The Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has been embroiled in protracted crisis for some time. The party is polarised into two factions. The internal squabble is threatening its existence ahead of the 2022 governorship race. Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN examines the issues involved and how the lingering crisis is likely to affect its future electoral fortunes
The crisis rocking the Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) seems intractable as it has defied solutions proffered by stakeholders, particularly at the national level. For the past three years, the embattled state chapter has not known peace, the cracks have been widening as if the party was destined for self-destruction. Some of its prominent leaders and their supporters have left and joined other parties. The logjam took its toll on the former ruling party in the state when it was defeated by the opposition All Progressives Congress in the July 14, 2018 governorship poll.
Analysts have identified three major issues that are responsible for the lingering crisis. They were the imposition of the 2018 governorship candidate by the ex-governor Ayodele Fayose; the disagreement over the composition of the Atiku/Obi Presidential Campaign Council for Ekiti State; and the fight over the soul of the party that led to parallel ward congresses conducted by the two factions.
The crisis dated back to September 2017, when the former governor picked his deputy, Professor Kolapo Olusola as the party’s candidate for the July 14, 2018 ahead of the primary. Other aspirants cried foul and mobilised to kick against what they perceived as Fayose’s imposition. The aggrieved aspirants included former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi; former Minister of State for Works, Prince Dayo Adeyeye; former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Owoseni Ajayi; former Deputy Governor, Mr Bisi Omoyeni; and former Ambassador to Canada, Mr Dare Bejide.
They teamed up with their supporters across the 16 local governments to battle what they perceived as the unjust and unilateral decision of the former governor.
Sensing that Fayose would eventually have his way, some aspirants left the party to realise their ambition in other political parties. For instance, Bejide moved to the Peoples’ Party of Nigeria (PPN) and picked the party’s ticket for the governorship poll. Omoyeni also defected to Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) and became the party’s flag bearer.
However, Olujimi and Adeyeye remained to battle Fayose to a standstill. The duo joined forces and demanded the intervention of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC). Indeed, the NWC set up a reconciliation committee, led by the former Senate President Senator David Mark. Olujimi and Adeyeye insisted that there must be a free, fair and transparent primary election for peace to reign in the chapter. The party leadership acceded to their demands. Thereafter, an electoral committee, headed by Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa was mandated to conduct the primary.
Knowing what was at stake, the electoral committee was diligent in carrying out the assignment. To ensure transparency, the lists of delegates were made available to the aspirants days ahead to the primary. The committee went to the extent of publishing the delegates’ list in some national dailies.
Twenty-four hours to the election, the Olujimi and the Adeyeye camps struck a deal and presented Adeyeye as a consensus candidate, to slug it out with Olusola. Following the pact, Olujimi mobilised her supporters to vote for Adeyeye.
Nevertheless, Olusola emerged the winner. All contestants except Adeyeye adjudged the primary free and fair. Adeyeye cried foul and defected to the APC. But, Olujimi decided to remain in the party. But, Olusola later lost the governorship election to Kayode Fayemi of the APC.
Few weeks after Fayose left office, a fresh crisis erupted. Some party leaders and stakeholders held a meeting and appointed Olujimi as the party leader in Ekiti and the Southwest to replace Fayose. In the same vein, the stakeholders passed a vote of no confidence in Chief Gboyega Oguntunwase-led State Working Committee (SWC) and called on National Chairman Prince Uche Secondus to dissolve the state executive and appoint a caretaker committee to administer the party. They accused the state executive of financial recklessness.
In a communiqué, the stakeholders said they decided to install Olujimi as party leader owing to the fact she is the most top-ranking elected official in Ekiti and the Southwest.
But five House of Representatives members elected on the party’s platform dissociated themselves from Olujimi’s endorsement as party leader. Rather, they passed a vote of confidence on the Oguntuase-led executive and pledged their loyalty to Fayose’s leadership of the party. The federal lawmakers who signed the letter were Ayo Oladimeji (Ekiti Central1); Kehinde Agboola (Ekiti North 1); Thaddeus Aina (Ekiti North II); and Akinwodumila (Ekiti South II).
They urged the Senate leadership then to call Senator Olujimi to order, to avoid crisis capable of affecting the party’s chances in 2019 general elections. In the midst of the internal wrangling, the composition of the Atiku/Obi Campaign Council for Ekiti State became a bone of contention in the Ekiti chapter. Olujimi who was the Senate Minority Leader then felt slighted that after the council was constituted, Fayose unilaterally altered it.
In a petition dated January 6, 2018, addressed to the PDP National Chairman, Olujimi requested the NWC to disband and reconstitute the council in the interest of the party. She accused Fayose of hijacking the council and injecting his cronies in all strategic positions with the sinister intention to sideline other party members from participating in mobilising for the PDP presidential candidate.
