The immediate past Police Affairs Minister, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade (rtd ) and fourteen other former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship aspirants in Ekiti State could not understand what transpired at the Great Eagle Hall, Ado-Ekiti, where the ex -governor of the State, Ayodele Fayose, emerged the flag-bearer of the party for the 2014 Governorship Election. The outcome of the primary election which struck them like a thunderbolt saw former aspirants watch helplessly as the former Ekiti governor dominate and dictate the pace. He polled a whopping 462 out of 477 votes cast at the Special State Congress Election conducted by a five-man committee. The congress panel was headed by former Governor of Rivers State, Dr Peter Odili. The controversies that have trailed the poll as well as the refusal of the other aspirants to accept it may be sources of anxiety to the party which faces a daunting task to unseat a sitting governor in the June 21, 2014, governorship election.
Keeping faith with Muazu’s promise
In his opening remarks at the venue of the primary, Odili said the new leadership of PDP, led by Alhaji Adamu Muazu, had pledged to turn the party around by entrenching internal democracy and reposition it for true democracy. He said: “PDP is the greatest party in Africa, and we must show our strength in everything we do. This time around we have come together to ensure true internal democracy in our party. The five-member panel has members from Kaduna, Kogi, Ogun and Imo states.”
He explained that the Committee has 544 delegates but only 477 were used in the exercise.
He announced that sixteen contestants took part in the exercise even though there were dissenting voices.
Choosing acceptable modality
Before now, there were divergent agitations from various interest Groups and stakeholders in PDP as to the most suitable modality for picking the flagbearer of the party in the coming election. The party leadership was confronted with options like Zoning, Consensus and Primaries.
Those in support of zoning argued that since Ekiti South Senatorial District which, according to them, has the highest number of local government areas in the state was yet to produce a governor since the creation of the state some 18 years ago, it should be given the opportunity this time.
In the reasoning of advocates of consensus, given the long list of aspirants (about 34 then), there could be no better option than for the contestants to settle for a generally acceptable candidate to avoid rancour and keep the party together for the Herculean task ahead.
Fayose seemed to be the major proponent of primaries, and he posited that the task of unseating an incumbent governor must be addressed with all seriousness, noting that whoever wants to accomplish the task for the party must be truly capable of doing so. He believed that the aspirants’ strength could best be measured through an open, credible and transparent primary election. In the alternative, Fayose urged the proponents of consensus to pick a candidate from amongst them and allow their choice to face him at the primaries.
In the heat of the arguments and controversies, a meeting was summoned by the national leader of the party, President Goodluck Jonathan, where he requested aspirants to set the stage for the emergence of a consensus candidate. This presidential request, coupled with the sudden resignation, from the federal cabinet, of Olubolade – who is believed to be one of the closest allies of Mr. President – sent certain signals to the contestants, with some of them nursing the fear that the ambition of the ex-minister must have received the blessings of Aso Rock.
Unfortunately, the task proved too difficult for the stakeholders to accomplish as attempts to produce a consensus candidate for contestants from Ekiti South ended in a near fiasco. Nine out of ten contestants from the South participated in consensus, with former Nigeria envoy to Canada, Dare Bejide, polling the highest votes of 43 while former Senator Gbenga Aluko scoring 36 and Abiodun Aluko, 35. Others were Senator Bode Olowoporoku, 30; Ropo Ogunbolude, 23; Femi Bamisile, 25; Bisi Omoyeni, 24; Tunji Odeyemi, 20, and Bimbo Owolabi, 12. Also Mayowa Aluko got 8 while Captain Ajayi polled 5 votes. Prince Dayo Adeyeye boycotted the exercise.
The results were, however, roundly rejected for lack of credibility. It is instructive to note that the position of the new national Chairman of PDP, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, that the party would no longer impose candidates, forced some of the aspirants to obtain the mandatory N11million Nomination Forms. 16 out of 34 aspirants paid the fees. The party also requested the aspirants to pay addition N2.5million delegates fee which three out of the 16 aspirants paid. They are Fayose, Olubolade and Adeyeye.
Unsatisfactory ward elections
The PDP sent a 5-memberCommittee from Abuja, led by Alhaji Danladi Maiauduga, to conduct ward congress where three delegates from each of the 177 wards were elected. The panel members escaped being lynched at the PDP Secretariat in Ado-Ekiti when some armed youths who opposed primaries laid siege to them, vowing to stop the exercise from holding. The ward congress was conducted but the results were again rejected by some aspirants who alleged that the exercise was tailored to favour Fayose .
Speaking after his victory, Fayose promised to commence a process of reconciliation with aggrieved aspirants for the party to remain united and well fortified to confront the incumbent Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi in the election.
