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Ekiti 2022: Ward congresses deepen Ojudu, Adeyeye battle against Fayemi

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As the 2022 governorship election draws near, the political atmosphere in Ekiti State is already charged as tendencies in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), engage in battle of survival to control the structure of the party.

Although the crisis rocking the party didn’t start now as there has been consistent struggle for the control of the party, the ward congresses held by APC nationwide last Saturday further widened the gulf among stakeholders.

Before the congress, there had been suspension and counter suspension order issued to notable leaders including Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Senator Anthony Adeniyi, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s in-law, Oyetunde Ojo, among others, for alleged anti party activities. The state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi himself was not left out. It took intervention of the national leadership to call the combatants to halt hostilities.

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The latest trouble was as a result of mutual suspicion among the major groups led by Senator Dayo Adeyeye, national chairman of South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA), rooting for Tinubu’s presidency in 2023, another one led by Senator Ojudu and the Fayemi Tokantokan, comprising of those who are uncompromisingly loyal to the governor, as they tried to control the party.

It was Senator Adeniyi that fired the first salvo when he said the consensus arrangements being proposed by National Caretaker Committee of the party, would not work in the state.

According to him, the arrangement would not work as a result of some unilateral decisions already being taken by the state government and its caucus, with grave democratic consequences to an all-embracing congress.

In a statement signed by state chairman of SWAGA, Adeniyi said the governor and his caucus had solely imposed an electoral body, just as delegates had been handpicked for the congresses without input of several party stakeholders.

He alleged that names of delegates were already compiled with promise by government to pay for their electoral dues. He hinted that APC in the state was polarised and only a direct primary can bring the party back on a stable footing.

Adeniyi stressed that the party got its body fractures with the taking over of party affairs by a group within the state chapter under the name Tokantokan, to which Fayemi belongs. He noted that the splinter group, within Ekiti APC, has dominated state affairs since taking over of Fayemi and has held down other party members by retaining its grip.

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He therefore, said that party hierarchy would need to be painstaking in the conduct of congresses to forestall imposition and plot to disenfranchise some members and as such, plunge the party into avoidable turmoil.

Reacting to Adeniyi’s position, State Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Ade Ajayi, submitted that aspersion cast on APC and its leadership confirmed that the so-called SWAGA members were outsiders.

Ajayi clarified that fair composition of congress committee and directive issued to the party to conduct free and credible congresses at its recent stakeholders meeting, substantiated the fact that the party had been fair and just to all tendencies.

The APC spokesman also condemned the group’s attempt to drag Fayemi into the fray, by accusing him of undue interferences, adding that the leadership has not been under any pressure to subvert the will of people as being painted.

“To the best of our knowledge, Senator Adeniyi and his ilk are strangers and outsiders in Ekiti APC. They don’t know what is going on and rather than ask, they are throwing tantrums. Everybody shall be allowed to participate in the congress, including Adeniyi that has been dividing the party. That has been our stance.

“There is no group called Tokan-tokan, all we know is Ekiti APC. The Hon. Paul Omotoso leadership of APC is firmly on ground and in charge and it is ready to conduct free, fair credible congresses that will be acceptable to all stakeholders.

“At our last stakeholders’ meeting, leaders agreed that nobody must be sidelined in the congresses and we can’t afford to disappoint them. But Senator Adeniyi and his people didn’t attend and how would they have known our action plan.

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“We appeal to him to come back to the party and make atonement like biblical prodigal son, rather than playing divisive politics that won’t take him anywhere”.

The Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters also made similar allegation that the leadership of the party loyal to the Governor hijacked forms for elective positions ahead of ward congress.

Ojudu, who spoke with newsmen in Ado-Ekiti, said this development was aimed at depriving other members of the party who are not loyal to the Fayemi’s Tokantokan group access to forms and contest for positions in the ward congress as against the mandate of the National Caretaker committee of the party.

