Politics

Ekiti APC crisis: Still peace of the graveyard

Although the nullification of all purported suspensions of members of the Ekiti State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the party’s national leadership seems to have eased tension within the fold, AJIBADE OLUSESAN writes that the end is not in sight in the battle for control of the party’s structure

There is no doubt that the “harvest of suspensions,” which recently engulfed the Ekiti State chapter of the All Progressive Congress (APC) has deepened the polarization within the party, however, most political analysts and observers believe that the festering acrimony poses a threat to the party’s continued relevance in the state.

Ekiti APC has known no peace since the 2018 gubernatorial primary elecection that threw up Governor Kayode Fayemi as the party’s flag bearer. Party bigwigs including a presidential aide, Babafemi Ojudu, who felt shortchanged during the exercise, have been at loggerheads with the governor since then.

The crisis got to a head last week, when the Paul Omotosho-led executive committee of the party loyal to Fayemi announced the indefinite suspension of Ojudu, and 10 others. Ojudu and others were accused of disobeying President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive that all aggrieved members of the APC across the country should discontinue all pending legal suits against the party as he attempts to restore peace to the troubled ruling party. Ojudu and others had approached the court, challenging the validity of the ward, local government and state executives of the state chapter of the party.

They claimed the Governor Fayemi and the Minister of Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, hand-picked members of the party’s executives at various levels in flagrant disregard to APC rules.

In the suit, filed at the Federal High Court Abuja, the aggrieved members prayed the court to declare the wards, local government and state executives null and void since there were no elective congresses from the ward to state level since 2018. Although the President’s directive was re-echoed by National Caretaker Committee of the APC, Ojudu and others refused to withdraw the suit and Fayemi’s camp consequently cashed in on that to move against the “rebelling” members.

In a statement signed by the state Publicity Secretary of the party, Ade Ajayi, Ojudu and 10 others were suspended for defying the APC National Executive Council (NEC). Others who were suspended alongside Ojudu include Engr Ayo Ajibade, Hon. Oyetunde Ojo, Hon Femi Adeleye, Bunmi Ogunleye, Akin Akomolafe, Bamigboye Adegoroye, Wole Oluyede, Olusoga Owoeye, Dele Afolabi, and Toyin Oluwasola.

The statement read: “The suspension is based on the recommendation of the in investigative/disciplinary committee inaugurated by SEC to investigate the disobedience of certain members to the directive of NEC of 25th June, 2020, which directed members of the party not to institute any court action and to withdraw existing cases in courts.” But in a swift reaction to their suspension, the Ojudu group through a statement signed by Senator Anthony Adeniyi, countered their opponents with the suspension of Fayemi.

They claimed that if there was anyone `who had engaged in anti-party activities, it was the governor. They alleged that apart from Fayemi’s highhandedness in the running of the affairs of the party in the state, the governor colluded with the opposition People Democratic Party (PDP) in the Edo State election to ensure the reelection of Governor Godwin Obaseki against the APC flag bearer Osagie Ize-Iyamu.

In a communiqué, the Adeniyi-led executive said: “After painstakingly reviewing the activities of some members of the APC in Ekiti State, we the authentic members of the party in the state and members of SEC per Section 12.8 of the APC Constitution being duly constituted members of the National Convention of the party, rose from its meeting of the 23rd September with some far-reaching resolutions.

“That Dr. Fayemi, the executive governor of Ekiti State is hereby suspended from the party in view of his numerous anti-party activities, especially his role in the recently concluded governorship election in Edo State, which is contrary to the provisions of Article 21 (A) (ii) of the APC Constitution. “The Paul Omotosho-led faction of the APC executive in the state is hereby declared illegal and suspended from the party for failure to emerge in accordance with the constitution of the party.”

The actions of the two groups were widely considered illegal as members of the party, according to the APC constitution, can only be suspended at his or her ward level. And sensing these anomalies and in a bid to restore normalcy, the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC National Caretaker Committee nullified the action of both camps. National Deputy Publicity Secretary of the party, Yekini Nabena, said in a statement that “the actions are a nullity.”

