NIGERIA: Reconciliation Gone Awry

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The insistence of a House of Representatives member and chairman, House Committee on Budget and Research, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, to pursue his governorship ambition despite the intervention of the Action Congress of Nigeria leadership may have foreclosed possible reconciliation between him and the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.

Barely, a year to the conduct of the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State, political activities in the state are getting more and more interesting by the day.  And until the election has come and gone, political permutations would continue, while individual interest would continue to dominate the scene.

As it is in the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), so also in the camp of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), both of whom are battling with internal wrangling. No one of the parties in the state is free of one crisis or the other over various ambitions, intrigues and personal interest. Expectedly, the development has literally polarised all the concerned parties.

While the PDP is still under the heavy yoke of primary election to decide its candidate, the home of ACN, the ruling party, is almost in disarray, perfectly heading towards disintegration, somewhat.

It is no longer news that a member of the House of Representatives and Chairman, House Committee on Budget and Research, Hon Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, a prominent member of ACN, is one whose ambition is seems to be tearing the party apart, since the 2011 National Assembly election, in which he sought to be senator but side-stepped for Senator Babafemi Ojudu. He was later pacified with the House of Representatives ticket.

But there and then, he began to nurse the ambition for greater position, and since then, it appeared the centre of the party in the state can no longer hold. However, Bamidele's problems became more compounded in last December, when the leadership of the party endorsed the incumbent governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, for a second term in office.

At a meeting held in the Iyin-Ekiti country home of the first executive governor of the state, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, prominent leaders of the party including Senator Tony Adeniyi, Hon Ife Arowosoge, Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Dr Adewale Omirin, and several others, mooted the idea and sanctioned it. It did not however go down well with Bamidele, who immediately opposed and dismissed the endorsement, which he said was the position of the party, and promised to fight it to the last. Since then, he has not rested in the pursuit of his ambition.

Unfortunately, this development has generated bad blood amongst members, with those in Fayemi’s camp not wanting to see others as allies, while those in the other camp too would not want to see those in Bamidele’s group as friends of the governor.

The ugly situation has continueddespite being members of the same party, who ordinarily should have the same desire, aspiration and goal, meant to sustain and maintain their victory. But the reverse is the case. It is a case of people of one big family fighting one another, displaying needless political strength and muscle-flexing, all in the name of position and ambition with naked attacks against one another.

On several occasions, Bamidele had raised alarm over alleged attack on him anywhere he went in the state, alleging sponsored political thugs. This, he said, has forced him to go about with a retinue of security men to protect his life. But government and the party have consistently dismissed such alarm as figments of his imagination, saying it is not their stock in trade but Bamidele should check the list of his new friends.

That aside, posters of his alleged governorship ambition at a time flooded Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, on the Labour Party. While no one could explain how they came about, those close to Bamidele accused supporters of Fayemi while those loyal to the governor dismissed anything that would elevate his alleged inordinate ambition.

It therefore got to the point that observers expressed concern that if the party leaders failed to intervene in time, there is the bpossibility that the opposition might cash-in on the crisis to unloose the state from the hold of the ACN as the 2014 election approaches.

This, perhaps, formed the basis for the intervention by the party’s national leadership led by Senator Bola Tinubu, the national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, former governor of the old Ondo State, Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua, state Chairman of the party, Chief Jide Awe and National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who stormed the state for what they described as a stakeholders’ parley.

Others at the meeting included Senator Ojudu, Hon Tunde Ojo, Mr. Dele Alake, Hon Bimbo Daramola, as well as other members of the state cabinet led by Fayemi.

The meeting which held at Lady Jibowu Hall, New Government House, Ado-Ekiti did go ahead but with a major snag; it failed to include one of the main actors in the crisis, Bamidele. He was absent and not represented in any capacity at the meeting.

His absence, therefore, raised questions. Observers thought that for him not to be in attendance at such a crucial meeting could make or mar the peace process. Although there was no official statement to establish whether he was invited or not, his media aide, Hammed Salami, also had no clue on whether or not an invitation was extended to his boss.

Analysts therefore thought that such an important meeting should have brought together all the concerned parties if the aim was to achieve a genuine reconciliation.

This notwithstanding, kudos was given to Tinubu, for not only convening the meeting, but for being down-to-earth in his approach to the issues as they affect individuals in the crisis. Although, the meeting was originally meant to settle rift, it turned out to be another forum to endorse the governor for second term in office, in due recognition of his unprecedented achievements and performance.

But Tinubu had quickly added that another occasion would be announced later where the second term ambition of the governor would be made official. He was also said to have noted that the essence of the meeting was to mend the cracks in the party, and that it must be done urgently before the 2014 governorship election in the state.

Sources at the meeting said Tinubu described the endorsement as necessary in order to douse raging tension and rumour that he had been the one sponsoring Bamidele against Fayemi since the feud started.