The presidential aide disclosed that forms were seized from the ward congress committee sent from National Secretariat to the state on Friday and financially induced the committee to return to Abuja without performing their duty of making the forms available to interested party members.

Ojudu said: “The mandate was that they should stay and sell the form for every party members interested. Governors had come to Abuja to demand for the form but the committee managing the party said no. They invited all chairmen of the state branches and briefed them on the need to allow all members interested in contesting access to the form.

“When the folks from Abuja arrived Ado-Ekiti, they went straight to the party Secretariat, negotiated with the chairman, got paid and handed over the form to him and returned immediately to Abuja.

“If the forms were meant for the state chairmen it would have been handed over to them last week when they were invited to Abuja.

“Hundreds of members have paid to the account of the party and now they are being denied access to the form by the Tokantokan faction of the party in the state.”

However, in his reaction, Ade Ajayi denied allegations raised by the presidential aide, describing it as, “frivolous and flimsy.”

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Ajayi maintained that those raising alarm about the congress are, “strangers who have no idea of the workings within the party,” assuring members that everyone will be given a level playing ground.

However, following the outcry from the two major factions in the party, it was learnt that national leadership heeded the call that every member of the party who is willing to lead at the Ward should pay to the party and obtain forms.

It was gathered that both President Muhammadu Buhari and the Caretaker Committee led by Governor Buni intervened and were able to calm frayed nerves. This intervention paved way for a semblance of sanity till the day of the ward congress.

However, contrary to expectations of political watchers, what was meant to be an intra party affair became bloody. By the time the dust of the rancorous congress settled, at least one person was feared killed and many injured, though there were claims that the incident that led to the killing of the victim was not politically motivated and that it happened after the congress.

It was gathered that the deceased who was simply identified as Jide was stabbed to death when violence erupted in Ado Ward 10 after the congress was concluded.

A source who was at the venue of the ward 10 congress which took place at the Pavilion close to the popular Fajuyi said, “After the congress was concluded, the boys allegedly on drugs had disagreement among themselves and before you know it, it turned to free for all.

“Jide was stabbed and rushed to the General Hospital, Ado Ekiti where he was confirmed dead. This is unfortunate and uncalled for, because it is a mere ward congress.”

It was observed that while the loyalists of the governor rooted for consensus arrangement across the 177 wards, the other factions who are mostly members of SWAGA resisted this move and insisted on election.

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This development in some of the wards led to widespread violence across the state, as thugs were allegedly unleashed on people with many sustaining injuries and vehicles destroyed.

Specifically, in Ado-Ekiti ward 7 and 8, thugs unleashed mayhem on party members and disrupted the process. Many of the injured members are receiving medical attention in one of the private hospital in the state capital.

The chairperson of Ado local government, Mrs Omotunde Fajuyi, who participated in the congress at Ward 10 said the process was peaceful and devoid of violence.

Fajuyi said, “As you aware today, Ward 10 congress was peaceful during the congress and we had only one person who contested for ward chairmanship position, and was elected unopposed.

“The process went peacefully and nobody had any cause to fight but we were told some persons had disagreement later after we left the place and one of them is dead.”

Speaking on the ward congress, Adeniyi decried the widespread violence, which marred the process, saying that there was no congress in the state.

According to him, “There was no election today in Ekiti because there was no accreditation across the wards. The Fayemi Tokantokan people manipulated the process and prevented people from voting for their prefered leaders, especially SWAGA members.

“I can confirm to you that there was violence in Ikere-Ekiti, virtually in all the wards in Ado-Ekiti we had violence and several people were wounded and also in Ward 10, someone was killed. Is that how to do a congress?”

On his part, a chieftain of the party and governorship aspirant, Chief Reuben Famuyibo lamented that the politicians failed democracy given the level of violence that characterised the ward congress.

As expected SWAGA rejected the ward congresses and also called on the Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), to set it aside and fix a new date, as well as appoint a neutral committee to conduct it.

