There are growing concerns about managing post-primary crises in major political parties in Ekiti State, as most of the losers are still aggrieved at how their parties are handling the issue.
The shadow elections for the June 18 governorship election in the state, in the two major parties, produced the immediate past secretary to the state government, Biodun Oyebanji, as the winner of the direct mode of primary conducted by All Progressives Congress (APC), while the immediate past chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former commissioner for environment, Mr. Bisi Kolawole, emerged winner in the opposition party.
Seven aggrieved aspirants, out of the eight that contested APC primary, including Opeyemi Bamidele, Dayo Adeyeye, Femi Bamisile, Kayode Ojo, Bamidele Faparusi, Olusola Afolabi and Demola Popoola, boycotted the exercise due to irreconcilable differences between them and the electoral committee headed by Governor Abubakar Badaru-led APC committee.
Shortly after the primary, the Senator representing Ekiti Central senatorial district, Bamidele, had declared that he would be challenging the exercise as an individual, while the group of seven aspirants would also be challenging the outcome in court, collectively.
However, in a statement he personally signed on Friday February 10, 2022 and made available to journalists in Ado Ekiti, Bamidele made a detour and changed his earlier posturing, saying that some critical stakeholders had intervened and appealed to him to sheathe his sword.
The senator said that though he still harbours resentment against the January 27 primary, which he described as, “sham and charade”, he won’t seek redress in court or defect from APC.
Bamidele maintained that he was dissatisfied with the shoddy manner the poll went and the betrayal of confidence therein, but was very emphatic that his action didn’t connote that he had abandoned the struggle to make the party truly democratic.
The senator, who is angry that his supporters have been left out of the mainstream political circle, held that he would struggle to make them become relevant again, saying that anything short of that can only be a “highway to nowhere.”
The Iyin-Ekiti-born politician said, “In spite of my strong convictions as expressed above, I have come to some irreversible conclusions and these are the messages I need to pass on to all and sundry as I temporarily break my silence on the way forward. One is to say that I have chosen to drop the option of going to court to sue the party.
“The other is to make it crystal clear to everyone that both my supporters and I will not defect from APC. Details of the reasons, which informed these choices, will be communicated at a later date when my supporters and I address Ekiti people and Nigerians at large. It is not just about me.
“It is about the unity and progress of Ekiti State and her politically undermined and economically afflicted people. It is also about ensuring that the ground is not prepared for reactionary beneficiaries to take advantage of seeming lack of capacity to manage our affairs as a ruling party in the state.
“I also must coordinate and lead my own aspect of this popular struggle in a way to ensure that my supporters and stakeholders who had been isolated from the mainstream of the party become relevant again, for anything short of that can only be a highway to nowhere.
“We have all contributed so much to building this party in Ekiti State and the management as well as its decision making process cannot be an exclusive preserve of a few.
“That is the new reality that those in control, including our national leadership must accept or it becomes a popular subject matter of a struggle around which a popular movement must be built. This is where I stand.”
Although, two other aggrieved aspirants including, member representing the Ekiti South Federal Constituency 2 at the House of Representatives, Mr Femi Bamisile and the immediate past commissioner for Public Utility, Mr. Bamidele Faparusi, have toed the same path, many believe that the ruling party still needs genuine reconciliation so that it could win the governorship election.
Some party chieftains within and outside the state have commended Bamidele for his decision not to dump the party and toe the path of peace. He was described as a true democrat with high sense of maturity, who seeks peace despite provocation.
According to Dr. Albert Adeyanju, “MOB, as we call the Senator, deserves commendation for his decision not to go to court. He has every reason to be angry and seek redress in court but we are happy with his decision, even when the party has not set up any reconciliation committee to look into the matter. I hope the party at the state and national will reciprocate his gesture to encourage others trust the party and seek path of peace.”
Stressing the need for genuine reconciliation, a chieftain of the party who crave anonymity, said that the analysis of Bamidele’s letter clearly showed that a lot still needed to be done by the party to bring the aggrieved on board.
The chieftain said that though Bamidele agreed to drop his threat to pursue the case in court and also said that he won’t be leaving the party, he has not said he would support the party’s candidate and work for him to win the election.
