Abiodun Nejo takes a look at the task before the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, as it strives to unite party members in Ekiti State ahead of the 2022 governorship race
The Bukola-Saraki-led Peoples Democratic Party National Reconciliation Committee has its job cut out for it especially in Ekiti State.
Perhaps, more than anywhere else, the panel’s dexterity will be required to rebuild the party ahead of the state governorship election scheduled to hold in 2022.
Without a doubt, the race to occupy the coveted Oke Ayoba Government House is playing a key role in the seeming supremacy war among the state’s leading party stalwarts.
Although leaders of the PDP are united by their desire to regain the governorship seat, they lost to the All Progressives Congress in 2018.
However, the quest for the party’s sole ticket appears to be the source of acrimony between former Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, and a fellow party leader, Senator Biodun Olujimi.
Trouble started soon after the party’s ward congresses held in March 2020. Fayose’s loyalists and their rival in Olujimi’s camp, held parallel congresses which, as was expected, produced parallel executives. Olujimi’s supporters however went to court over the outcome of the congresses.
An Ekiti State High Court gave a ruling in favour of Fayose’s camp; unsatisfied, Olujimi went on appeal.
Justice T.N Orji-Abadua, of the Federal Court of Appeal, Ado Ekiti Division, on Wednesday also gave judgement in favour of Fayose and his supporters. He simply upheld the judgment of the lower court saying the matter in contention was an internal affair of the PDP.
While reacting to the judgment, Fayose said, “To all the PDP members, please see this as victory for all. No victor, no vanquished. We are in deep talks to reconcile all. We should refrain from provocative languages.”
Olujimi, who spoke about the judgment through her media aide, Chief Sanya Atofarati, said, “The PDP is one big family, and of course will continue to remain one. However, we appeal to our supporters to remain calm and law abiding. Our lawyers are currently reviewing the judgment and at the appropriate time, we will take a position.”
The crisis in the Ekiti State chapter of the party is equally threatening its cohesion in the entire South-West region.
While some of the party’s zonal leaders and federal lawmakers have pledged allegiance to the Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, as the PDP zonal leader, some state party chairmen are queuing up behind Fayose, who they claim is the zonal leader.
A former Ekiti State PDP chairman, Chief Bola Olu-Ojo, is one of several party leaders calling for a truce and a level-playing field for all qualified and interested party members wishing to contest for the party’s ticket.
He said, “We will allow every interested aspirant to come out. Although we have a few challenges at the state level, I believe that this will soon be resolved by the national body.
“I am privileged to be one of those to offer advice, as I am talking to you, we are looking at a series of what we can do at the national level, I believe the problem will be resolved before the end of this first quarter.”
Speaking in a similar vein, another former PDP state chairman, Chief Gboyega Oguntuwase, said, “PDP meetings are going on everywhere across the 16 council areas of the state and we see some of the governorship candidates already warming up for actions, but all of them are united by the soul of PDP, we will come together and bury all differences no matter how big they may be.
“In Ekiti State, all the PDP members are united whether you belong to Fayose or you belong to Olujimi or you belong to repositioning group you belong to this or that, we are united in regaining power.”
He added, “The PDP has a magnetic soul that binds all the party together despite appearances of conflict. Even when the PDP appears to have little conflict here and there, its members are united in their determination to liberate Nigeria.
“At the right time, we shall come together because our soul is the same, present a sellable and acceptable candidate and we shall win the election.”
This notwithstanding, several other PDP governorship aspirants have started consultations ahead of the party primary.
Stakeholders from the Southern Senatorial District have increased the tempo of their agitation for the ticket to be zoned to a candidate from the area. They argue that no politician from the zone has been elected governor since the state was created in 1996.
Those who have so far shown interest in the race from the south include: Senator Olujimi; a former deputy governor of the state, Prof Kolapo Olusola; and Mr. Kayode Adaramodu.
Contenders from the Central Senatorial District include: Kayode Oso; a former senatorial aspirant, Lateef Ajijola; and a former governorship aspirant, Deji Ogunsakin.
