In this report, KAMARUDEEN OGUNDELE reviews the internal crisis rocking the Ekiti Peoples Democratic Party ahead of the forthcoming local government elections
The Peoples Democratic Party in Ekiti State sent a shock wave through the country’s political space when it defeated the then ruling All Progressives Congress in the state’s 16 Local Government Areas during the June 21, 2014 governorship election.
The manner of the victory of Governor Ayodele Fayose led to the formulation of many theories as the possible reasons for the defeat. If Fayose’s governorship victory was a fluke, the victory of the PDP in the presidential, national and state assembly elections left so many people bewildered.
Again, people propounded that many factors might have helped the PDP to victory as the governor was already in the saddle. Some propounded the likelihood of the deployment of state resources and power to pursue for the elections. Indeed, there were reported cases of harassment and intimidation of opposition politicians in the state.
One thing was, however, evident in the general election. The PDP managed to amass 165,000 votes to APC’s over 122,000 votes in the House of Assembly election – a sharp decline from the 202,000 votes it garnered in the 2014 election to the APC’s 127,000.
With the current crack among power brokers in the ruling PDP in the state, it cannot be said if things would remain the same for the party as it prepares for the local government elections coming up in December.
There are two factions in the Ekiti PDP with the group loyal to the governor led by Idowu Faleye and the other group led by Tunde Olatunde.
Faleye purportedly resigned in May and was replaced by Olatunde, who was vice-chairman (North), before his emergence as the acting chairman.
A pointer to the decline in the fortunes of the PDP as a result of the internal wrangling was the comment made by Olatunde, and the group’s secretary, Tope Aluko.
Olatunde said the State Working Committee members loyal to him were in full support of any action geared towards restoring peace to the party. He maintained that the party must not be allowed to be hijacked by an individual no matter highly placed.
Olatunde disclosed that all funds from the PDP national headquarters sent to the state chapter for support during the 2015 general election were unaccounted for because “they were collected by Mr. Governor without making recourse to the party.”
He added that the party was sidelined in the selection of candidates for legislative offices in the 2015 general election and appointments, noting that this move had weakened the party’s grass-roots structure.
Aluko revealed that each SWC member was owed N4.8m, being the allowances for 32 months while the party, from the ward to the state levels, had not received any dues from government.
“The electorate is gradually losing confidence (as could be seen) from 202,000 votes of the PDP to 127,000 votes of the APC (62 per cent to 38 per cent) in the June 21, 2014 governorship election to PDP’s over 165,000 votes to APC’s over 122,00 votes in the House of Assembly election of April 11, 2015.
“This shows that it dropped from 57 per cent to 43 per cent and a loss of about 40,000 votes in real terms. The implication is that the fortunes of the PDP are dwindling in Ekiti. The popularity of winning elections is that of the PDP and not that of an individual because we tested this in the 2011 general election.”
That the National Working Committee of the party had exhibited a deafening silence over the crisis rocking the party in the state also showed that the party had not found its rhythm after its defeat in the presidential election.
There have been reported moves by the leadership of the party to reconcile the aggrieved members, but up till the time of filing this report, the gladiators had not been summoned to any meeting either in Abuja or at the zonal level. The zonal executive of the party led by a former PDP chairman, Chief Makanjuola Ogundipe, has also not made a comment on the matter.
Faleye was appointed in 2014, following the elevation of Ogundipe to the position of the National Vice-Chairman (South-West) of the PDP.
But it appeared that the battle with the governor started a long time ago when Faleye was appointed the chairman. This was confirmed by the speech made by Olatunde, who said appointing Faleye as the chairman was an error because he hailed from Ido Ekiti in Ido/Osi Local Government with the state youth leader of the party.
Olatunde claimed that Faleye was asked to resign after he confronted him with the facts and that the decision had been transmitted to the then Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu-led National Working Committee in Abuja through the South-West zonal committee.
He said, “We held the State Executive Committee meeting at our secretariat in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday where Chief Idowu Faleye was confronted with the fact that we made a mistake in his appointment and that he is not doing well among us. Besides, the SEC has yet to ratify his appointment. After a prolonged argument, he willingly stepped down. We followed the principle of federal character in the appointment in our party. We cannot appoint two different principal officers from the same ward, it is against our constitution.”
