Although the party was unable to resolve the varying issues that came up with some aggrieved members that time, the congresses that produced the executive of the party at the ward, local government and state levels added insult to injury.
The party was divided along two major lines with the state governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, his backers and the party executive on one side and the Ekiti APC Stakeholders’ Forum led by Senator Anthony Adeniyi, which parades bigwigs like Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, Bimbo Daramola and Adewale Omirin, among others, on the other side.
When the crisis got to a head last year with suspension and counter-suspension, the party’s national body commissioned a committee to reconcile the two groups. Although the committee has yet to get down to business, there appeared to be calm in the two camps until recently when the issue of the 2023 presidential ambition came to the fore.
Although neither Fayemi nor the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has expressed interest in the party’s presidential ticket in 2023, their rumoured ambitions have already torn the party into two.
Some APC leaders in the state loyal to Fayemi have been strategising to ensure the realisation of the governor’s presidential bid. A local government chairman even last year took further steps by pasting posters of the governor although he was reprimanded and suspended from office for the act.
Similarly, some APC leaders, including members of the Stakeholders’ Forum, are either rooting for Tinubu or expressing support for the zoning of the presidency to the South, with the South-West as the first step.
However, the APC State Caretaker Publicity Secretary, Ade Ajayi, stirred the hornet’s nest at an event in December when he said party members would drag Fayemi into the contest for the presidency if he refused to join the race willingly.
Ajayi, who represented the APC State Caretaker Committee Chairman, Paul Omotoso, hinged the decision on the governor’s outstanding performance, saying, “On the 2023 presidency, the time has come for the President to come from Ekiti. That is why we are pleading with you to support Governor Fayemi.
“Though Governor Fayemi has not said he wants to contest, we will force him to come into the race, because of his competence, dedication and loyalty to the APC.”
Irked by the statement, the forum was quick to disown Omotoso, saying he did not represent the party, but expressed his personal opinion “on the idea that the APC, Ekiti State chapter, has backed Dr Fayemi for the 2023 presidency.”
Bamgboye Adegoroye, speaking on behalf of the stakeholders, said, “Leaders of the APC are unaware of the idea. All the states in the South of Nigeria deserve a shot at the Presidency if it is agreed upon by the national leaders of our party.
“The Ekiti State Stakeholders’ Forum, along with other eminent Yoruba leaders, will canvas the opportunity to produce the next President in 2023 from our zone.
“Adoption of an authentic, qualified, well known, humane and experienced Yoruba man is our goal and we will play our part in accomplishing that task.
“We want to state unequivocally that Ajayi, who represented Mr Omotoso, barely expressed a personal view. Again, we note that Ajayi’s boss does not even believe that the position should be zoned to the South-West as expressed on the national platform recently.”
A party leader and former state House of Assembly Deputy Speaker, Karounwi Oladapo, was quick to dismiss the APC members in the state, who are against Fayemi’s presidential bid as inconsequential, saying, “The bottom line is that those who are supporting Tinubu for President in Ekiti are fringe or peripheral members of the APC.
“They add no value to Fayemi because they are not within the party structure. They do not have electoral value; they cannot participate in the primaries. As far as Ekiti is concerned, the entire structure that will participate in the primaries anytime any day is closely knitted.”
Oladapo, who said his support for Fayemi for the presidency was based on the fact that it was time for Ekiti State, which he noted had been treated as an appendage, to produce a President, adding that the governor’s “age, credentials, strength of character, integrity, religion and being from the South” eminently made him to tower above others.
He said it was normal that some APC members in the state were supporting Tinubu just as some members in Lagos State were backing Fayemi for the presidency, stating, “If we are on the same page, that means we are no longer playing politics. There are some people in Lagos State, who are rooting for Fayemi; it is politics.”
Adeyeye, who is the leader of the South-West Agenda, a group canvassing for Tinubu’s presidential bid, said the division on the matter of preference was normal, querying, “Why will everybody be on the same page? Are we not human beings, who are naturally endowed with the ability to think freely and make up our minds individually?
“That is not a strange thing at all as far as we are concerned. People make their minds up based on a number of factors. It must be that people have seen and evaluated the governor and those who are perceived as his potential rivals and they have made up their minds to support one person or the other. That is not a strange thing in politics.”
