From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
All is not well with the Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party( PDP).
Once again, the opposition party might be going to the June 18 governorship poll as a divided house.
Ironically, the PDP has its eyes on regaining the Ekiti State governorship seat in the next governorship contest in the state. Senator Iyorchia Ayu, since assumption of office, as PDP national chairman, last December, had repeatedly said that the party, under his watch intend to win no fewer than 20 governorship seats, alongside the Presidency to reclaim its position as the ruling party in the country. The
PDP leader said to achieve his dream for the opposition part, all its leaders and followers must close rank.
Consequently, the new PDP leadership since assumption of office has been making frantic efforts to restore peace to the Ekiti State chapter of the party, alongside other chapters embroiled in crisis.
The PDP national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, speaking at a peace parley with party stakeholders from Ekiti State, last December had noted that the party cannot afford to go to any election as a divided house, hence the need for dialogue.
According to him, “we think there is a need for dialogue with critical stakeholders and the party is going to do just that, so that by the time we are going into the elections, whatever election we are going into, we want to go into such election as the united force, a force that is capable of fighting and winning elections.
“The mood of the party is that of a party that will fight together as one united force and hopefully, we should be able to recapture as many states as possible, as many members of the National Assembly, both the two houses as possible, or state houses of assembly.
Incidentally, the June 18 Ekiti governorship poll, is the first the opposition party would be contesting under the present PDP chairman. Regardless, intra-party crisis in its Ekiti chapter is exacting so much pressure on the party, and threatening its resolve to win more governorship seats.
The Ekiti PDP has been sharply divided in the last four years, with former governor of the state, Ayodele Fayose and his erstwhile deputy battling for supremacy. Consequently, the opposition party in the state has not been able to speak with one voice.
Amidst efforts to resolve the crisis, the outcome of the recent PDP governorship primary in the state has further deepened the schism in the opposition party.
In the primary, former state chairman of the party, Bisi Kolawole had defeated former Governor, Segun Oni, and 14 others to clinch the governorship ticket. Kolawole, who is Fayose’s preferred candidate had scored 671 votes against 330 polled by Oni and 93 votes garnered by the immediate past deputy governor of the state, Olusola Eleka. However, the Oni camp had dismissed the primary as a sham.
Indications that the PDP was set for a controversial primary emerged after the ward congresses to elect ad-hoc delegates, who would in turn nominate the party’s governorship candidate. However, the outcome of the ward congress was rejected by stakeholders, who alleged that it was manipulated to favour certain interests.
Expectedly, aggrieved stakeholders repeatedly staged protests at the PDP national secretariat, Wadata Plaza, in Abuja, to call for the cancellation of the exercise.
Ayu, after a meeting with PDP stakeholders, which lasted for several hours, on January 24, announced the cancellation of the ward congresses. He announced that the party would resort to the use of automatic(super delegates), to choose its governorship candidate in Ekiti.
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The PDP in a communique noted that “all parties and stakeholders have agreed to abide by the decision of the party in all matters relating to all issues concerning the position of the party in Ekiti state. That the 3-man ad-hoc ward delegate congresses in Ekiti state held on 15th January, 2022 is hereby nullified. That the party’s governorship primary election shall be conducted using the statutory/automatic delegate list. That all pending court cases in all matters relating to the congresses in Ekiti State must be withdrawn herewith.
“That any person defiant to the decision to withdraw all pending court cases which contradicts the provisions of the party’s Constitution shall be referred to the disciplinary committee of the party. That the party assures all aspirants, stakeholders and party faithful of a free, fair, transparent and credible governorship primary election in Ekiti state.”
The super delegates, consisted of former governors and deputy governors, speakers of the state assembly elected on the platform of the PDP, who are still members of the opposition party.
Others are serving members of the national and state House of Assembly, elected on the platform of the PDP, members of the State Working Committee( SWC) and the local government executives of the party in the state.
Ayu, while addressing the Ekiti Stakeholders, earlier that day, had expressed that at the end of the governorship primary, the party would be going to the June 18 contest with as a united house.
“We only hope that at the end of this exercise we will work together as one happy united family.
“The fight is not between us; it is simply a family discussion going on. The real fight is ahead of us and at the end of the election in June, we want to congratulate the PDP for having won Ekiti. We should be able to say we now have a PDP government in Ekiti, that is one singular desire that we have. We don’t have any other desire,” the PDP chairman had stated.
However, analysts say with unfolding events in the Ekiti PDP, the hopes of the party to the next governorship poll in the state with a united front may be barren, as aggrieved leaders of the party are seriously weighing their options
Last weekend, Oni formally severed ties with the opposition. The Director of Media, Segun Oni Campaign Organisation, Lanre Ogunsuyi reportedly told journalists: “we have just said bye-bye to PDP, and our boss has thanked all the people that worked with him, and dissolved all the structures that ran the purported primary in PDP.”
Like in the current circumstances, the emergence of Eleka as PDP candidate in the 2018 Ekiti governorship poll had inflamed passions in the opposition.
In the aftermath of the primary, former Minister of State for Works, Dayo Adeyeye, who contested and lost the governorship ticket, had defected to the All Progressives Congress ( APC), alongside other members of the Ekiti PDP. At the end of the day, the opposition party lost the state to the APC.
Nevertheless, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said there is no cause for alarm. He told journalists that the party leadership will resolve every issue from the Ekiti governorship primary and go into the governorship poll with a united front.
According to him, “PDP is an organic party. The party has a way of coming round after such contest. The winner has started reaching out to others but the party will start the process of reconciliation. The unity will be there.”
However, pundits say beyond rhetorics, the PDP must make concerted effort to pacify all aggrieved members of the party in Ekiti. This is because the June 18 contest is not just about the Ekiti governorship. It is actually a test of the preparedness of the opposition party to confront the APC in 2023 election, especially in the South West geo-political zones, and the rest of the country.