Despite the ‘suspension’ slammed on him by some members of the Ondo State Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hon. Duerimini Isaacs Kekemeke insists that he is the authentic chairman of the party. He speaks in this interview with Babatope Okeowo on the crisis rocking the party, among other issues
What is your position in Ondo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
I am the chairman of APC in Ondo State. As a matter of fact, I am the only elected officer of the party in the state, there was a congress and that congress elected me and I defeated my incumbent deputy. But because everybody wanted to build, I agreed that he should become my deputy even when he lost to me and then we put all the other structures together.
But some people claimed to have suspended you and appointed the person you defeated as the acting chairman?
Well, it is ironic and laughable. This is so because if you recall, immediately after my election, I decided that all the interest groups must be put together and we met nothing on ground, it was a new party and I was the first chairman to be elected so to say and some of the interests that I defeated were never happy with me. They were also not happy with the way I ran the party because we were going to run the party differently to make it a winnable platform to make sure that elections were the focus and quite a number of people didn’t think so.
They thought that a party could serve as means of livelihood, a means of meeting their basic needs. I didn’t think so and I also don’t think that it is right for us to go cap in hand begging all the time to ask for money and that if we were going to get any support at all, it should be for the work of the party and to make sure that we created a credible platform.
There were a number of times we were not happy that money wasn’t available for sharing, so these people were tempted not once to remove me, and you will remember that at a time the Publicity Secretary said he had removed me. At another time, an ex officio member then, who is now a commissioner, declared himself chairman. They have always done this, so I think this is one of those forms and I am sure they will soon get to know.
But they claimed to have a letter from the National Chairman of the party, proclaiming Engr. Ade Adetimehin as chairman of the party in the state?
I also saw the letter in the social media; I have referred to that letter in many occasions and in many fora as a Black Market letter. The letter speaks for itself. I was excited when I read the letter because before it came, they had said I have been removed, they had been saying that Adetimehin was substantive chairman and then suddenly a letter came that said ‘no you are not chairman, you are acting chairman.’ For me, if they were sober people, they would look critically at that letter and say ‘all the while you have been claiming that you are chairman, you were not.’
The letter says the chairman has approved pending the time the National Working Committee (NWC) will meet, but I said so the NWC and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to which I belong to have not even met and I read through and it said pending the time the NWC meets on the complains against the state chairman. There is a state chairman, and thirdly and most fundamentally, there is nowhere in the provisions of the APC Constitution, where power is donated to the national chairman to act as a sole authority for removing and appointing officers for the party.
If you are the chairman, why are you not in the party’s secretariat?
You will recall that on one or two occasions, people had gone into that secretariat and illegally occupied it and we had flushed them out. That was when there was a job to be done. There was a serious job to be done; elections were coming and I needed to deliver, so we flushed them out and did what we had to do. There is a government both at the national and state level that our efforts have successfully put in place.
I have been approached many times by people to go flush them out, but I have decided to be cautious. I think it is better for me to stay away than to go there, provoke a fight or a quarrel and get limbs, heads, legs and eyes broken. What do I need it for? It happened in Bayelsa and somebody was killed, would I like to do that? No! Secondly, I have a second address, but most of the people who go to that secretariat probably don’t have anywhere to go.
I started the party in my chambers here is my house, I could do some of those things from wherever I like, so I don’t want my name to be dragged into breaking anybody’s limb or getting people injured or getting people shot. I am a lawyer, and in any case, you don’t expect me to do what some people will do.
Who between you and Adetimehin attends meetings of the party at the national?
I have been attending national meetings until the last one when they started cooking this Black Market letter. I can tell you that Adetimehin was not allowed to attend any of the meetings.
Is there any attempt by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to bring the warring factions together?
Let me say this; the governor is our governor, he is our party’s governor and he is my senior at the Bar. He is also my predecessor in office as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. I think we have a good personal relationship, I don’t think we have any personal thing against each other, but basically I don’t think that the governor has forgiven me or a great number of members of the party for our disposition to him prior to his becoming governor.
But when he won, I did write to him to congratulate him on behalf of the party and to tell him that he should understand that he is governor of not only members of the party but the entire State irrespective of political inclination. I told him that he should forget about the past and put all of us together for the good of our party and the state. I thought that was the best I could offer him given that I was sidelined during the inauguration but it didn’t quite make too much meaning to me. But prior to the inauguration, he had called me to say let us go to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to obtain his Certificate of Return and we were there together.
He also invited me to be part of the handover ceremony and I was there. But thereafter, things changed at the inauguration and the constitution of inauguration committees. We were sidelined, but we didn’t think it as anything to howl about or to make noise about and thereafter it was clear that he didn’t want to work with me. Of course, I knew he didn’t want to work with me when I stumbled on a letter addressed to him by some other party people not members of APC, and he, in his own handwriting minuted it to the deputy chairman for action.
But the allegation is that you didn’t work for the party during the election. They said you worked for the Alliance for Democracy (AD) candidate, Chief Olusola Oke…
That is one of the funny traits in this party that we tried to correct overtime. When you talk about a party’s victory, there was work done; most of the time work done to make sure that you plant the party, you put the party on ground, you build the structures of the party, you expand the party, elections are not won on Election Day. You put structures for the party, so who did it? Who put all the structures? Who built the party? Who supplied all the agents? Who supplied all the voters register and made copies available to every unit for effective monitoring? Who gave that coordinating effort to provide it?
I am sure that the people in my unit, in my ward, in my local government won’t say it because they know most of the people who are saying that, have nothing to say. I haven’t heard anyone say it to me, so it’s some insanity for anyone to say that I abandoned the party that I laboured alongside others to build; the party that I worked for two weeks after my wife’s death. I didn’t work for AD, I have no need of it. If I want to work for AD, I work for AD, will anyone flog me?
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