Victor Ogunje writes that Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State may be distracted from governance by the growing number of enemies within his party, the All Progressives Congress.
The drumbeat of war resonating in Ekiti State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has caught many unawares and made pundits to wonder how the new twist came to the fore in spite of the widespread believe that Governor Kayode Fayemi is a cool, calm and peace loving technocrat.
Most disturbing is the fact that the problem is gradually becoming a huge fire that may consume the party, if no trouble shooting effort is devised to rein in those stoking the embers of discord. The heavyweights behind the fierce battle seem resolute to fight to the end and are unmindful of the pernicious effects it will have on the party ahead of the 2022 governorship poll.
In 2018, the APC narrowly defeated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with a margin of 17,000 votes. Except one is playing ostrich to the reality, no one can underrate the grassroots and magnetic attraction of former Governor Ayodele Fayose to Ekiti voters. He understands the rhythm and how best to dance to it. With the new trend, even an APC die-hard will agree that the PDP will have an upper hand, if any free and fair election is conducted in Ekiti today.
An additional impetus to the PDP influence is the defection of another well loved politician and ex-governor Segun Oni to the party. It seems that Fayemi and his arch opponents in APC were oblivious of the balance of forces between the two major parties and they may pay dearly for it in 2022, if proper fence- mending actions are not quickly taken to arrest the festering crisis.
Though, the party has enjoyed relative peace since 2018 until recently when a former Minister of Works, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, a Presidential Aide, Senator Babafemi Ojudu and some aggrieved APC leaders picked up the gauntlet against Fayemi and accused him of influencing party executives to alienate and victimise critics of his government.
The leaders called on the just inaugurated Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee to quickly arrest the alleged use of party machineries to punish members via illegal suspension from party activities. They expressed fears that the party might suffer a defeat in the next governorship election in 2022 with the alleged existing cleavages and underperformance of the Fayemi-led government .
Other prominent APC leaders that signed the statement that upbraided Fayemi for his alleged despotic posture were Senator Tony Adeniyi, former House of Representatives members, Hons Oyetunde Ojo, Bimbo Daramola and Robinson Ajiboye, as well as former
Ekiti State Assembly Speaker, Hon. Adewale Omirin.
Others included ; former Ekiti Assembly Chief Whip, Femi Adeleye, an Australian based Physician, Dr. Oluwole Oluyede, Akogun Bunmi Ogunleye, Mr. Shoga Owoeye, Omoba Bamgboye Adegoroye, Mr. Ben. Oguntuase, Chief Akin Akomolafe, Engr. Ayo Ajibade, Dele Afolabi and Barrister Tayo Oluwasola.
Those who have been following the politics of the state perceive the scenario as confounding owing to the fact that the dramatis personae were political allies , who had influenced each other favourably in the past.
During the countdown to the 2007 governorship election in Ekiti and the time Fayemi was battling Oni in court over the electoral malfeasance that brought him into office, Senator' Ojudu, Senator Tony Adeniyi, Bimbo Daramola, Adewale Omirin and others played pivotal role in the judicial reclamation of the stolen mandate for Fayemi. The quartet of Ojudu , Adeniyi, Ojo and Daramola were rewarded with National Assembly tickets in 2011, which they won resoundingly riding on Fayemi's crest.
Also, in the last governorship election in Ekiti, Senator Adeyeye defected from PDP to APC to buoy Fayemi's reelection in 2018. As a payback, Fayemi influenced the APC to give him automatic ticket to represent Ekiti South senatorial district in the Senate before he lost out at the Tribunal to Senator Biodun Olujimi. These substantiated the assertion that those involved in the duel are not strange bed-fellows. They have been together for long under the same umbrella before losing focus due to ego and parochial interests.
What made these friends turning into foes was struggle for power and space. While Fayemi was interested in making one of his core loyalists the governor in 2022, some external forces were resolute to halt the move. A source confided in THISDAY that Senator Adeyeye backed by a powerful politician in the South-west has been anointed to confront whoever that is presented by the governor as an aspirant in the coming gubernatorial contest.
The source stated that part of the strategies to be employed by the Ojudu group is a call for the dissolution of the SWC , which could have been allegedly used as a decoy for Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee to bring a caretaker in place in Ekiti to perfect the deal. Having got wind of the plot, Fayemi was said to discreetly join forces with other anti-Oshiomhole governors to get rid of the former National Chairman.
"Governor Fayemi was not really fighting about the 2023 Presidential contest, it is about his survival here in Ekiti. He doesn't hate Oshiomhole, but for him to survive politically , he must have Ekiti in 2022 and he had no option than to support the removal of the former Edo Governor under this circumstance."
