Despite the ‘suspension’ slammed on him by some members of the Ondo State Working Committee of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Hon. Duerimini Isaacs Kekemeke insists that he is the authentic chairman of the party. He speaks in this interview with Babatope Okeowo on the crisis rocking the party, among other issues
What is your position in Ondo State chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC)?
I am the chairman of APC in Ondo State. As a matter of fact, I am the only elected officer of the party in the state, there was a congress and that congress elected me and I defeated my incumbent deputy. But because everybody wanted to build, I agreed that he should become my deputy even when he lost to me and then we put all the other structures together.
But some people claimed to have suspended you and appointed the person you defeated as the acting chairman?
Well, it is ironic and laughable. This is so because if you recall, immediately after my election, I decided that all the interest groups must be put together and we met nothing on ground, it was a new party and I was the first chairman to be elected so to say and some of the interests that I defeated were never happy with me. They were also not happy with the way I ran the party because we were going to run the party differently to make it a winnable platform to make sure that elections were the focus and quite a number of people didn’t think so.
They thought that a party could serve as means of livelihood, a means of meeting their basic needs. I didn’t think so and I also don’t think that it is right for us to go cap in hand begging all the time to ask for money and that if we were going to get any support at all, it should be for the work of the party and to make sure that we created a credible platform.
There were a number of times we were not happy that money wasn’t available for sharing, so these people were tempted not once to remove me, and you will remember that at a time the Publicity Secretary said he had removed me. At another time, an ex officio member then, who is now a commissioner, declared himself chairman. They have always done this, so I think this is one of those forms and I am sure they will soon get to know.
But they claimed to have a letter from the National Chairman of the party, proclaiming Engr. Ade Adetimehin as chairman of the party in the state?
I also saw the letter in the social media; I have referred to that letter in many occasions and in many fora as a Black Market letter. The letter speaks for itself. I was excited when I read the letter because before it came, they had said I have been removed, they had been saying that Adetimehin was substantive chairman and then suddenly a letter came that said ‘no you are not chairman, you are acting chairman.’ For me, if they were sober people, they would look critically at that letter and say ‘all the while you have been claiming that you are chairman, you were not.’
The letter says the chairman has approved pending the time the National Working Committee (NWC) will meet, but I said so the NWC and the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the party to which I belong to have not even met and I read through and it said pending the time the NWC meets on the complains against the state chairman. There is a state chairman, and thirdly and most fundamentally, there is nowhere in the provisions of the APC Constitution, where power is donated to the national chairman to act as a sole authority for removing and appointing officers for the party.
If you are the chairman, why are you not in the party’s secretariat?
You will recall that on one or two occasions, people had gone into that secretariat and illegally occupied it and we had flushed them out. That was when there was a job to be done. There was a serious job to be done; elections were coming and I needed to deliver, so we flushed them out and did what we had to do. There is a government both at the national and state level that our efforts have successfully put in place.
I have been approached many times by people to go flush them out, but I have decided to be cautious. I think it is better for me to stay away than to go there, provoke a fight or a quarrel and get limbs, heads, legs and eyes broken. What do I need it for? It happened in Bayelsa and somebody was killed, would I like to do that? No! Secondly, I have a second address, but most of the people who go to that secretariat probably don’t have anywhere to go.
I started the party in my chambers here is my house, I could do some of those things from wherever I like, so I don’t want my name to be dragged into breaking anybody’s limb or getting people injured or getting people shot. I am a lawyer, and in any case, you don’t expect me to do what some people will do.
Who between you and Adetimehin attends meetings of the party at the national?
I have been attending national meetings until the last one when they started cooking this Black Market letter. I can tell you that Adetimehin was not allowed to attend any of the meetings.
Is there any attempt by Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to bring the warring factions together?
Let me say this; the governor is our governor, he is our party’s governor and he is my senior at the Bar. He is also my predecessor in office as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice. I think we have a good personal relationship, I don’t think we have any personal thing against each other, but basically I don’t think that the governor has forgiven me or a great number of members of the party for our disposition to him prior to his becoming governor.
But when he won, I did write to him to congratulate him on behalf of the party and to tell him that he should understand that he is governor of not only members of the party but the entire State irrespective of political inclination. I told him that he should forget about the past and put all of us together for the good of our party and the state. I thought that was the best I could offer him given that I was sidelined during the inauguration but it didn’t quite make too much meaning to me. But prior to the inauguration, he had called me to say let us go to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to obtain his Certificate of Return and we were there together.
