The crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State, recently reached its peak with the removal and suspension of the chairman of the party in the state, Honourable Isaacs Kekemeke. HAKEEM GBADAMOSI looks into the crisis as events unfold in the party.
IT is obvious all not well with the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State. A section of the state executive committee of the party passed a vote of no confidence in the APC chairman, Honourable Isaacs Kekemeke, barely 100 days after the party took over the mantle of power in the state. Kekemeke’s offence is his alleged failure to discharge his responsibilities, neglect and dereliction of duty, among others. The allegations, according to the state organ of the party, contravene Article 21(D) (vi), of the Constitution of the APC, October 2014 as amended.
He was accused after the governor’s inauguration on February 24, this year. Consequently, the party thereafter suspended him and constituted a three-man committee, which included the publicity secretary of the party, Abayomi Adesanya as the chairman; Saka Yusuff (secretary) and Rasheed Badmus as member. With the suspension of Kekemeke as the state APC chairman, the committee mandated his deputy, Ade Adetimehin, to act in that capacity pending the outcome of their findings.
The committee swung into action immediately after it was constituted, inviting the embattled chairman to face the panel and defend all the charges preferred against him. But, Kekemeke, who claimed to have learnt about his suspension on the pages of newspapers, shunned the invitation, saying he was not formally invited and remained the chairman of the party in the state. Kekemeke said: “I have been informed through newspaper reports that some members of the state executive committee of the party met in an hotel in Akure and purportedly passed a vote of no confidence in me – the only elected state officer – and have asked that Mr Ade Adetimehin my adopted deputy, to act as chairman. This scandalous and irritating move prompted by ‘a promise of pot of porridge for the action’ by a segment of the party’s executive, though not unexpected, beats the imagination of many reasonable party people.
“Sincerely, I wished I did not have to react to this remote controlled, illegal and morally reprehensible conduct of some rancorous elements in the state executive, who had on many occasions traveled this ignoble path without success. Honestly, some of those who I am told are acting this shameful script can never imagine how happy, peaceful I should feel, being free from having to deal or associate with them as members of my team.”
Nonetheless, he immediately decided to fight back, pointing the finger in the direction of the state governor, Rotimi Akeredolu. He alleged that the governor masterminded his removal as the chairman of the party via a letter to the South-West Zonal Executive Committee of the APC. He noted that the development was a fallout of the the controversy that trailed the governorship primary election, which produced Akeredolu as the party’s candidate. Then, Kekemeke was alleged to have acted the script of one of the National leaders of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, whose anointed candidate was Segun Abraham. The result of the primary election had raised dust, but the national executive council of the party waded into the crisis and settled for Akeredolu, who eventually won the November 26, governorship election.
Months after the party assumed power in the ‘Sunshine state’, the wounds created by the pre-election power play are yet to heal. While some APC members seem to be reaping from their ‘sweat,’ others are sulking, claiming to have been sidelined by the new power brokers. Those who belong to the latter group appear to have adopted the ‘siddon look’ on issues concerning the party and its administration in the state. Some of them, who spoke with Sunday Tribune, but preferred anonymity, were divided on the sudden twist of events. While some believe the chicken has only come home to roost after the election proper, others said Kekemeke should have been allowed to complete his tenure to avert undue distraction and keep the party on course. His tenure was expected to end in April next year.
There are other party members, who believe that the suspended chairman unwittingly played into the hands of his adversaries. According to them, he was usually conspicuously absent at most state and party’s functions, thereby widening the yawning gap in the APC leadership in the state. However, he was quick to offer explanation for his attitude towards such functions. He said: “I’m not a lay about. I’m sorry if this sounds proud. But sincerely, I don’t go to places where I am not wanted, where I am not invited. On two occasions, the governor invited me and on those two occasions, I honoured. On one occasion, after he became governor- elected, he invited me to be part of the team to collect his Certificate of Return from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and I was there. Thereafter, we went to the party secretariat. On another occasion, the governor invited me to be present at the handing over ceremony, I was there.
