When it was thought that the internal crisis that rocked the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ondo State prior to the gubernatorial had ended, the party is in for another crisis.
It was assumed the party would be more united having been at the helm of affairs in the state.
But that has not been the case as the party is neck-deep in leadership crisis. This followed the suspension of its state, Mr. Isaac Kekemeke. The crisis broke out when the State Executive Committee (SEC), of the party at its meeting announced the suspension of Kekemeke and the appointment of Ade Adetimehin as acting chairman.
The party also set up a three-man committee headed by Prince Abayomi Adesanya to investigate cases of alleged negligence of duty and anti-party activities leveled against Kekemeke, claiming that the embattled chairman has not been functioning well since the assumption of office of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu in February.
Kekemeke and his loyalists were furious leading to the polarization of the party, with Kekemeke controlling a faction and Adetimehin controlling a faction allegedly loyal to the governor.
Kekemeke also petitioned the South West leadership of the party, claiming that he was not well investigated before being suspended, just as he argued that the appointment of an acting chairman for the party did not follow due process and constitution of the party. To this end, Kekemeke, a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), declared that he is still the authentic chairman of the party in the state, stressing that his suspension was null, void and without any effect whatsoever.
Besides, his described his suspension from the party as a child’s play, saying he was yet to receive any notice to appear before the disciplinary panel set up to investigate him. He noted that the purported suspension was done in bad faith, adding that members who carried out the purported suspension did not represent the interest of the generality of party members.
Describing the action of SEC as a ruse, he said the members of the party especially his loyalists were not carried along while taking the decision: “I know what the constitution of our party says. I have not contravened any article of our constitution. So, I remain the chairman of the APC in Ondo State. My purported removal is a nullity and it cannot stand.”
Reacting, Akeredolu warned Kekemeke and other party leaders not to drag him into the issue, which he said was strictly a party affair. His Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Segun Ajiboye, said the governor was too busy to be involved in the internal crisis rocking the APC:
“My determination is to fulfill my pact with the people of Ondo State and in doing this I am working towards ensuring the total development of the state. I am too busy with my work for the state. Everyday we are working on re-engineering the state to the part of greatness. We are committed to peace and development of the state, so we have no time for petty party politics.
“I am now the governor of the state and not governor for APC members alone. I am concerned with the issues affecting the entire state and not only the APC.” He advised the leadership of the party to settle the crisis within the party with the fear of God, without extending it to him.
Adetimehin said he would wait for the verdict of the disciplinary committee before making public comment on the matter.
However, he said he would continue to serve the party as the acting chairman pending further directive from the party, adding that he has no personal issue with either Kekemeke or any member of the party.
He said his sole goal is to ensure the development and progress of the party and the state at large during the APC led administration of Akeredolu.
Adesanya alleged that the offence committed by Kekemeke was contrary to Article 21(D)(vi), of the constitution of the party (October 2014 as amended), adding that the committee wrote formally to invite him to appear before it. He said the committee would soon come up with its recommendation, stressing that all members of the party concerned were duly invited to appear before the committee.
Others invited, according to Adesanya included state women leader of the party, Mrs. Omolara Atiba; secretary, Mr. Raman Rotimi; financial secretary, Mr. Ishola Moshood and auditor, Mr. Samuel Bamidele. Also invited were organizing secretary, Mr. Raphael Adetimehin; acting chairman, Adetimehin; administrative secretary, Mr. Smart Omodunbi; youth leader, Mr. Olutayo Babalayo and the chairmanof the party in Ese Odo Local Government Area, Mr. Agabra Atili.
Director of Media and Publicity of the party, Mr. Steve Otaloro, said Kekemeke would be disciplined if found culpable, adding that the supremacy of the party should be respected by all members:
“The lull in the political activities at the secretariat of the Ondo State chapter of APC has been broken with the suspension of Kekemeke. The disciplinary committee set up to investigate the suspended chairman for failing to discharge his responsibilities, neglect and dereliction of duty, among other offenses, contrary to Article 21(D) (vi), of the constitution of the APC, (October 2014 as amended) has also commenced work.
“A flurry of activities is expected to burst forth in the party secretariat immediately as the party has been in the comatose for too long shortly before the gubernatorial primary election of the party last year.
“A vote of no confidence was passed on the suspended chairman and was asked to vacate his position as chairman of the party by elders of the party and SEC on the allegation of high handedness in the administration of the party, an action that led to litigation against him by some members of the party.
“It is, however, incontrovertible that the party and members were denied their deserved joy and celebration of victory of the last gubernatorial election due to the inactiveness of the party leadership and the failure of the suspended chairman to call for meeting of the SEC and the State Working Committee (SWC), for a long time owing to leadership impasse in the state chapter.”
The current crisis was an aftermath of the crisis that engulfed the party before its November 26, 2016, governorship primary election. It led to division with Chief Olusola Oke defecting to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) where he eventually contested the governorship election.
It was believed that Kekemeke, a loyalist of the national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, worked against Akeredolu at the primary election. He did not hide his support for Dr. Olusegun Abraham who was believed to be the choice of Tinubu for the governorship position.
The crisis led to the closure of the party secretariat for months, even as Kekemeke and Adetimehin laid claim to the chairmanship of the party until it was resolved after the election. It was also alleged that Kekemeke worked for Oke during the election, abandoning Akeredolu, the APC candidate.
It is not clear who exactly is the party chairman as both Kekemeke and Adetimehin claim to be in control and hold sizeable number of members as followers.