“Anybody who can read between the lines would know that despite his concession, there is still bitterness in the tone of his letter, which is why the party should go a step forward to genuinely reconcile with him and others who were very bitter about the primary election.
“Our leaders must know that similar circumstances led to his exist from the party in 2014 and later became the flag bearer of the Labour Party (LP). His decision to dump our party, partly contributed to the loss of the governorship poll to the rival PDP. Since experience they say, is the best teacher, the APC must have learnt its lesson and avoid a repeat of the episode.”
Reacting to the development regarding the aggrieved aspirants, the party zonal Publicity Secretary, Mr. Dapo Karounwi, said that reconciliation is an ongoing thing in APC.
He said, “I don’t think that the party will call their bluff because they are leaders of our party. They are respectable and committed members of our party. Let all of us work for the victory of the party. Let everyone rally round the candidate so that we can win. Reconciliation is a process and the party has kick started it. Some of the leaders are already reaching out to them. Oyebanji has reached out to them. We will not stop at anything to reconcile with them.”
Appreciating Bamidele for promising to stay in the party and drop his threat to take legal action, APC governorship candidate Oyebanji, said, “I received with gladness the news of the decision by Senator Bamidele and Bamisile to drop their suit and work with other leaders to ensure victory for the APC at the governorship election.
“Their decision has further confirmed their commitment to the growth and success of our dear party and this is highly commendable. I hope my other co-aspirants will follow suit in the interest of peace and unity. I urge all our members to appreciate these leaders for this excellent decision and refrain from making any remarks that might be deemed unfriendly.”
In the opposition PDP, Senator Biodun Olujimi, leader of a major faction of the party in the state, former Governor Segun Oni and some other aspirants, who participated in the primary, are still very bitter about the outcome.
With little or no efforts by the party to placate aggrieved aspirants, Oni has gone to Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Olujimi, who pulled out of the primary due to alleged manipulation of the exercise, has not taking final decision on what she intends to do with her political future, this is despite the fact that some leaders of the opposition PDP are said to be mounting pressure on her not to carry out her plan to dump the party.
Impeccable source confirmed to The Guardian that former Governor Ayodele Fayose and the Southwest Vice Chairman of the party, Soji Adagunodo, have reached out to her with a view to making her have a rethink on her planned defection.
The source said, “Several spirited efforts are on to prevent Senator Olujimi and her supporters from leaving PDP. Our leaders both within and outside Ekiti State are leaving no stone unturned in a bid to stop her.
“They are aware the ripple effect of such act would be uncontrollable and party members would be vulnerable to other party that may want to lure us with bogus and juicy promises.”
Confirming the development in a telephone chat, Olujimi told The Guardian that some PDP governors, Senators and eminent leaders are mounting pressure on her to jettison her proposed plan to decamp from the party.
She said, “of course, they are mounting pressure. It is normal. There is no one that will allow a sitting Senator to leave. It is a natural thing.
“Fayose also sent message via WhatsApp that I should speak with him. But, why did I want to speak with him? I have 64 wards and as only sitting Senator in Ekiti PDP, I don’t have a single ward executive. This was done just in January and these are the same set of people that will do the Senatorial primary. I didn’t join them to elect Kolawole and they have already picked all their first 11, so, what will I be doing there?
“What I asked Fayose is that, if he was the sitting Senator, can anybody do that to him?” she asked.
When asked on her next line of political action, Olujimi said, “We are still meeting. It is not a decision that will be taken in a hurry. And you know Ekiti State; we have to seek God’s guidance before taking any decision.”
Like Bamidele, Olujimi was yet to make a commitment to support the aspiration of the PDP candidate. This is why some political watchers in the state are of the opinion that for the PDP to win, the national leadership of the party must begin fresh fence mending efforts.
The national reconciliation committee headed by the former President of the Senate, David Mark should reach out to the aggrieved aspirants especially Olujimi who is the only serving elected politician in Ekiti PDP.
The exit of Oni from PDP to SDP has presented a third force in Ekiti State. Some APC aggrieved aspirants are said to have aligned forces with Oni to strengthen SDP in the state. Oni is believed to enjoy enormous support in the grassroots.