ADEWUMI ADEMIJU reports on the battle for the soul of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State between Governor Kayode Fayemi and the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojudu
It is not the best of times for the Ekiti State chapter of the All Progressives Congress APC given the rift between Governor Kayode Fayemi and some chieftains of the party. Reasons for the rift range from alleged overbearing to noncompliance to party’s constitution and suspension order leveled against Governor Fayemi.
This is even as the aggrieved party leaders have called on the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC National Caretaker Committee to rescue the party from dictatorship.
Prominent among the EKiti APC aggrieved leaders is the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Babafemi Ojudu, who has left no stone unturned to exhibit his resentment to the leadership style of Governor Fayemi. Ojudu represented Ekiti Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) during Fayemi’s first tenure as governor between 2010 and 2014.
The period witnessed a robust political relationship between the duo. In fact, Ojudu was said to be one of the chieftains of ACN, who played the role of a chief strategist towards the realization of Fayemi”s political ambition as governor then, a pointer to the fact they were together at that time.
When Ojudu in 2011 contested for the National Assembly election to represent Ekiti Central Senatorial District, Opeyemi Bamidele (now a senator) was also one of the chieftains of the CAN and many claim that he was the brain behind the political relationship between Governor Fayemi and the APC National leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a relationship, they said benefitted the latter.
Though Bamidele’s name was said to have been earlier penciled for the senatorial ticket of ACN at that time, things however turned around and Ojudu was given the ticket.
He went ahead to win the election and represented Ekiti Central in the upper legislative chamber between 2011 and 2015. Bamidele was later placated with a House of Representative ticket and be-came a member of the Green Chamber that same period (2011-2015).
However, the political relationship between Fayemi and Ojudu witnessed a twist when Fayemi could not return as governor in 2014, following his defeat at the polls by Ayodele Fayose.
Ojudu, who was confronted with the reality that his reelection to the Senate in 2015 would be a herculean task given the role Fayemi played in the 2011 election was said to have seriously lamented then and even blamed the latter for the 2014 governorship loss. As expected, Ojudu did not return to the Senate for the second time.
The cold war between the duo blossomed to an open confrontation, when two of them declared for the 2018 governorship election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The consequent primary election to nominate the party’s flag bearer for the poll was characterized by violence and evident display of anger by Ojudu and other aspirants against the gubernatorial ambition of Fayemi.
Ojudu’s anger was based on his claim that Fayemi left party members in the dark before he made his intention known.
Some of the aspirants complained that Fayemi tactically pushed them forward to waste their time and resources on political campaigns only for him to suddenly come out to declare interest in the party’s ticket.
The discontent forced APC leaders to reschedule the primaries but few days to the new date, Ojudu pulled out of the race.
He said that he stepped down from the contest because he foresaw that the game would lack fairness and transparency as that the process had been tilted to favour a particular candidate.
He vowed it can never be his will to support someone like Fayemi, who was indicted in a white paper by the then Fayose administration over alleged misappropriation of public funds. Fayemi emerged winner at the APC primary election, sought reconciliation with the co-aspirants, so that they can work together for the success of the party.
Though Ojudu shunned the olive branch, he worked for his party on election day, as APC recorded electoral success, with Fayemi emerging as governor for a second term.
But not quite long after the electoral success that the relationship between the duo turned sour again and the latest political rancor could be best described as a carryover of the anger of the 2018 election when Ojudu claimed that the participation of Fayemi (who was then the Minister of Solid and Natural Resources) in the guber race jeorpardised transparency and fair contest.
The rift was sparked, when Ojudu and some APC leaders in the state recently challenged the composition of the state working committee of the party.
The presidential aide accused Fayemi of violating the APC constitution by appointing his allies to multiple positions.
He also alleged that the executive members of the APC in the state, local government and ward levels were handpicked and appointed without consideration to the party”s constitution.
Ojudu further alleged that Fayemi appointed his loyalists to simultaneously serve at the state and federal levels, while some party loyalists are left with nothing. His words: “There are people who are commissioners and also holding board appointments at the national level.
