The recent pronouncement by former Governor Ayodele Fayose that a factional chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State Hon Bisi Kolawole, would enjoy his support for the 2022 governorship contest in the state appears to have further deepened the crisis in the party, Raheem Akingbolu reports.
They are resolute in their determination to wrestle power from the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti, come 2022. They started the journey in earnest but they keep meeting self-constructed barriers on their way. The more they struggle to get out of the political cobwebs they found themselves, the tougher the chances. This has been the lots of the opposition People’s Democratic Party PDP in Ekiti since 2018.
Due to the fact that no party has enjoyed uninterrupted two-term in office in the state since 1999, some political pundits have almost taken it for granted that power will shift from APC to PDP next year. The first hurdle that stood like the Rock of Gibraltar when it started gathering its storms together was a supremacy contest between Senator Abiodun Olujimi, then Deputy Minority Whip of the Senate and former Governor Ayodele Fayose. As the highest political office holder in PDP post 2018 election, Olujimi had assumed the leadership of the party to the chagrin of Fayose and his supporters. The two opposing sides were still bickering in 2019 when Olujimi stood for re-election into the Senate. Fayose and his followers saw that as opportunity to whittle down Olujimi’s influence and therefore worked against her and the party. At the end, Olujimi lost and Fayose celebrated.
Months after, Olujimi who had challenged Senator Dayo Adeyeye at the election petition tribunal won and was subsequently sworn in as Senator, representing Ekiti South Senatorial District in the 9th assembly. The supremacy struggle thus resumed, this time stronger with many politicians who have fallen out with Fayose lined up behind the new senator. The divided house remained till the time Ekiti State PDP had its congress last year. Of course, the development led to the emergence of two party chairmen –Hon Bisi Kolawole of Fayose’s Osoko Polical Organisation (Oga) and Hon. Kehinde Odebunmi of PDP Repositioning Group being led by Olujimi and Senator Duro Faseyi. Kolawole and Odebunmi, thus inherited a legal tussle being pursued by the two groups to determine which one is legitimate. As at the time of filling this story, the case is still in the Supreme Court awaiting judgment.
But in what looked like a set back to the party’s peace mission, Mr. Fayose had on Sunday, February 21, in solidarity, stormed the Efon-Alaaye home of Kolawole, and expressed his (Fayose)’s wish for the party chairman to cap it up with governorship contest under the party’s umbrella next year.
For Kolawole and his household, it was good news but to a larger part of PDP family, the action was predictably injurious to the unity the party was urgently looking for.
In an interview with the AbujaCityJournal, a former chairman of the party in the state, Barr. Gboyega Oguntuase, admitted that though Fayose has the right to anoint and endorse whoever he wants, he faulted the timing of the endorsement because of the pending case at the Supreme Court.
“Hon. Bisi Kolawole’s endorsement is a personal decision of former Governor Fayose and I think he has the constitutional right to back whoever he wishes. If Mr Fayose wishes, he can move from Nigeria to Liberia or from Lesotho to Gambia. If he likes he can anoint his son or brother or even go to as far as Sokoto to bring a candidate to govern Ekiti. Except that the timing is wrong, Hon Kolawole is equally qualified to become governor. But to me, the time is wrong because the anointed candidate still has a case dangling on his head at the Supreme Court. He is qualified because I know beyond being an Ekiti man; Kolawole possess a Secondary School Certificate which is the basic. I don’t know if he has National Diploma or NCE certificate or Degree but I’m sure he has the basic qualification.”
Oguntuase, who described Fayose as unpredictable individual however stated that he had vowed never to allow any action taken by the former governor to worry him.
“Yes some people were worried about the endorsement, I didn’t because I have vowed long ago never to allow Fayose’s action to bother me because he often embarked on things that offend sensibilities, against common sense and run contrary to logic,”
A former house of Representatives member and one of the arrowheads of Engr. Segun Oni’s governorship bid, Dr. Ife Arowosoge also corroborated the fact that former Governor Fayose’s decision to endorse Kolawole was still within the scope of constitution but politely advised Kolawole to first step down as the party’s chairman in the state and formally join the contest.
