After a year, the intrigues that played out during the governorship primary election of the All Progressive Congress, (APC) in Ondo State still haunts the party as two persons lay claims to its chairmanship position, TOPE FAYEHUN writes

The success of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the Ondo State governorship poll last year was supposed to heal the internal crisis rocking the party in the state.

Many thought that the party would have consolidated on the political gains for exploits arising from the victory at the polls. But that was not to be as the crisis has escalated instead.

The crises that ensued after the controversial September 3 primaries has further torn the party apart, making it extremely difficult for the centre to hold.

It appears there is no end in sight to the festering crisis in the state’s ruling party, as different interests and power blocs within the party in the state are tugging viciously at the fragile strings holding the party together.

As it stands two chairmen claim leadership of party in the state. While Hon. Isaac Kekemeke says he remains the authentic chairman despite his suspension, Engr. Ade Adetimehin, a vice chairman, maintains that he is acting chairman since the former was no where to be found.

How crisis began

It would recalled that the rain stated falling before the primaries, when Kekemeke endorsed one of the aspirants, Mr Olusegun Abraham on the alleged order of the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Kekemeke who was said to have gone to Lagos to sell one of the candidates, Dr. Bode Ayorinde to the national leader, was said to have been directed by the “Bourdillion “ to work with other executive members and ensure that Abraham was returned as the party’s flag bearer.

Since then, most of the executive members and other members of the party who are loyal to Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who later emerged the party’s flag bearer and governor, lost faith in Kekemeke’s leadership. They had started suspecting his activities after he returned from Lagos.

After the primaries, Chief Olusola Oke, along with Senator Ajayi Boroffice and Segun Abraham, petitioned the Electoral Appeal Committee of the APC to challenge the September 3 primary of the party won by Oluwarotimi Akeredolu. But the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party, led by the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun overruled the recommendation of the appeal committee and upheld results of the primary.

Consequently, Oke and his supporters from the state’s 18 local government areas at his residence in Akure, defected to Alliance for Democracy (AD), citing injustice against them by some leaders of the APC during the primary as the cause of his movement.

While the likes of Segun Abraham and Senator Ajayi Boroffice were said to have remained passive in the party, Kekemeke agreed to be part of the campaign train of Akeredolu after series of meeting and intervention of the national executives of the party.

When Akeredolu eventually won the governorship election on November 26, 2016, Kekemeke and others who remained in the party were accused of working against the party during the polls and since then,  the chairman and his supporters went underground. They also not attended any of the state government activities.

The State Executive Council of the party then decided to do remove him as chairman based on the role during the primaries. They passed a vote of no confidence on him for allegedly deserting the party and for not attending functions of the government as the chairman of the ruling party.

Consequently, the party announced in a statement signed by its state publicity secretary, Abayomi Adesanya, that a vote of no confidence has been passed on Kekemeke.

Abayomi in the statement accused Kekemeke of neglecting his responsibilities as the chairman of the party, saying “The action became imperative for failing to discharge his responsibilities, neglect and dereliction of duty, among other offences.”

According to him, “This is in compliance with Article 21(D)(vi), of the constitution of the APC, (October 2014 as amended).”

Adesanya informed that the State Executive Committee of the party had empowered the then Kekemeke’s deputy , Engr. Ade Adetimehin, a staunch supporter of Akeredolu who was seen at all party and government functions, unlike his chairman, to act as the acting chairman.

The party spokesperson also disclosed that, they had set up a three-man fact-finding committee to investigate Kekemeke. The fact-finding committee, according to him, included himself as the chairman, while Hon.Saka Yusuff was the Secretary and Hon.Rasheed Badmus was a member.

Reacting swiftly to the action, Kekemeke described the vote of no confidence passed on him as scandalous and irritating insisting that he remained the unshakable elected state chairman of the party.

According to him, “This scandalous and irritating move prompted by a promise of pot of porridge for the action by a segment of party executive, though not unexpected, beats the imagination of many reasonable party people.

