, Senator Olujimi has the backing of the majority, because the PDP members who were loyal to Fayose didn’t like the way he oppressed and pauperized everybody in his second term and they were all out to take a pound of flesh with these congresses.”
At the state congress held at PETIM Estate, Adebayo area of Ado Ekiti, the presence of Segun Oni, who was earlier rumoured to be fraternising with Olujimi added credibility to the activities of the faction loyal to Fayose. The former governor even saw Oni’s presence as heartwarming going by his comment and the majority saw this as the last straw that would break Olujimi’s back in the whole game.
Addressing the supporters and dousing the pervading tension in the PDP, Fayose declared that the ruling All Progressives Congress will be defeated easily in Ekiti with unity and discipline among members of the PDP.
Fayose emphasized that loyalty remains the best ingredient the party members as opposition must exhibit to be able to triumph over the Governor Kayode Fqyemi-led APC, saying Ekiti people have serious resentment for the ruling party.
Probably referring to how many had ditched and betrayed him in the struggle for the control of party’s structures, Fayose warned the party members against indiscipline and disloyalty that were common features among politicians.
“Let me tell our members that loyalty pays over time. Let us continue to be loyal. All delegates, we welcome and salute you.You could all see all that are set here for this congress. There is no crack in Ekiti PDP. I would have been surprised if Engr Segun Oni has not been here today.
“Let us found this party on discipline and truth. If we vote for you at the ward, council or state level and you misbehave, we will remove you .We have to be disciplined, facing an incumbent needs discipline, whoever wants to go is free to do so.
“Those with party positions, please, respect your leaders, because it will not be business as usual. We are prepared to support the new Exco for them to succeed. I am not looking for Senate or anything, but I am standing for the PDP in order not to get destroyed. If you are elected, please, be responsible and respectful to leaders.”
Fayose also took time to elucidate his new found harmony with Oni, stating that : “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, you are welcome.
“APC operates secretly, PDP is the only democratic party . All that defected to APC in 2018 we regret their actions . But we are waiting for all of them. APC is losing their members on daily basis , because people don’t like them. We are even ready to work with the aggrieved in PDP. Today, this delegate congress will stand and there are no escape routes for anybody. Segun Oni is here, because he knew this is where Ekiti PDP is.
“I have touched those I could , Oni touched those he could, so the ball is in your court to be loyal. We are going to be equitable to all members.”
The PDP leader also upbraided Olujimi for daring to flex muscle with him over the control of the party.
Fayose said : “5,000 Senators or House Of Representatives cannot stand any governor or former governor. There must be respect for each other,” he advised.
Also in his speech, Oni said he felt elated to return to the PDP and realign with those he had worked with in the past and those he could trust when it comes to party politics.
“There are people that had been lost and we are back. I thank the leader, Mr. Ayodele Fayose and other leaders. This party belongs to Nigerians and ready to take its rightful place. We must encourage everybody to be here. We are starting our winning from Ekiti, very soon we will get good news from Edo and Ondo and we will sweep across Nigeria. We will be able to bring the best of development and not the talk talk that we are having now.”
At various fora, Olujimi has always been clarifying that she was not in leadership contest with Fayose. The former Minority leader contended that what has been happening in the PDP was a revolt against dictatorial tendencies of the former governor and not leadership tussle .
Olujimi said what she has always been canvassing for is collegiate leadership in.PDP, where all the leaders would be independent and unite to rescue the party from downfall. She said it would be hypocritical of her to change her views and be dribbling to impose sole leadership on the PDP.
“The National Executive of the party is behind the former governor. If not, why did they allow him to write every list including my senatorial district? The caretaker committee chairman of the party in the state declined to hold the state congress citing the crisis in the party but the national secretariat directed the secretary of the caretaker committee to conduct the illegal congress which he did.”
She also explained that the state congress held a few days ago, was bound to fail based on the faulty foundation laid by the PDP national leadership which refused to carry every stakeholder including the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security people along.
“I believe that is the way the national body wants it because from the start, the congress was built to fail. A congress that happened and there was no delegates list and no official of the Independent National Electoral Commission was on ground to supervise it. The police did not also give security backing and there was no sufficient information.
“The ward congress was not done but the national secretariat of the party gave former governor Fayose the opportunity to write names of delegates even in my senatorial district where he did not support me as the candidate of the party in 2019 National Assembly elections.
“He wrote all the list and the party took it from him. The party asked him to concede two local government areas to me because my people did not allow his people to come in there. I have been the only one managing the party with my other colleagues,” she said.
“If the party had wanted to do a credible congress, they should have done the three ad hoc delegates because that is what our constitution provided for. Yet they said they held a congress to fill in the post. So, our group decided to hold parallel congress too if what the party wanted to promote was illegality and impunity. We will stand on what we have done until something major is done about it.”
Olujimi further stated that her group decided to oppose and will continue to resist any illegality being carried out by the Fayose camp of the PDP in Ekiti State.
“The truth of the matter is that I did not choose to lead a faction. Some people came together and said that they were against a particular way of handling the party. They were against violence, imposition, impunity and all forms that went against democratic tenets of the management of a political party especially as it has been exhibited severally in Ekiti State.
“Those who came together said they need a face to the movement. That is how I became the face of the movement. I am not the only one. It is a collection of leaders of the PDP of which so many people are part of, including Senator Duro Faseyi and 12 other leaders,” the former deputy governor of Ekiti State said.
Presenting his acceptance speech at the parallel congress held at Lotus Hotel in Ado Ekiti, Odebunmi, who was backed by Olujimi , former Deputy Governor, Sikiru Lawal and others , said the task of repositioning Ekiti PDP has begun with his emergence.
Odebunmi lambasted Fayose for trying to forcefully take over the party’s structures in flagrant violation of the existing statute and extant laws guiding the PDP.
On the boast by Fayose that he remains the authentic leader of PDP, Odebunmi said: “I don’t have any serious thing to say about that . It is the majority that owns the party, not Fayose. Before you can hold a valid congress, INEC must be there. INEC was not present at the ward and local government congresses conducted by Fayose.
“Fayose is free to grand stand, but the final arbiter is the court of law and it will adjudicate on this crisis and tell us which faction is authentic.”
Kolawole who enjoys the backing of the trio of Fayose, Oni and Secondus has promised that he would reconcile all the contending forces. But how far he would go to restore peace is still being awaited, because the party seems to be torn apart and APC might end up being the beneficiary should the PDP fail or tarry to put its house in order.
The backing of Fayose’s group by Prince Secondus is like a payback for Fayose, who had in 2018 sacrificed a national chairmanship aspirant from Ekiti and former Minister, Prof Tunde Adeniran and other interested aspirants from the southwest for the incumbent to emerge. This had actually helped Fayose to escape disgrace, because Olujimi seemed to enjoy the backing of majority in the party before the NWC pulled the rug off her feet. A source in the Fayose’s camp said: “It was the NWC that saved Oga(Fayose) from disgrace. In fact, Senator Olujimi has the backing of the majority, because the PDP members who were loyal to Fayose didn’t like the way he oppressed and pauperized everybody in his second term