From Priscilla Ediare, Ado-Ekiti
Otunba Bisi Kolawole is the factional Chairman of the Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the group loyal to former Governor Ayodele Fayose. He was a former member of the third House of Assembly and immediate past Commissioner for Environment in Ekiti State. In this interview, he addressed a number of issues affecting the party in the State, Southwest and other sundry issues.
Some have it that your leader’s (former governor Fayose) imposition of his anointed candidate, Prof Olusola Eleka, in the 2018 guber poll was one of the triggers of the current crisis in your party and there is the allegation that Fayose wants to repeat same for 2022. Do you agree?
We should not forget the fact that we had some candidates in the party. We had two major candidates, the former deputy governor, Olusola Eleka and Dayo Adeyeye. Don’t forget the fact that Dayo Adeyeye himself agreed that it was a free and fair contest. There was primary, if there was primary, how come about imposition? I think that is contradictory and whoever is thinking that way is not well informed. We had keenly contested primary between Eleka and Dayo Adeyeye. Because Dayo Adeyeye lost in that primary, that was what led to his leaving the party but I can vividly recollect and if you go check the records, Gov Okowa came to conduct the primary and when Adeyeye was interviewed, he agreed that it was a free and fairly contested primary, so how come the issue of imposition?
I think it will be very criminal of anybody to have assumed that as an incumbent governor you will not be interested in somebody, I think it is human. It is normal. He didn’t impose Eleka, he said he was supporting Eleka. We had a keenly contested primary and I could remember Dayo Adeyeye told us that the primary conducted by Okowa then was free and fair, but because he could not take defeat, he had to leave the party.
With the various unsuccessful efforts to resolve the crisis, how will your party ensure victory in 2022 amid a divided house?
I think it will be preemptive to say we have made various efforts and they are not yielding. We still have over a year and don’t forget the fact that we still have cases in the court. There is a case in the appeal court for example, they lost in the lower court; those people contesting the primary that produced me as the chairman, it’s been in contest by them, they lost in the lower court and now in the Appeal Court, they are going to lose in the Appeal Court. I am not a judge, I am not being preemptive, but by the grace of God, it is a lost case abinitio, but not withstanding, until the outcome of that case, if they want to go to the Supreme Court, so be it. When they finish with the court processes, we will come back to the table, they must have known that it’s been a lost battle so the next thing is to reconcile. Let me remind you that the National Working Committee (NWC) is already setting up a reconciliation committee; the party is just beginning to make attempt, and behind the scenes, a lot of reconciliatory moves are going on, we relate with some of the people in the repositioning and at the end of the day, we will come back to the round table. The primary has come and gone, we have produced the Chairman of the party in the state, we have produced the State Working Committee, they should just try to understand and comply because the National cannot be wrong, because the National is the sole authority saddled with the responsibility of carrying out the process of electing the State Working Committee from the Ward level; we have done it to the state, the next thing we are working on is the Southwest Congress. So, talking about the state congresses, all that have come and gone. I want to tell you that sanity will prevail at the end of the day.
With the return of former governor Segun Oni to your party and faction, there are indications he has interest in the 2022 guber, would your leader (Fayose) support him?
I am not Fayose and there are no factions in Ekiti PDP.
There is only one PDP in Ekiti State and Segun Oni has returned to the party, PDP. If you have contested for a post for example and somebody is saying I am not in agreement with you, does that make the person a factional leader? These people contested election and they lost. I am the chairman of this PDP. There are no two PDP chairmen in Ekiti State. He is not happy, if he had been elected, he wouldn’t have gone to court. He had gone to challenge my election, they lost in the lower court, they are losing in the Appeal, let them take it to Supreme, it is a lost battle. I am not a factional leader in Ekiti State, I am the party Chairman.
Gov Segun Oni is a democratic person. There are indications that he might be contesting the primary, nothing stops him, nobody stops him; like I said, we will have a free and fair primary and once it is freely conducted and we make a level playing ground for everybody, then there wouldn’t be any form of problem. It is not only Segun Oni, Eleka, Adekola,
Kayode Adaramodu, Oladimeji from Ifelodun, Aribisala from the North are all interested and some other people, I think they are numbering about eight people now, that Gov Segun Oni has just joined the party, nothing stops him from contesting but the assurance that I can give is that we will have a free and fair contest.
In a publication dated Nov. 12, 2020, a Chieftain of the PDP in Ekiti State, Otunba Yinka Akerele said “ The rule in PDP is that the highest ranking officer is the leader of the party in the state. Hence, Senator Biodun Olujimi is the statutory leader of PDP in Ekiti State. Fayose is our boss having served the state for two terms but definitely not the leader of PDP in Ekiti State.” What is your take?
In the last election, Akerele contested under DPP. I don’t know the exact time Akerele came back to this party within the last 24 months. Akerele is green in PDP. He is a fresh member of PDP and doesn’t understand what is happening in PDP. It is mere assumption on his part, I will just tell him to go back to the Ward and familiarize himself to the constitution of PDP. For anyone to start contesting leadership of party with a two-term governor, as a Senator, with due respect, she(Olujimi) is my very good sister and in-law and a respected leader in the party. You are a Senator representing a Senatorial district out of three and you want to lord yourself over everybody, it is not done. Even the Senatorial district where she comes from, we have other leaders in that Senatorial district, we have the former deputy governor, Eleka from Ikere, we have Adekola who was in the House of Reps from that Senatorial district, and some other leaders from that district. For God’s sake, a governor that has ruled the state for eight years is over and above any sectional leader, I am talking of a Senatorial district. We have other leaders in the party that are from other regions, I mean the geographical regions within the party, so the geography does not favour a Senator that has emanated from a Senatorial district to lord herself over me in my Senatorial district; it is only the governor, for God’s sake a former governor that has ruled the state. If you are a Senator and even if you are there perpetually, that does not make you the leader of all. So, Akerele should get himself entrenched in the PDP constitution.