“Sincerely I wish I did not have to react to this remote-controlled, illegal and morally reprehensible conduct of some rancorous elements in the State executive, who had on many occasions traveled this ignoble path without success’’.

The committee’s verdict 

Submitting its report to the State Executive Committee (SEC) of the party in Akure however, the committee gave Kekemeke seven days to resign over an alleged misconduct in its recommendations.

The committee’s report said it was satisfied with the uncontroverted evidence of the witnesses in the matter, saying ,“The evidence was thorough, coherent, straightforward, cogent, compelling and very convincing.

“However, the committee recommends, that in the spirit of reconciliation and party unity, Mr D. I. Kekemeke should resign within seven days as the chairman of APC in Ondo State.

“This will be from the date of submitting and adoption of this report by the State Executive Committee.Where he fails and refuses to voluntarily resign within the time limit, his action or inaction should be taken as removal from office, in pursuant to Article 21(D) (I) (e) of the APC.”

Kekemeke, in his reply, fingered Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as the brain behind his removal insisting that he remains  “the  unshakeable elected chairman.”

According to him, “Clearly, this song with its familiar and cacophonic tune was scripted by Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, Governor of Ondo State, who has refused to break away from the bitterness and vestige of the Ondo State APC gubernatorial primary election and has therefore deployed state machinery to vilify perceived enemies, resulting in this latest choreography with a macabre sense of humour.

“We are, however, baffled that such a respected and respectable organ of our party created by the Constitution for noble ends could be wrongly and maliciously appropriated by a few misguided and unqualified elements without regards to the clear constitutional requirements of the mode and composition of that organ.

“We have drawn the attention of the Southwest Zonal Committee of the APC to the extremely dangerous, most unconscionable and unconstitutional actions of some members of the SEC of the Ondo State APC.

“We have asked for their intervention in accordance with Article 13.5(i) and 21(B)(V) of the Constitution of the Party to prevent the implosion that is waiting to happen and have informed them that we remain resolute to resist this war of attrition with its attendant consequences on our party now and in the future. “

The embattled chairman noted that he was the only elected officer of the party during the 2014 congresses, adding that others came through adoptions and consensus.

“I am a member of the Zonal Executive Committee and a member of the National Executive Committee of the party. By implication, I am not just chairman of the party here, I am an officer of the zone and an officer of the national executive.

“So, nobody has disciplinary powers over me at this level. If you have any complaints, you make them to the zonal executive which looks into it and then forwards it to the national executive committee which looks into it and then comes to a conclusion. By the provisions and letters of our constitution, only a higher level of authority can discipline a particular officer of the party. That’s why I laugh at them’ it’s laughable”,Kekemeke stated.

Reacting, the Chief Press Secretary to governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, Segun Ajiboye, denied that the governor was involved in the current travails of the chairman.

Ajiboye said his boss had been very much engaged with matters of state and had no time to meddle in the affairs of the party leadership.

While noting that the suspension of the chairman was purely a party affair, Ajiboye urged the chairman to look elsewhere, as the governor will not interfere in the affairs of the party.

He said, “The governor is too busy to be involved in the administration of the state and the party at the same time”.

Political observers are of the opinion that, if the crack within the state’s ruling party continues unabated,  the party may have an uphill task in the coming elections.

While Engr. Ade Adetimehin holds forte as the acting chairman and performs all the leadership responsibilities of the party in the state,  Kekemeke, although not that popular again among the party members in the state, keeps romancing the zonal and national leadership of the party for him not to be removed pending the expiration of his tenure.

What’s more, those who contested or supported other aspirants, besides Akeredolu, during the primaries are seen as a strangers in the party.

Most of them that joined Akeredolu’s camp after the primaries were allegedly not on the radar for any political appointment because they do not belong to the “Aketi “ group from the beginning.

LEADERSHIP Sunday investigation revealed that the crisis has halted day to day activities of the party at the grassroot based on non availability of funds to host such. It was also learnt that over N60 million is stuck in the party’s bank account due to the ongoing crisis.