There are members of the House of Representatives, who were appointed to boards at the federal level.
“How can you give one person three appointments, when we have our educated party members roaming the streets without one single appointment? One individual will be a commissioner here; he will be on the board of two other agencies or departments in Abuja.”
Ojudu called on the national leadership of the APC to prevail on Ekiti APC in order to prevent the party from losing the forthcoming 2022 governorship election in the state, “We don’t want to go into the 2022 election, with the guilt of a government that has not performed,” he said.
But Fayemi in a swift reaction, denied the allegation leveled against him, insisting that he’s up to the task in keeping up responsibilities to the people of Ekiti and prioritizing the future of Ekiti youths, being the reason for his reelection in 2018.
The governor, in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Party Matters, Mr. Sam Oluwalana, described allegations of dictatorship and abuse of power raised against him “as mere selfish and faultfinding claims.”
Oluwalana said: “Fayemi has been carrying all the party members along and never breached the statute regarding appointments or favouring anyone at the expense of others.” Ojudu, however, fired back and accused Fayemi of laxity and nonperformance.
He rated Fayemi”s administration low and even went as far as giving commendation in terms of governance to states facing security challenges in the country. In his reaction to the claim, Fayemi described Ojudu as a stranger, who hardly visits Ekiti and couldn’t have seen anything his government has
done. The governor who spoke through his special Assistant on Media and public communication, Segun Dipe, said Ojudu”s accusation was far from the truth, adding that there is governance in Ekiti.
He said: “Ojudu is sounding like people are claiming he is. We believe that his appointment can’t be divorced from being an Ekiti man. Yes, Senator Ojudu doesn’t come home and doesn’t recognize Ekiti at the moment. “What you don’t understand you will always see fault in it.
For now, Ojudu is excused from seeing the negative side because he’s already a stranger and alien to the people and the party.”
While there is no doubt that the last has been heard from the warring sides, a chieftain of the party said the recent development in the state, where Ojudu”s ward chairman and the ward chairman of another leader of the party, Dr Wole Oluyede, a former governorship aspirant, refused to suspend the two party leaders as allegedly directed by Fayemi, is a pointer that the governor does not have a firm grip of the party at the grassroots
“How can ward chairmen disobey the directive of the governor and even went as far as passing a vote of confidence on those members?
This is a pointer to the fact that aggrieved party members are many at the grassroots,” he said. However, the APC Publicity Secretary in the state, Mr. Ade Ajayi, denied the allegation of suspension order by the governor.
“I heard about it, but it is not correct and I want our people to disregard the report. We will invite the ward executives to tell us where this is coming from and we will know what to do.”
Also, Fayemi in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, described the allegations as misleading and a fabrication.
The statements reads in part: “We have tried not to join issues with the barrage of falsehoods, personality attacks and campaign of calumny against Governor Fayemi on social media in the last two weeks because it is not in Fayemi’s character to engage in unintelligent rabblerousing in the media.”
“Fayemi is a principled democrat who is committed to fighting for the principles of democracy within the political party he laboured with other notable Nigerians to birth. It is normal for political leaders to be in disagreement, but it should not lead to campaigns of calumny based on falsehood.”
But suing for peace, traditional rulers in the state have urged the politicians to sheathe swords of rancour and embrace armistice in the interest of the state. The monarchs urged the warring politicians to embrace peace to achieve meaningful development in the state.
The chairman of Ekiti State Traditional Rulers Council and the Alawe of Ilawe Ekiti, Oba Adebanji Ajibade Alabi, who spoke in his palace while reacting to the lingering animosity within politicians in the state, said massive development which would benefit the majority of the people should be the priority.
The monarch expressed sadness over the exchange of disturbing information portraying Ekiti State in bad light, calling the parties involved to order.
“Traditional rulers, as fathers of all, consider it expedient to tell all politicians that Ekiti needs peace and development and that all hands must be on deck to ensure that we all live together peacefully and provide government the conducive environment to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people,” Oba Alabi appealed.