In an interview with journalists, Faleye, however, maintained that he was still the duly elected chairman, adding that Olatunde’s claim should be disregarded.
According to Faleye, the issue is all about money and he added that his appointment had been ratified by the NEC because he led the state to the PDP national convention last year and voted.
“The person making that allegation is doing so at his own detriment. All the party leaders are behind me. The only misunderstanding we had was that they demanded a six-month honorarium amounting to about N11.2m and I said I cannot sign the cheque without the approval of the governor,” he said.
A few days later, the PDP elders’ forum faulted the removal of Faleye, saying it was “absolutely wrong and unexpected” of Olatunde to have declared himself chairman after a meeting held with the aggrieved members where it was resolved that the matter would be resolved amicably.
While passing a vote of confidence in the Faleye-led executive, the elders’ forum warned the Olatunde-led faction to tread softly and avoid anything that could be seen as a witch-hunt of the “legally installed party chairman.”
Signs that efforts to reconcile the aggrieved members by the state elders have failed, however, emerged with the media reports that some top members of the party were planning to defect to the All Progressives Congress.
But Olatunde came to the public the next day to announce that they would not leave the party for the governor, while admitting that there were issues to be resolved with the governor.
In a twist to the crisis, the State Executive Committee, at a meeting presided over by Falaye, expelled Olatunde, Aluko, State Women Leader, Busola Oyebode; and auditor, Tunji Olanrewaju; for alleged anti-party activities.
Their expulsion followed a recommendation by the disciplinary committee set up by the party to look into the allegations levelled against them by their wards.
In his reaction, Aluko said Faleye, whom he described as an impostor, lacked the power to suspend members of the State Working Committee. According to him, his tenure and that of the suspended SWC members expires on March 18, 2016. He described the action as an affront to the party’s constitution.
He said, “They are jokers. One, they should know that the PDP is not a party of jesters. They should stop toying with the future of the party and its constitution. These people cannot just come from the Labour Party and start to mess up our party.
“Whoever that is pushing them must come out openly. Just look at the timing, I mean when I was about doing the wedding of my daughter tomorrow (Saturday), they took the illegal action. I am going to expose what is between us to the whole world,” Aluko threatened.
The factional acting chairman has also threatened to ask the court to jail Faleye, for alleged contempt of court. Olatunde, who was the vice-chairman, Ekiti-North, before he became the factional acting chairman, said his group had already gone to court to stop the party from taking any punitive measure against them after their suspension.
Explaining the cause of disaffection within the party to our correspondent, Aluko said, “It is just that the real core PDP members are marginalised. The financial and founding fathers running the party before 2012 were not carried along in the activities of the government. Three to four key leaders per each local government are either sitting on the fence or about defecting. That is why we are saying things should be done the right way.
“If you look at the appointments made by the governor so far, 80 per cent (of them) are not core PDP members. They are followers of the governor. Two-thirds of the House of Assembly members are returnees and not PDP members. Fayose has also changed the structure of the party to comprise mainly returnees to PDP. I’m also his brother, I cannot wish him bad. Two-thirds of the House of Representatives members are returnees also. We have so many aggrieved people. That is not good for us.”
But Faleye expressed the belief that the PDP was still on the ground in Ekiti, working with the grass roots and would win the forthcoming election via a landslide.
“First and foremost, who won the governorship election? It was Fayose because of his charismatic nature and grass-roots mobilisation. When he had not joined the party, nobody could take the leadership of the party. When he came back, he started mobilising. That was when we knew the PDP was still on the ground in Ekiti.
“The last general election was won by the PDP because of his person; people love him. When the APC was still in power who among these people could raise their hands and say they are party leaders?”
Although, he agreed that the governor was the rallying point of the party, he added that he (Faleye) had been reaching out to the party’s chairmen at the local government level in order to reconcile aggrieved members. He also appealed to PDP members to work with Fayose to win the December elections.
“I appeal to all of them to remain steadfast and work harmoniously with Mr. Governor. The Local Government election is coming up in December, God will spare our lives. All members should work together to win the elections. We are even sure of winning the 2019 governorship election because the governor is doing well. For L.G elections, we are making arrangement to ensure no stone is left unturned.”