She said the original composition by the National Directorate of the Campaign Council had Professor Olusola Kolapo as Chairman; Otunba Yinka Akerele as Director-General; and Chief Sanya Atofarati as spokesperson/Director of Media among others, while the position of Secretary did not exist.
But, the composition authored by Fayose had Professor Olusola as chairman; Chief Dipo Anisulowo as DG; Chief Gboyega Oguntuase as secretary; Jackson Adebayo as spokesperson; and Lere Olayinka as director, Media and Publicity. She urged Secondus to compel Fayose to adhere strictly to the resolution of the stakeholders on how the council should be composed at a stakeholders meeting held in Ado-Ekiti on December 28, 2018.
She said: “Only immediate dissolution of the highly-lopsided campaign council could avert unnecessary cleavages in Ekiti PDP and warned that failure to accede to the request could dim the party’s chances in the state.”
The senator added: “It was in the spirit of equity, justice, fairness and general acceptability in Ekiti PDP, that majority demanded that Mr Fayose should be mandated to comply immediately with the party’s earlier resolution by adhering to the earlier membership and composition of the Atiku/Obi Presidential Council as previously agreed by the SWC led by Oguntuase; Senator Olujimi; Senator Duro Faseyi; Prof. Olubunmi Olusola and federal lawmakers that were present.”
Having waited for NWC response to no avail, Olujimi went ahead to inaugurate a parallel council, while Fayose also inaugurated his own. The former governor described Olujimi’s inauguration of a campaign council as a nullity. He warned that he would mobilise the people of Ekiti to vote out those he described as traitors.
Fayose said: “They need me more than I need them. We will ask our people to vote against these betrayers. The campaign council was carefully selected to represent all shades of opinion in the state PDP and wondered what the complaint was all about.”
Both inaugurations were well attended by the party chieftains. However, the chairman of the campaign council for the two camps and former Deputy Governor, Prof. Olusola distanced himself from Olujimi’s inauguration. Oguntuase also denounced Olujimi’s inauguration and pitched his tent with Fayose’s inauguration. He said: “This is the only legitimate gathering where the authority resides. Any other gathering is illegal and illegitimate.”
Thus, Olujimi’s group lost out. Curiously, the PDP national leadership failed to mediate and call the feuding parties to order.
Olujimi’s prediction that if the combatants were not reconciled winning Ekiti State for Atiku might be an uphill task came to pass. The PDP lost presidential and other elections in the 2019 general elections in Ekiti State. Even Olujimi, initially, lost her senatorial election but later retrieved her mandate at the tribunal.
The crisis took a new twist when the two factions held parallel ward congresses on March 7, 2020. The Fayose group inaugurated members of the PDP ward executives in 155 out of the 177 wards. The Olujimi faction also inaugurated its own ward executives for all the wards.
The Fayose group backed its action with a letter purportedly written by the party’s NWC, addressed to Oguntuwase, to inaugurate the new executive officers as stipulated in Section 65 of the party’s legal framework. The group claimed that the NWC had authenticated its list of 155 wards executives after careful consideration of the report of the Electoral Committee and the Appeal panel.
But, Oguntuwase refused to conduct the inauguration exercise as demanded by Fayose group, claiming no directive was given to him by the party’s national secretariat. However, the inauguration was done by a notary public Niyi Idowu on the instruction of Fayose.
Oguntuase who rejected the swearing-in of the factional ward excos described the entire process as an unconstitutional and dubious political game targeted at destabilising PDP in the state. He said: “The notary public contracted to do the swearing-in is not known to the party as I did not mandate anybody to get him to work for us.”
As the controversy over the ward congresses rages, the NWC applied the big stick. It set aside the results of the parallel congresses and set up a seven-member caretaker committee headed by a former Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Hosea Agboola to oversee the affairs of the party pending the election of a new executive for a period, not more than 90 days.
The NWC explained that the decision was sequel to the expiration of Oguntuase-led State Executive Committee and the inability of the party to conduct the state congress scheduled for March 24, 2020, owing to the controversy trailing its ward congress.
In spite of the NWC decision to douse tension, the two gladiators in Ekiti PDP are yet to sheathe their swords. They are embroiled in brickbat and mudslinging.
Olujimi, who said the NWC decision was apt insisted that the ward executives inaugurated by her remain the authentic officials of the party, vowing to frustrate plots by ‘some spoilers’ to thwart the dream of the party forming the next government in Ekiti State come 2022.
The PDP chieftain said she held no grudges against anybody but only wanted to end the era of impunity in the party by reforming the state chapter in such a way that the principles of internal democracy, which, according to her, forms a critical part of the ideals of PDP, would be observed.
She, however, advised the NWC to initiate a genuine peace-strategy to salvage the soul of the party and its architectural structure from collapse by reconciling aggrieved party members, rather than taking sides in the crisis embroiling the Ekiti PDP. She added that the best that can be done at the moment is to ensure a level-playing field for all party members in the running of the party’s affairs.