Victor Ogunje writes that the struggle for the control of the Peoples Democratic Party structure , Ekiti chapter, has ignited a fierce battle between former Governor Ayodele Fayose and his estranged goddaughter, Senator Biodun Olujimi has sparked enmity that polarised the party into factions and culminated in a long-drawn litigation
On January 24, 2021, the Ekiti State chapter of the People’s Democratic Party(PDP) thought it had breathed a sigh of relief after a protracted and suffocating crisis that nearly snuffed life out of the party, as the Appeal Court delivered judgement on the contentious congresses held in 2020.
Though, the court gave a verdict perceived to be favourable to those loyal to former Governor Ayodele Fayose, but it was widely expected that those on the opposing side would sheathe their swords and allow internal mechanism to be deployed to straighten rough edges.
Unfortunately, actions taken afterwards were suggestive that the party may be entangled in crisis for long due to groundswell of opposition to the court’s verdict and the resoluteness being exhibited by those loyal to Senator Olujimi to fight on.
With this verdict, the long sought respite by Fayose’s arch rival, Senator Biodun Olujimi seemed to have suffered a calamitous blow. In actual fact, Fayose and Olujimi have been at each other’s throat over the alleged shoddy conduct of the ward and local government congresses in 2020, culminating in the long-drawn and fierce litigation.
As of today, the party is still operating two parallel factions , with each paying obeisance to either Fayose or Olujimi. Though, the two, who had for long been known as political allies had severed ties due to ego and desperate quests to control the party’s structures ahead of the 2022 governorship poll.
But there was a ray of hope as the Appeal Court sitting in Ado EkitI, dismissed the suit filed by the caucus loyal to the Senator Olujimi over the congress that produced the present Ward Executive Committee members of the PDP in Ekiti State. The hope was that, it was expected that the two sides would now sit on a roundtable and make expected concessions that would restore stability to the main opposition party.
From the outset, all the trouble shooting strategies deployed by party leaders were not potent enough to entrench peace, because the litigation had always been the excuse cited by members as a clog in the wheel. It was generally believed that court was better allowed to adjudicate on the matter, so that the party won’t be postponing the evil day if political solution is adopted.
After the alleged violent and error-ridden Congress in Ekiti, the Chief Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee had recognised the ward and local government executives loyal to Governor Ayodele Fayose , from where Hon Kolawole had emerged as the State Chairman.
Miffed by the outcome, those loyal to Senator Olujimi had approached the court to seek redress. One Oladimeji Samson Olalekan and others, had filed a motion ex-parte, seeking an order of the court, restraining the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) from announcing, publishing, and recognizing any list as a result of election of Ward Executives and three ad-hoc delegates held on March 7, 2020.
They also sought an order restraining the party from acting on, or making use of the names of winners of the Congresses for the purpose of the Local Government, State and Zonal Congresses.
At the lower court, Justice Uche N. Agomoh of the Federal High Court sitting in Ado Ekiti, had on Friday, July 17, 2020 dismissed the suit, describing it as undoubtedly not justiceable as same is within an internal affairs of the PDP, citing UKUT vs. APC.
Delivering judgment in the Appeal Number CA/EK/57/2020, the Appellate court upheld the decision of the trial Court and ressolved all issues against the Appeallant, Oladimeji Samson Olalekan.
In upholding the lower court’s decision, Justice T.N Orji-Abadua, said, “The appellant’s case was not justifiable since it was centred on internal affairs of a political party”.
Reacting to the judgment, Fayose advised the party members to eschew crisis and return to the path of civility by expressing readiness to work with the mainstream in the interest of the PDP.
“To all PDP members, please see this as victory for all. No victor, no vanquished. We are in deep talks to reconcile all. We should refrain from provocative languages.”
Fayose must do more than ordinary appeal. He must must be strategic and humble enough to reach out to Senator Olujimi, who is regarded as a powerful force in PDP. The former governor will be engaging in self delusion if he thought he could do it all alone. For the PDP to win the 2022 governorship election in Ekiti, the duo of Fayose and Olujimi must reorganise themselves and reposition the PDP and make it formidable.
But painting a picture that it was over for Olujimi’s group, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party had in a letter with ref no: PDP/DOM/GF.V/VOL.2/20-387B dated April 25, 2020 and signed by Col Austin Akobundu (rtd), National Organizing Secretary, ordered the state chairman of the party to inaugurate the 155 ward EXCO for the fourteen out of the sixteen local government areas of the State, where the remaining two local government areas contained 22 wards are yet to conduct their Congresses.
