Peace has once again eluded the Ekiti chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC).
The party that managed its protracted crisis to win the July 14, 2018 governorship poll has fallen into bad times again. Efforts to resolve the crisis have largely remained unsuccessful almost two years into the tenure of Governor Kayode Fayemi, who assumed office on October 16, 2018.
The crisis, which reared its ugly head during the March 26, 2018 governorship primary election, where Fayemi emerged as a candidate, has snowballed into a cold war that has now produced a major opposition tendency at the party. For the likes of Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Mr. Babafemi Ojudu, Dr. Wole Oluyede, the son-in-law of Bola Tinubu, Hon. Oyetunde Ojo, who married the first daughter of Tinubu, Hon. Bimbo Daramola, and Prince Adedayo Adeyeye, among others, the party must restructure or self-destruct.
The battle for the soul of Ekiti APC between Fayemi’s camp and Ojudu’s group has led to suspension and counter-suspension. The various tendencies in the party appear to have shifted their sight to the 2022 governorship poll, with the knowledge that whoever owns the party structure will produce the governorship candidate.
The Ojudu and Tony Adeniyi-led group of stakeholders started their agitation and struggle early enough for the party to either listen to them or they get what they want through litigation. Their reactions have been fuelled by a feeling of being tactically ostracised from the party in the state. They are angered by the fact that Fayemi did not patronise them or solicit their input in the appointment of his cabinet. The governor ensured that only his trusted allies, fondly called ‘Core Fayemi’s political family (Fayemi tokantokan),’ and a handful of those aggrieved aspirants, who accepted his peace overtures were given appointments.
Ojudu and other leaders are currently challenging the legality of the ruling party executive members at the state, local government, and ward levels. The suit seeking to upturn the structures was filed at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja by Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Dr. Wole Oluyede, Hon. Oyetunde Ojo, Chief Akin Akomolafe, Engr Ayo Ajibade, Akogun Bunmi Ogunleye, Otunba Ben Oguntuase, and others against APC, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Inspector General of Police, state Chairman of the party, Mr. Paul Omotosho, and all members of the State Executive Committee.
The plaintiffs allege that the ruling party did not conduct ward, local government, and state congresses in Ekiti State and that they were handpicked by Governor Fayemi. They are praying the court to declare the process that produced the party’s executive at the three levels null and void. To get the attention of the national leadership to the seemingly intractable crisis rocking the party, Ojudu and 14 others, in a letter to the party leadership in June this year, called on the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee of the party to call Governor Fayemi to order over alleged dictatorship.
They accused Fayemi of influencing party executives to alienate and victimise critics of his government through illegal suspension and alienation from the party’s activities. The concerned leaders also expressed fears that the party might suffer defeat in the next governorship election in 2022 with the existing cleavages and under-performance of the Fayemi-led government.
Other prominent APC leaders that signed the statement were Senator Tony Adeniyi, former House of Representatives members, Oyetunde Ojo, Bimbo Daramola, and Robinson Ajiboye, as well as former state Assembly Speaker, Hon. Adewale Omirin.
In the statement entitled ‘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 caretaker committee to bring some calm into the party. They listed Senators Adeniyi and Ojudu, Daramola, Ojo, Bunmi Ogunleye, Ben Oguntuase, Dele Afolabi, and Diran Fadipe as among those that had either been ‘unjustly’ suspended or at various stages of suspension in their respective wards.
They said: “This 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 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 stated that the victory they recorded in the Ekiti 2018 governorship election was not solely through the governor’s efforts, rather by all party people, who worked hard to secure victory. They advocated the dissolution of state executives across all strata, saying the lists were allegedly compiled through undemocratic means by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, and Governor Fayemi.
According to Ajayi: “They were only engaging in blackmail because they knew that those suspended took the party to court and it is expulsion if the law is to be followed to the letter.
“We enjoy the freedom to run the party without Governor Fayemi’s interference. But it is said that Senators Ojudu, Adeniyi, Adeyeye, Hon. Ojo and Daramola, who were abusing Fayemi, allowed their victories 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 tele-guided the executives to suspend anyone? These are mere blackmail.”
As part of efforts to find lasting peace, a stakeholder meeting comprising leaders of the party across the 16 local government areas was held with Governor Fayemi in attendance. However, the aggrieved leaders were absent from the meeting, which would have provided an opportunity for the aggrieved members to express their misgivings and put their demands forward.
Another troubleshooting effort made to end the crisis and bring aggrieved members on board was the setting up of a reconciliation committee, headed by the former state chairman of the APC, Chief Jide Awe. It is, however, doubtful if it has succeeded in its assignment.
A political observer said that though the Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, which includes freedom to disagree with the majority, there must be party discipline. According to him, if the agitation of members, including litigation, were left unchecked, the end of such a political party becomes predictable. Ojo Adeyemi reminded that but for the intervention of President Buhari and some concerned members of the party, who applied the doctrine of necessity by sacking Adams Oshiomole’s National Working Committee (NWC) and directing members to withdraw their cases in court, court cases by aggrieved members are capable of putting the party in jeopardy ahead of the 2023 general election.