“The former Governor Fayose has the right to adopt anyone of his interest. The constitution of our great party, the PDP and the constitution of Nigeria do not go against such move. But for us in Atunse Ekiti Movement, what matters and concerns us now is the public endorsement of our aspirant, Engr. Olusegun Oni. Having stated this, now that it has been announced that Hon. Kolawole is in the race, I think it will be honourable for him to resign his position as party chairman and join other aspirants to mobilise for the party and prepare for primaries,” Arowosoge said.
But to another leader of the party and one of the promoters of the PDP Repositioning Group, Otunba Yinka Akerele, the weekend’s endorsement of Kolawole by Mr. Fayose has drawn back the party’s effort to reconcile the two warring groups. Akerele who is believed to also have governorship ambition based his condemnation of Mr. Fayose’s action on many premises.
“I almost didn’t believe it happened because of the move made days before that pronouncement by the same former Governor Fayose for the two groups to settle out of court. Without mincing words, Mr. Fayose is a recognized leader in the party and so he’s capable of throwing his weight behind any aspirant of his choice but I don’t think that it’s the right thing to do now that we are still working to become one. If anything, the latest move by the former Governor has simply pointed to the fact that he wasn’t sincere with the olive branch he extended to our group recently. Everybody was excited when Fayose called and said as one family we could solve our problem without going to court. But his endorsement of a factional leader while we are yet to resolve the issue has negated that move,”
While drumming support for urgent reconciliation in the party, Akerele spoke further by declaring that PDP would not win governorship election next year as a divided house.
“If any group is under the illusion that it can win alone in 2020, such a group is day dreaming. For Christ’s sake, what Fayose did on Sunday was clearly against the spirit of reconciliation. As I speak, Ekiti PDP cannot boast of delegates because the party doesn’t constitutionally exist in Ekiti. Someone like me cannot come forward and express my interest to contest because there is no party. The issue at hand is so precarious because our party structure in Ekiti is in shambles. Technically, the party is supposed to be the vehicle with which we can convey ourselves to the Promised Land in 2022 and when it does not exist, everything is therefore nebulous in nature.
But within Fayose’s political family, where it was rumoured that about six aspirants had earlier paid N2 million each for expression of interest to an account designated by Fayose, nobody has been able to come out forcefully to condemn the action. Some of the members are; Kayode Eso, a former Commissioner for Works under Fayose, Segun Adekola, former Member of the House of Representatives and Ayotunde Oladimeji, also a former Member of the House of Representatives. Others are; Deji Ogunsakin, a former Chairman of Ado Ekiti Local Governent who was paired with Prof. Olusola Eleka in 2018 governorship election in the state, Hon. Wale Aribisala, a member of PDP National Working Committee and one Adaramodu, a PDP leader from Ekiti South West. Almost all the aforementioned were said to have paid the N2million naira before Mr. Fayose went for Kolawole.
But are they offended by the move and ready for a showdown with Fayose? Except former Deputy Governor Olusola Eleka, who has tactically said he would continue with the aspiration, others appear to be okay with Fayose’s decision. Even though pundits had earlier predicted that the purported endorsement would put the political family of the former governor in disarray, findings by AbujaCityJournal has proved such prediction wrong.
Speaking with our correspondent on the issue on Tuesday, Hon Deji Ogunsakin dismissed the insinuation in some quarters that some members of Osoko Political Association are up in arms against Fayose for adopting the State party’s Chairman, Bisi kolawole against alleged agreement reached to throw the contest wide open.
“Let me first clear the air about whether the issue has divided our group or not. It has not and it will not in any way divide us. Osoko Political Association stands firm behind our leader and benefactor, Peter Ayodele Fayose. What happened on Sunday is a welcome development. We have in Fayose a foresight leader and whatever he does is okay by us. We are solidly behind him in whatever decision her takes. Since the day of the pronouncement, we have started preparing for general election because we know primary would be a walkover. We also see Hon Bisi Kolawole as our trusted leader who love PDP and as well love Ekiti so we are ready to work with him,” he stated.
Though strong indications emerged on Monday that the crack in the wall of the former governor’s political family has widened because of the rejection of the move by the camp of one of his political lieutenants and ex-deputy governor, Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, the deputy governor later issued a statement that his respect for Fayose still stands.
