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Uneasy calm in Ekiti APC

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In spite of efforts of the Governor Nasir El-Rufai-led reconciliation panel, peace still eludes the Ekiti State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the two factions maintain their grounds, reports ‘Dare Odufowokan, Assistant Editor

THE intra-party crisis ignited by the recent gale of suspensions and counter suspensions that rocked the Ekiti State chapter of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is far from over. The Nation gathered that an uneasy calm currently pervades the ruling party as major gladiators in the political showdown that led to alleged suspensions of prominent chieftains of the APC in the state, including Governor Kayode Fayemi and Presidential Adviser, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, are yet to back down from the fierce fight.

At the height of the crisis last month, the national leadership of the party had waded in, announced the annulment of all suspensions and counter suspensions and urged all parties to the crisis to give peace a chance. In a release signed by its Acting Publicity Secretary, the Governor Bunu-led Caretaker Committee of the party said there is no faction in the Ekiti State chapter of the APC as Fayemi remains the leader of the party in the state. “The purported suspensions are nullities. We strongly advise all members to adhere to our party’s constitution.

“Governor Kayode Fayemi remains the leader of the party in Ekiti State. In line with the mandate of the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led APC Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary National Convention Planning Committee and the President’s admonition to party members to ensure and support ongoing amicable and rancour-free settlement of internal party disputes, we call on our esteemed party members and leaders in Ekiti State to be duly guided. No factions or divisions exist in the state chapter,” the caretaker committee said back then.

Though tension simmered following the deft move by the party’s national leadership to rein in the contenders, who, as at that time, appeared poised for a showdown, reliable party sources told The Nation during the week that peace is yet to return to the troubled state chapter as gladiators continue clandestine moves aimed at outwitting each other in what has now become a battle for the control of the structures of the APC across the state. Findings by our correspondent revealed that factions of the party continue to meet separately across the state.

A local government party chairman in Ekiti Central Senatorial District confirmed to The Nation that the division created by the botched suspensions is yet to heal. “APC in Ekiti is still divided into factions. The governor is yet to stop his move to send our leaders out of the party. Every day, they make new move to achieve their aims but we are also determined to stand by our leaders and protect our party. APC belongs to all of us and we cannot be forced out by anybody. Even the directives by the National Caretaker Committee are not being obeyed by them,” he said.

But an ally of the governor, who is a principal officer of the state assembly, decried what he called an attempt by some APC leaders to arm-twist the governor into submitting the control of the party to them. “It is only in Ekiti you will see people openly struggling to outsmart the governor in the control of the party. Fayemi is a gentleman. They are taking advantage of his gentility. But we, his followers, have decided that enough is enough. Whoever cannot accept the leadership of the governor has no business in APC,” he said.

The issues

The brewing crisis within the troubled party blew open a few weeks back when a faction of the party suspended the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Oyetunde Ojo and nine others. In response, Ojudu and his loyalists suspended Governor Kayode Fayemi, and other party leaders loyal to him. The suspensions and counter suspensions threw the party into crisis as chieftains and members openly queued up behind the feuding leaders, leading to a division of the party down to the grassroots.

Prior to the suspension saga, Ojudu and other party leaders were summoned for trial over alleged anti-party activities by a panel set up by the state leadership of the party. Expectedly, they faulted the composition of the disciplinary committee, saying those on the committee cannot guarantee fairness and declined appearance. They were to appear before the panel for filing a suit at the Federal High Court in Abuja challenging the constitution of the Paul Omotosho-led State Working Committee. Citing directives from the national headquarters, Omotosho set up a 10-man disciplinary committee against the party leaders over their failure to withdraw the suit.

In a letter to the panel by their counsel, Ademuyiwa Adeniyi, the aggrieved leaders explained that they would not attend the committee’s invitation “as it is subjudice in law with consequences. Still on the issue of independence and impartiality of your committee, our clients have raised serious objection to the venue of your meeting. The information at their disposal suggests that the hotel (property) is owned by the person that constituted the committee, the immediate-past Political Adviser to Ekiti State Governor, Paul Omotosho, who was a party to their case at the Federal High Court in Abuja. The composition of your committee is against the principles of nemo judex in causa sual. That is, no one is judge in his own cause. This is one of the cardinal rules of natural justice, that no person can judge a case in which they have an interest.

