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Ekiti APC and Oni’s fate: A travail foretold

By Ayodele Afolabi, Ado Ekiti
12 May 2019   |   4:01 am
Where did the rain start to beat Segun Oni? Once considered the most influential figure in Ekiti All Progressives Congress (APC), Oni, a former governor whose tenure was terminated by the Appeal Court, which replaced him with the incumbent governor Kayode Fayemi in 2010, was the Deputy Chairman, South of the APC before bowing out to contest the primary of the party in May 2018.

Ekiti state governor, Kayode Fayemi. PHOTO: NAN

Where did the rain start to beat Segun Oni? Once considered the most influential figure in Ekiti All Progressives Congress (APC), Oni, a former governor whose tenure was terminated by the Appeal Court, which replaced him with the incumbent governor Kayode Fayemi in 2010, was the Deputy Chairman, South of the APC before bowing out to contest the primary of the party in May 2018.

Oni once held sway in the rival Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as Deputy National Chairman South. However, he left the party when he claimed he could not co-habit the PDP with the then Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose.

This is despite the fact that Fayose restored his status as former governor by replacing his portrait, which was removed by Fayemi after he was sworn in 2010.

Fayose bought SUV vehicles for Oni, Fayemi and ex-governor Adeniyi Adebayo, but it was Oni who returned his own to Fayose.

Oni had said, “I can enter into a bus with a mad man, but if I discovered that a mad man will be the driver of the vehicle, I will disembark.” Fayose, who was frustrated by Oni’s unfriendly posture, prophetically predicted that Oni would be rubbished in APC.

Before Fayemi came from the blues to contest the July 14, 2018 governorship election, Oni remained the man to beat.

Going by his frugal and transparent track record, which many believe remains second to none in the 20 years of democratic rule in Ekiti, many had concluded that the contest was between Oni and others.

Unfortunately for him, Fayemi came and put paid to Oni’s ambition.

It was not only the ex-governor that was injured by the defeat he suffered at the primary election of the party, ardent followers who had hoped to reap from his governorship were also injured.

One of such individuals was Mr. Anthony Adeniyi, who became Oni’s legal counsel from the trial court to the Supreme Court.

It was learnt that he might have handled the case pro bono. It was learnt that even when Oni was not really averse to out of court settlement, some of his associates were said to be uncompromising in their hard stance against Fayemi.

This was why Oni remained adamant despite the intervention of APC elders who urged him to withdraw the suit challenging the eligibility of Fayemi for the July 14 governorship election.

The APC elders said the withdrawal of the case by Oni and his group would help calm the heated polity and in the party.

Despite unfavorable judgment from the trial court, the appellate court, he still proceeded to the apex court, where the suit was thrown out and a fine of N1m imposed on him.

In his first reaction to the Supreme Court victory, Fayemi, said despite the decision of Oni to challenge his eligibility at the court, he remains a respected member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, adding that the victory at the Supreme Court would afford the state to move forward and end all contentions matters about his emergence.

The Governor said the apex court judgment showed that he resigned in line with the constitutional provision and that the primaries of the party which produced him as All Progressives Congress governorship candidate in Ekiti State in 2018 was free, fair and credible.

“It is very clear that I resigned in accordance with the Constitution of the land and that the shenanigans than culminated in the White Paper that said Fayemi should not serve in public office have been dealt with in the appropriate law courts as the thrash that it was at the time.

It also shows clearly that the primary that took place in Ekiti for anyone who is objective enough, was the cleanest, the fairest and most credible of primaries that ever has taken place in the history of electioneering in Nigeria.”

Fayemi, who said Oni was right to have gone to court since he felt strongly about a position, said: “Now that the highest court in the land has made pronouncement on it, I hope he would see it as a cue to play a more active role in the party.

“Oni, to the best of my knowledge, remains a respected member of the APC. I don’t believe he has elected to remove himself from the party. But I think this would not lead to another round of recriminations and attacks,” Fayemi had said.

Whereas, Fayemi in his reaction to the court verdict had extended an olive branch to Oni, with a promise to work with him to move the party forward, it was learnt however that some party members were said to have insisted Oni needed to be punished for disrespecting the party by not only rebuffing the party elders, but declining the Senatorial ticket allegedly offered him and going to court with an aim to upturn Fayemi’s victory.

