This is certainly not the best of times for the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State. Since the party lost the governorship election in 2014, it has been moving from one crisis to another, and this has apparently dwindled its performance at the polls. The calamitous defeat of Dr Kayode Fayemi by Ayo Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the June 21 Governorship Election in Ekiti State seemed to be holding the APC down in Ekiti as it has failed to win any elective post since then.
Today in Ekiti, there are two factions of APC: the mainstream APC, led by Fayemi and the Action Group, being propelled by Senator Babafemi Ojudu. The two groups have, in recent times, engaged in power struggle to control the party machinery in the state.
The results of the 2015 general elections across the country, however, have indicated that the APC has tendency to bounce back in areas where it had lost power. This can only be possible if the party put its axe together, correct some costly mistakes and harness its full potentials.
For instance, in Ekiti State, where APC lost all the seats it contested for in the 2015 elections, the results of the elections clearly indicated an appreciable improvement in its performance compared to what was obtainable in the June 21 governor election.
In the governorship election, Fayose defeated the then incumbent, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, with wide a margin of 203,090 to 120, 433 which represents 63 to 37 percent respectively. But the APC made a significant push in the results of the presidential election by reducing the margin to 55 and 45 percent respectively for the PDP’s 176, 466 and the APC’s 115,791 votes.
The Publicity Secretary of the APC in Ekiti State has argued that the results was not a true reflection of the will of the people of Ekiti . The APC image maker also alleged widespread irregularities.
In a statement made available to newsmen, Olatunbosun alleged naked harassment and intimidation of APC members, before and during the poll.
His words: “To be specific, APC members were driven to the bush in many towns across the state. They included Efon Alaaye, where PDP thugs did not allow any APC member to participate in accreditation while no party agent was allowed to stay in any of the polling units in the town.
“In Ilupeju-Ijan, APC members alleged that the traditional ruler of the settlement threatened to banish them because of their refusal to vote for the PDP as he decreed. The dwellers in their hundreds left their abodes and could not vote for the party of their choice,” he explained.
Also in Ijan-Ekiti, PDP agents forced members of the National Youths Service Corps, who worked as adhoc staff, to abandon card readers for manual accreditation in three units, namely Eyingbe, Ogbontitun and Imekun in the town to enable them stuff the ballot box in support of the PDP candidate who is from the town.
Olatubosun said APC members in Ilejemeje Local Government were driven into the bush while thugs and policemen from the Government House did most of the thumb-printing of the ballot papers. He added: “In Ikere Ekiti, thugs and policemen from the Government House did not allow APC members to vote while party agents were driven into the bush. In Afao Ekiti, Fayose’s town, many APC members were not allowed to vote as they were driven into the bush by Fayose’s thugs imported into the town in the previous night.”
The statement also noted that in Oke-Ako country home of factional Speaker, Dele Olugbemi, thugs and fake policemen were shooting to scare voters away while they were engaged in illegal thumb-printing of ballot papers.
Notwithstanding the protest by the APC’s spokesman, the brilliant performance, however, had been linked to a number of factors, notably being the re-alignment of political forces in the state.
For example, a staunch member of the progressives camp, Hon. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele ( alias MOB), who had severed relationship with APC before the 2014 election by joining forces with Labour Party (LP) where he eventually ran for governorship, formed an alliance with APC.
In the move considered to be a pointer to his political re-union with APC, Bamidele instructed his followers and admirers in the LP to vote massively for the APC’s presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari.
To demonstrate his seriousness on the matter, Bamidele made a surprise appearance at the Mega Rally held for Buhari at the State Pavilion, Ado-Ekiti.
The foremost politician was given a rousing welcome to the podium, even though he had not announced his defection to the party formally.
In addition to this, Bamidele also formed an independent campaign group with former Minister of Aviation, Professor Babalola Borisade, christened ‘Buhari/Osinbajo Campaign Group. Justifying his action, the former Commissioner of Information in Lagos State said Buhari’s agenda goes beyond party politics. Specifically, Bamidele described it as a movement to save Nigeria from imminent collapse.
His words: “I want to be a part of this change. I am committed to the victory of General Buhari. I am a member of the Labour Party, but this project goes beyond personal interest; it is about the corporate existence and progress of our great country.
“We must rid the nation of the monumental corruption retarding her progress. I am leading my teeming supporters to give support to Buhari because of my belief in Buhari’s capacity to deliver, if elected President of the country.
“As a progressive, the task of joining other like-minded Nigerians to rid the country of corruption, insecurity and unemployment is my priority for now. I enjoin Nigerians to use the opportunity offered by Buhari’s candidature to free themselves from the clutches of the socio-economic traps they had been thrown into.
“Buhari remains the best option for our country at this present time and that is why we are deploying the Ekiti Bibiire Coalition political platform for him. Buhari had been Military Governor, Minister and Head of State. He has both civilian and military backgrounds that can help this nation at this critical period. We cannot continue to fold our arms and allow a group, under the guise of insurgency, continue to decimate our people, even when we have a government at the centre.
“Aside this, aligning with APC is like rejoining my political family. We share the same ideology which is deeply founded on progressivism. I am ready to support any cause that would bring Nigeria out of the woods.”
Bamidele, a House of Representatives member representing Ado-Ekiti / Irepodun-Ifelodun Federal Constituency, has remained a rallying point not only in the political class in Ekiti but also among the commoners and elite.
Since the exit of the APC administration from power in Ekiti State, the party has been faced with a myriad of challenges.
Fayemi, who lost power to Fayose has not been actively involved in politics in the state. In fact, the former governor has been engrossed in national politics. Having served as the Chairman of APC National Congress which produced the President-elect, Buhari, as the presidential flagbearer of the party, Fayemi has been shuttling between Lagos and Abuja.
It is however doubtful if he would be prepared to play active role in the state’s politics in the nearest future.
Also, chairman of the party, Chief Jide Awe, has been out of circulation for several months now. Awe is reportedly on exile over murder charges preferred against him by the PDP led government. The party’s members in the assembly, some of who sought and lost re-election bid, had also gone on exile, leaving the bulk of party job on the few elements on the ground. The formal return of Bamidele to APC fold is however expected to fill this vacuum as the party is in dire need of an influential and less controversial figure as a rallying point, possibly to save it from imminent collapse in the state.