Caretaker committee charts path to peace in Ekiti PDP
The two camps, that is, the camp of ex-Governor Ayodele Fayose and Senator Abiodun Olujimi respectively, have been at loggerheads over the control of the party structure ahead of the state’s governorship election in 2022. This has been the underlying factor responsible for the crisis.
At the expiration of the tenure of the Gboyega Oguntuase-led State Working Committee, the National Working Committee (NWC) had, on May 17, 2020, set up a seven-man caretaker committee, which has as its chairman, Senator Hosea Agboola, to pilot the affairs of the party for three months during which the various issues bedeviling the party would be resolved and the outstanding congresses conducted.
Before the appointment of the caretaker committee, the ward congress of the party had been conducted across the 177 wards in the state by the Deputy Governor of Taraba State, Haruna Manu’s committee appointed by the national leadership of the party to supervise the exercise. The controversy generated by the conduct of the wards congress led to the inauguration of parallel ward executives by the two factions.
The Fayose group said that the Ward Executive Committee members were sworn in by a Notary Public, Barrister Niyi Idowu, in accordance with the provisions of Section 65 of PDP constitution, as amended in 2017. Olujimi’s group also inaugurated its own executive at the same time. However, her camp went to court to challenge the validity of the parallel congress conducted by Fayose’s camp, insisting that the ward executive being paraded by the group was invalid.
What further made Olujimi camp to proceed to court was a letter giving tacit support to Fayose’s ward executive. The letter with ref no: PDP/DOM/GF.V/VOL.2/20-387B, dated April 25, 2020, which was allegedly signed by the National Organizing Secretary, Col. Austin Akobundu (rtd), said that the NWC had directed the state chairman of the party, Chief Gboyega Oguntuwase “to take necessary and appropriate steps to inaugurate the new executive officers in accordance with the provisions of Section 65 of our party’s constitution as amended in 2017.”
In the letter, the NWC had listed names of the Ward Executives for 155 out of the 177 wards in Ekiti State that emerged in the ward congresses held on March 7, 2020. The party stated that the congresses did not hold in Gbonyin and Ekiti East local councils. The NWC said that the new exco members shall hold office for a period of four years “pursuant to Section 47(1) of our party’s constitution as amended; (i.e. April 30, 2020 – April 30, 2024, for ward executives.”
Despite the suit pending suit at the Federal High Court, the caretaker committee continued with peace overtures to leaders in the two camps with a view to finding political solution. Notable among the leaders, who met with the committee included Senator Olujimi, former governor, Chief Segun Oni, and ex-governor Fayose.
However, the ex-parte order being sought by the Olujimi group was not granted on technical grounds. Justice U.N. Agomoh, while dismissing the ex-parte application filed by one Oladimeji Samson Olalekan and others, against the March 7, 2020 ward congresses of the PDP, said, “the interest of justice will be better served by hearing the parties in this suit.”
Olalekan and others had filed a motion seeking an order of the court restraining the PDP National Working Committee (NWC) from announcing, publishing, and recognizing any list as a result of election of ward executives and three ad-hoc delegates held on March 7, 2020, as well as an order restraining the party from acting on, or making use of the names of winners of the congresses for the purpose of the local government, state and zonal congresses. The plaintiff also sought an order restraining PDP’s NWC from going ahead with the local government, state and zonal congresses without first resolving the issue of Ekiti State ward congresses.
In her ruling, Justice Agomoh said, “I have carefully studied this application ex-parte just argued and also taken benefit of the written and oral arguments of the learned senior counsel vis a vis the reliefs sought. It is not disputed that the congresses in issue have since been concluded. Let me also put on record the fact that it is correct as submitted by learned counsel that they also filed their motion on notice.
“Having therefore giving calm consideration to the underlying justifications, it is my firm view that the interest of justice will be better served by hearing both sides of the divide. Consequent upon my thoughts upon above, this court can only exercise its discretion properly by hearing both sides. The interest of justice will be better served by hearing the parties in this suit.
“Consequently, I order the service of motion on notice already filed and fixed same 27th of May 2020 alongside all pending applications for hearing. This date must be confirmed as it depends on the state of the nation in view of the pandemic at the moment.”
It was learnt that Southwest PDP leaders, led by the Governor of Oyo state, Seyi Makinde, had sought for an out-of-court settlement of the matter. A series of meetings were held to get both camps to drop litigation and accept political solution. However, while the Olujimi camp was said to have been willing to accept political solution, which would allow for the sharing of positions in ratio 40 to 60, the Fayose camp was alleged to be uncompromising by insisting that there should be no sharing of positions with olujimi’s group. The former governor was said to have expressed his disapproval of the resolution, preferring to take the party structure 100 per cent.