The party has the money, but it cannot be spent  because the embattled chairman was said to have written to the banks that he remains the authentic chairman of the party until otherwise.

Some party members who spoke with our correspondent on the condition of anonymity, faulted the silence of the national body of the party, saying the failure to intervene in the matter is causing severe damage to the state party.

The state government and the governor were said to be doing nothing to assist the party financially according to the information, leaving members of the party in utter disarray. They complain that the party has no power over the government.

They lamented that meetings are very important to political party organization and management, hence the already estranged relationship in the state caucus, local government and even ward meetings which ensued after the 2016 governorship election, would take a more degenerating toll on the party and government in the state.

But in his reaction,  the state publicity secretary of the party, Omo’ba Abayomi Adesanya dismissed the insinuation, saying the party remains an indivisible entity even after the primary election.

While accusing some leaders who worked against the party during the primary of being behind the rumour, Adesanya noted that they have all left to the AD.

According to him, “If they were just planning to return to the party, we insisted that they should come through normal channel. “

The spokesperson insisted that there is no crisis after the exit of the former chairman whose tenure in office was marred with crisis in the party’s structure across the 18 local government of the state.

His words: “Immediately after the primary election election, the party has become one.  There was no grouping again in the party. Because I am aware that the Director General of Boroffice campaign group, Prince Iyantan and  most of members of the group, including Princess Oladunni Odu and others joined the campaign of Akeredolu and worked together with other members of the party to make sure that we recorded success at the poll.

“Some of us know where we belong before the primary ,but immediately after the primary, we all came together and work for the party. But there are some people who left the party for another party to work against the interest of the party. Also, there are others who remained in the party and later worked against the party.

“So, It is unfounded rumour that Akeredolu only favor those who are in his group known as “Aketi group “. Those carrying the rumour have all gone to the other party, if they want to come back, they must come through the normal channel. You can’t work against the interest of the party and you want to come back through the back door, it is not done anywhere.

“The greatest offence you can do to your party is to engage in anti-party activities. Anybody that has done that to us does not what to be among us. We are aware that some leaders who have worked against the party in that election are behind the rumour.

“I can tell you categorically that since the government came on board, the governor has been fair to every group within the party. Some people, who do not belong to his camp have gotten federal appointments through the governor.

“The Director General of Boroffice campaign group, Prince Diran Iyantan has gotten federal appointment. The appointment done so far by the governor, had been given to people based on credibility and wide consultations among the party leaders across the state.

“Don’t forget that there are mischievous individuals that will be saying all sort of things, but with this name I mentioned to you now, you can see that some people are just being mischievous with that kind of rumour.

“There is no doubt that we have crisis in this party before election, but we have gone beyond that.  Even when it was obvious that some of the so-called leaders worked and perpetrated anti-party activities, we just put them aside and went ahead to win the election.

“Kekemeke has been removed from office. Recently, the South-west caucus of the party sent delegation led by Pa. Olusi to the state to come and verify our claims about his removal from office. Even though, there are a lot gross misconduct and anti-party activities against him, that ordinarily should attract expulsion from the party, we still went ahead to asked him to resign voluntarily.

“We recommended that failure to that, the SEC of the party should ratify his suspension and it did happened. Since he left, the party has been moving on.  I can tell you boldly that the party caucus led by the acting chairman, Engr. Ade Adetimehin and House of Assembly caucus met last Thursday for the first time at the party secretariat to discuss the synergy between the legislature and the executive in the state in order to move the party forward. The meeting lasted for several hours.

“I will also like to inform you that the minister of state for Niger/Delta met with us on that day again for the first time. Even throughout the tenure of Kekemeke nothing of such happened. Today we have new leadership in place who carries everybody along. It is untrue that nothing is going on in the party.  If you go to the secretariat now, you will see activities going on.

“Appointments will come. There is time for everything. Don’t forget that we met an empty treasury, lot of debts and unpaid salaries of workers. The appointment will be done systematically so that we will not derail from the manifesto of the party. “

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