As the newly constituted Seven-man caretaker committee of Peoples Democratic Party resumes duty in Ekiti State, Associate Editor, SAM EGBURONU, reports that concerned stakeholders are looking for ways of reconciling the leaders of the two warring factions loyal to former Governor Ayo Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi respectively.
As the seven-man caretaker committee, constituted during the week by the National Working Committee to oversee the affairs of the Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) resumes duty, party members said the committee’s major task would be to help reconcile the two warring PDP factions in the state.
The committee, chaired by a former Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Hosea Agboola, is expected to supervise over the affairs of the state until a new executive is elected, for a period not more than 90 days.
Already, concerned stakeholders in Ekiti State chapter of PDP have launched fresh initiatives to reconcile former Governor Ayo Fayose and former Deputy Governor, Senator Biodun Olujimi, as their newly inaugurated factions continue they grassroots consolidation moves.
The Nation gathered that grassroots members of the party are already confused as the recently inaugurated executive members of each of the two factions are parading themselves as the authentic executive members at the ward levels.
“We are confused today. In my ward for example, it is difficult to determine who the right executive council member is. Already, this has further divided us. The members from the two factions have come to us to say their executive committee is the right executive committee.
I think the national leaders and other stakeholders outside of Ekiti State should be plain to us and explain to us which is the right executive,” said Mr. Kolawole Ayodeji from Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area of Ekiti.
Another source, Biodun Olusoji, from Ado Ekiti Local Government Area, also told The Nation that is difficult now to tell who the authentic leaders are at the ward leaders. “The inability of our leaders to reconcile their differences has created serious confusion at the grassroots.
I can confirm to you that supporters of Fayose and Olujimi are fighting each other in a really worrisome power game. Each of them claims to have produced the authentic exco. We do not know who to believe now. Of course, being at the grassroots, we know all the people presented by the two factions; but who do we now regard as our authentic leader?
I am afraid that except something is done fast enough, this development will deteriorate and work against the party in the next elections. I doubt if our leaders know what their disagreement is doing to the party and the state.”
It would be recalled that the prolonged rivalry between the two political leaders, peaked earlier this month when PDP factions loyal to them elected and inaugurated parallel executives at both wards and local government levels in the state.
Concerned elders and stakeholders expressed worry that both Fayose and Olujimi saw the emergence of the new party officials at the ward and local government levels as “an opportunity to capture the party machinery ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election in the state.”
The Fayose-led faction was the first to inaugurate its ward executive council in 155 out of the 177 wards in the state. The swearing-in ceremony was supervised by a Notary Public, Niyi Idowu. The next day, the Senator Biodun Olujimi-led group inaugurated its parallel ward executive council in all the wards, reportedly supervised by party elders.
The Fayose group said it got a letter dated April 25 from the National Working Committee, addressed to the State PDP Chairman, Chief Gboyega Oguntuwase, to inaugurate the new executive officers as stipulated in Section 65 of the party’s legal framework.
But Oguntuase had refused to conduct the inauguration exercise, insisting no directives were given to him from the party’s National Secretariat, as alleged by the Fayose’s supporters.
So, he, Oguntuase, dismissed the alleged inauguration as “unconstitutional and a dubious political game targeted at destabilizing PDP in the state.”
He said: “I wish to state that up till today, I have not received any letter from anywhere directing me to do any swearing-in for anybody.”
Also rejecting the Fayose faction’s executive council but aligning with Olujimi’s faction, a political group, the Ekiti PDP Repositioning Movement, in a statement signed by its chairman, Engr. Alaba Agboola, dismissed the purported inauguration as “a desperate antics by some ‘chameleonic elements’ to forcefully hijack the party structure for their predetermined interest.”
Olujimi, in a statement also signed on her behalf by Agboola, said: “The true position in Ekiti State is that only the ward executives elected on March 7 conducted by the PDP and monitored by the Independent National Electoral Commission, and security agencies in line with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and Sections 85 and 86 of the Electoral Act remain authentic and have assumed work from 1st May 2020.
“As the tenure of the last ward executive ended at 12 midnight on April 30, the tenure of the authentic ward executives begins from today and they have been duly inaugurated and begun to function,” the lawmaker said.
SO LONG A RECONCILIATION MOVE
In response to the people’s plea to find lasting solution to the political rivalries threatening the Ekiti State PDP, stakeholders are calling on PDP leaders from the state and outside the state to help reconcile the warring factions. One of the leaders that many believe will help to reconcile the factions is the former Ekiti State Governor, Chief Segun Oni.
Oni’s name in the planned moves to resolve the PDP leadership crisis first made headlines when Chief Ayo Omolade, a United States based-leader of Atunse Ekiti, Oni’s political movement, said Oni’s return to PDP will help resolve the party’s leadership crisis in the state.
