Never in the history of election in Nigeria, particularly in the South-West, has an election generated so much anxiety and uncertainty as been seen in the forthcoming governorship election in Ekiti state. TOPE FAYEHUN writes on the chances of the candidates that want Governor Ayodele Fayose’s job.
No doubt, the tempo of political activities in Ekiti State has increased as its governorship election gathers momentum. It is arguably one of the most anticipated governorship elections in the country’s recent history.
The Ekiti election, according to analysts, will not only chart a new course for state politics but also determine, because of the preponderance of other influences, to a large extent, the direction that Nigerian politics may likely take in the much awaited 2019 general elections.
All the political parties participating in the election that will hold on Saturday have been crisscrossing the state, trying to woo the electorate for their candidates.
The serious contenders for the number one sit in the state are prepared to test their popularity among the electorate whose votes would determine their fate come July 14, 2018.
About 35 political parties and their candidates are standing for the coming election according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) but two of them are apparently the leading ones.
They are the candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, and his All Progressives Congress (APC) counterpart, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
The two top contenders have exhibited political boldness, broad financial war chest and a large army of supporters, which the other candidates apparently lack. Besides, their impressive credentials and attainments in public life make them eminently qualified for the plum job.
Below are the leading ones among the candidates and their rating.
Kolapo Olusola Eleka
Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka is the current deputy governor of the state. Eleka, a professor of Building Technology, has been on the lips of many in Ekiti State, not just for being the choice of Governor Ayo Fayose, but that of the members and leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The professor cum pastor who hails from Ikere-Ekiti, in the southern senatorial district of the state, had his first degree in Building from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Master’s degree in Construction Technology from the University of Lagos in 1993 and Ph.D. in Building Structures from the OAU in 2005.
Until his election as deputy governor of Ekiti State, the 49-year-old Eleka was a lecturer in the Department of Building, OAU and had done so for about 23 years as he was said to have started his career in 1990 as a Graduate Assistant from where he rose through the ranks to become an Associate Professor in 2009.
Since his adoption by the governor of the state, even before the primary election of his party, he hasn’t looked back in the quest to win the forthcoming poll so as to be able to continue to build and sustain what he always described as “good legacies of the Ayo Fayose administration.”
Fayose always ascribed the success story that his administration recorded in the education sector, moving from 34th position under the immediate past administration to 11th in 2016 to Eleka’s contribution.
The professor has been described as “humble, calculating, intelligent, brilliant and young”. His camp is promoting these qualities as one of the selling points.
Another factor that may work in his favour is the new generation he belongs to, taking into cognizance the just signed into law of the “not-too-young-to-rule” bill. Political observers see him and his running mate Alhaji Deji Ogunshakin, as a new breed in the politics of the state.
Also, the issue of zoning may likely play a major role in the forthcoming election. According to pundits, since the creation of the state 22years ago, only the south senatorial district has never produced a governor.
They stressed that the central senatorial district has produced two governors that are, the first civilian governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, and the current governor Ayodele Fayose, while the north senatorial district has also produced Segun Oni and Dr. Kayode Fayemi who is now representing the APC again in the election.
Going by this, the very fact that the PDP candidate who has not been accused of any corrupt acts hails from the second largest town in Ekiti State and from the south senatorial district is a major factor that will work for him in the July 14 election.
The name and image of Fayose is another factor that may help his candidature in the election. Fayose’s image looms large over the election as he is a grassroots as well as a consummate politician. He was said to have been well connected with the people of the state, even to extent of eating and drinking with them at all time. According to pundits, there is no way his influence will not play a big role in the election’s outcome.
Be that as it may, Eleka is seen as a novice and accidental politician in the state. Some people also believe that the overbearing influence of Fayose on Eleka’ administration will be so much that he would not be able to take any decision on his own. Some political analysts who do not like the Fayose style of governance are of the opinion that the administration of Eleka will also look like an extension of Fayose’s.
The non-payment of salaries to workers in Ekiti State is another albatross on the Eleka’s neck. As at the last count, primary school teachers and local government workers are been owed seven months’ salary, while their counterparts in the ministries and secondary schools are owed five (months’ salary. The development, according to observers, does not go down well with the workers.
Again, the intrigues that characterized the emergence of Eleka as the candidate of the party did not go down well with many major stakeholders and foundation members of the party. Most of them had defected to other political parties in the state ahead of the election.
Dr. John Olukayode Fayemi, the candidate of APC, in the forthcoming governorship election, was a former governor of the state. He hails from Isan-Ekiti in Oye Local Government Area in the Ekiti North Senatorial District.
Fayemi resigned as the Minister of Solid Minerals Development recently to pursue his second term governorship bid in the state as he lost his re-election bid to Fayose in 2014. No doubt about the fact that Fayemi is still popular in the state and his influence on some notable people in the state will be a factor that may likely speak for him in the poll.
The colourful billboards and large banners found nearly in all the nooks and crannies of the state, coupled with the huge crowd he is able to mobilize at his different rallies, suggest that his campaign is well funded.
For many party faithful, the Fayemi candidature is the best thing to happen to the state, especially when they reflect on the governance records of the incumbent.
Those who share this view always refer to his stewardship when he served the state between 2010 and 2014. They are of opinion that Fayemi performed excellently in terms of distribution of projects across the 16 local governments of the state. Today many towns are still enjoying five-kilometre roads he constructed across the state.
Another major factor that may likely work for him in the coming election is the fact that his party is at the helms of affairs at the federal level and roles of security agencies in any election can never be overemphasized like what allegedly played out during the 2014 governorship election in the state.