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National Chairman of SWAGA, Senator Adeyeye said that the party had never recorded the level of violence that characterised the congress.

“We want to believe that our party meant well when it gave the go ahead that ward congresses should hold across the country. This was despite fear earlier raised in some quarters on the legitimacy of such.

“The ward congresses purportedly took place in Ekiti State. But the manner of its conduct was nothing near all democratic norms as it was warped, disorderly, perverse and can only pass for a charade, he stated.”

He said the arrogance and selfishness of the supporters of Governor Fayemi under the auspices of Tokantokan group, who wanted to impose their favourites on members, caused the violence and killing that attended the exercise.

“As witnessed, the presence of INEC officials was not felt at the congresses. In most of the centers, members of Tokan-tokan group took over the INEC job. The presence of law enforcement agents was also very insignificant. We witnessed a situation where people waited agitatedly from dusk to almost dawn, a decoy deployed to frustrate voters.

“We also recorded a situation later in the day where the Tokantokan group, hand-picked some loyalists and were moving them from one ward to the other, in a save-face measure to give a semblance of congress.

“In places like Ijero, Ado Ekiti and Oye local councils, extreme violence was visited on people, leading to one death in Ado Ekiti Ward 10. Several people were also wounded and properties destroyed. We have the video clips of some of these heinous incidents.

“We are miffed by this level of desperation and wanton electoral recklessness. If it will take killings, wounding of over a hundred of our members and all sorts of violence, for the Tokantokan group to succeed in an intra-party contest, what are we going to witness in a general election?”

In its official reaction, the party described as misleading the media account that there was violence in Ekiti State during the ward congresses.

A statement signed by the Director of Media and Publicity, Sam Oluwalana, said, “the exercise was overwhelmingly peaceful across the state, and was a demonstration of our commitment to the principles and practice of democracy, as our members trooped out peacefully to elect executives of the party in the 177 wards in the state.

“Without prejudice to ongoing investigations by the Ekiti State Command of the Nigeria Police Force, we would like to clarify issues around the isolated case of violence that occurred around the venue of the congress in ward 10, Ado-Ekiti, which sadly resulted in the death of one person.

“It is incontrovertible that the congress in the ward was peacefully concluded, followed by a celebration. Afterwards, there was a disagreement between two individuals around the venue on a matter totally unconnected to the congresses, which led to a fight and the unfortunate demise of one of them.

“We have it on good authority that the incident happened long after the congress had been concluded and was not connected to the conduct nor outcome of the exercise.

“We commiserate with the family of the deceased and assure the authorities of our cooperation in their investigations.

A Chieftain of the party and member House of Representatives told The Guardian that it is unfortunate that some APC members in Ekiti State are using Lagos influence to fight their personal political ambition and warned them to desist because Ekiti people have seen through their gimmicks.

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The APC leader who pleaded for anonymity said, “We know ourselves and we all know that Ekiti APC is monolithic and no campaign of calumny will divide us. It is obvious that complaint by few leaders was to justify their failures in achieving what they promised outsiders whereas they are feather weights in Ekiti politics”.

The source expressed regret that ward congresses which, ought not to attract attention was turned to a serious battle to divide members because some of the warlords did not understand the politics of the state.

According to the source, “We know the crisis is about 2022, but if they understand political trajectory of Ekiti State, they will understand that controlling the party structure from ward to state does not guarantee your victory at the primary.

“Before Fayemi left the state in 2014, there was a congress where elections were conducted were to the wards and state excos. Even after losing the election, he succeeded in having his people at the party exco. To his total dismay, most of them did not vote for him in the 2018 primary, it was an open secret that chairman of the party at that time Chief Jide Awe and his team voted for Chief Segun Oni, but Fayemi defeated them. So getting your people into the exco does not guarantee you any advantage over other aspirants in 2022, so the battle is needless.”

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