Its a long road to peace in Ekiti PDP

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Following the expiration of the tenure of the Gboyega Oguntuwase-led executives on May 10 and the inability to conduct the state congress, the National Working Committee (NWC) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) constituted a seven-man caretaker committee that will pilot the affairs of the party for the next three months and pending election into the State Working Committee.

According to a statement by the national organising secretary of the party, Austin Akobundu, the committee will be chaired by former Senate Deputy Chief Whip and former lawmaker representing Oyo North, Senator Hosea Agboola, while Mr Yinka Akerele, Honourable Samuel Omotosho, Honourable Tunji Odeyemi, Ariyo Afolabi and Adeyemi Abiodun Sunday as members. The deputy National Publicity Secretary of the party, DiranOdeyemi will serve as the secretary of the committee.

While Akerele and Odeyemi represent the camp of Senator Biodun Olujimi, Omotosho and Afolabi were picked from the former Governor Ayodele Fayose group. The Olujimi camp said the composition of the caretaker committee was not fair, stressing that Fayose nominated Odeyemi to make it three representatives from his side.

It is no longer news that the party has been enmeshed in a deep crisis in the last few months, resulting in two different camps: one belongs to former Governor Fayose, while the second is under the leadership of the lawmaker representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Senator Olujimi. The two leaders are at loggerheads, ostensibly for the control of the party’s structure ahead of the 2022 governorship election in the state.

Shortly after the expiration of the tenure of Fayose as governor of the state in 2018, Olujimi assumed the leadership of state chapter of the party by supporting the State Working Committee (SWC) with needed logistics and moral supports which made her to have majority of the executives in her side. Fayose, according to the immediate past SWC, allegedly abandoned the party after completion of his tenure in 2018.

The battle between them took a different dimension in the build up to the 2019 general election when Fayose went on a private radio station in the state to campaign against the re-election of the former Senate Minority Leader and candidate of his party. Olujimi lost at the February poll but reclaimed her mandate in November 2019, through the court and returned to the Senate.

The gulf within the party widened after the March 7 ward congress where both leaders disagreed on the conduct and outcome of the congress. Ahead of the 2022 governorship election, the two party leaders saw the congress as an opportunity to capture the party structure.

After sponsoring candidates for the congress, the two camps inaugurated parallel executives. While the Fayose-led group conducted swearing for the ward executives on April 30 and supervised by a notary public, Niyi Idowu, the Olujimi-led group inaugurated its parallel ward excos on May 1, 2020.

Fayose’s media aide, Lere Olayinka, said the inauguration was constitutional in its measure, claiming the directive followed the NWC approval of the ward congresses held in the state. He said the new party officers had assumed office for a tenure of four years, in accordance with the party’s constitution. However, the Olujimi camp, through a group called the Ekiti PDP Repositioning Movement, said the inauguration by the Fayose group was a desperate antic by some persons to forcefully hijack the party’s structure for their predetermined interest. In a statement by its chairman, Alaba Agboola, the group said it was the state organ that could inaugurate its local chapter, adding that the authentic ward officials emerged from the congress supervised by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security operatives.

Another twist to the crisis is the suit before the Federal High Court sitting in Ado-Ekiti against the outcome of the congress by one Oladimeji Samson Olalekan. In the suit number, FHC/AD/CS/14/2020, the plaintiff sought an order restraining the PDP NWC from going ahead with the local government, state and zonal congresses without first resolving the issue with the ward congress. Justice U.N Agomoh has fixed May 27 for continuation of hearing in the case. Olujimi accused the deputy governor of Taraba State, Haruna Manu, who led the PDP national team to supervise the ward congress in the state of allegedly colluding with Fayose to scuttle the exercise. She said: “There is no calm within the Ekiti PDP. What we have is the lull before the war. We are already in the battle mode. What has happened is simple. We had congresses and people bought forms. Before the forms were obtained and filled, the party brought out guidelines. Specifically, we were asked to conduct our elections between 8am and 2pm and we complied with that directive.

“Usually, what is expected of us is to get officials of the party to stand there, collect all the forms and get the people to queue and record the figure. The INEC officers and security agents would be there to sign in. Then, we would proceed to Ado-Ekiti and wait till when the people from Abuja would come since it is not easy for them to come early.

However, when we got to Ado-Ekiti, we found out that the people from Abuja arrived at 4pm and said they wanted to carry out the exercise all over again. I told them that we are not afraid of the exercise being done by them but that they should wait till the following morning by 8am as prescribed by the guidelines so that we could mobilise the INEC and the security agencies and do it properly.” The senator noted that the Taraba deputy governor turned down her pleas and insisted on going ahead with the exercise, even after she informed him that it would take two hours to travel from Ado-Ekiti to her local government area.

A former member of the state House of Assembly and a chieftain of the PDP in the state, Chief Olubunmi Olugbade, also spoke on the crisis in the party, blaming it on an alleged move by Fayose to impose officials and control the party. He claimed that the former governor’s group only wrote the results of the congress with the aid of the officials from the national headquarters.

According to him, “If the so-called umpires from Abuja arrived in Ekiti by 4pm or distributed election materials by 4pm in Ado Ekiti, how was it possible to conduct the congresses in the different wards before 8pm? They converged at Petim Hotel to fill the result sheets. They did not hold any congress. Leadership is not contested, it is earned. That is the problem Fayose and his people are having. Olujimi is the symbol of the PDP in Ekiti State now. Since Olujimi joined the PDP in 2003, she has never looked back. Olujimi has always been very consistent. She knows the ideals of governance, the ideals of politics. She has given back to the PDP more than any politician in the state, including Fayose .”

On the way forward, Olugbade said, “You cannot solve a problem from the effect. You solve a problem from the cause. Those who know the origin of this problem must be ready to proffer solutions. Except the PDP national body wants to trade off Ekiti State, it has to come in. Already, the party is divided along two parallel lines. This is a litmus test for the party at the national.”

But Fayose’s media aide opined that the former government remained the leader of the party in the state, saying the national leadership of the party had taken a decision on the results of the ward congress. “The truth is that it is the person who is more knowledgeable, grounded and loved by the people has taken control of the party. The gulf between Fayose as a former governor and Olujimi as a serving senator is very wide going by PDP structure. Can you compare 100 serving senators with a former governor? But hopefully, when the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the party will elect a new state exco and we will have a fresh life, fresh ideas and this party will be able to run as it is supposed to,” he said.

Speaking on how the caretaker committee would resolve the crisis, the secretary of the committee, Prince Diran Odeyemi, said the national headquarters of the party was aware of happenings in the state chapter but assured that it was a mere disagreement that would soon be resolved. Odeyemi said: “That is the purpose of our coming there and in all political parties there is never a time that there will not be a misunderstanding among members. It is now the duties of the leaders to come together and see how it could be minimised or solved totally and that is the purpose of the committee.

“There is no misunderstanding that cannot be resolved. Everything is about politics and it is not that there has not be a misunderstanding in the party in the past that was not resolved. It was resolved in the past. We are very hopeful and optimism that this one will be resolved, that is politics it is not a war. Fayose and Olujimi are in the PDP not opposition party. Whatever it is the matter, we will resolve it.”

As the caretaker committee members assumed responsibility in the affairs of the Ekiti PDP, stakeholders in the party are hoping for an ultimate end to the impasse and subsequent election of officials as the main opposition party set out in its quest to dislodge the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC) in the 2022 governorship election.

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