A FRESH crisis is brewing within the Ekiti State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of its ward, local government and state congresses scheduled to hold in April across the state.
The jostle to produce the next party chairman and other principal officers have renewed the age-long rivalry between the factions headed by former Governor Ayo Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi.
The congresses, which are for the elections of party officials in the 177 wards, 16 council areas, three senatorial districts and at the state level, are perceived as an opportunity to take control of the machinery of the party ahead of future elections in the state.
The camp of Fayose believes that he should be calling the shots as the former governor, while that of Olujimi is also of the view that as the most senior political office holder on the party’s platform from Ekiti State she should be the party leader.
The crisis is a continuation of the one that rocked the party in the dying days of Fayose’s second term, which led to its defeat in the last governorship election in 2018.
Observers say the crisis was self-imposed, as Fayose insisted on imposing his then deputy, Kolapo Olusola as the governorship candidate of the party.
The discontent engendered by that action led to the mass defection of members to the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), now the ruling party in the state.
Those who elected to remain within the fold, like Olujimi, were treated like lepers by Fayose and his supporters.
It is instructive that, ahead of the change of executive officers in April, both Fayose and Olujimi have been preaching peace whenever they have the platform to do so, but beyond the rhetoric, they do not appear to be doing enough to bring unity back to the fold.
Ahead of the important event in April, political activities within their camps suggest that the gulf separating is widening, rather than closing up.
For instance, the Olujimi camp now sees the forthcoming congresses in April as an opportunity to liberate the party from the grip of the godfatherism that undermined its performance in the last governorship election, while the Fayose camp equally sees it as an avenue to assume total control of the machinery of the party.
A new twist to the crisis was the report that the Ado Ekiti Local Government Area chairman, Mr Dare Olomofe was sacked from office by the State Working Committee (SWC), an occurrence that has been declared illegal, null and void by a section of the party faithful. Nevertheless, this represents another blow for the party that is trying strategise to regain power in the state come 2022.
Among the candidates eyeing the state chairmanship position are a former House of Reps member, Kehinde Odebunmi; a prominent chieftain and former State Secretary, Tope Aluko, alias TKO; a two-term Efon Local Government Chairman, Prince Aderogba Agbaje; and former Commissioner for Environment, Bisi Kolawole.
There is a serious realignment of forces to garner support for the different candidates. For instance, Kolawole, who has been openly endorsed by Fayose, is seen as someone with the potentials of defeating his competitors. Bisi K, as he is fondly called, will be banking on the huge support the former governor enjoys across the length and breadth of the state.
He said what happened to the PDP in the last governorship elections is not strange in the political terrain. He conceded that “there are factions in the party and that it’s not strange”.
Aluko is another potential winner of the state chairmanship election. He was initially touted as having the full backing of the vocal Senator Olujimi.
But, a source in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, told our reporter in confidence that Olujimi has withdrawn her support for Aluko over irreconcilable differences.
Aluko is said to be vastly experienced as an academic and politician, having served the state in various capacities. He has also helped the PDP in winning elections in the past. He is often called a ‘lion’ because of his boldness.
Aluko said the issues that would determine the winner and the loser of the contest revolve around the party and not personalities.
He said the party leaders have made a lot of efforts to unify its members ahead of the April congresses. He acknowledged that it is only when members close ranks that the party can win elections.
The former state secretary acknowledges the efforts of leaders such as Senator Duro Faseyi, Senator Awoyelu, Taye Lawal, former Deputy Governor Olusola, former Governor Fayose, Senator Olujimi, Chief Ogunrinde, the state party chairman Gboyega Oguntuwase among others.
Now, with the purported support of Olujimi, Odebunmi has emerged as a frontrunner in the race. For Olujimi is not a paperweight in Ekiti politics.
The senator who has the history of buying buses for the party’s Poverty Alleviation Programmes (PAP) is vastly popular across the state due to her huge spending, especially for a good course.
Olujimi had earlier advocated the collegiate leadership system for the chapter. This, she said, would enhance the party’s search for effective repositioning.
The National Assembly member representing Ekiti South Senatorial District said, “leadership is earned by hard work and commitment, not by fiat”.
She has pledged to work with all leaders in the party to restore its lost glory in Ekiti. Her words: “Anything short of collegiate leadership will be a great disservice to our teeming party members, who are yearning for good, focused and committed leadership.”
The state chairman, Oguntuwase, is not moved by the purported reports of factions throwing their weights behind some candidates. He said all interested candidates should go out and canvass for support, without compromising the standard of the party, and that they should allow brotherly love to reign.
He said: “The chairmanship election would be won and lost at the altar of ability and capability to do the requested job of restoring the lost glory of the party, especially in Ekiti State.”
He said there are no factions in the party.
His words: “There is no faction in the PDP, Ekiti State chapter. In every political party or human organisation in the world, there must be conflict and conflict resolution mechanism and machinery to resolve any form of crisis within and without. The PDP is well equipped with such a mechanism to deal with its challenges.”
It remains to be seen what the future holds for PDP in the Fountain of Knowledge state.