A political aide to Eleka, Mr. Adebisi Adeola, had said the former Deputy Governor would proceed with his ambition despite Kolawole’s adoption by his former boss saying “Eleka won’t drop out of the race and would be ready to face Kolawole at the PDP governorship primary next year.”
Adeola, who spoke while appearing alongside Fayose’s media aide, Lere Olayinka on BOTTOM LINE, a current affairs programme on New Cruse 92.7 FM, Ikere, on Monday said Kolawole’s endorsement was unknown to party’s leaders and stakeholders.
Adeola disclosed that Fayose had earlier promised members of OPA including Eleka that the final decision on who to support for the party’s governorship ticket would be taken by all stakeholders in June after all the aspirants might have been assessed based on agreed criteria.
“Everything is not right in Ekiti PDP, we are not saying he (Fayose) cannot adopt but you have to be transparent and things should be rightly done. Whatever is happening in PDP today should involve all leaders in Ekiti and Southwest PDP,” Eleka aide had stated.
The programme also featured Fayose’s media aide, Lere Olayinka.
Olayinka who justified the action of Fayose and his loyalists in adopting Kolawole said endorsement and adoption of preferred candidates by individuals and groups are normal in politics noting that supporters of former Governor Segun Oni and Senator Biodun Olujimi had at one time or the other received endorsement from their supporters.
He admitted during the programme that five aspirants had paid N2 million each into the account of OPA to include Hon. Deji Ogunsakin, Hon. Ayo Oladimeji, Hon. Kayode Oso, Hon. Wale Aribisala and Hon. Segun Adekola claiming that Oso, Ogunsakin, Adekola and Oladimeji has pledged to support Kolawole.
Olayinka said: “Fayose did not singlehandedly endorse Kolawole, he was endorsed by all those who believe in the leadership of Fayose; we consulted him (Fayose) and he agreed with us.
“The stakeholders met on Friday that this is the decision and this is where we are going. The fact that he (Fayose) pitched his tent with somebody did not preclude others from contesting or the party from conducting free and fair primary.
On why Fayose no longer supports Eleka, Olayinka said: “The political permutation in 2018 is different from now; his loyalty to our cause is being tested now.”
In a statement personally signed by Eleka, he acknowledged Fayose’ s leadership role and right in the choice and endorsement of Hon Bisi Kolawole as the most preferred aspirant from Osoko Political Assembly but he pointed out that his coming out to indicate his interest in the 2022 gubernatorial contest was based on divine leading and not just on personal human ambition.
“I'm constrained to seek God's face on every subsequent action and until I received anything to the contrary, the aspiration remains intact. Whatever happens, H. E, Peter Fayose remains my leader, whom I have adored and respected in my humble capacity as his deputy for 4years; who in-turn believes in my capability to lead our state and provide good governance for the Fountain of Knowledge. H E should be rest assured that by God's grace, my respect and honour for his person and leadership cannot diminish. As a matter of right, he has spoken on his choice and preference concerning who flags the party's gubernatorial ticket this time around and also on the right of other aspirants to pursue further their ambition if they so desire. In all these, may God's will be done” Eleka added.
Speaking on his endorsement, Hon Kolawole appreciated the former Governor for considering him worthy of such benevolence but said he’s currently preoccupied with the process on building the party.
When asked if he could be an aspirant and at the same time the chairman of the party, Kolawole answered in the affirmative and that the constitution has nothing against such.
“I’m currently the chairman and former Governor Fayose has the right to support me perhaps because of my pedigree and antecedent. If you know the former Governor very well, he is an extrovert and a straight forward individual, he always want people to know where he belongs so that they don’t put unnecessary pressure on him.
That said, currently, as the chairman of the party, I’m more concerned about the unity in the party and at the right time I will take action about the governorship contest. If anybody says I don’t have the right because I’m the party chairman then the person should go and acquaint himself with the workings of political party. The current governor of Ebonyi State was a chairman of PDP when he contested and he won. So what are we saying?” Kolawole said.
As things are, the issue is still generating furore but some political analysts are of the opinion that Mr. Fayose did what he did simply to unsettle the state’s PDP political environment in order to attract more people who would be coming to lobby him .