He said as party men, aggrieved members ought to explore all the organs of redress within the party and could only proceed to get justice when justice cannot be served by the relevant organs of the party.
WORRIED that the highest decision making body of APC, which is the National Executive Committee (NEC), had since May directed that all members having court cases should withdraw them to give room for internal dispute resolution mechanism, the national leadership of the party had written a letter to the State Chairman, Paul Omotoso, mandating the SWC to commence the process of suspension of erring members.
The letter, dated September 7, 2020 and signed by the National Working Committee’s (NWC) head of Legal Department, Mr. Dare Oketade, and addressed to the state Chairman, Omotoso, mandated the SWC to commence the process of trial for perceived adamant members, who are perceived to be disobedient by having pending cases in court despite NEC’s clear order. The letter said the leadership of the party has decided to invoke the provisions of Article 21of the party constitution against members of the party, who have flouted the directive of NEC.
The state chapter of the party, in fulfillment of the directive of the national leadership, had set up an eight-man disciplinary committee to probe Ojudu and 11 other members of the party over alleged insubordination and anti-party activities. The eight-member disciplinary committee, headed by former Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly, Mr. Sola Ajigbolamu, was to invite Ojudu and others to answer questions as to why they allegedly refused to withdraw cases they instituted in court against the party.
The party expressed worries over the alleged recalcitrant postures of the aggrieved members despite the intervention of President Buhari and the National Executive Council (NEC). Others who were invited alongside Ojudu include Ojo, Ajibade, Adeleye, Ogunleye, Akomolafe, Adegoroye, Oluyede, Owoeye, Afolabi, Oluwasola, and Oguntuase.
However, the Ojudu group said they would not honour the summons of the party’s disciplinary committee set up to probe them. They noted that the decision of Ekiti state APC to commence disciplinary measures against them and subsequent invitation was a clear violation of their fundamental human rights to seek redress in court, when aggrieved with any process. They also said that there was no directive from the National Caretaker Committee to the state chapter of All Progressives Congress (APC) to set up a disciplinary committee against them.
For daring the party, the 11 members from Ojudu’s camp were slammed with indefinite suspension over alleged disobedience action, which rested on their failure to withdraw the case they instituted against the party as directed by the National Executive Council of the party.
In a statement signed by the party’s State Publicity Secretary, Ade Ajayi, on Thursday, September 24, 2020, he said the disciplinary action was taken against Ojudu and others for defying NEC over their refusal to withdraw their suit in court.
HOWEVER, in a counter move by the aggrieved, but now suspended camp, they announced on Friday, September 25, 2020, the suspension of the state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi over alleged anti-party activities. The factional executive, led by Senator Adeniyi, said the governor had violated the provision of the party’s constitution by working against the interest of APC in the just-concluded governorship election in Edo State by supporting the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Governor Fayemi was accused of hosting former Minister of Aviation and chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode in Ekiti for days before the Edo poll, “where they perfected the coup against our party in Edo State.”
Other signatories to the communiqué include Ojudu, Adeyeye, Daramola, Ajiboye, Ojo, Omirin, and Adeleye.
The faction said that Fayemi has polarised the party in the state and that they were out to salvage the party from destruction.
According to them, “That, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Executive Governor of Ekiti State, is hereby suspended from the party in view of his numerous anti-party activities, especially his role in the recent concluded governorship election in Edo State, which is contrary to the provisions of Article 21 (A) (ii) of the APC Constitution.
The splinter APC group also announced that a faction of the executive, led by Omotosho should stop parading itself as the party’s executive, describing it as an illegal party executive.
Reacting to the alleged suspension of Fayemi, Omotoso-led State Executive Committee issued a six-hour ultimatum for the Adeniyi group to either affirm or deny the purported suspension slammed on the governor.
Also reacting to his alleged suspension, the state governor described it as a joke taken too far. Fayemi, through his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Yinka Oyebode, said those who carried out the alleged suspension are unknown to Ekiti APC. Oyebode said the All Progressives Congress (APC), as a party, is governed by laws, adding that members of the group could not hide under their recent suspension to announce a dubious suspension for which they lack the locus standi.
MEANWHILE, the national leadership of the party has described the purported and widely-reported “suspension” of Fayemi as well as an earlier “indefinite suspension” of some other party members in the state as a nullity.
According to the party’s Deputy National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Yekini nabena, “In line with the mandate of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee and the president’s admonition to party members to ensure and support the ongoingly amicable and rancour-free settlement of internal party disputes, we call on our esteemed party members and leaders in Ekiti State to be duly guided.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Paul Omotosho-chaired APC Ekiti State Working Committee is the authentic, valid, and duly recognised executive as no factions or divisions exist in the state chapter.”