He also invited me to be part of the handover ceremony and I was there. But thereafter, things changed at the inauguration and the constitution of inauguration committees. We were sidelined, but we didn’t think it as anything to howl about or to make noise about and thereafter it was clear that he didn’t want to work with me. Of course, I knew he didn’t want to work with me when I stumbled on a letter addressed to him by some other party people not members of APC, and he, in his own handwriting minuted it to the deputy chairman for action.
But the allegation is that you didn’t work for the party during the election. They said you worked for the Alliance for Democracy (AD) candidate, Chief Olusola Oke…
That is one of the funny traits in this party that we tried to correct overtime. When you talk about a party’s victory, there was work done; most of the time work done to make sure that you plant the party, you put the party on ground, you build the structures of the party, you expand the party, elections are not won on Election Day. You put structures for the party, so who did it? Who put all the structures? Who built the party? Who supplied all the agents? Who supplied all the voters register and made copies available to every unit for effective monitoring? Who gave that coordinating effort to provide it?
I am sure that the people in my unit, in my ward, in my local government won’t say it because they know most of the people who are saying that, have nothing to say. I haven’t heard anyone say it to me, so it’s some insanity for anyone to say that I abandoned the party that I laboured alongside others to build; the party that I worked for two weeks after my wife’s death. I didn’t work for AD, I have no need of it. If I want to work for AD, I work for AD, will anyone flog me?
Rivers: Obuah rallies PDP for council polls
EMMANUEL MASHA reports on the forthcoming local government election in Rivers State and efforts by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to seize the opportunity to consolidate its grip of the oil-rich state
Voters in Rivers State will on June 16, go to the polls to elect candidates of their choice, who will be in charge of governance at the local government level. It is one election that some don’t want to hold, especially those in the state chapter of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But 62 other opposition parties in the state under the aegis of Inter- Party Advisory Council (IPAC) have made it clear that they will participate.
The state’s electoral body, Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RISIEC) has given the green light for the conduct of the election. RSIEC chairman, Justice Chukwuneye Uriri, who recently addressed representatives of political parties during a stakeholders meeting at the commission’s secretariat had noted that for long there has not been council elections despite the fact that the law abhors vacuum. He, therefore, declared that there was need for a democratically elected council administration in the state even as he reaffirmed the commitment of the commission to perform its obligations to reflect the aspirations of the electorate.
His words: “Given the 90-day mandatory notice as stipulated by the electoral laws, the next election ordinarily comes up in June this year. It is therefore imperative that we fix a date for the election in accordance with the said rules.
“By the powers conferred on me, as enshrined in the Rivers State Independent Electoral Law No 2 of 2018, I therefore declare Saturday, the 16th day of June 2018 as local government election day in Rivers State. It is accordingly so fixed.
I reaffirm the commitment of the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission to perform its obligations, to reflect the aspirations of the electorate.” There is no doubt that it is exactly three years since Governor Nyesom Wike took charge of the state after the triumph of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) during the 2015 general elections and in a normal political setting, that is a long time to conduct council election.
But, for the past three years, attempts to achieve this have continuously been resisted by the APC, which appears to be comfortable with the caretaker committee arrangement adopted by the Wike administration.
The caretaker arrangement itself is however a child of necessity as few weeks before the immediate past Chibuike Amaechi administration left office, it conducted council election after which chairmen and councillors were hurriedly sworn in.
The main flaw about that election is that the PDP and many other parties refused to participate in it on the ground that its outcome had been predetermined by the then APC-led government in the state. Observers claimed that the election was nothing other than a political landmine laid by the Amaechi administration for the then incoming Wike government.
But, the law took its course in September 2015, when a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt presided by Justice Lambo Akanbi, invalidated the May 23, 2015 council election won by the APC chairmanship and councillorship candidates.
In his judgement on Suit No. FHC/PH/CS/84/2015 filed in April 2015 by the PDP claiming that RSIEC did not comply with the 90-day mandatory notice stipulated by the electoral laws, Justice Akanbi declared that the May 23 polls were null and void. He further ruled that the conduct of the election by the Amaechi administration was lawless, provocative and disregard for the rule of law.
