The APC in the state ran, arguably, one of the most crowded, acrimonious and bloody campaigns and primary election in 2018, leading to the governorship poll. At one of the campaign rallies on Friday June 1, 2018, a police officer accidentally shot a chieftain of the party, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele and five others. The Governor of Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, Fayemi and former Minister of Works, Prince Dayo Adeyeye narrowly escaped unhurt after the cop released several bullets into the air to scare people. Nothing was heard about the trigger-happy policeman after being granted bail by an Ekiti High Court a few months after the shooting incident.
The current crisis in Ekiti APC is a carry-over from the dispute over the March 26, 2018 governorship primary, where Fayemi emerged as APC’s candidate. The governor, who was then Minister of Mines and Steel Development, joined the race a few weeks to the party’s primary and altered the political equations. This development created bad blood among frontline aspirants like Chief Segun Oni, Ojudu, Hon. Femi Bamisile, Dr. Wole Oluyede, Hon. Oyetunde Ojo and Hon. Bimbo Daramola to the extent that some aspirants ganged up against Fayemi.
When the first primary was held, it was disrupted because Fayemi was coasting home to victory. The primary, which was supervised by then Nasarawa State governor, Tanko Almakura, was described as a show of shame as aspirants and their supporters openly chanted, ‘ole, ole’ (thief, thief) at Fayemi. However, with the deployment of heavily armed security personnel at the venue of the second primary election, Fayemi trounced all the 33 aspirants in the keenly contested shadow election with a total of 941 votes.
Apparently, the outcome of the poll did not go down well with Ojudu and some other aspirants but the reconciliation efforts of both the party’s national leader Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the national secretariat were able to calm frayed nerves as they all set aside their differences and worked for Fayemi’s electoral success in the July 14 poll.
Even though Fayemi started fence-mending initiatives after being sworn in as governor and succeeded in wooing some aggrieved aspirants, who contested with him to embrace peace and work with his government, he, however, did not succeed with some prominent political figures in the party who still view him as a usurper. Chief among the political figures that refused to be pacified include the former governor of the state, Chief Segun Oni, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, former House of Representatives member Bimbo Daramola, Wole Oluyode, Senator Tony Adeniyi, Otunba Olusegun Agbalajobi, among others.
Whereas Fayemi was said to have helped Ojudu secure senatorial ticket against Opeyemi Bamidele who was later pacified with a ticket to the House of Reps at the 7th National Assembly, from 2011 to 2015, it is unclear when the relationship between two political actors went sour.
Following their apparent recalcitrance, Fayemi, who could not trust the likes of Daramola, Ojudu, Oni and others, tactically ostracized them from the running of APC. The governor ensured that only his trusted allies, fondly called Fayemi tokantokan (Core Fayemi’s political family), and a handful of those aggrieved aspirants who accepted his peace overtures were given appointments. And those elected to the state and the National Assemblies, without exception, were also his close allies while associates of his ‘perceived enemies’ were sidelined in the scheme of things.
Since then, peace has eluded the ruling APC. Oni was the first casualty of the war of attrition when he was suspended from the party. Oni went to court to challenge Fayemi’s candidacy. Oni has since moved on to join the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Also, Daramola and Oyetunde Ojo were suspended from the party for anti-party activities. They allegedly took the party to court over the conduct of the 2019 National Assembly primary, which they believed was manipulated to favour the governor’s loyalists.
Ojudu and other leaders are currently challenging the legality of the ruling party’s executive members at the state, local government and ward levels in the state. The suit seeking to upturn the structures was filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja by Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Dr. Wole Oluyede, Hon. Oyetunde Ojo, Chief Akin Akomolafe, Engr Ayo Ajibade, Akogun Bunmi Ogunleye, Otunba Ben Oguntuase and others against the APC, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Inspector General of Police, state chairman of the party, Mr. Paul Omotosho and all members of the state executive committee.
The plaintiffs alleged that the ruling party did not conduct ward, local government and state congresses in Ekiti State and that they were handpicked by Governor Fayemi. They prayed the court to declare the process that produced the party’s executive at the wards, local governments and state executive committee null and void.
The rank of the aggrieved party leaders appears to have swelled, as some chieftains, who had hitherto remained on the fence, have joined the fray. Former Minister of Works, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye has joined; his case was pathetic. He was removed from the Senate by the Appeal Court and was replaced by Senator Biodun Olujimi from the opposition PDP. Impeccable sources from the party said that Adeyeye has not forgiven the leadership of the party and Governor Fayemi for their perceived role in his ordeal. Adeyeye felt he did not get the support he needed to retain his seat in the upper chamber.
Adeyeye, who was the Chairman Governing Council of Ekiti State University during the administration of Governor Ayodele Fayose, had allegedly given appointment to many people from his hometown. However, the last mass sack in the university by the Fayemi administration affected virtually everyone he employed. This probably explained why he decided to team up with the aggrieved leaders.
To get the attention of the national leadership to the seemingly intractable crisis rocking the state chapter, Ojudu, Adeyeye and 13 others have called on the recently inaugurated Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Committee of the party to call Governor Kayode Fayemi to order over his alleged dictatorial tendencies. They accused Fayemi of influencing party executives to alienate and victimise critics of his government through illegal suspension and alienation from party activities.
The concerned leaders also expressed fears that the party might suffer defeat in the next governorship election in 2022 with the existing cleavages and underperformance of the Fayemi-led government.