The national secretariat also recognized Omotosho-led executive, while reiterating the position of Fayemi as the leader of the party in Ekiti State. The action of the national secretariat of the party may have eased the tension but it hasn’t done much to quench the raging fire as the two factions are ready to go for the broke and political observers are watching to see who blinks first. Although the 2018 elections formed the basement for the current crisis, the fight is now more about the 2022 gubernatorial poll and by extension the 2023 general elections.

The 2018 primaries and the attendant crisis generated bad blood among political gladiators in the state and some claim that Fayemi has not done enough to reconcile aggrieved members. the governor was accused of unbridled desire to completely control the mechanism of the party and used his position to hound dissent voices.

The first major casualty of the crisis was a former governor of the state, Segun Oni, who has since decamped to the PDP after he was suspended by officials in his ward. Oni was one of the aspirants during the 2018 governorship primary and actually came second behind the governor but decided to challenge the outcome of the exercise that threw Fayemi as the eventual winner.

He alleged that apart from the irregularities noticed in the process, Fayemi did not properly resign his position as minister of Solid Minerals Development before presenting himself for the election.

Despite entreaties to have him back down on the litigation, Oni stuck to his guns and pursued his action up to the Supreme Court, where he eventually lost the battle. But, in May 2019, Oni was suspended by the executive of his Ifaki Ward II in Ifaki Ekiti, which opened a new vista in the crisis that is now threatening to decimate the APC in the state. Oni strongly believed that Fayemi masterminded his suspension and had no choice than to hearken to the call by his supporters to quit the ruling party for the PDP.

Others that suffered the same fate are Bimbo Daramola and Oyetunde Ojo, who had long been suspended by their wards’ executives in a move alleged to have been engineered by the governor. Ojudu and another former governorship aspirant Dr. Oluwole Oluyede had earlier survived attempt to have them suspended by their respective wards. But the party’s spokesman, Ajayi, who dismissed accusing fingers being pointed at the governor, said: “We enjoy the freedom to run the party without Governor Fayemi’s interference.

It is sad that Senators Ojudu, Adeniyi, Adeyeye, Hons Ojo and Daramola, who were abusing Fayemi all owed their victories to the National Assembly to the governor’s support. “They should reexamine themselves and see where they got it wrong. Let them tell us one ward, where Governor Fayemi teleguided the executive to suspend anyone? These are mere blackmail.” Governor Fayemi, who also spoke on the issue in a recent interview, absolved himself off the crisis. He also dismissed claims that he has not carried those who contested the APC primary along in his government.

His words: “If you check my cabinet, you will see that five of those who contest the primary election with me are commissioners, another two as special advisers, one as a commissioner in the Federal Character Commission, one in the Senate and two in the House of Representatives.

So, we’ve almost closed the circle. Naturally, there are those who still feel that they are not getting their due, but I have explained the resources available to Ekiti State and the promises made to the people.

It is always a constant struggle for any political leader to manage resources in the overall interest of the state and to share with people who feel that they deserve more than they are getting. “The semblance of crisis that you referred to was not one brought about by us because there seems to be a misconception in what transpired; the socalled suspension or no suspension.

The party at its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in June made a general pronouncement that is not limited to Ekiti State and I urge you to read President Buhari’s speech as the leader of the party in that June NEC.

“And once the caretaker committee that was set up, following the exit of the national chairman and National Working Committee (NWC) came on board, it wrote to all the 36 states, directing that everybody should withdraw all cases from the courts on the directive of the leader of the party. A month after that, it wrote another letter, asking all the state chapters to ascertain who has withdrawn and who has not withdrawn and the reasons they are still in court.

“After that, it wrote to states that are affected, including Ekiti, where some had gone to court on account of their previous collusion with the chairman that was removed because he thought that some of us were fighting him and that the way to deal with us is to create division in our state.