“This is not the official endorsement; we are coming for official endorsement of Governor Kayode Fayemi soon. I have heard a lot of people saying I am the sponsor, the endorser and financier of Bamidele, but I am here now to clarify issue to all our members.”

The ACN leader, who was said to have spoken elaborately on the 2014 election, according to sources, warned the party against bickering which the Peoples Democratic Party might cash-in on to fight with the party.

Tinubu was said to have specifically told  Fayemi to mend fences with all the aggrieved members, particularly Bamidele for the next election in the state to be an easy ride. He also did not allegedly mince his words when he told Bamidele to accept the olive branch from the Governor, and drop his governorship ambition for the party to come out victorious in all future elections.
According to the source, Tinubu described Bamidele as his 'son', whom he can talk to at any time, and if it warrants beating him, he can do so, "but he (Bamidele) should be told to go and sit down for now."

He then warned all the party members, in both camps to desist from fanning embers of disunity. “You should not see the Governor as your own property. He belongs to all the members of the party and no one should claim to love him more than others,” he noted.
For proper illustration, Tinubu who used his experience in handling Lagos crisis as example, was said to have disclosed that “during my own time in Lagos, I had a very harrowing experiences when I was about to install Governor Babatunde Fashola as my successor. Some of my cabinet members rose against me, but with maturity, I was able to bring them on board and Governor Fashola won.
“As a politician, there is nothing I have not seen in my life. I have seen politicians playing sycophancy just to get what they wanted. But, as a leader, you have to be very smart to be able to know sincere advice from mere sycophancy.
“This is what I want Governor Fayemi to display in this game. I want you Excellency to bring everybody close to yourself, particularly Hon Bamidele and ensure that you have a united house to confront the opposition.”

Those who also spoke on the occasion, were said to have toed the same line with their national leader including Akande and Olumilua, who were said to have called for a genuine truce among the warriors. They were said to have charged Governor Fayemi to look for a way of bringing Bamidele back to the main stream of the party, if the party would want to sail through in the coming election.
But Bamidele dropped the bombshell at the weekend when he reportedly said Tinubu was in no position to determine how and when he would realize his ambition. The lawmaker who met with the press in Ado-Ekiti was quoted as saying he did not get the invitation to the meeting until a day after it had held, thus rubbishing whatever success the move by the ACN leaders would have been seen to have recorded.

Bamidele, according to reports, said he was not ready to step down for Fayemi and vowed to forge ahead with his ambition. The lawmaker, who will turn 50 on July 29, said he had decided to shelve his 50th birthday celebration in honour of Ekiti people, whom, he said, are still languishing in poverty. “I cannot be celebrating a birthday in the midst of poverty,” he said.
Speaking at his office on the platform of Ekiti Bibiire Coalition, Bamidele, who represents Ado-Irepodun/Ifelodun Federal Constituency, said nobody, could stop him from contesting against Fayemi, adding that he remained unperturbed despite Fayemi’s endorsement. “It is only God that crowns the king.”

On the peace parley, Bamidele, said: “I was invited for the meeting, but I got the text message late. But my argument still remains that Tinubu did not endorse Fayemi at the meeting. The Tinubu that I know will not take any step that will undermine democracy. So, what was reported was not what Tinubu said. The Tinubu I know wants Ekiti people to take their own decision and not be imposed upon.”
Although, he did not mention the political party under which he would advance his political ambition, saying the platform will be known soon, he, however, said he has enormous respect for the ACN leader, under whom he served as Special Adviser in Lagos State, revealing that he is not contesting the coming governorship election out of his own personal conviction, but on the request of Ekiti people.
He said he would not be desperate in his bid to become the governor of the state by carrying lethal weapons to hunt his political opponents in the name of politics.

Facing his supporters, Bamidele asked: “Were you not the one that called me to come and contest?” They answered: “We were the ones!” He appealed to them to be civil in the face of provocation. He also urged Fayemi to stop dropping Tinubu’s names in his campaign, saying he should be man enough to carry his own political cross.
“I will always respect my benefactor and Senator Tinubu is my benefactor whom I respect so well. But Ekiti is first on my agenda. The Tinubu I know wants the best for Ekiti. If I could work for him for eleven and half years to make Lagos State a model, then I know he will want somebody, like me, to work with the people to make Ekiti a model. Nobody can stop me from contesting the governorship election. I cannot fight with Tinubu, just like it is not compulsory that we should agree on everything at all times,” Bamidele said.

There is no doubting the fact that the reconciliation parley was an effort in futility. But can Bamidele face Tinubu as the fight may have become one between him and Tinubu since he has publicly discountenanced the orders of his benefactor?
These are the new undercurrents that will start evolving in the coming weeks and how that will shape the tide of developments within the context of the subsisting equation remains a hard nut to crack.

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