By Dayo Johnson
RATHER than wane, the post governorship primary crisis in the All Progressive Congress, APC, in Ondo State has continued to fester. The crisis took a new twist last week with the suspension of Hon. Isaac Kekemeke as the state chairman of the party. In this interview, Kekemeke, among others, fingered Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as the brain behind his removal insisting that he remains “the unshakeable elected chairman.”
Members of the State Executive Committee, SEC, last week suspended you for abandoning the party secretariat and refusing to summon a meeting in the last seven months. What is your take on this?
It is not true that I abandoned the party secretariat. The last time that the governor and I were at the party secretariat was when he went to pick his certificate of return from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and we were at the party secretariat together. Thereafter, I have been at the party secretariat many times to do some administrative work. The party secretary is always at the secretariat.
But the difference between those making the allegations and I is that I have a second office and I have a job. I have something else to do, I don’t just go and wait at the party secretariat. I have told them that the essence of a political party is to capture power. We worked day and night, I left my practice and we worked hard to get power. At the federal level, we got 54 percent in the presidential election, as against the expectation of the party that all they needed from us in Ondo State was 25 percent. We won in the National Assembly elections and we stayed and worked to win the governorship election.
Naturally, when the government enters, party activities slow down because the job of a political party is to capture government but they don’t understand.
Avenue and platform
That is not to say that we are not doing the skeletal activities needed in the party but once a political party captures power, the concentration, the attention shifts and focuses on the government. They should go and see what is happening at the national secretariat of the party in Abuja.
They want me to call a meeting so that we can fight this same governor they are protecting for not giving them appointments. I said ‘no, you cannot use me to fight the governor.’ This is the same governor you are projecting and promoting; you now want me to call a meeting to say that he must look for offices for you. I won’t do that. Why would you want me to lead a fight; why would you want me to provide the avenue and platform for your fight?
Why is your suspension generating ripples in the party?
There action was against the clear spirit and intention of the Constitution of the APC 2014 as amended. A few members of the State Executive Committee purportedly met in a hotel at Akure, allegedly suspended the state chairman of the party and appointed the state deputy chairman as acting Chairman.
In the enforcement of this huge joke on the party, the Administrative Secretary of the party was violently dispossessed of all the keys to the offices in the Ondo State APC secretariat with the assistance of law enforcement agents.
It must be noted, however, that no meeting of the SECwas ever called by either the State Chairman or the State Working Committee. Neither was there a complaint nor petition by any member against the chairman or any other officer was received to necessitate the invoking of the disciplinary procedure as provided for by Article 21(B) of the APC Constitution.
Clearly, this song with its familiar and cacophonic tune was scripted by Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu, Governor of Ondo State, who has refused to break away from the bitterness and vestige of the Ondo State APC gubernatorial primary election and has therefore deployed state machinery to vilify perceived enemies, resulting in this latest choreography with a macabre sense of humour.
We are, however, baffled that such a respected and respectable organ of our party created by the Constitution for noble ends could be wrongly and maliciously appropriated by a few misguided and unqualified elements without regards to the clear constitutional requirements of the mode and composition of that organ.
Have you reported this development to the party leadership at the zonal level?
We have drawn the attention of the Southwest Zonal Committee of the APC to the extremely dangerous, most unconscionable and unconstitutional actions of some members of the SEC of the Ondo State APC.
We have asked for their intervention in accordance with Article 13.5(i) and 21(B)(V) of the Constitution of the Party to prevent the implosion that is waiting to happen and have informed them that we remain resolute to resist this war of attrition with its attendant consequences on our party now and in the future.
You said the decision of those SEC members to suspend you is not binding. What is the position of the party’s constitution on this issue?
Who conveyed that meeting? Did it have my authority? Did the Secretary of the party convey the meeting? Two, who were those that attended the meeting? Three, do they have the power and authority to do what they did? I am the only elected officer of the party during the 2014 congresses. All others came through adoptions and consensus; I don’t have any problem with that and we have been working together. I am a member of the Zonal Executive Committee and a member of the National Executive Committee of the party.
By implication, I am not just chairman of the party here, I am an officer of the zone and an officer of the national executive. So, nobody has disciplinary powers over me at this level. If you have any complaints, you make them to the zonal executive which looks into it and then forwards it to the national executive committee which looks into it and then comes to a conclusion. By the provisions and letters of our constitution, only a higher level of authority can discipline a particular officer of the party. That’s why I laugh at them’ it’s laughable.
There is this allegation of party funds being expended by you without due process.
Which money? The records are there. For almost two years, I didn’t touch one kobo of the party money for my transportation to party functions. As I talk to you, I don’t use party money to fuel car, I don’t use party money to buy newspapers, I don’t use party money for phone calls, I don’t use party money for entertainment. As I talk to you, I don’t use party money for anything. The only thing the party does is to repair its vehicles.
The accounts are there. I am not the only signatory to the account of the party. I don’t keep party money. Party money is not kept in anybody’s house. Under me, party money is not available to anybody to be used for personal things.
There is this allegation that you are not protecting the interest of party members in terms of appointments
The people of this state have elected a governor. The governor emerged through a platform. If the governor does not want to relate with you, do you force yourself on him? I will not. I have spoken with the governor to say ‘let me lead the party executives to meet with you’. He has promised that when he has time he would give us an appointment to see him.
Do you have an idea of why the governor is refusing to relate with you but with your deputy?
I don’t know.
Could it be as a result of the festering crisis over the last governorship primaries?
I do not fight the governor. The governor is a product of the party, I don’t fight him but I also do not go to a place where I am not invited. I heard some people say I didn’t congratulate the governor, I did. I have a copy of the letter and also the congratulatory messages made in the media. What else am I supposed to do?
Why have you not been attending government events since the governor’s inauguration in February?
I do not go to functions that I am not invited. 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.
On two occasions, the governor invited me and on those two occasions I honoured. On one occasion, after he became governor-elect, he invited me to be part of the team to collect his certificate of return from INEC and I was there.
Thereafter, we went to the party secretariat. On another occasion, the governor invited me to the handing over ceremony, I was there. On a third occasion, the governor invited me late in the night to be part of a meeting with the outgoing governor by 10 am the following day and I apologized to him that I was already in Abuja and would be unable to attend. Ever since, I have gotten no invitation to attend any government event.
What are you doing to bring aggrieved party members who left after the primaries back?
I am going to redirect the party and make sure that the party gets back it’s vibrancy. So I am appealing to all of those members who left the party in protest or anger to return to the party. We are also appealing to many people in the party who have been sidelined and alienated to come back to fully participate in the activities of the party in their units, wards, local government and at the state level.
This is because the victory that we had at the last election was through hardwork and early planning and for us to win again, we must work harder.