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Oni’s Return To PDP Alters Political Equation in Ekiti

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The return of former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has altered political permutations in the state. ALO ABIOLA, in this piece, takes a look at the ripples caused by Oni’s defection.

It is no longer news that the former governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni, has returned to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where he came to limelight in his political career over 15 years ago.

His exit from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has become a discourse of sort within and outside political space of Ekiti State and Nigeria at large.

The development has also continued to generate issues among members, supporters, stakeholders and leaders of the two major political parties in the state.

The engineer turned politician became a force to reckon with in Ekiti politics, after clinching the governorship ticket of the PDP and went on to win the April 14, 2007 governorship election in the state.

Oni, who held sway as the Chief Executive Officer of the state between May 29, 2007 and October 15, 2010 defeated Dr Kayode Fayemi of the then Action Congress (AC).

Fayemi had approached the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal to challenge Oni’s victory in a long drawn legal battle which lasted for over three and a half years.

Oni could not complete his four year tenure as an Appeal Court sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State, on October 15, 2010, nullified his election and proclaimed Fayemi the lawfully elected governor of the state.

He had since remained in the PDP until few weeks to the June 21, 2014 governorship election in the state when he dumped PDP for the APC and was subsequently elected the national vice chairman (South) of the party.

Both Oni and Fayemi were among many aspirants across various political parties in the state that showed interest in the governorship position in 2018 as the second tenure of the immediate past governor of the state, Mr Fayose, was gradually coming to an end.

No fewer than 33 APC aspirants in Ekiti State, including the two political heavyweights, contested in the party’s governorship primary held on May 12, 2018. A five-man committee, led by the Nasarawa State governor, Umar Tanko Almakura, declared Fayemi who polled a total of 941 votes to beat his closest rival, Oni, who garnered 481 votes to the second position as the winner of the shadow election.

Following some unresolved issues, Chief Oni was suspended from APC by the leadership of the party in his Ifaki ward a year after, accusing him of engaging in alleged anti party activities and refusing to honour party invitation to clear himself of the allegation.

Oni who said he was never a nobody in the party at the time said how could they expect him to hour such a faceless invitation.

In March, this year, the former APC national vice chairman (South) had given notice that he and his teeming supporters have taken a decision to leave party due to ill-treatment being meted to them.

Oni disclosed that the process of reproaching critical stakeholders in the Ekiti PDP, like ex-governor Ayodele Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi and others about his resolve to return to his former party had commenced.

He said he took the decision to return to the PDP as a way of acceding to the request and interest of his political family whom he said were not fairly treated in the party and were desirous of taking the political step.

Rumour had earlier filtered into Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, that Oni, who defected to APC in June, 2014 , was planning to return to the PDP, where he started as a foundation member .

Confirming his planned returned to journalists via telephone conversation in Ado Ekiti, the former governor, expressed displeasure about how he and his supporters were ostracised from all engagements in APC, including appointments and privilege to contest elections.

Declaring that the final decision to leave the party has been taken, he however, said they would not be pulling out of the party until the second half of the year after he must have consulted widely with some party leaders.

Justifying the position taken by him to return to the PDP, he said : “You all knew the kind of treatment I have been getting. As we speak, none of my supporters was being allowed to get appointment or contest elections in APC.

“If the APC gives me the whole world, I won’t be happy seeing integral part of my political life, I mean my supporters being treated badly.”

When asked whether he had informed former governor Ayodele Fayose, who was a known political rival to him, Oni said he is ready to work with other major stakeholders in the PDP, in his quest to return to the party.

“We are reaching out to everybody, because we are all relevant stakeholders in this game and I know and sure that they will be happy to receive us”.

In a swift reaction, the APC in Ekiti said it was not surprise with the imminent defection of Chief Oni to the PDP.

The publicity secretary of APC in the state, Mr. Ade Ajayi who stated this, alleged that the former governor refused to attend his ward meeting when he was suspended to explain himself.

Ajayi added that the party never gave him (Oni) an unfair treatment but rather he was accorded the necessary respect and recognition when he joined the party from the PDP in 2014.

While describing Oni as an “ungrateful soul” that enjoyed every benefit with the party, Ajayi wished him well in his future political endeavor.

Oni’s return to the PDP has since become an issue among his supporters and in his new party and APC.

He was believed to be commanding large followership with strong support base in both political parties and people while in office as governor and outside the government.

