Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Ekiti ACN - Things Fall Apart

A year or so to the governorship election in Ekiti State, leaders of the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, are devising strategies and structures to sustain their hold on the state, but dissension is coming from unexpected quarters.

Dr Kayode Fayemi is considered by many in his Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN as having performed. The same perspective is, however, different in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, where party leaders are still grumbling over the Appeal Court judgment that truncated the party's hold on power in 2010.

Already, the ranks of the PDP have been bolstered by the re-entry of a former governor of the state, Mr. Ayo Fayose who is believed to be preparing to contest the election against Fayemi who he supported in the last election.

While some see his return as having the possibility of causing disaffection within the PDP, other party members maintain that his entry would give the ACN a good run.

Bamidele's ambition

But more of a threat to the ACN, however, is the increasing confusion within the party on the ambitions of Mr. Bamidele Opeyemi, a member of the House of Representatives on the platform of the ACN.

Recently, Opeyemi's posters surfaced in parts of the state announcing the legislator's intention to contest the governorship election in 2014 on the platform of Labour Party.

The posters carrying the inscription 'Promised Land 2014' were lavishly displayed on major streets in Ado Ekiti, especially at Fajuyi Park, and Iyin-Ekiti, the hometown of the first term federal lawmaker.

The legislator who was abroad at the time the posters surfaced was quick to renounce them announcing that it was the work of detractors who he promised to expose soon. Bamidele, a former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State, is not new to controversy.

Ahead of the 2011 election he had contested and reportedly won the ACN ticket to represent the Central Senatorial District. He was, however, replaced by Senator Babafemi Ojudu reportedly on the intervention of the elders who said that age was still on the side of the lawyer to have his time in the senate in the future. The action was to create a crisis which till date is still being papered over.

One of the problems was the suspicion by Bamidele's associates that Governor Fayemi stood aloof from their man and his travails at the peak of the senatorial combat. It is as such believed that the lawmaker could now decide to slug it out with the governor as a way of pay back. There is also speculation that Bamidele is also being nudged to contest by a former governor from the southwest.

Looming crisis

Though Fayemi is yet to declare publicly that he will seek re-election, party leaders have been asking him to continue in office beyond 2014. Leaders of the party in the state including former Governor Niyi Adebayo; Chairman of the ACN in the state, Chief Jide Awe; and some ACN leaders at a gathering in Adebayo's residence in Iyin Ekiti recently, said Fayemi deserved a second term based on his performance.

Other leaders, who backed Fayemi's re-election at that gathering were the representative of Ekiti South Senatorial district in the Senate, Tony Adeniyi; a member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Ife Arowosoge, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Dr. Adewale Omirin; and Mr. Dapo Karounwi.

It is an endorsement that Bamidele has remarkably downplayed. This, perhaps has dashed Bamidele's hopes of getting the party's governorship ticket as the leaders, at a party at Adebayo's residence in Iyin Ekiti recently, said based on Fayemi's performance, he deserved a second term. The endorsement of Fayemi by Adebayo is expected to give the governor an advantage, especially at Iyin Ekiti, which is also Bamidele's hometown.

"The Kayode Fayemi administration has done a lot to move the state forward and his developmental strategies and strides are quite laudable. I also think he deserves a second term, just as our people are clamouring," Adebayo said.

Bamidele was, however, quick to assert that the endorsement did not amount to an automatic ticket for the governor. He reiterated that only the endorsement from the national leaders of the ACN could deprive other members of the party the right to contest against the governor at the primary.

Besides, he urged the electorate to discountenance the publication that he had no interest in the election and that he had not defected to the Labour Party.

Bamidele said "The endorsement of Fayemi by a section of our party is a step that is allowed in politics. But I want to say that other party members who are interested in the position can still show their interest. The ACN is not a lawless party. It is a party that believes in the rule of law and democratic tenets, so I am confident that the rules will be followed strictly under this circumstance."

No cracks in ACN

Meanwhile, political pundits hold the view that the recent drama playing out in the state chapter of the ACN, might affect the fortunes of the party if urgent steps are not taken to resolve the matter.

In an effort to set the records straight, the Director of Publicity of the ACN, Akogun Oguntayo refuted claims that there are cracks in the party.

In a telephone chat with Vanguard, Oguntayo said "what happened at Otunba Niyi Adebayo's house was a declaration by the party leaders that we are supporting the governor of Ekiti state. That is our decision. At the appropriate time, the national leadership of the party, will also accept this. There is no crisis in ACN, let me just make that clear. Opeyemi Bamidele is a loyal party member and he is still in our party and he has not indicated any intention to contest and we remain one party."

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