“How do I go to a place where I am not invited? How do I know that such functions are taking place? People are defecting into the party, I only get to see it on television, hear it on radio or read in newspapers. Do they want me to be crawling in the Government House? I can’t do that. I do not ridicule myself. I do not make myself to look funny anywhere. Once people don’t want me, I keep my peace.”
However, Kekemeke, in his wisdom, wrote to the South-West zonal executive of party, intimating them with the development in the state APC. He stated that his suspension by the state executive of the party negated the provisions of the party’s constitution and called on the leaders of the party to wade in before the issue degenerates into a full-blown crisis.
Kekemeke, thereafter, called for the quick intervention of the zonal leaders by invoking the Article 13.5(i) and 21(B)(V) of the constitution of the party to prevent the looming implosion.
However a top shot of the APC in the state, who is in fact close to the corridors of power, said Akeredolu had since moved on, as he believed that God ordained his victory at the last primaries and the general election. The source said the governor had nothing to gain by instigating crisis in the party that brought him into office, adding that Akeredolu could “only act as the rallying forces for all tendencies in the APC.”
Also speaking on the crisis and the removal of Kekemeke, Special Assistant on Special Duties and Strategy, Mr Doyin Odebowale, denied Akeredolu’s involvement in the crisis in the party. He explained that the “governor’s disposition towards all indecent acts is well known. Akeredolu is too engaged with serious issues of social engineering to descend into a pigsty with its inhabitants. This government will not be distracted.
“If a supposed leader of a ruling party does not attend meetings, party functions and appears to be collaborating with antagonistic and extraneous interests, actively, decency demands that he should quit his pretence. Aketi is content with being the governor of the good people of Ondo State. This government will not be distracted,” Odebowale emphasized.
Though the APC leadership in the zone, headed by the deputy national chairman, Pius Akinyelure, has visited the state, the outcome of the fact-finding mission was not made public, as a meeting was held under closed doors during the visit by the leaders. But, the investigative committee set up by the party has made its recommendation after finding Kekemeke guilty of all the allegations. It advised him to either resign from his position within the next seven days, and if he failed to do so, “his action or inaction should be taken as removal from office.” The committee premised its pronouncement on Article 21(D)(i)(e) of the APC Constitution, of October, 2014, as amended.” Its report states, inter alia, that “the committee is satisfied with the uncontroverted pieces of evidence given by the witnesses. The evidences were thorough, coherent, straightforward, cogent, compelling and very convincing.
“It was established beyond any shadow of doubt that Hon. Kekemeke instigated and instructed members of the Party to work for Alliance for Democracy in the November 26th, 2016 governorship election. His inability to call State Working Committee (SWC) for almost a year is an indication of his unwillingness to move the party forward. The evidence that he was prepared to take on the State Government is, to say the least, very undeserving.”
The committee also accused Kekemeke of highhandedness, dereliction of duty and anti-party activities as adumbrated in the uncontroverted evidences of the witnesses.
But the legal adviser of the party, Mr Desmond Dayo Adejumola, punctured the argument desenting the action taken against Kekemeke as unconstitutional. He claimed that Article 21 which provides the legal basis for the discipline of officers of the party does not allow SEC members any role, pointing out that the “Zonal Committee shall be the adjudicatory body of first instance over complaints or allegations from state chapter in the Zone.” He also noted that “sub (E) stated that the NEC shall be the adjudicatory body over complains and allegations from the zones.”
However, in the same article 21 (B) (vi) that makes provision for the punishment of erring members, it is stated that “each organ of the party shall have power to remove a party officers as the case may be from office at that level for failing to discharge his/her responsibilities, neglect and dereliction of duty or misconduct during his tenure of office through a vote of no confidence passed against such officer/officers by a two-third majority of the members of the appropriate organ and voting subject to such officer’s right to fair hearing.”
From the look of things, the dog fight in the Ondo APC is between two distinct forces. The first camp comprises those party members considered as favourably disposed to the establishment, while the other category consists of those that have sympathy for the embattled chairman. Each camp appears to be uncompromising in its perceived right course of action, hence the apparent no retreat no surrender situation in the between the ranks of the two divides.