The judgement paved the, way for Governor Wike to dissolve the boards of RSIEC and the Rivers State Judicial Service Commission following the recommendation of the State House of Assembly. But, like the PDP did in 2015, the APC has declared that it will boycott the June 16 council polls.
The chairman of Rivers APC, Davies Ikanya, who announced the party’s decision to boycott the elections, described as shocking RSIEC’s decision to hold the polls in June, arguing that the issue is a subject of litigation before the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Ikeanya, who would be handing over to Ojukaye Flag-Amachree, a former chairman of Asari-Toru Local Government Area, by the time his tenure elapses at the end of June, maintained that it was subjudice for the commission to fix a date for the election, even at a time when the courts had not decided on the cases filed by the main opposition party in the state.
He said: “We have been in a protracted legal battle over previous election that the RSIEC conducted, which Wike sacked elected officials and the case has not been vacated. It is wrong for a respected citizen to announce that their tenure has elapsed,” he said.
“Would RSIEC turn itself to Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court? Why can’t they wait for the court to determine the matter before fixing a date for council election? We are also saying that RSIEC, as presently constituted, cannot conduct election.”
IPAC chairman in the state, Sam Ihunwo, who condemned APC’s position, lauded RSIEC for its plan to conduct the election. He described the decision as a bold move to entrench democracy at the grassroots. He added that it was rather unfortunate and an illconsidered decision for the APC to withdraw from the exercise.
Ihunwo insisted that there was no truth in the claim by the state APC that local government election held in the state on May 23, 2015. “As you can see, 62 political parties are present to express their happiness with the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission for putting the machinery in place to conduct free, fair and genuine local government election on June 16, 2018,” he said. He argued that the judgement of the High Court of Rivers State on the matter put paid to whatever hope the APC had on the validity of the said May 23, 2015 local government election.
The APC’s planned boycott, notwithstanding, the state chairman of the PDP, Bro. Felix Obuah, during the re-registration of old and new members of the party, promised a level-playing field in the council election. He has been urging party members to be peaceful and play by the rules of the game throughout the process that would lead to the election.
While addressing party leaders recently, he advised that “even the persons who will be defecting today and wish to join our party must be registered. Do not restrict anyone from becoming a member. We need everybody and we do not want anyone to stop them from registering, due to personal interests.” Already, Obuah, a grassroots politician, who is also the chairman of Rivers State Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) has been rallying party faithful for the election and remains optimistic that the exercise will be free and fair.
Wike, who made a similar pledge, said imposition of candidates would not be allowed in the PDP. The governor, while addressing an expanded state stakeholders meeting of the party, said: “We will use the local government elections to test the waters. Let people come out and vote, so that we know that we are doing well.”
The Rivers governor also charged party members to ensure that those who would emerge as chairmen and councillors would defend their constituencies during elections. No doubt, while Governor Wike continues to deliver sound governance, and projects, Obuah has stepped up his game in instilling discipline within the party, while preparing the grounds for a triumphant council poll and a successful outing in the 2019 general elections.
…Stop blackmailing Fayose, PDP warns
Reacting to the claim by All Progressives Congress (APC) that Governor Ayodele Fayose ordered the demolition of its governorship candidates campaign billboard, Ekiti State Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr. Jackson Adebayo, accused the APC chairman in the state, Chief Jide Awe and members of his party of attempting to blackmail Fayose.
Adebayo said: “We don’t habour hoodlums in our party, it is APC that harbours hoodlums and you can see it from their recent congresses. “PDP is a party of peace, our rally in Oye that day was peaceful and the governor and our members were not responsible for the destruction of the billboard.
“APC should search its ranks for those who destroyed the billboard if ever it was destroyed because I am hearing it for the first time. Governor Fayose knows nothing about it and our members know nothing about it.”
Fasanmi canvasses support for Fayemi
Former Deputy Leader of pan Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere, Senator Ayo Fasanmi, has called on members of Afforenifere and electorate in Ekiti State to support the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, during the July 14 election in Ekiti State.
Speaking to journalists in Osogbo, Fasanmi, an indigene of Iye Ekiti, implored the people of Ekiti State to give their support to Fayemi for APC to seize power from PDP and return the state to the progressives’ fold, which he said it rightly belonged.
The former Afenifere deputy leader also commended all APC governorship aspirants in the state, especially the party’s Deputy National Chairman (South), Engr. Segun Oni, for their maturity, selflessness and the belief in the doctrine of party supremacy which he said was not common among popular politicians.
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