Before the horrible turn of events, there had been a cold war brewing in the party, but with all parties denying and claiming that all was well. Even members of the State Working Committee had at various fora denied that there was infighting among the gladiators.
But the cat was let out of the bag when Segun Oni suddenly returned to the PDP. Oni justified his action by adducing as part of his complaints that he was sidelined and shabbily treated in APC. Oni added that the worst of his humiliation was the suspension slammed on him by his ward without recourse to fair hearing .
As the dust elicited by that suspension was settling, Senator Ojudu charged the atmosphere with a statement accusing Fayemi of allegedly acting like an emperor in APC. As watchers thought Ojudu was alone in the intra party squabbles, the 15 prominent members released another bombshell against the governor on the premise that the Ekiti APC had lost its steam to alleged domineering tendencies of the governor.
In the highly caustic and scorching statement titled: 'Time to Take a Stand', the leaders applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for spearheading the dissolution of the National Working Committee and the inauguration of the Governor Buni 's Caretaker committee to bring some calmness into the party.
They alleged that members like; Senators Adeniyi and Ojudu, Bimbo Daramola, Oyetunde Ojo, Bunmi Ogunleye, Ben Oguntuase, Dele Afolabi and Diran Fadipe had either been "unjustly" suspended or at various stages of suspension in their respective wards through Fayemi's sinister motive to allegedly checkmate perceived opponents.
They said: "This gratifying development has informed the need to bring to the attention of the newly constituted committee our concerns about the unfortunate drift of our party in Ekiti State. Prior to now, we we have communicated the situation effusively to the dissolved NWC.
"As this new body sets about resetting the future of our party, it has become imperative to acquaint the leadership with developments in Ekiti State.The time has come to bring to the fore the developments in the state and the political realities in our party".
The leaders posited that the victory they recorded in the Ekiti 2018 governorship election was not solely through the Governor's efforts, rather by all party members who worked so hard to secure the feat.
They advocated the dissolution of the APC state executives across all strata, saying their composition was allegedly masterminded through undemocratic means by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and Governor Fayemi.
"This travesty was committed deliberately to completely ostracise people out of the party activities and today that is what has become the rule and not the exemption.
"In almost two years, the party had not convened any political meeting of stakeholders, no new membership drive , no political activity whatsoever to rev up and consolidate the place and presence of the party in the state since inception of this administration till date., Instead of growth, the membership of the party is dwindling by the day.
"Today, any member who expresses a contrary view is seen as a dissident that must be harassed and intimidated, notwithstanding the status, stature, profile , reputation and above all contributions of such person
"The State, Local Government and Ward executives, who see the Governor as their benefactors capitulate under such threats of removal and denial of patronage to carry out the marching orders to suspend party members without recourse to constitution , just to please their masters, except in Senator Babafemi Ojudu's Ward where the chairman stood his ground not to oblige such a perfidious request", they added.
Firing another salvo at Fayemi, which lent credence to Ojudu's claims, former governorship aspirant, Olusegun Agbalajobi, said Fayemi should be held responsible for the internal crisis rocking the ruling APC, which he said could tear the party apart and undermine the quests of the leadership to sustain its hold on the state.
"It is saddening and disheartening that Fayemi, a self-acclaimed democrat could be acting like an emperor who takes comfort in promoting impunity and disrespect for internal democracy in running APC. I wonder why one person would be holding three appointments when there are educated party members roaming the streets without holding any position."
Countering the position espoused by the aggrieved stakeholders, the APC State Publicity Secretary, Hon Ade Ajayi said: "They were only engaging in blackmail, because they knew that those suspended took the party to court and the consequence should be expulsion if the law is to be followed to the letters.
"We enjoy the freedom to run the party without Governor Fayemi's interference. But 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 executives to suspend anyone? These are mere blackmail," he posited.
On the accusation of underperformance leveled against Fayemi, Ajayi retorted: "They are strangers in Ekiti, because they have not been coming home. If they come around, they will see what our government has done and Ekiti people are happy."
Puncturing the anti-Fayemi claims further in relations to the allegation that some APC members loyal to Fayemi were holding two appointments to the detriment of others, Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Media and Inter Party Relations, Sam Oluwalana, posited that such can't happen, because the APC structure in Ekiti State is well established, strong and committed to the development of the state and the success of the Fayemi administration and would not skew the system to favour one person over the other.