The national headquarters said that the party at the state level should set up a disciplinary committee to examine why they’ve not withdrawn their cases from the court. The committee did its job and sent its report to the national caretaker committee and it is up to the national headquarters to do whatever it wants with the report. However, there is no faction in Ekiti APC; there is only one party in the state and the leader ship of the party is known by everybody.

So, those who decided to entertain themselves by claiming that they have suspended some people are the ones to explain why they did that.” The claims and counter-claims, notwithstanding, party members are worried over the dimension the crisis is taking with less than two years to the next governorship election. In fact, many believe the imbroglio has been sustained by the ambition of all factions to control the machinery of the party ahead of the polls. By 2022, Fayemi, wouldn’t be eligible to contest having served statutory two terms but the governor is more than interested in who succeeds him. Fayemi is not only interested in determining the emergence of who takes over at the Ayoba Villa by 2022, he is attempting to put his own political future under his firm grip after he leaves the Government House.

He’s been touted to be eyeing a shot at the presidency by 2023 either as president or vice president depending on the zoning arrangement adopted by the party. The ambition of the governor gained more attention, when his campaign posters recently surfaced in strategic places in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital and other areas. Although the governor dissociated himself from the posters, it was considered not strong enough to disabuse people mind on his 2023 ambition. The belief is that controlling the politics of his home base will not only put him on good stead in realizing his ambition, but having a governor under his control will solidify his grip on the party in Ekiti after his exit.

However, it remains to be seen how he will outwit his political foes some of whom are invariably enjoying the backing of forces outside of the state. Apart from Ojudu who threw his cap into the ring in 2018, Senator Adeyeye is also believed to be eyeing the Ekit State government house in 2022. The senator who lost his seat at the court to Senator Biodun Olujimi of the PDP is said to be the anointed candidate of a political bigwig outside of the state and except something dramatic occurs, Fayemi will be reluctant to hand over power to either Ojudu or Adeyeye, who are his former political allies.

Apart from Oni, all the major political players now at loggerheads were strong allies before 2018, but they have allowed ego and interest to severe their relationship. Ojudu, Adeniyi, Daramola and Adewale Omirin worked assiduously for the retrieval of Fayemi’s mandate in court from Oni in 2008. They were in he vanguard of the movement and never wavered throughout the legal battle to actualize the dream of the governor.

The quartet were adequately rewarded in 2011 when Ojudu and Adeniyi won seats in the Senate, while Daramola became a member of the Federal House of Representatives. Omirin, who is now one of those fighting the governor, became the speaker of the state House of Assembly. There have been attempts to reconcile the warring factions but have been frustrated by the dramatis personae in the crisis. Before 2019 elections, the National Peace and Reconciliation Committee headed by a former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, inaugurated by the APC leadership met with the gladiators in the state with a view to hear their grievances and reconcile them. The warring factions observed a ceasefire and worked for the party at the general election but they went back to the trenches as soon as the electioneering was over. Another peace committee set up by the state executive of the party suffered worse fate as the process was considered dead on arrival.

The aggrieved members doubted the sincerity of the committee which was led by the former chairman of the state chapter of the party, Chief Jide Awe to do justice to their case. They rejected the conditions put before them by the committee, which included withdrawing the suits instituted at the Federal High Court Abuja. While either of the warring factions might gain control of the Ekiti APC structure ahead of the 2020 election, many political observers believe a divided APC will not be strong enough to ward off the threat from the PDP. Although the opposition party is also going through its own self-inflicted crisis, there is no doubt that the immediate past governor of the state, Ayodele Fayose, remains a dominant force in the politics of the state reputed as the “Fountain of Knowledge.”

The belief in some quarters is that it would be Herculean for the APC to retain Ekiti after Fayemi if Fayose teams up with Oni to confront a divided ruling party in 2020. APC defeated PDP by about 17,000 votes in the last gubernatorial poll which explains the balance of power between the two major parties. Those who expressed this view said that the Ekiti APC is likely to suffer defeats both in the 2022 governorship as well as the 2023 general election if the party’s bigwigs fail to close ranks.

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