Ekiti 2022 Guber Race: APC, PDP slowed by internal strife
Going by the timetable released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for the 2022 governorship election in Ekiti State, political parties are expected to conduct primary elections in January 2021. However, less than five months to this crucial aspect of the governorship election, the two dominant political parties, that is, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are weighed down by seemingly intractable crises. At the centre of each case is a crisis of confidence, regarding control of structures and ultimately, who gets nominated or elected as flag bearers of the parties.
State of affairs in the APC
For APC, it’s been an old troubled house that predated the swearing in of Dr. Kayode Fayemi three years ago. It showed up during its primary election in 2018, refused to go away despite troubleshooting efforts of the governor and other stakeholders. Many party members who slugged it out with Fayemi in that primary have not forgiven him. His alleged sin was that, after many of them had spoken with him and got commitment and assurances that he was not going to join the race, the then serving Minister came from the blues a few months to the primary to declare his interest in the race. What was more, many of these aspirants held the notion whether rightly or wrongly, that since he was close to the powers that be in Abuja, there could be no level playing field, as Fayemi had allegedly influenced the choice of those sent to conduct the primary. This notion led to anarchy and chaos that characterised the first primary of the party, which became inconclusive. After the rescheduled primary was won and lost, Fayemi extended his olive branch to aggrieved aspirants. The efforts appeared to have paid off, as they buried their hatchets and worked for the victory of the party in July 14, 2018 governorship poll.
Shortly after Fayemi was sworn in, rumour filtered in that Chief Segun Oni who came second in the primary had taken the governor to court. However, what started as a rumour became a reality. Oni challenged the suitability of Fayemi to contest the primary, having not resigned as minister 30 days before the primary and also by virtue of being indicted by a Judicial Panel of Inquiry set up by the Ayodele Fayose administration. The suit went up to the apex court and Oni lost. Following the loss, the battle line was drawn between Oni, his supporters in APC on one hand and the governor and his core supporters on the other hand. For taking Fayemi to court, Oni and his supporters were left out in appointments and other scheme of things in the party. He was subsequently suspended indefinitely for anti party activities. Frustrated by the treatment meted out to him, he left the party with his followers to his former party, the PDP.
Other aggrieved party aspirants including the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, former House of Representatives member, Bimbo Daramola, another former Reps member and the in-law to the National Leader of APC, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Mr Oyetunde Ojo, Senator Anthony Adeniyi, among others, have continued to battle the governor in a war of attrition. They went to court to challenge the composition of State Working Committee (SWC), led by barrister Paul Omotoso, which they alleged were handpicked by the governor. They were subsequently suspended from the party. In a manner akin to tit-for-tat, they also suspended the governor. However, the Mai Mala Buni-led national leadership ordered the combatants to maintain the status quo ante before the counter suspensions.
Perhaps, because of the way he was removed from the Senate by the tribunal and the Appeal court, following the suit instituted by his rival in the election, Senator Biodun Olujimi, which he believed was masterminded by the Governor Prince Adedayo Adeyeye joined the fray. The Prince of Ise Ekiti who became the arrowhead of Tinubu 2023 campaigners under the auspices of South West Agenda for Ahmed Bola Tinubu 2023 Presidency (SWAGA), became a stiff opposition and a major tendency in the party.What appears to be the last straw that broke the Camel’s back are the APC Ward and Local government congresses, which have since rendered reconciliation difficult. Dissatisfied with the conduct of the July 31 ward congress, SWAGA had dragged the party to Court, calling for outright annulment of the election.
In a Suit Number FHC/AD/CS/21/2021 filed at the Federal High Court, Ekiti State Division, the group sought an interlocutory injunction stopping the conduct of the local government congress or an order declaring the outcome illegal.
36 SWAGA members and contestants in the ward congress on behalf of over 3,650 members of the group deposed to the suit. Their lawyer Barrister Ayodeji Odu and five others are standing for the plaintiffs.
Joined in the suit are: APC (1st defendant), Chairman, Caretaker Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni (2nd defendant), Ekiti APC Chairman, Paul Omotoso (3rd defendant), Chairman, Ekiti Congress Screening Committee, Samuel Abejide (4th defendant) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (5th defendant).
The plaintiffs sought an order declaring the congress of the 1st defendant purportedly held on the July 31 and organised and conducted by or under the instruction/supervision of 2nd and 3rd defendants in Ekiti State as unconstitutional, illegal, null and void.