Some quarters have described the meeting that was held by your group of Southwest PDP faction in Lagos on November 13, 2020, as ill-planned, a move to bring more cracks and unsettle the party and to counter the S/W PDP mainstream meeting that was held in Ibadan on November, 12, 2020 at the instance of Gov Seyi Makinde, in which Fayose was invited but didn’t show up
Don’t forget we don’t practise regional government again. Gov Makinde is from Oyo State. Gov Fayose is not the chairman of PDP in Ekiti, but our leader in the state.
By the grace of God, I am the chairman of PDP in Ekiti State, whatever happens to PDP in Ekiti State, Bisi Kolawole should be held responsible. So, if Gov Makinde decided to host some friends, it is different from having Southwest meeting. What he did was having mere lunch or dinner with some people. I wasn’t aware of what happened in Ibadan. If Gov Makinde had meeting in Oyo State and the chairman was not duly informed, then he had only entertained his friends. Let me categorically state this, nobody is contesting Gov Makinde’s leadership being the only PDP governor in the Southwest and we all accord him that respect but that does not lord him over Fayose. Gov Makinde himself joined the party just in the build up to the election that produced him. Somebody that has seen it all within the party and has been responsible alongside with other governors, holding the party when it mattered, when the whole thing disintegrated, you just want to come and rubbish the person, it is not done. If you invited Fayose to a meeting, I don’t know whether he was duly invited, but I as the chairman in Ekiti, I was not invited. I remember I saw it in the dailies or social media; he invited his friends, I think the Olujimi people. So, since I was not invited, you don’t expect me to have respect for such meeting. As far as I am concerned, he had just held a meeting with his friends and he hosted them to a dinner so to say.
As for what happened in Lagos, there are six states in the Southwest : Ekiti, Lagos, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ogun. I want to tell you that Osun, Ogun, Lagos and Ekiti, we are on the same page. In Ondo, we have our people there. The truth about what is currently happening in the Southwest is that, the former Southwest Chairman, Eddy Olafeso, contested election for governorship in Ondo State; he lost and some right thinking people sat down to say will it not be right to compensate him with a second term in the Southwest since he was not even allowed to enjoy the only term(Don’t forget the Buruji saga). He was not even allowed to have his peace for more than two years as the Southwest chairman. So, some of us said why not allow him( Olafeso) since he is interested to go in for a second term in the Southwest and Lagos, Ekiti, Osun and Ogun all agreed; that was what necessitated what happened in Lagos. It was just a build up to the Southwest Congress. But Governor Makinde wants to produce the Chairman from his own State, he wants to be a sole administrator of Southwest, that is where we need to tell him that we have six states in the Southwest and Bisi Kolawole controls the situation of the party in Ekiti State. Of course, Fayose is our leader but I am the party chairman; you can’t do without the party chairman of any state. Dr Sikirulai Ogundele is the Chairman in Ogun State, Deji Doherty is the Chairman in Lagos State and Sunday Bisi is the Chairman in Osun State; so if four of us are working together towards the Congress of the Southwest that is going to be democratic, I don’t see anything wrong with that, but the fact is that the meeting held in Ibadan, I was not invited. If you are holding meeting of Ekiti and you are not inviting me, then you have just entertained your friends.
The other factional Chairman, Hon. Kehinde Odebunmi, sometime accused the National Working Committee (NWC) of colluding with your leader (Fayose) to disallow internal democracy and freedom of choice of leaders. Do you subscribe to this?
When you fail in an election, you are bound to react to it in your own way. The fact is that even if you call him factional chairman, you are just making him happy. He never contested any election and maybe he loves the title of chairman. The fact that he accused the NWC of colluding with Fayose tells you that if NWC has accepted what the so-called Fayose group has done, then the people recognised by the NWC are in the saddle. So, you are just answering a title you love to answer on your own, the chairman, but he is not the Chairman of the party in Ekiti State. The fact remains that the National Working Committee of our party, is our parent body that conducts the Congresses. Let me remind you that we had National Executive Council (NEC) meeting on Thursday, November 19, and all the elections and Congresses have been ratified by NEC. So, what was conducted by National Working Committee (NWC) has been ratified by NEC, where you have all the governors, the former this, the former that, all the state chairmen, I was there as the Ekiti State Chairman. I don’t know whether what the NWC has done, ratified by NEC and already made known to INEC, you are still here revolting. As a matter of fact, I don’t even expect them to start saying all these things because they are in court and if they are so optimistic, they should wait for the outcome of the court and if they win in court, it is the same party; we will all come together and if they lose, they should come together with us; it is as simple as that. But as far as PDP Ekiti State is concerned, I, Otunba Bisi Kolawole, I am the Chairman, recognised by INEC, NEC and NWC.
What is your assessment of the current administration in Ekiti State in the last two years?
Well, I am happy that whatever is happening is not limited to a particular sector or group of politicians alone; we are all involved, I mean, we can see, feel and hear because things have gone worse than they were. We are being stampeded in Ekiti State, nothing is happening, you can’t feel the government. Somebody is just there enjoying himself. I don’t know if you are happy about being hungry, not being cared for. I don’t know