Adeyeye, however, said that he was rooting for Tinubu and leading SWAGA on the mission, adding, “The year 2023 is approaching; we have someone who can succeed President Muhamadu Buhari in 2023. He is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
“It is time for the South to succeed Buhari. This is why we say that the Yoruba have someone who is capable. I have been in politics for many years. I worked with the late Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Obafemi Awolowo; there is no other person that has what it takes to succeed Buhari in 2023 except Tinubu.
“We need an experienced hand. The kind of security challenges we are facing in this country, economic challenges and youth restiveness, show that we need someone who will calm the situation and put Nigeria on the path of rapid socio-economic development. We believe Tinubu is eminently qualified to do that.
“He is the most qualified. If anyone thinks he is more qualified than Tinubu, the person can come out. By our evaluation, we have concluded that today in the South-West, Tinubu is the leading active politician. His credentials are known.”
But the Chairman, APC, Ado Ekiti Local Government, Michael Akinleye, said the party members and leaders, who were against Fayemi for the presidency, were only envious of the governor and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum in view of his achievements in office and in life.
Akinleye, who is the Chairman of the APC chairmen in the 16 local government areas of the state, said although Fayemi had not openly shown interest in the presidency, “We will beg him; we will appeal to him to aspire even if it needs our contributions. We in Ekiti are ready to contribute to finance it. He is a man of our generation and time.
“It is my wish and it is my prayer that the President in 2023 will come from Ekiti State, because our state is not an appendage of any. Although we can see some Ekiti persons coordinating for another person, there’s no problem with that. Some people from Ekiti State are envious of Fayemi because of his achievements. When we get to the river, we will know how to cross it.”
However, to the Presidential Adviser on Political Matters, Ojudu, the governor is only on “an assignment to divide our South-West caucus and bring our party to its knees. The assignment is to destroy the APC from within.”
Ojudu, who said Tinubu provided the necessary support that made Fayemi a governor, added, “If it is true that Tinubu wants to run for presidency, Fayemi should be carrying his banner considering what he did for him (Fayemi) in life.”
But Ajayi said members of the stakeholders’ forum could not have been opposed to Fayemi’s presidential bid nor criticise his statement that the APC would drag the governor into the race because they were on suspension from the party.
Ajayi, who noted that the Ekiti APC position on the matter would be made known at an appropriate time after the convention slated for June, said, “So, what I said was my personal opinion, which I intend to sell to the party at the appropriate time. The appropriate time is after the convention.
“I believe that by the time we get to that stage, the party will buy the idea and we will now talk to him (Fayemi) to show interest. He has not told us anything now; what some of us feel is what I granted as an interview, and I deliberately did that.
“Those people, who claimed to be stakeholders, who are outside, who said they dissociated themselves from the statement, are on suspension. The party has taken a position on them; that decision is to the extent that they have been suspended from the party.
“They have no locus to speak on whatever issues affecting the party, at least, until the supreme council of the APC reconsiders the decision on their suspension.
“We have qualified, notable and loyal party members in Ekiti and Governor Kayode Fayemi is one; we have as many as possible and that is why I said Ekiti will be showing an interest. Other than what I said, I won’t entertain interviews regarding the 2023 elections until after the convention.”
But the Secretary of the Stakeholders’ forum, Femi Adeleye, snapped, “You can ask him – was he (Ajayi) not suspended? Are you not aware that there was a time they were all suspended and the national body came out and said the two suspensions had been nullified and reversed? So, if he’s saying we are suspended, it applies to him too.”
Adeleye, who said Fayemi had never said he wanted to be President and no other person was talking about the President coming from Ekiti, the agitation at present was for a power shift to the South, hence the need for unity of purpose to achieve it.
He said the South comprised 19 states, adding, “We are agitating that power must come to the South. All we should do as a body is to be able to work together; you cannot work in isolation. Work as a body so that we will be able to get what we want.”
The APC chieftain, who said Ajayi should be queried for the information given, asked, “Have you forgotten that somebody in Ekiti, the Chairman of Ikere Local Government, who pasted postal that Governor Fayemi wanted to be President in 2023, was suspended from office? “If it is the turn of Ekiti to become President, then, it is the turn of my hometown to become President. God will give it to whom He will give it to. Don’t forget that in 1993, Otunba Reuben Famuyibo contested the Nigerian presidency? Is he not from Ekiti?
“Ajayi is somebody we said we did not recognise as an executive council member; so, for anything he says, he is on his own; he’s not speaking on behalf of the APC.”
However, if urgent steps are not taken to redress the situation, the widening gap created by the divisions will continue to weaken the levers that hold the party together, especially with the 2021 local government and 2022 governorship elections in the state around the corner.