ABIODUN NEJO writes that the governorship primary of the Ekiti State Peoples Democratic Party has deepened the crisis which started last year when the party conducted its ward congress
The January 26 governorship primary of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State has come with mixed feelings with stakeholders and aspirants in the party – feelings of satisfaction on one side and despondency on the other.
The implication is that the exercise appeared to have shattered the peace and unity process which the Senator Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee started midwiving in December last year immediately on assumption of office to ensure the party’s victory in the June 18 governorship election.
A political watcher, Adeseke Ademuyiwa, said, “The 2022 Ekiti PDP primary was won and lost in March 2020 when the ward congresses were conducted. The pains, tears and joy witnessed with the declaration of Fayose’s man, Olabisi Kolawole, as winner, were reflections of what happened at that congress.
“The three PDP leaders, former governors Ayodele Fayose and Segun Oni; and a National Assembly member, Senator Biodun Olujimi find it difficult to be real friends. Politics of self interest has seen them injuring one another all along and the wound is what the just concluded governorship primary has once again reopened,” he said.
Tracing the Wounds
Fayose and Oni have axes to grind with each other, little wonder Fayose was said to have insisted during the botched reconciliatory efforts between Olujimi’s PDP Repositioning Group and Fayose’s Osoko Political Assembly that Oni could not fly the party’s flag.
Way back in March 2014, Oni dumped the PDP to team up with the APC after Fayose’s emergence as the PDP governorship flagbearer. Although Fayose won the 2014 election, PDP’s loss of the governorship to the APC with Oni’s involvement in 2018 has remained a bitter pill for Fayose.
Fayose’s media aide, Lere Olayinka, attested to this on Sunday after Kolawole’s emergence, saying, “We (Fayose group) know those who have remained in the PDP through thick and thin and we know those who have moved in and out of the PDP. We know those who were among the people who rigged the PDP out in 2018”.
Ditto for Olujimi, a senator, whose supporters had in 2018, after the PDP loss of the governorship seat to the APC, put the leadership of Fayose, a two-term governor, to question. They had claimed then that the senator, being the highest political office holder in the party, was the leader.
Fayose openly in 2019 campaigned against Olujimi’s relection bid to the Senate. It took Olujimi to take the matter to courts to reclaim the seat later in the year.
The leadership tussle was on until March 2020 ward congresses when Fayose outsmarted the Olujimi group and got all the positions through contentious exercises leading to parallel executives with one side loyal to the senator and the other to the former governor.
However, the then Uche Secondus-led NWC ratified the Fayose congresses just as lower and appellate courts okayed them although the Supreme Court decision is being awaited.
So, when Oni returned to the PDP in 2020, Olujimi, who had always said she was being cheated because of her gender, expected the former governor to join her and perhaps lead the battle against the common foe, but Oni did not and instead romanced Fayose although he did not join any of the two factions.
Watchers believed the primary election was a good time for Olujimi to pay Oni back in his own coins hence the senator did not instruct her delegates to vote for the former governor when she pulled out of the contest citing manipulation.
With the approach of the polls, when bookmakers were expecting Fayose to pick his former deputy, Prof Kolapo Olusola, who lost the 2018 governorship contest to Fayemi of the APC, the former governor endorsed Kolawole, who was the sitting party state chairman.
Although other party members interested in the governorship including Oni; Olusola; former House of Representatives member, Adewale Aribisala; were all disappointed with the endorsement, Fayose, had while unveiling Kolawole, described him as “a bridge builder who will usher in a better future for Ekiti and the PDP.
“Kolawole is our collective project. I made him my preferred candidate in the overall interest of our party, but this does not foreclose due process of nomination in the PDP. The PDP is what we are supporting; it is what we are marketing. And all we want is a winner. We have started consultations and I know that victory is sure for us,” Fayose had said.
And in the Repositioning Group, divisions crept in when no fewer than three key members – Olujimi, Lateef Ajijola and Yinka Akerele presented themselves for the primary. Earlier, part of the group had held a shadow election, which was boycotted by Olujimi, to choose Re-positioning’s consensus candidate who would slug it out with other aspirants at the primary.
At the end of the day, 17 aspirants obtained nomination forms while 12 of them including Oni; Olujimi; Kolapo; Kolawole; Aribisala; Akerele; financial expert, Kayode Adaramodu; former deputy governorship aspirant, Deji Ogunsakin participated in the primary.
Although the shoddy manner the ad hoc delegates’ congress for the election of three ad hoc delegates per ward was conducted in January brought together most of the aspirants, who complained that Fayose hijacked the exercise to favour Kolawole, the aggrieved failed to utilize the opportunity to team up and present one of them against the former governor’s candidate.