Other prominent APC leaders that signed the statement addressed to the caretaker committee were Senator Tony Adeniyi, former House of Representatives members, Oyetunde Ojo, Bimbo Daramola and Robinson Ajiboye, as well as former Ekiti State House of Assembly Speaker, Hon. Adewale Omirin.
In the statement entitled: ‘Time to Take a Stand’, the leaders applauded President Muhammadu Buhari for spearheading the dissolution of the National Working Committee and the inauguration of Governor Buni’s Caretaker Committee to bring peace to the party.
They listed Senators Adeniyi and Ojudu, Daramola, Oyetunde Ojo, Bunmi Ogunleye, Ben Oguntuase, Dele Afolabi and Diran Fadipe being among those that had either been ‘unjustly’ suspended or at various stages of suspension in their respective wards.
They said: “This gratifying development has informed the need to bring to the attention of the newly constituted committee our concerns about the unfortunate drift of our party in Ekiti State. Prior to now, we have communicated the situation effusively to the dissolved NWC.”
“As this new body sets about resetting the future of our party, it has become imperative to acquaint the leadership with developments in Ekiti State. The time has come to bring to the fore the developments in the state and the political realities in our party”.
The leaders stated that the victory they recorded in the Ekiti 2018 governorship election was not solely through the governor’s efforts. Rather, it was by all party organs, which worked so hard to secure the feat. They advocated for the dissolution of the state’s APC executives across all strata, saying their lists were allegedly compiled through undemocratic means by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and Governor Fayemi.
“This travesty was committed deliberately to completely ostracise people out of the party’s activities, and today, that is what has become the rule and not the exemption.
“In almost two years, the party had not convened any political meeting of stakeholders, no new membership drive, no political activity whatsoever to rev up and consolidate the place and presence of the party in the state since the inception of this administration till date. Instead of growth, the membership of the party is dwindling by the day.
“Today, any member who expresses a contrary view is seen as a dissident that must be harassed and intimidated, notwithstanding the status, stature, profile, reputation and above all contributions of such person.
“The state, local government and ward executives, who see the governor as their benefactor, capitulate under such threats of removal and denial of patronage to carry out the marching orders to suspend party members without recourse to constitution, just to please their masters, except in Senator Babafemi Ojudu’s ward where the chairman stood his ground not to oblige such a perfidious request,” they added.
But while responding, the APC state’s Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ade Ajayi, urged the aggrieved members to reexamine themselves, saying Fayemi was not meddling in the party’s operations.
Ajayi said: “They were only engaging in blackmail, because they knew that those suspended took the party to court and it is expulsion if the law is to be followed to the letters.
“We enjoy the freedom to run the party without Governor Fayemi’s interference. But it is sad that Senators Ojudu, Adeniyi, Adeyeye, Hons. Ojo and Daramola who were abusing Fayemi all owed their victories to the National Assembly to the governor’s support.
“They should reexamine themselves and see where they got it wrong. Let them tell us one ward where Governor Fayemi teleguided the executives to suspend anyone? These are mere blackmail.”
On the accusation of underperformance levelled against Fayemi, Ajayi retorted: “They are strangers in Ekiti, because they have not been coming home. If they come around, they will see what our government has done and Ekiti people are happy”.
Fayemi, who is apparently sick of the alleged shenanigans of the Ojudu-led ‘renegade’ party members, is fighting back. This is why some notable members of the group are facing threat of expulsion.
Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Matters Sen. Ojodu escaped suspension from the party over alleged anti-party activities. Rather than wield the big stick as allegedly ordered by the party’s State Working Committee, the leaders and executive members in Ado-Ekiti Ward 8 in Ekiti State unanimously passed a vote of confidence on him.
The party executives, after its marathon meeting on Wednesday, maintained that the presidential aide had done nothing wrong to warrant any suspension, describing him as a loyal and worthy party man. Another member of the aggrieved chieftains of the party, Dr. Oluwole Oluyede, also escaped being suspended over anti-party activities.
His Ugele/Arogun Ward in Ikere-Ekiti, Ikere Local Government Area, unanimously passed a vote of confidence on him. The ward executives said after an emergency meeting that the physician had done nothing to warrant any form of punishment from the party.
Sources in Ojudu’s camp said the battle being waged currently was basically to take over the structure of the party from Fayemi. The source added that the suit filed by the group seeking the dissolution of the SWC, local and ward executives was part of the game plan. Other plans of the leaders, according to the source, who craved anonymity for fear of being attacked, said there would be sustained propaganda to create impression of non-performance by the Fayemi administration.
“There would be more of this in weeks and months to come as Fayemi is coasting towards his second year in office. They don’t want the governor to produce a successor in 2022.”
A political analyst, Mr. Ajiboye Oguyemi, wondered why a party, which narrowly beat the opposition PDP in 2018, would not put its house in order. According to him, barely two years of APC-led administration in the state, the party has turned itself to a house of commotion. He warned that APC might self-destruct if the current intra-party squabble is allowed to fester. Ajiboye blamed both Fayemi and the aggrieved leaders for not treating their alleged misunderstanding like a family affair.
“The party has a lot to lose if the current tempo of crisis is allowed to continue. First, it will distract the governor from performing. The opposition PDP can capitalise on the feud to take over power in 2022.”