Those from the Northern Senatorial District are: a former governor of the state, Chief Segun Oni; a former governorship candidate, Yinka Akerele; and Mr. Wale Aribisala.
Some pundits have argued that it is too early for any party to begin campaigns for the 2022 governorship elections since the Independent National Electoral Commission has yet to lift the ban on political campaigns. Others are however of the opinion that the PDP being in the opposition, cannot afford to allow itself to be caught napping by the ruling party.
Of all those who have overtly or covertly indicated interest in the contest, supporters of Segun Oni, have taken a step ahead of their competitors by flooding the streets with their preferred candidate’s posters.
Residents of the various communities which make up the state including Ado Ekiti, the capital city, woke up last Christmas to behold the glossy campaign posters bearing Oni’s name and photograph pasted in strategic locations.
Oni, a one-time Ekiti State governor on the platform of the PDP, dumped the party for the APC where he rose to the position of the Deputy National Chairman (South), before he returned to the PDP last year.
Since his return, he has come under pressure by his supporters to contest the 2022 governorship primary.
The posters, which have the logo of the PDP, with the bold inscription, “Segun Oni for governor, for a greater tomorrow,” signed by a group which identified itself as Ekiti PDP Progressives, were pasted in communities including Ikere Ekiti, Ifaki Ekiti, Okemesi Ekiti and popular locations in and around the state capital.
One of the leaders of Oni’s political group, the Atunse Ekiti Movement, Chief Ayo Omolade, who claimed that pressure groups eager for Oni’s return were behind the posters, told Sunday PUNCH that “as we speak, there are pressure from many quarters on Oni to contest the governorship primary.
“This is because Oni is the best person in terms of honesty, sincerity of purpose and well thought out pattern for the growth and development of Ekiti State.
“If given the chance, Oni will deliver Ekiti State from the present predicament brought on it by the All Progressive Congress and restore the state to its pride of place. That is the reason for the clamour.”
Supporters of Olujimi are also not letting their guard down as they have used every available opportunity to call on her to join the race.
She, however, insisted that building the party structure should be given priority first.
Speaking through her Special Assistant (Media), Atofarati, in a statement titled ‘Ekiti 2022: Olujimi urges supporters to prioritise party’s interest’,and stressed the need for party members to be cautious so that they would not be “driven by emotions or sentiments capable of distracting us from our collective pursuit as one indivisible and formidable entity which is the repositioning of the PDP, in which every member would be proud of.”
In the same breath, Olusola, who was the party’s candidate in the 2018 governorship polls, has since indicated interest in taking another shot at the coveted job.
In response to a question in a recent interview, he said, “By the grace of God, I have intimated our leaders of my intention to contest when the window of opportunity opens again. However, in all these, may God’s will be done.”
Amidst internal squabbles, leaders of the party in the state exhibit a sense of urgency when it comes to mobilising party supporters at the grass roots ahead of the battle ahead.
It was pursuant to this objective that the state chapter of the party recently held a meeting with ward secretaries across the wards and local government areas of the state.
The state PDP Secretary, who once served as Commissioner for Works, Mrs Funmi Ogun, said the meeting was convened to sensitise her colleagues at the grass roots level on the need to begin preparations for the polls.
Speaking during the event, the state PDP chairman, Bisi Kolawole, said, “Aggressive membership drive, strategising for victory in the poll and unity are necessary to strengthen the party and make it formidable.”
He urged the secretaries to “forget the style of the past” and begin mobilising for the party ahead of the 2022 governorship election in earnest.
The APC, which is currently the ruling party in the state has however, dismissed PDPs desire to return to power as a joke.
The ruling party, speaking through its state Caretaker Publicity Secretary, Ade Ajayi, said, “They are only joking. A party that was defeated in 2018, a party that did not do well saying it will come back, can’t you see that is a joke?
“I want to assure you that as far as Ekiti is concerned, with the division within the PDP, the PDP will not have a place any longer in Ekiti State.”
Whether or not the PDP can get its acts together in time to confront the APC challenge in 2023 remains to be seen.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
Contact: [email protected]