While some are not happy that he is leaving APC others are determined to follow him to wherever he goes with his loyalists in PDP ready to receive him back to the party with open arms.

This is considered a serious factor that could change narratives as far as both the PDP, APC and the general politics of the state ahead of 2022 are concerned.

For political analysts, this explained all manners developments his return to the party is generating.

It is even more serious, that Oni, who may now be seen as third force in Ekiti PDP, was coming at a time the former governor Ayodele Fayose and the Senator representing Ekiti South at the national assembly, Mrs Biodun Olujimi are in serious cold war for the soul of the party.

About two months after Oni announced his return to the PDP, there were claims that the group loyal to Fayose had rejected Oni’s return to the party.

Another report that followed said the former governor was misquoted on the acceptability of Chief Oni in the PDP.

“Nobody is opposed to Chief Oni’s return to PDP. We had held meeting with him and his group for like four times. What we are saying is that there won’t be a ‘red carpet’ reception for him in the party. What it means is that, he will have to start the process of rejoining the party from his ward”.

Few days later, Chief Oni formally notified the stakeholders and chapters of the party at the ward, state and national levels of his recent return to the PDP.

The former governor in a letter he co-signed with a select group of 82 other leaders in his network across the 16 local governments of the state, said that his mission in PDP was to encourage team work and build fellowship among members.

He assured his supporters and PDP members that he would work for the unity of the party and interests of all its members.

One of the signatories to the letter, Dr Ifeoluwa Arowosoge said in a statement that the return of Oni to the PDP was a home-coming, adding that he helped to build and nurture and on whose platform he was elected governor in 2007.

“Our return to the party was motivated by selfless considerations and the numerous calls by concerned Ekiti indigenes, home and abroad, on our political leader, Engr. Segun Oni, to deploy his forthright and honest leadership in advancing the good of the party.”

Senator Olujimi, who welcomed Chief Oni back to the party said it was a good intention for him to team up with other stakeholders to build a virile PDP in the state.

She, however, described as outright falsehood the statement credited to her about Oni on the leadership of PDP in the state.

The senator representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, said she stood, irrevocably, by that commitment to welcome anyone back to the party.

Olujimi in a statement signed by her aide, Mr Sanya Adesua, said, “Those who are yearning to draw Senator Olujimi to any unnecessary controversy to cause disaffection between her and Engr. Segun Oni should better look elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, the PDP Caretaker Committee in the state described Oni’s return to the party as acceptable.

It also said that efforts are afoot to resolve crisis within the party especially differences between former governor, Ayodele Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi.

The Prince Uche Secondus-led PDP National Working set up the Caretaker Committee to preside over the party in the state, following the expiration of the tenure of Barr Gboyega Oguntuase-led executive of the party in Ekiti and inability to conduct the state congress.

While addressing a press conference recently in Ado Ekiti, the committee assured that the party would work hard in the pursuit of its peace mission to bring back former Minister of Works, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye and others prominent members who had left the party in the state .

The chairman of the Committee, Senator Hosea Agboola and the secretary, Diran Odeyemi, at the briefing dismissed the insinuation that the caretaker committee was favouring a tendency in the party, particular a faction loyal to Fayose.

Agboola, former senator representing Oyo North, stated that every member of the party is recognised in the PDP and that those who have the intention of rejoining the party are free to do so without encumbrances. He noted that the trouble shooting mission was yielding good results.

“The fact that former Governor Segun Oni has just rejoined the PDP is the greatest achievement of this committee.

“We are going to reach out to former minister of Works, Dayo Adeyeye and others who left before the July 14, 2018 governorship election and bring them back to the party.

“We will never be partial, because our mandate and terms of reference is to bring the all factions within the party together. We are to bring those who are aggrieved together to be one family, so that we can return to how we were in 2002 when former Governor Fayose contested and won election in Ekiti. We are here to bring the family together and makes everybody be on the same page”.

“This committee was set up without bias. We have visited Governor Fayose, Senators Olujimi and Duro Faseyi and what all of them were pushing for are peace and unity, nothing more.”

However, pundits are of the view that timely intervention and careful handling of the situation in the party will go a long to addressing issues including the acceptance of Oni into the party.

In resolving the disagreement between Fayose and Olujimi groups, not forgetting that Oni entrance will also be a key factor, the committee must dispassionately bring every interests on board, in the peace process.

All members, party supporters as well as leaders and stakeholders must also support the committee and be ready to accept its popular resolutions on the outcome their deliberations.

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