September 25, 2022

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Fayose’s preference for southern presidency creating confusion in PDP – Ex-Rep

The ex-House of Representatives member, Kehinde Agboola, who also is an Ekiti North Peoples Democratic Party’s senatorial aspirant discusses with ABIODUN NEJO about the party’s recent loss in the June 18 Ekiti State governorship poll and the lessons learnt, coupled with the rebuild to victory in coming elections

People have attributed the PDP’s defeat in the Ekiti governorship election to a variety of factors. As a stakeholder, what happened?

The party did not approach the election the way we used to and the whole thing is at door step party’s leader, former governor Ayodele Fayose  and the election’s governorship candidate, Bisi Kolawole, who served as the Director-General for the PDP 2018 governorship candidate.

This time, they did not campaign the way we used to campaign. There are many communities that our candidate did not visit. There was no formal introduction to the people at the grassroots. I do not know why, but events are beginning to unfold and people are reacting – are there intentions why we should not win? Are there reasons why they were not interested in fielding a popular candidate? Are there agreements with the All Progressives Congress because I don’t know how suddenly they become friends overnight with the people we contested against?

These are the issues. I want to say our leadership can answer the question relating to our performance.

Prior to the election, your party had been rocked and polarised by crisis since 2020. Why were they difficult to solve?

They were needless crises. Why were we so adamant that we could not resolve the crises? I warned party members that when Governor Fayose was coming back for the second term, the way we campaigned, what we did; the mobilisation and reconciliation were genuine and sincere, but the last election was not approached the same way. Yet, I don’t know what inspires our confidence.

We were not in power at the state and national level, yet, we were dictating unpopular terms. These are the concerns. If you are not in power, you look for the best and most popular candidate.

For instance, the ex-president, Goodluck Jonathan insisted that Fayose be fielded in the 2014 election because he knew that he was popular and that it was through him that the PDP could win the election.

Even among those who were aggrieved at that time, some of them were bold enough to say the truth that to win Ekiti, Fayose was needed.

For the 2022 election, people suggested Segun Oni and that Professor Kolapo Olusola-Eleka, a former candidate, should be his running mate. We made a case for that ticket, but the leadership said no.

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Who are we to say anything? Today, we can see. We don’t even know where our leaders are whether they are in the PDP or the APC.

Do you think a Segun Oni/Olusola-Eleka ticket would translate to victory for the PDP?

Most of the crises would not have been there, as there would be team work. There were many issues. In the party, you are barred from interacting with aspirants in the same party; a lot of unhealthy rivalries were created within the party. We would have done it as a consensus building, knowing full well we are party members. The election was handled as if it was the 2018 situation when we had a sitting governor, but things had changed.

To some of us, we lost the election about three months earlier. We knew we would lose. I am sure the candidate cannot tell me he didn’t know he would lose.

Were any efforts put in place to avert the looming defeat?

I don’t know of any other than that we kept waiting. The issue of the deputy governorship nominee which could have been the remaining little uniting factor divided the candidate and Fayose and that caused a setback for about one month.

Again, by our attitude, conduct and utterance, we lost many members – ‘If Segun Oni wants to go, let him go’, forgetting that we needed people to vote.

Has your party learnt any lesson from the defeat?

I want to believe that we have learnt a lot. You have seen the reaction of the masses; that of the party members and we are trying to build up. Building for the future requires some further efforts and risks.

At the national level, let us see how the whole game with the River State Governor, Nyesom Wike will play out first. Wike is a very strong party man, but are those that are following him as leaders really strong party men in Ekiti?

Let us see how the national leadership will manage the crisis having to do with the presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar and Governor Wike, after that, we’ll move to Ekiti. The mistake many people make is that Ekiti people know where they are going, if you don’t give them the platform, they abandon you. We know ourselves in Ekiti, if you are a good material and you are in another party, we’ll work with you and give you the result. They told us that we had the opportunity, but we threw it away

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What is the way forward for the Ekiti PDP?

As I have said, let the national issue be resolved first, let’s know the people who want to go and those who want to stay. We need collegiate leadership in Ekiti. We must learn to do consensus building; we need a level playing field for all aspirants. We have party members, allow them to visit anybody, let them run for any position, why is anybody afraid that anybody wants to visit me?

Few weeks ago, two state chairmen emerged in Ekiti PDP – what happened and isn’t this a setback?

I see it as part of the growth of the party. It shows that the party is still relevant and that some people are still willing to fill the vacant position.

People felt that instead of calling for the dissolution of the executive, why don’t you have a new chairman there to move the party forward.

Imagine our leader (Fayose) wanting a southern presidential candidate overnight, when he was an aspirant in a primary conducted on a levelled playing ground, but after having a candidate, suddenly he prefers a southerner, indirectly creating confusion. Many people are angry. That was what necessitated that. We want a chairman (after Ekiti gubernatorial poll loss) who can call the executive, who can relate with everybody, knowing full well that in any football match, when a team loses, even the coach will go, and it is a natural occurrence.

Even Governor Fayose, when Jonathan lost in 2015, he insisted the then PDP National Chairman, Adamu Muazu, should go.

More so, they are not even saying go, but clamouring for the position’s review. That was what brought about the emergence of Deji Ogunsakin who was supported overwhelmingly by state executive committee members. The other side also came up with another person as chairman. We told the party headquarters that we are not conspirators and that we are in support of the presidential candidate of the party and not those seeking a candidate from the South after our convention.

With two state chairmen, what is the way out?

The way forward is that the National Working Committee will finalise and make a pronouncement. When they do, I believe the whole tension will go down. We cannot have a chairman without the NWC ratifying it. Even if it is an election, it is the office of the National Organising Secretary that will do the ratification.

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Despite the emergence of Atiku from the North, some pro-Wike forces including Fayose are saying the President must be from the South…

It’s only Governor Fayose, not pro-Wike. I don’t know any other person that is saying so apart from Fayose. We listened to others including Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, nobody else said that.

So where do you stand here?

I stand with the party primary that was done. If Fayose won that primary, I would have been happy. If Wike won, I would have been happy but Atiku won, I am also happy because it was clear that everybody there saw it, which is the beauty of democracy.

In Ekiti here, they did not allow my senatorial primary election to be held, what did they do about it? Have they rectified it? If you didn’t do well at home, what would you do outside?

Atiku picked Governor Okowa as his running mate and this is causing a rift with Wike’s camp. Can the PDP win the 2023 general elections with all these?

Winning is with God, we can win. I don’t like the politics of exclusion. They must recognise Governor Wike. Everybody is mounting pressure on the party national leadership and the presidential candidate to play inclusive politics.

Governor Wike is not desperate. He is a very committed party member who means well, has sustained the party and still has a great future. He must be recognised, carried along, honoured and respected. They must respect his views too.

However, the presidential candidate has the right to nominate his running mate because we want peace.

You said the primary election for your 2023 senatorial ambition for Ekiti North did not hold, how far with it now?

I am in court to reclaim my mandate because I was at the INEC accredited centre with 92 delegates whereas I needed only 57 to emerge the winner. There was no election. They said they changed the centre in breach of the Electoral Act which stipulates seven days. It could not have been changed because the House of Representatives primary was conducted at the centre a day earlier. I have no result because there was no election. I was never notified of any change of venue; the so-called appeal panel never sat much more giving results. Should I keep quiet? No. I’m in court and I will continue to pursue my mandate.