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Ekiti PDP at crossroads as fight for control of party structure deepens

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Abiodun Olujimi


Peace has taken flight from Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), following some stakeholders’ desire to take over party structure at all costs, without giving room for compromise.

The state chapter of PDP has been embroiled in intractable crises since 2017 during ex-Governor Ayodele Fayose’s era, which have refused to abate, as the combatants are determined to take over the party’s soul. The two camps, led by Fayose and Senator Abiodun Olujimi, have been devising various strategies to outsmart each other.

The latest crisis started in March this year, when the party conducted its ward congress election in the 177 wards of the state. The party national leadership had delegated the Deputy Governor of Taraba State, Haruna Manu-led committee to supervise the election.
 
It was, however, learnt that in the election monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and security forces, aspirants from Olujimi’s camp coasted to victory, while those belonging to Fayose’s caucus lost in many wards, due to alleged combined efforts of forces of Senator Olujimi, Senator Duro Faseyi, aggrieved party elders and some stakeholders.

Whereas Manu, who doubled as the chairman electoral committee, had earlier scheduled the collation of results for 10pm on the election day at a particular location, Olujimi loyalists later learnt that Fayose had allegedly relocated the ward congress election committee to Ado-Ekiti to collate results.

Once the news filtered into Olujimi’s camp, many party members were allegedly mobilised and kept vigil at the Guest House, where the committee members were lodged, as efforts to force their way inside were rebuffed by security operatives at the hotel. The former governor, his loyalists and congress committee members were said to have been prevented from going out all through the night, as the aggrieved party members locked up the hotel’s main entrance and deflated tyres of vehicles in the premises

“There was tension at the Guest House premises, as the aggrieved party members chanted abusive songs, until the State Commissioner of police, Amba Asuquo, intervened to douse the tension,” a source said.

That laid the foundation for the latest crisis.Olujimi later alleged that the committee members led by Manu, had by their actions, compromised to manipulate the process in favour of Fayose’s aspirants. She said the congress committee should uphold the result earlier held before Manu’s late arrival, stressing that the most acceptable and valid results were the ones duly signed by INEC officials and security operatives, and not the ones concocted by Fayose and his accomplice.

Olujimi, who noted that the committee’s action was an aberration, said if not urgently addressed, could further plunge the party into irreconcilable crisis, and that she might seek redress, if the results of the earlier congress were cancelled.

She said: “I wonder why a peaceful and credible congress, monitored by INEC officials and security agents would be cancelled. As stipulated by party guidelines, at 8am, everybody was at the various wards, and the electoral officers conducted the ward congresses. INEC, police, Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps were there and everybody signed and dispersed at about 12.30pm…”

She accused Fayose of ‘brainwashing and influencing’ Manu and his members to manipulate the results that were later presented. But Fayose’s media aide, Lere Olayinka, denied the allegations, saying, “Olujimi and his loyalists invaded the hotel, where the congress committee members were lodged, with the aim of hijacking the materials.”

He also denied that the ex-governor was inside when they laid siege to the guest house, saying his principal “even called Senators Olujimi and Duro Faseyi to inform them that he was in his house at Afao, telling them jokingly that they could eat and drink in the hotel, while waiting in vain for him.

“If they deflated tyres, it is their headache and if police arrested them, they have to answer for that. My vehicle was not there, as is being alleged. I came from Abuja by flight. I have no vehicle in Ekiti…” Olayinka added that the PDP Ward Congress Appeal Panel would sit in Ado Ekiti on March 12, 2020. He urged all aggrieved to approach the panel. 

This was the state of affairs in the party, when the deadly COVID-19 broke out. So, the two camps were forced to retreat, due to the lockdown. However, the two feuding camps were apparently busy perfecting their next lines of actions.

Once Olujimi’s camp got wind that the Fayose group was perfecting plans to inaugurate ward executives, the former approached the court to stop it. When Fayose heard of the move by Olujimi’s camp, it allegedly got the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) Chairman, Ado Ekiti branch to write the State Commissioner of police to stop the sitting.

The NBA chairman has since disowned the letter purportedly written by him to this effect. But not done with the NBA letter, the Fayose group also got the zonal PDP Public Relations Officer, Ayodele Fadaka, to write denouncing the court sitting.

Not sure if the court would grant prayers of Olujimi’s group through granting the exparte order stopping the inauguration, Fayose camp pulled a fast one, claiming that 155 PDP Executive Committee members out of the 177 wards in the state had assumed office for a tenure of four years, after being sworn in at 7.30am, in accordance with the party’s Constitution, on the day the court was to sit and hear the motion exparte. 

The group said 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.

This was contained in a letter dated April 30, 2020 and addressed to the party through a group member and the State Legal Adviser, Sunday Olowolafe. The Fayose group had predicated its action on a letter received from the party’s national leadership. In a letter with ref no: PDP/DOM/GF.V/VOL.2/20-387B, dated April 25, 2020, and signed by the National Organising Secretary, Col Austin Akobundu (rtd), the NWC had directed the party’s state Chairman, Chief Barr. Gboyega Oguntuase “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 155 ward executives out of the 177 wards 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 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.”

But contrary to the expectation of Fayose group, the exparte order was refused by the Ado Ekiti Federal High Court. In the Suit number FHC/AD/CS/14/2020, Justice U.N. Agomoh, while dismissing the ex-parte application filed by one Oladimeji Samson Olalekan and others, against the PDP March 7, 2020 Ward Congresses said, “The interest of justice will be better served by hearing the parties in this suit.”

 
Oladimeji Samson Olalekan and others had filed a motion ex-parte, seeking an order of the court, restraining PDP National Working Committee (NWC) from announcing, publishing, and recognising any list as 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 the PDP NWC from going ahead with the Local Government, State and Zonal Congresses without first resolving the issue of the 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…” 

“Consequently, I order the service of motion on notice already filed and fixed same May 27 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.” Realising that it was losing grip, Olujimi camp disowned the purported inauguration of Ward Executives by one Barrister Niyi Idowu, who it alleged, was based in Lagos and not a PDP member.

In a statement signed by the Chairman, Ekiti PDP Repositioning Movement, Engr. Alaba Agboola, dated May 1, 2020, which was made available to newsmen, he said no such inauguration ever took place in Ekiti State and “we stand solidly by the position of the party’s State Executive Committee, as expressed by its Chairman, Barrister Gboyega Oguntuase to the effect that the purported inauguration has no basis in law and should in fact be disregarded.

“Our people should learn lessons from the pronouncement of our courts to the effect that only the state organ of a party can inaugurate its local chapters. This is the extant position of the law, as pronounced by a High Court in Calabar, just a few days ago,” he said.

He explained that the true position of events in Ekiti State was that only the Ward Executives elected on March 7 2020 conducted by PDP and monitored by INEC and security agencies, in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 as amended) and Section 85 and 86 of the Electoral Act remain authentic and have assumed work as from May 1 2020.

He said: “As the tenure of the last Ward Executive ended at 12 midnight on April 30 2020, the tenure of the authentic Ward Executives begins from today, and they have been duly inaugurated and begun to function.

“We charge the new Ward Executives to carry every party member along in decision making and embark on aggressive mobilisation of all factions in their various wards in building a united, cohesive and well grounded PDP in Ekiti State…”


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