“After giving a careful consideration of the reports of the Electoral Committee and the Appeal Panel, has, on behalf of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party, approved the said Congresses and the Executive Committees emerging therefrom.
“You are therefore by this correspondence, directed to take necessary and appropriate steps to Inaugurate the new Executive Officers in accordance with the provisions of Section 65 of our Party’s Constitution as amended in 2017” .
“In doing this, you’re please advised to also take into proper account the provisions of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Guidelines of Covid-19 as it concerns Social Distancing and the gathering of people in one place.
“This shall be the new Exco Members at the expiration of the current Executives, i.e. April 30, 2020 for Ward, and shall hold office for a period of four (4) years pursuant to Section 47(1) of our Party’s Constitution as amended; (i.e. April 30, 2020 – April 30, 2024 for ward Executives).
“Accordingly, I hereby forward to you the authentic list of the Ward Executives for 155 out of the 177 wards of your State as contained in the attached lists of Names of Approved Ward Exco Members,” the statement added.
Before the Appellate court’s decision, the Federal High Court had earlier recognised the congress conducted in favour of Hon Bisi Kolawole as State Chairman and other executive members at the ward and local governments. Disenchanted with such verdict, Kolawole’s rival and Olujimi’s political protege, Hon Kehinde Odebunmi, had appealed the judgement but lost out in the judicial power game.
The political pundits are still stunned about what could have brought such a wide gulf between the two political juggernauts in PDP. Their political romance dated back to 2003 when Fayose bestrode the state’s hemisphere and defeated an incumbent Governor, Otunba Niyi Adebayo of the then Alliance for Democracy.
They were also together in same political boat when Fayose resurged in 2014 to trounce another incumbent governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress in a more confounding and enigmatic fashion.
The general consensus among the ardent followers of the politics in the PDP and the resonating ding -dongs surrounding the congresses was that, it was a power play about the 2022 governorship election and that the gladiators must tread with caution, in order not to endanger the future of PDP.
The crisis had snowballed to a peak that it has attracted external forces from Southwest and Abuja into the fray, who are either intervening to quench the raging fire or stoking it.
The party’s National Chairman, Chief Uche Secondus, has not hidden his support for Fayose’s group. He was not doing this to please Fayose alone, but to survive the second term plot that was being resisted in some quarters . This particular Abuja support had been a serious albatross and impediment to Olujimi to win the war.
In the same vein, the governor of Oyo State, Engr Seyi Makinde, had also been alleged to have queued behind Olujimi, who is a sitting Senator with deep and solid financial power to confront Fayose.
Some believed that Governor Makinde was banking on Olujimi to rein in Fayose, who is perceived to be boisterous and overbearing, for him to consolidate hold on the Southwest and dispense power without interference. These two contrasting views had generated serious centrifugal forces tearing the party and causing unrest among contending forces.
The foregoing tendencies had sparked up divergent ambitions ahead of 2022 governorship poll. While Fayose was surreptitiously preparing his political machinery to either back his former deputy, Prof Kolapo Olusola or his former Works Commissioner, Mr. Kayode Oso, Senator Olujimi was organising his machinery to back either former Acting Governor Olatunji Odeyemi or Ranti Akerele.
Odeyemi has been recognised as a good and sellable material in view of his superlative performances as an acting Governor. Akerele also has a good history in the party. He came first in the 2007 governorship primaries . But the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was not comfortable with his candidacy. By consensus facilitated by the presidency, The ticket was later given to former Governor Segun Oni, who came third in the keenly contested primary.
Members are now at a loss on the fact that at a time they expected Olujimi to bury the hatchet and embrace the olive branch being spread to her, she posed as if she was not taking the fight lie low. His proteges, Hon Kehinde Odebunmi threatened that he would fight on by approaching the supreme Court to test the appeal Court verdict.
Odebunmi said they would continue to maintain the faction despite rapprochement by some powerful people within and outside Ekiti.
He said : “That the State Working Committee under the leadership of Hon. Kehinde Odebunmi should be sustained and encouraged to go ahead with the running of the party in Ekiti.
“That all Governorship Aspirants are encouraged to go ahead with their consultations and mobilisation of the generality of Ekiti people, who are anxiously waiting for a PDP Governor in 2022. However, such sensitization must be devoid of rancour.
“The meeting commended all our party members for their steadfastness and beliefs in the eventual triumph of Justice over Injustice, and truth over falsehood at the Supreme Court”, Odebunmi said.
The questions that were reverberating on the lips of the people are, “Would the tension now subsides in view of the latest appeal Court pronouncement? Would those oppose to Fayose drop their litigation and embrace peace? Would Fayose be humble enough to beg his aggrieved followers? Time shall answer all these.