They also prayed the court to declare that the congress of the 1st defendant purportedly held in Ekiti State on the 31st day of July 2021 was in total breach of democratic norms and practices and violation of the Constitution and guidelines issued by the 1st defendant for the conduct of the 2021 ward congresses.
Others include: “A declaration that no congress was held in Ekiti State chapter of the 1st defendant as no result has been declared in respect of the congress as at the date of filling this case.
“A declaration that the 2nd defendant cannot hold the position of Chairman, Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Committee of the 1st defendant as such appointment/role is a constitutional violation of section 187 of the 1999 Constitution as amended and article 8 of the 1st defendant’s constitution.
“A declaration that all actions or steps taken by the 1st defendant under the control, supervision, direction of the so-called caretaker Extraordinary Convention planning committee of APC, headed by the 2nd defendant, including the conduct of ward congresses across Nigeria and Ekiti State on 31st July, 2021 was illegal and unconstitutional on the ground that the 2nd defendant under whose leadership such steps or actions were taken was ineligible to superintend over 1st defendant party affairs while still serving in office as a Governor.
“A declaration that all committee/Ward congress committees set up by the 3rd defendant pursuant to the Ward Congress of 31st July 2021 was unconstitutional, illegal, null and void and in total violation of the guidelines of the 1st defendant on conduct of the congress.”
They also sought an injunction restraining the 1st and 3rd defendants from conducting any further congresses into local government and state offices of 1st defendant in Ekiti State pending the determination of the substantive matter.
The plaintiffs asked for an injunction restraining the 5th defendant from recognizing or dealing with any ward executive or officers purportedly produced the purported ward congress of 31st July 2021 in Ekiti State.
Despite the court action, the party went ahead to conduct local government congress last Saturday.
This is the state of affairs in the ruling party when it should be planning its primary to elect the candidate who would fly its flag come 2022. To political observers, resolving the crisis in the party could be a Herculean task but with compromises here and there, the party could return to being a united family.The state of the opposition PDP
Like APC, the crisis that has weakened the PDP predated 2018 governorship election. The unilateral decision of then governor, Ayodele Fayose to impose his deputy, Professor Olusola kolapo as the sole candidate in September 2017, was the beginning of the crisis. The decision led to the factionalization of the party. It also led to the loss of the governorship election, the presidential election, National and state Assembly polls in the state. Apart from the mass exodus of party chieftains to other political parties, those that remained in the party were divided into two factions, one led by Fayose and another led by Senator Biodun Olujimi. The two held parallel ward, local government and state congresses, thus having two executives at various levels in the state. However, the return of Oni to the party was thought to have capacity to bring the two together and heal the wounds. But Oni’s governorship ambition has since created wider gulf as the two groups have distanced themselves from him. His attempt to curry the favour of the Fayose group failed because of lack of trust and alleged domineering posturing of Fayose. Oni, known for his principles, could not surrender to that. The romance between Oni and Olujimi appeared to be short-lived due to irreconcilable differences pertaining to zoning. Olujimi and many of her supporters are of the firm belief that power should shift to the Southern senatorial district, which has not tasted the governorship of the state since 1999. Oni is from Fayemi’s northern zone that currently occupies the governorship position.
The condition of PDP is made worse because of the governorship ambition of some of its chieftains and the fact that the national leadership led by Prince Uche Secundus who should wade in to resolve the logjam is itself in crisis. The repositioning group led by Senator Olujimi appears to be divided as those of the central and northern zones in the group recently held a shadow primary to pick one Lateef Ajijola who hails from Ado Ekiti, the state capital, as the candidate they would support.
Right now, there are five major camps in the party representing various interests. They include the Oni camp, which has its share of the delegates; the Fayose camp, which is promoting the candidature of the factional chairman, Mr Bisi Kolawole, who is from Efon Alaye in the central zone. Others are the Kolapo Eleka camp in the southern zone; the Olujimi camp championing the southern agenda and his other compatriots from the central and northern zone. Besides these notable camps, there are other aspirants remaining on the fringe. They include the former GTB General manager, Kayode Adaramodu, the National Treasurer and an associate of Fayose, Mr. Wale Aribisala, among others.
With an unresolved dispute arising from the conduct of congresses, the various caucuses in the party with entrenched vested interests, there is no gainsaying that the road to the 2022 governorship for the PDP is rough. To many observers, the task is surmountable if personal interests of the combatants could be subsumed for the good of all.