Pointing out the errors in the claim, Oluwalana said: "His Excellency, Otunba Niyi Adebayo was appointed as Chairman of the board of Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) but never took up the appointment because the board was never formally inaugurated! Now that he is currently the Minister for Trade, Investments and Innovations, his unconsummated board appointment is automatically null and void. How is he expected to resign an appointment that he was never formally inducted into in the first place?
"Her Excellency, Dr Eniola Ajayi heard of her appointment into the board of the Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki after swearing in as the Nigerian Ambassador to Hungary. She neither formally accepted nor was ever contacted by the institution till date. Our Deputy Chairman , Olusola Elesin does not hold any federal board appointment as falsely claimed in this publication."
Oluwalana added that while the party acknowledges that some persons mentioned on the list did hold federal board appointments before they were appointed into office in the Fayemi administration, what the faceless and clueless accusers cleverly did not clarify was that many of them have since resigned the said appointments and that replacements of federal board appointments usually take a long process.
"Our able and visionary Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi cannot be distracted from the onerous task of building the structures needed for Ekiti Development; they are the Jannes and Jambres of our political history who shall not prevail this time because their folly is exposed to all well-meaning stakeholders in the Ekiti project. We would have counselled them to desist but like the proverbial dog destined to get lost, they will not listen to the whistle of their superiors".
Despite the explicit and detailed clarifications from the APC, the political duel has refused to subside. In fact, the rancour has further assumed a fiercer and more convoluted dimension as the leaders and executives members of the party in Ado-Ekiti Ward 08 reportedly resisted pressure to suspend Senator Ojudu, for alleged anti party conduct.
This rescue mission had actually emboldened the Special Adviser and increased his bravado to confront the governor. Another anti -Fayemi chieftain, Dr. Wole Oluyede escaped similar pitfall and venomous plot in his ward at Ikere Ekiti .
Reading the communique on behalf of the executives, the chairman of the Ward, Mr. Clement Afolabi, noted that no amount of intimidation and financial inducement from state leaders of the party would make them suspend Ojudu.
"Senator Babafemi Ojudu hails from ward 8 and he is our ambassador and representative. He is very diligent, bold , hardworking and responsible son. There is no doubt he is a well recognized stakeholder in the party and in the community at large.
"Ojudu has committed no offence as such deserve no punishment or victimisation at all for merely expressing his displeasure over issues. That on the basis of above we jointly pass a vote of confidence in him as a loyal party member.
"That the sustainability with survival as well as proper management of our party APC remain our focus and responsibilities which should on no circumstances be toyed with any individuals. That the party's constitution should be strictly adhered to without any alteration in the process of electing people into various positions. That we should practice true democracy in Ekiti the way it should be done by allowing people to choose their own representatives," he said.
To compound the problem for the party, the aggrieved leaders had earlier approached the court challenging the validity of the existence of the ward, local government and State Executives of the state chapter. The case filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja had twice been mentioned in court and adjourned for further hearing.
Justifying the court action, Ojudu accused the state governor of running the affairs of the party as his personal business, saying all internal mechanisms towards resolving all issues had been frustrated by the governor. He also alleged that Governor Fayemi has done little or nothing in the state since he was elected in 2018.
Troubled by the pulsating ripples being generated by the action, traditional rulers, though partisan, promptly appealed to warring politicians in Ekiti state to sheath their swords in the interest of the development of the state.
The Chairman of Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers, the Alawe of Ilawe, Oba Adebanji Ajibade Alabi, said what Ekiti needed now is massive development which will benefit the majority of the people and not divisive political wrangling which will benefit no one.
"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 with a conducive environment to deliver the dividends of democracy to our people", Oba Alabi stressed.
However, the next governorship election, which is two years away is going to be a fight-to-finish. Fayemi won't be on the ballot, but he will be interested in who succeeds him. In another way, his traducers look determined to either make or mar the whole process and APC will be the ultimate loser, except the two sides are very cautious.
The people of Ekiti are expecting the magic wand that will be used by the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee to rescue the party from the brink, because the PDP is poised to take over the state.
The heavyweights behind the fierce battle seem resolute to fight to the end and are unmindful of the pernicious effects it will have on the party ahead of the 2022 governorship poll. In 2018, the APC narrowly defeated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with a margin of 17,000 votes. Except one is playing ostrich to the reality, no one can underrate the grassroots and magnetic attraction of former Governor Ayodele Fayose to Ekiti voters. He understands the rhythm and how best to dance to it. With the new trend, even an APC die-hard will agree that the PDP will have an upper hand, if any free and fair election is conducted today