The Primary of Crisis
Of fact, the organisation and security arrangement at Pastoral Centre, Ado Ekiti venue for accreditation of delegates and Eagles Hall where voting held showed the party’s readiness for the exercise, which the PDP State Publicity Secretary, Raphael Adeyanju, said was to teach others how to conduct transparent primaries.
But no sooner had the accreditation begun than some delegates raised objection to some names on the delegates’ list being used by the Electoral Committee chaired by Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel, alleging manipulation to favour Kolawole.
But Emmanuel assuaged the worried delegates, saying, “We are in Ekiti to conduct free, fair and transparent primaries. I have the authentic delegates’ list stamped from the NWC here. This is the list we are going to use. We (the committee) are neutral. Everything is going to be very orderly.”
However, the primary received the first blow when Olujimi, who had arrived for accreditation and subsequent voting, expressed disappointment and pulled out of the contest, saying the process had been manipulated.
The National Assembly member expressed surprise that only 12 delegates could vote in her local government, Ekiti East, and only 10 delegates in the Gbonyin Local Government where ordinarily no fewer than 155 delegates should vote.
She added that all delegates in the remaining four local government areas in her senatorial district had been given to Fayose’s group, saying, “It was very unfair, unjust and unethical. It was disenfranchising me because of my gender or because the party feels I have not done enough for it.
“Going forward from there would mean that I am condoning what is wrong. So I thought my best was just to pull out and I pulled out. I did not step down. They can continue with it, I will also internalize the problem, there will be some introspection, then I will take a decision,” she said.
Again, immediately Emmanuel announced Kolawole winner having polled 671 votes to trounce Oni, his closest rival, who scored 330 votes and other aspirants, the former governor, in his reaction, said, “We are going to fight together to make him (Kolawole) governor. We are satisfied with the process and no one is complaining”.
But a statement the following day from Segun Oni Campaign Organisation titled “Ekiti PDP Gov Primary: Segun Oni’s supporters reject results, say many delegates disenfranchised”, said the primary was not free and fair.
The campaign outfit’s Director-General, Yemi Arokodare, who rejected the result, alleged, “The delegates’ register was mutilated and many delegates’ names were missing from the register, while 32 automatic delegates who were accredited were not given tag and were not allowed to vote”.
Also in another statement on Sunday titled, ‘Ekiti PDP primary: Oni accuses Ayu’s NWC, Fayose of sellout’, the campaign outfit accused Ayu and Fayose of sellout of party’s candidacy to the ruling APC with the shoddy and abysmal way the primary election was conducted.
Arokodare alleged that “the outcome of the flawed PDP governorship primary in Ekiti State was orchestrated by Fayose to sell the party to the ruling APC,” adding, “The candidate of the PDP and Fayose’s protege, Bisi Kolawole, could be best described as a duplicate copy of the APC’s candidate in the June 18 governorship election.”
But the Fayose camp has continued to celebrate the victory just as the candidate said, “It is God’s design that Olabisi Kolawole is the one to rescue Ekiti State from APC. The result has been very clear, the process has been very clear, credible and it makes everybody happy.
“I am very sure members of our party, our leaders are very happy because we have promised that once the process is very open and fair to all, that they will all accept the result. It has pleased God to make me winner of the primary”.
The PDP candidate, however, said Olujimi’s action at the venue was to avoid defeat, saying, “I don’t think it was out of annoyance; she must have considered some other factors, It is better to, by style, avoid being embarrassed at the venue”.
Seeking the Healing Balm
However, Emmanuel described as false, speculative and “indications of pre-perceived defeat”, insinuations of unfair treatment and disenfranchisement of some aspirants, maintaining that the process was devoid of malpractices.
The PPD youths, under the aegis of Victory Advocates of Nigeria, which harped on the need for genuine reconciliation, called on stakeholders and aspirants to rally round Kolawole, to ensure victory in the 2022 election in the state.
Also, the PDP state spokesman, Adeyanju, said the outcome of the contest was “victory for all. All party members are advised to prepare for the real battle ahead, when the party will face the ruling, APC in the forthcoming general election.”
Adeyanju said, “We had 17 aspirants and the majority of them have accepted the outcome of the primary election. If only two of them have not made up their minds, that cannot discredit the outcome of the primary election because they will be in the minority.”
This was as the NWC, which has since ratified the result of the primary and forwarded the candidate’s name to the Independent National Electoral Commission, on Monday constituted a nine-member Ekiti State Post-Primary Reconciliation Committee chaired by former Senate President, David Mark.