PDP Congress: Ayodele Fayose, Senator Biodun Olujimi, In A Battle Of Wit In Ekiti State; By Yomi Ayeleso

The battle to control the next Executives in the Ekiti State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from the Ward to the State level, has ostensibly amplified the age-long rivalry between the camps of former Governor, Ayodele Fayose, and the Lawmaker representing Ekiti South, Senator Biodun Olujimi.

The Congresses, which are for the elections of party Officials in the 177 Wards, 16 Council Areas, 3 Senatorial Districts, and at the State level, are perceived as an opportunity to take control of the machinery of the party, ahead of future elections, especially the 2022 Governorship poll in the State.
The rivalry between the two Leaders of the party became more pronounced during the 2019 National Assembly elections, when Fayose went on a radio station in the State, and campaigned against the Senatorial ambition of Olujimi in the February 23 poll. However, with providence, she reclaimed her mandate through the court, after 9 months, from Prince Dayo Adeyeye.
The former Governor, who has been accused repeatedly by the Gboyega Oguntuwase-led State Working Committee, SWC, of abandoning the party since 2018, has returned to the State, scheming to install his preferred Candidate as the new Chairman, and other Executives to assume total control of the State PDP machinery. He has been moving from one Local Government to the other, leading the campaign of his preferred Chairmanship Candidate.

On the other hand, Olujimi now sees the forthcoming Congress as an opportunity to liberate the party from the grip of godfatherism, that was said to have undermined its performance in the last Governorship election. The former Senate Minority Leader, in recent times, has been rendering the needed moral and logistics support for the party in the State.

Among the candidates eyeing the State Chairmanship position, are a former House of Representatives Member, Kehinde Odebunmi; former Secretary of the PDP in the State, Tope Aluko, alias TKO; a two-term Efon Local Government Area Chairman, Prince Aderogba Agbaje; and former Commissioner for Environment, Bisi Kolawole.
The purchase of nomination forms earlier scheduled to end on February 29, 2020, has been extended for another one week by the National Leadership of the party, according to the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Jackson Adebayo.
All things being equal and with the inability of the duo of Aluko and Agbaje to obtain the nomination form, the contest has been reduced to a  two-horse race between Odebunmi and Kolawole, representing the camps of Olujimi and Fayose, respectively.
There is a serious realignment of forces to garner support for the different Candidates. For instance, Kolawole from Efon, who has been openly endorsed by Fayose, is seen as someone with the potential of defeating his competitors. Bisi K, as he is fondly called, will be banking on the support the former Governor enjoys across the length and breadth of the State.

Speaking ahead of the Congress, Fayose called on all party members to remain one entity, before, during and after the Congress, noting that, “it is normal for members to have a preferred Candidate in a contest of this nature”. 
According to him: “I am a very clear character, I do not pretend, I do not hide behind a finger; in this coming Congress, I am in support of Honourable Bisi Kolawole, by reason of his outstanding qualities. Others have a right to support their preferred Candidates too, but this is where we are. After the exercise, we must remain one united party; that is how we can remain formidable and take over the mantle of Leadership in this State.”
The former Governor, however, called on all the Stakeholders in the party, to sheath their swords and work for the success of the party.
Olujimi, who from all indications has endorsed Odebunmi as her Candidate for the party State Chairman, advocated the collegiate leadership system for the Chapter. This, she said, would enhance the party’s search for effective re-positioning. The former Minority Leader of the Senate, who controls majority of the State Working Committee, SWC, of the party said: “Leadership is earned by hard work and commitment, not by fiat.”