Describing Oni as “a man of peace,” he expressed confidence that the former governor would use his wealth of experience to resolve issues within the PDP, adding, “The problem in PDP is not up to 20 per cent of the problem he met in the APC which God used him to solve. Chief Oni is a man of peace and he has the magic wand to settle quarrels between people.”
The call for reconciliation of Olujimi and Fayose dates beyond Oni’s return to PDP. It would be recalled that the leadership battle between Fayose and Olujimi, in Ekiti State’s chapter of PDP can be traced to the party’s loss in the July 14, 2018 governorship election.
The rivalry, which insiders said began secretly long before that electoral misfortune, came to public notice when some powerful members and stakeholders in the party declared the then Senate Minority Leader, Olujimi, as the new PDP leader in the state shortly after Fayose lost power. Since then, the rivalry between the two has continued to factionalize PDP into two in Ekiti State.
Reacting to her emergence as the party leader then, Olujimi had, in a statement sent to journalists by one of her aides, Sanya Atofarati, pledged to commence “reconciliation process to bring back all aggrieved members who left the party for one reason or the other, especially, those who are in the party today but are uncomfortable with its management.”
She added that the alleged aggrieved members of the party, “have been talking to us and efforts are in top gear to ensure collectivism is applied this time.”
Almost two years after that commitment, it seems her efforts have not succeeded in resolving the matter.
A source said leaders like Fayose and Olujimi should be blamed for “the lingering leadership crisis in Ekiti PDP because they have only been paying lip service and nothing more. As he puts it: “Though both Fayose and Olujimi at any available opportunity preach peace and unity in PDP, it has been obvious that they are always playing politics with their utterances.”
It would be recalled that Fayose, late last year at a reconciliation meeting he held with party members and leaders, including former political office holders, former and present party officials from ward to state levels at his Afao Ekiti residence in the Irepodun/Ifelodun Council area of the state, openly asked all the members of the party to come together and work for its goodness.
He had said then, “The PDP in Ekiti State needs repositioning. We need unity to forge ahead. What is crucial is for all of us to come together in the interest of the party. I am not contesting any election again, but I do not want the ladder that brought us up destroyed. I want us to reclaim the governorship. It is my duty to ensure that the party does not fail.”
He did not stop there but added: “Senator Olujimi; Senator Duro Faseyi; and the PDP State Chairman, Chief Gboyega Oguntuwase, should not be angry. I am sorry if I had offended them. I do not have to fight for the leadership of the party. Majority of those people dividing this party do so for selfish reasons. They do so for the purpose of what they stand to gain from the leaders.
“We are on a mission to reposition the party because truly we need a new attitude as members of this party. We must tell ourselves the truth that there is nothing to share in failure and we must join hands to achieve something tangible.
“I know some persons are aggrieved and I know we are humans. I apologize to all those that I have offended. Let us come together in unity for this our party not to die in this state. That is my priority as a leader.
“Everybody should come back to the party. I am open to reconciliation. If Senator Olujimi calls you for meeting tomorrow, go there and listen to her. All of us are leaders. Don’t let us factionalize this party. I am congratulating her and I don’t have any issue with her and I am sorry for what happened in the past.”
Many had interpreted his position then to signify the much needed truce but the battle had remained since then.
Commenting in her Omuo Ekiti hometown during a meeting with PDP leaders, Olujimi also said she had accepted the apology of former Governor Fayose, adding that the PDP in the state needed genuine reconciliation and unity of purpose to forge ahead.
“Fayose has apologised and who am I not to accept it? We are all on the same page and shall work together as long as he would be ready to submit to the supremacy of the party constitution”.
She then promised to build a party where members would have a better sense of belonging and appealed to the Oguntuwaseled PDP State Working Committee to constitute a reconciliation committee that would reunite the aggrieved members.
Offering a possible model, She said: “Anything short of collegiate leadership will be a great disservice to our members, who are yearning for good, focused and committed leadership”.
Unfortunately, all these sweet messages of peace and reconciliation faded out as the two factions clashed during the last ward congresses in which they elected parallel executives.
As the caretaker committee steps in, while the two executives continue to lobby for acceptance at the grassroots, thereby deepening the confusion, stakeholders like Olusoji and Ayodeji are wondering who will reconcile Fayose and Olujimi? This is even as Fayose and Olujimi seen to remain adamant.
For example, while welcoming the caretaker committee, Olujimi stated that the ward executives inaugurated by her remain the authentic officials of the party, vowing to frustrate plots by ‘some spoilers’ to thwart the dream of the party forming the next government in the state come 2022.
She, however, advised the NWC to initiate a genuine peace-strategy to salvage the soul of the party and its architectural structure from collapse by reconciling aggrieved party’s members, rather than taking sides in the crisis embroiling the Ekiti PDP.