He said: “I brought Fayemi into government in 2010 and I am more determined than ever to return him to where he belongs,” he boasted, adding “Let me first thank our party leaders for doing a great job by conducting free and fair primaries. Now, we have to commence on a process of reconciliation by appealing to our brothers who may be aggrieved in any way with this process.”
The PDP candidate urged his former challenger to accept the result of the primaries in good faith and in the overall interest of the party.
“Nobody can run a government or party all alone. Losing an election or getting the governorship ticket is not the end of the world. There are other positions like the State House of Assembly, House of Representatives.
Fayose’s return to PDP
Interestingly, Fayose’s journey back into PDP began around September 2012, when the National Working Committee (NWC) re-admitted him into its fold.
But the re-admittance was back-dated as it took effect from September 14, 2011, one year ago. Fayose was expelled from the party in 2010. He joined the Labour Party, where he hoped to become the Senator for the Ekiti Central Senatorial District, a race he lost.
The NWC said it had also approved a waiver for Fayose in line with the provision of Article 8(a) and Article 17.2 (g) of the PDP Constitution with effect from the same date.
Article 8.1.a provides as follows: “Membership of the Party shall be open to all Nigerians who: Are at least 18 years of age, irrespective of religion, ethnicity, and gender, social or economic status.”
Article 17.2 (g) says: “There shall be a minimum of two (2) years membership span for a member to be eligible to stand for election into any party or public office unless the appropriate executive committee rules to the contrary. Where appropriate committee rules, it must be approved by the immediate higher executive committee save NEC is final authority.”
Roots of discontent
In effect, by backdating Fayose’s re-entry, the PDP is offering him electoral office next year, instead of 2014 when the two-year rule would have let him off the hook.
Thereafter he was believed to have hijacked the State apparatus of PDP in Ekiti State when he teamed up with Olubolade to send members loyal to former governor Segun Oni packing.
Since he lived in Ekiti, Fayose consolidated his support base by embarking on marathon ward and local government tours where he fraternized with his supporters and prepare them for the task ahead. This singular efforts earned him chains of endorsement by stakeholders, including ex -party chairmen in the state. He, however, had a collision with the State Chairman, Makanjuola Ogundipe, who announced his indefinite suspension over certain issues but the Suspension was over-ruled by the national secretariat.
Aspirants remain belligerent
Meanwhile, the aggrieved former aspirants have vowed to stop Fayose from flying the flag of the party
Addressing their supporters at the campaign office of Abiodun Aluko in Ado-Ekiti, they urged the national leadership of the party to declare the exercise null and void and of no effect.
According to Senator Gbenga Aluko, who spoke on their behalf, a number of anomalies trailed the exercise. Hear him: “First is the eligibility of former Governor Ayo Fayose to contest. He is not a bona fide member of our party, the PDP. Legally, he cannot contest the primary and we are in court over that.
“Also, the ward delegate congress conducted last Wednesday was seriously skewed in favour of Fayose. In five local governments including Ikere, Ado, Gboyin, Emure. Ise/Orun and Efon, no congress took place and results were compiled for those areas.
“Apart from that, the other places where the election held, there were electoral malpractices such as snatching of electoral materials. Since July last year, the leadership of the party, including President Goodluck Jonathan have been harping on the need for consensus to avoid acrimony.
“You can see what happened today, it was only this Fayose who opposed the consensus method and we are going to see what happens next. We are calling on President Goodluck Jonathan and well-meaning PDP leaders to right the wrong that has been done.”
In his remark, a former Senator who represented Ekiti North, Ayo Arise, decried an alleged shoddy manner in which the Ward Congress was conducted. According to him, the event witnessed hijacking of electoral materials and compilation of fictitious list of delegates by the committee, assuring that the party members would resist the committee from smuggling fictitious names into the delegate lists.
“Anything short of a fair process will not be acceptable in Ekiti. Ekiti is the most educated State in Nigeria. We know what we are doing and we know where we are going. Nobody can come to Ekiti and start behaving like an emperor. We will use all legitimate means to fight for our rights. We won’t care writing a petition to President, Goodluck Jonathan. So it is either they do what is right if they know that the person they are supporting is popular or postpone the primaries.”
Meanwhile, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has said the struggle over who emerges the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party in the state is intense because the opposition party is planning to return to power to loot the state treasury. The governor said this in a statement made available to our correspondent on Saturday. He said the PDP, which ruled the state for over six years plundered it and unleashed terror on the people.
The statement read: “The confusion in the PDP is so incurable that it does not know what it wants. While some are agitating for consensus, others are haggling over primaries. Seeing the heavy security at its state secretariat in Ado-Ekiti on Wednesday on the day of its highly controversial ward delegates’ congress, the question on every Ekiti person’s lips is why the PDP cannot settle anything without guns, knives or other dangerous weapons?”