She pledged to work with all the Leaders in the party, to restore its lost glory in Ekiti. Her words: “Anything short of collegiate leadership, will be a great disservice to our teeming party members, who are yearning for good, focused, and committed leadership.
In a communiqué after a meeting of Stakeholders in Ekiti South-West, which held in Ilawe, the Ekiti State PDP Leaders also stated they would support any Candidate that enjoys the endorsement of all Stakeholders in the party. The communiqué was signed by the PDP Leaders in the Council, including former PDP State Publicity Secretary, Oguntoye; former State House of Assembly Member, Chief Olubunmi Olugbade; former Ekiti South-West PDP Chairman, P. S. Jegede.
The communique reads: “We shall stand by and support any State Chairmanship Candidate who enjoys the support of collegiate leadership of the party, rather than that of a one-man endorsed Aspirant. The Wards and Local Government Congresses must be conducted in open and transparent manner without compromise. Senator Olujimi is, and remains the Leader of PDP in Ekiti State, and we resolutely commit our loyalty and allegiance to her and the PDP. We pass a vote of confidence and support the State Working Committee of the party, led by Chief Gboyega Oguntuwase, in her efforts at re-positioning the party, instilling discipline, and entrenching constitutionalism into the party, hereby building people’s confidence in our party.”

Another twist to the raging battle for the party’s structure in the State, emerged last weekend, when a group of Elders after a meeting, announced Kolawole as their preferred Candidate for the Chairmanship position. The former Governor was the Convener of the meeting, which held at the residence of a Leader of the party, Senator Clement Awoyelu.
In a communique read by Chief IdowuOdeyemi, on Saturday, the Elders said after an elaborate consultation, that they have come to the conclusion that “Kolawole among others, is the best bet to lead the PDP back to power”. 
The communique reads: “Today, Saturday, 29th February, 2020, Elders and Stakeholders of PDP in Ekiti State, met after several consultations across the length and breadth of Ekiti State; the purpose of today’s meeting is to look at all the Aspirants contesting the Chairmanship of the party in the coming Congresses.
“After deliberations, the Elders and Stakeholders unanimously endorsed the candidacy of Chief Bisi Kolawole, as the preferred Chairmanship Candidate in the coming State Congress. We, however, emphasise that this decision of the Elders and Stakeholders does not foreclose the right of participation of other Aspirants in this race, meaning the race is still open. We are only by this communique, voicing our preferred Candidate; other groups can also have their preferred Candidates, and we then meet on the field, so this is not a question of imposition.”
Nonetheless, the Oguntuwase-led SWC was quick to dissociate itself from Fayose’s move to present his anointed Candidate as the consensus for the Chairmanship position. The Publicity Secretary of the party in the State, Mr. Jackson Adebayo, in a statement, said that the PDP would ensure a free, fair, and transparent Congress, in line with the party’s constitution across various levels in the State. Adebayo cautioned Fayose and other Leaders, to desist from moves that could further polarise and bring crisis to the party, saying: “Any Leader who does this, has a motive that is aimed at bringing the party to its kneel.”
The statement reads: “That party clarifies that the meeting that took place at Senator Clement Awoyelu’s house, in Ado Ekiti, where the issue on a consensus Chairmanship Candidate for the party came up, does not enjoy the approval of the party in the State, hence, it is declared an aberration, and whatever decision taken there is null and void. The clarification becomes necessary, in order to correct the erroneous impression that the meeting was called on behalf of the party, adding that, the Convener of the meeting, the former Governor of the State, Mr. Ayo Fayose, was expected to let the gathering know that the meeting was his personal idea, instead of creating the impression that it was an official party meeting. The party cautioned the group which is associated with the former Governor, to desist from brigandage politics, but concentrate on canvassing for Delegates support, because the party will not encourage consensus arrangement, saying that, the constitution of the party will be adhered to.”
It is instructive that ahead of the change of Executive Officers across all Levels in the State, both Fayose and Olujimi have been preaching peace whenever they have the platform to do so, but beyond this, they appear to be locked in an intense rivalry over the party’s structure. Political activities within their camps, suggest that the gulf separating them is widening, rather than closing up. So, as it stands, most Observers believe the party could end up producing parallel Executives, if the PDP National Leadership is unable to call the warring parties to order.

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