To some keen observers of the unfolding drama, it remains unbelievable how some leaders could have overwhelmed the Governor who had extended a hand of fellowship to Oni, to now support disciplinary action meted out to the erstwhile party leader.

To them the truce proposed by Fayemi might just be a smokescreen designed to shift the blame from Fayemi’s table. These observers described the alleged query and the subsequent suspension as the “voice of Jacob and hand of Esau.”
For instance, the letter conveying Oni’s query was dated April 24, 2019 and signed by the chairman and secretary of Ifaki ward II, Shina Akinloye and Ogunyemi Taiwo, respectively and 24 other executive members in the ward who are supposed to be his kinsmen.

The allegation leveled against the former governor borders on anti party activities, even though the details of what amounted to anti party activities were not listed.

The letter read: “We the executive members of the APC in Ifaki Ward II, hereby request your presence at the Ilero town hall, Ilogbe, Ifaki Ekiti to clear air about the allegations by members of the APC in your ward.

“Kindly indicate by informing the APC chairman the convenient time and date to appear before members within the next seven days of the reception of this letter.”

One Segun Adetunji received the letter of invitation on Oni’s behalf on 25th April 2019.

For refusing to appear before a panel that appeared set to achieve a predetermined outcome, Oni was slammed with an indefinite suspension from the party.

The letter titled: Suspension From All Progressives Congress Ward II, Ifaki Ekiti reads: Subject to Article 21 Subsections I, II and X of the APC constitution 2014 as amended, we undersigned executive members of the APC hereby suspend you indefinitely from our great party, based on your refusal to honour our invitation for investigation and fact finding into the allegation of anti party activities leveled against your person by the members of our party.

“We are by the copy of this letter informing both the local government and state working committee of the party for necessary information and action.”

Before this incident Oni had been awarded the revered traditional title of ‘Asiwaju Ifaki’ (respected leader of Ifaki land), by the Royal father of the town. Therefore, it remains inconceivable, that Oni could be so humiliated with a query in his own ward, where he ought to enjoy some protection. This is why the Biblical hand of Esau, voice of Jacob theory was read into the travails of Oni.
Oni fired back, describing those who took the decision as faceless and bunch of rascals. In his reaction to the alleged suspension, he was not sure of the said suspension, saying: “I am not sure. There is a structure in the party. There is a way things are done in the party.”
On his failure to heed the invitation of APC Ifaki Ward as conveyed in the letter dated April 24, the former governor queried the people behind the said invitation.

“Who are they? I am not anybody in the party. So I cannot be expected to honour such a faceless invitation. Who are they? What is their pedigree? If a group of rascals signed a letter, how can they expect me to give any thought to such? Let those who wrote the letter show face and level allegations,” Oni said.
What is more, some leaders of the party who appeared to be loyal to the former governor have rejected the purported suspension.

The leaders, drawn mainly from the two wards in Ifaki Ekiti, in Ido/Osi local government, condemned the suspension and branded it as shameful and illegal, having allegedly violated the procedure for such in the party.

Those who signed the statement from the two wards rejecting the party’s position are: Michael Durodola, Tayo Okanlawon, Ebenezer Ogunlana and Sola Ilori. They dissociated themselves from the suspension, saying it disrespectful.

The statement said: “The ward executives’ decision to suspend Segun Oni did not receive the blessing of generality of Ifaki wards’ APC Leaders. The concocted allegations were unfounded. Names of those said to have raised allegations of anti party against Oni were not mentioned, neither were they invited.

“The faceless committee they said they set up did not properly invite the former governor. The suspension letter written to the former Governor has no signatories and this rendered it useless.  With the above, we the entire elders of the APC in the two wards in Ifaki reject this suspension and we urge the party members and the public to discountenance it,” they said.

In all these, the party at the state and national level has kept mute. No word has come forth to either endorse or reprimand those that purportedly suspend the ex-governor.

Perhaps, the leadership of the party is waiting for an appropriate time to look into the matter. This is typical of the party leadership. They would rather wait for matters to get out of hand. Perhaps, if the party did not say anything to Oni when he went to court, it may not have any moral anchor to say anything now.

What if the ruling had gone the way of Oni? That could have recorded another setback for the party and rubbished the gains that Fayemi is now set to achieve. The feelings may just be; let Oni reap what he sowed.

And until when he receives succor from the leadership, and perhaps, from Fayemi’s benevolence, Oni remains at crossroad in APC.