And following the failure of Ojudu and others to appear before the committee, the Omotosho-led executive committee, while accusing them of contravening the directives of the party, promptly announced their suspension from the party. In a statement, Ade Ajayi, the party’s Publicity Secretary, said the affected members were suspended as a result of their failure to withdraw court cases against the party.

“The suspension is based on the recommendation of the investigative/disciplinary committee inaugurated by the SEC to investigate the disobedience of certain party members to the National Executive Committee (NEC) of 25th of June 2020, which directed members of the party not to institute any court action and to withdraw existing cases in court. Others suspended are Wole Oluyede, Olusoga Owoeye, Dele Afolabi, Ayo Ajibade, Toyin Oluwasola, Akin Akomolafe, Bunmi Ogunleye Femi Adeleye and Bamigboye Adegoroye,” he said.

Not to be outdone, Ojudu’s faction of the party announced the suspension of Fayemi the same day and accused the governor of funding the campaign of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the last governorship election in Oyo State, Seyi Makinde. “Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the Executive Governor of Ekiti State is hereby suspended from the party in view of his numerous anti-party activities, especially his role in the recently concluded governorship election in Edo State which is contrary to the provisions of Article 21 (A) (ii) of the APC Constitution. A second tranche of money he sent to Makinde in the election was intercepted by soldiers. The courier was arrested and he immediately disowned and announced his sack. He remains his aide till date,” the faction said in a statement.

Another peace move

In a fresh bid to return peace to the troubled Ekiti APC, the Caretaker/Extra-ordinary National Convention Planning Committee of the party announced a new panel led by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State, to mediate in the festering crisis. Other members of the committee are Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ahmed Idris Wase, Gen. Lawal Jafaru Isah (retd.), Senator Rochas Okorocha and former Lagos State Military Administrator, Gen. Muhammed Buba Marwa (retd.).

While the panel is yet to commence its assignment, The Nation gathered that some of the gladiators are currently weighing their options whether to put their trust in the panel or not? “This is because only a panel that will be just and fair can resolve the current impasse in Ekiti,” a source said. This is just as a leading chieftain of the party from Ekiti South said the two factions of the party are eagerly waiting for the panel to start sitting. “We want peace in Ekiti APC. We are one family and with fairness and justice, we will resolve all our issues,” he said.

Also, the caretaker committee has urged party members in Ekiti State to support the El-Rufai-led reconciliation panel to achieve its objective of reconciling feuding party members. Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Yekini Nabena, said “In line with the mandate of the APC Caretaker Committee and the President’s admonition to party members to support amicable and rancour-free settlement of internal party disputes, we call on our esteemed party members and leaders in Ekiti State to approach the Governor Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai-led Reconciliation Committee with all issues so as to achieve amicable settlement in the state chapter.

However, there are indications that the feuding parties may not allow the new panel to succeed. In a move that many observers have described as not conciliatory, the Omotosho-led factional state leadership is insisting that Ojudu and others remain suspended from the party. This is according to the Publicity Secretary, Ajayi. “Let me clarify here, it was only the suspension by the illegal body imposed on Governor Kayode Fayemi that was nullified and not the one that was carried out by the state disciplinary committee. The national body said it has not received the report of the disciplinary committee set up by the authentic APC in Ekiti as at when the pronouncement was made.

“But as I speak with you, the national leadership had received the report. It was as a result of the disobedience to the directive of the National Executive Committee and President Muhammadu Buhari that all cases are withdrawn from courts that we set up the disciplinary committee,” he said.

With chieftains of the Ojudu faction also not ready to be subdued in the ongoing battle for control, it is clear that peace is not anywhere near Ekiti APC. This will only happen if and when the gladiators come down from their various high horses.

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