Following the inability of Southwest leaders to resolve the matter, the two combatants took their war of words to the public domain. Fayose’s media aide, Mr. Lere Olayinka, fired the first salvo when he spoke on behalf his principal in a statement about Olujimi, saying: “We don’t have time for a loser, who is being used by APC to destabilize Ekiti PDP. If she wants to leave PDP, she can leave. She has right to ventilate her frustration having failed to take over PDP, so that she can become the party flag bearer in 2022.”
Also, other Fayose loyalists, under the aegis of former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) House of Representatives members from Ekiti, including Segun Adekola, Kehinde Agboola, Ayodele Oladimeji and Thadeus Aina chided Olujimi (Ekiti South) for allegedly sponsoring attacks on the party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus. They also insisted that there would be no sharing of PDP’s local government and State Executive Committees with any dissident group, adding, “Those who plotted political coup should be ready to bear the consequences.”
The former National Assembly members said, “Olujimi must perish the idea that she represents everybody and stop being an ingrate to our benefactor while she goes about hobnobbing with All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State.
“We condemn her actions in entirety and we wish to state that whoever is thinking about bringing our leader and benefactor, former Governor Ayodele Fayose, to the negotiating table with Olujimi should perish that idea. Fayose remains our leader and it is a known fact that it was through him that we, including Olujimi, climbed the political ladder to the level that we are today.
Responding, Chairman of Ekiti PDP Repostioning Group loyal to Olujimi, Mr. Alaba Agboola, accused Fayose of sponsoring media attacks from Ekiti against the national leadership.
He praised the Secondus-led PDP National Working Committee for its concerted efforts in ensuring victory for the party in future elections through reconciliation of warring parties within the PDP. The group stated that Fayose’s strange behaviour and utterances had diminished the quality followership of PDP in Ekiti State.
Irked by the attacks, Senator Olujimi dismissed the claim that she was trying to wrest the Ekiti State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the hand of Fayose, insisting that nobody owns the party. The former Senate Minority Leader said that the camp of Fayose was trying to take advantage of her gender to sideline her from the management team of the party, even when she continues to give her best to the service of both the party and the state. She vowed to fight for her right.
She said, “I believe it is what we do that will make people believe in us. What happened is that some people came together and said they want a new leadership. I didn’t compel anyone. They came and said they needed a breath of fresh air, a new beginning and inclusiveness and then we started a movement which gathered so much momentum to such an extent that they believe that we are eroding the ground upon which they, the former governor’s men, stand.
“The bottom line is that if you have done well, you won’t need to wrestle at all,” she said. “Fayose that I worked with and I had great respect for? How did he lose it? He needs to answer that.
“What is happening is a misconception which came about because of the belief that one person owns the party and the other person is trying to wrest the party from the owner. But that is not the situation; the situation on ground is that everybody in the party, including the most lowly joined the party because there is free entry and free exist.
“And so, nobody owns the party. Yes, there are some individuals, who are established in the party and who are part of the management team. As former governor, Fayose is one of those. But to exclude everyone of us from the management team is one of the major issues at stake.
On the allegation that she was scheming for the 2022 governorship, she said that there was nothing that precluded her from participating in the governorship election of her state, adding, “Nothing at all. I have paid my dues and done what I am supposed to do in Ekiti. I am eminently qualified to participate. Don’t forget that I participated in the 2018 governorship election.”
On allegation that she was on her way to All Progressives Congress (APC), she said she remained a PDP member, noting, “For me, contrary to insinuation, I am wholly PDP through and through. They tried to brand me APC because I worked well with people, especially Mrs. Fayemi. We have met at different fora, including the United Nations. I see her as a leading light on gender issues, but I differ with her when it comes to issues of politics.
“I am a die in the wood PDP. But the easiest thing they do is to play to the gallery, blackmail people and say they are working for the opposition. I can say to you that I have not met Fayemi in the last five years. I can recollect that maybe when he was minister I met him once; since then I have not had the opportunity.
Having been unable to get the job done within the three months given to it by PDP NWC, the caretaker committee whose tenure has been extended by another three months, has vowed to reconcile all warring parties in the crisis rocking the party before the conduct of the outstanding congresses.
Chairman of the committee, Senator Agboola, said the outstanding local government areas and state congresses of the party would only be conducted when peace returned to the party in the state. He noted that the committee was determined to bring all groups together and ensure unity for the party to stand a better chance of winning the 2022 governorship election.
According to him, “I can confirm to you that the tenure of the caretaker committee has been extended by the National Working Committee (NWC) by another three months for us to achieve the desired results. We have met all the gladiators and we will continue in those efforts towards ensuring peace for Ekiti PDP before we can conduct the outstanding local government and state congresses.”
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