Since the 2019 general election is fast approaching, it is very clear that Fayemi, a scholar with interest in peace and conflict resolution, will enjoy the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari and all security agencies which play crucial roles in any election.
Fayemi in the state is referred to as ‘Oko Arugbo’, which means, husband of the aged because of the way he treated them when he was a governor of the state. One cannot deny the fact that elderly people in the state are in love with Fayemi because of his generosity to them as he usually then paid them a monthly stipend.
Also, most of those who contested against him during the primary election have agreed to work and be working for his success in the forthcoming governorship election. This, according to observers, is another good factor that will work for him.
Fayemi and the APC in the state are wooing the people with the benefits of returning Ekiti to mainstream politics, promising developmental projects from Abuja. President Buhari and Vice-president Yemi Osibajo have been part of the campaign and the presence of the Vice President during the presentation of the party flag to him is thought to possess the ability to sway votes in his favour.
The issue of raising funds for the election may not be difficult for him because pundits believe that Fayemi has the financial strength to tackle Fayose. Observers are of the opinion that the presidency and APC governors in the country would rally round him to ensure his victory in Ekiti and this has been demonstrated by a 77-member committee put in place for the election. He enjoys the support of the leadership of the APC in Abuja.
The recent defection of Prince Adeyeye, a grassroots politician from PDP to APC will also boost Fayemi’s chances during the July 14 election. Some people believe that Adeyeye is not just a politician that can be pushed aside being a former minister of works and that his followers who decamped with him to the APC also spread across the 18 local government areas of the state.
With his state wide political structures and financial resources available to prosecute the governorship race, Fayemi has a brighter chance of emerging victorious at the polls come next week.
Notwithstanding, there are some factors that may likely work against him during the poll. Some people in the state still see Fayemi as someone who does not have that touch with the common man. Some see him as a “foreigner” and “intellectual” who they know little about and who will not recognise and mingle with them like Fayose.
Political analysts say they are sure that the issue of federal might would not have any effect on the decisions of many of the electorate, in the midst of the ongoing recession, hardship and unpaid salaries, largely blamed on the president’s inability to turn the economy around for the better.
Also, the recent court action against his candidature by the campaign organization of Chief Segun Oni, one of the governorship aspirants, may likely be a clog in the wheel of progress of winning the July 14 election.
The Segun Oni Campaign Organisation (SOCO), in a communique at the end of its expanded meeting in Ado Ekiti, said they instituted the case because “we are treated as outsiders in APC.”
The organisation which filed its suit last week before the High Court of Ekiti state alleged that the group was ostracised and had suffered since the conclusion of the party’s primary where Fayemi emerged as the party’s candidate.
In the communiqué signed on behalf of SOCO by its director general, Dr. Ife Arowosoge, the group said the court case was in the interest of the APC in the state.
The communiqué said members of SOCO were “aware of the recent case pending before the High Court of Ekiti State instituted by the government of Ekiti state against the candidate of our party, Dr. Fayemi, for the purpose of disqualifying him from contesting the forthcoming election slated for July 14, 2018.”
The SOCO held that the suit by the government was aimed at “rendering our party incapable of presenting candidate at the election or removing him from office after winning the election if Ekiti State government wins their case no matter how long that takes.”
“It is on this note we unanimously resolved to support the foresighted legal action instituted by the Segun Oni group as this will not only prevent the party from not being part of the governorship election but, very importantly, strengthen the rule of law and our democracy in Nigeria.
“The concerned and informed APC members should endeavour to educate our teeming supporters and members of the public that the main purpose of the court action by the Segun Oni group is to rescue our party particularly at the state level, should the Ekiti State government’s case is decided against our candidate at any time.”
In addition, the group said the matter was meant “to protect the best interest of the members of the group and the greatest interest of the greatest number of Ekiti people, the legal action will defend our rights, privileges, and interests within the party.”
While urging the leaders of the party in the South West to be patient and show understanding, the group said its decision to go to court was to “protect in particular, the current and future best interest of the group, members of the party that are suffering so much unwarranted abuse and humiliation and who are not seen, heard or recognised as part of APC.
“The John Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation (JKFCO) has since from onset adopted the attitude of non-inclusiveness, ostracisation, marginalisation and demonstration of open hatred for Segun Oni and his group.”
It recalled that “the insinuation for all these started before the primary when it was reported that the main reason why Dr. Fayemi joined the race was to prevent a “stranger” like Segun Oni from taking over the APC. Their gospel belief is that Oni, aformer Deputy National Chairman (South) for APC is a PDP member who is a stranger to the APC.
“All efforts by Segun Oni and his group in all the 16 local government areas of Ekiti State to make Fayemi and his group treat us as one united political family have proved abortive. It has become more worrisome in that the Fayemi group has continued its acts of marginalization, maltreatment, harassment, and intimidation of our members at our party rallies.”
Sikiru Tae Lawal
Dr. Sikiru Tae Lawal was the deputy governor to former Governor Segun Oni, who ruled Ekiti between 2007 and October 15, 2010. Lawal, a native of Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti state capital, regarded as the most populated in the state is the candidate for the Labour Party, LP in the election.
The Ado-Ekiti-born politician may likely enjoy the support of his people who believe that the two major political parties have betrayed Ado-Ekiti people by their refusal to pick their governorship candidates from the town.
According to analysts, this is the first time the electorate will have the opportunity to elect a retired civil servant and such window should not be bungled through misplaced voting.
On the agitation by Muslims in Ekiti that it is their turn to produce the governor, Lawal may likely get it this time due to his position as Baba Adini’ of Ekiti State Muslims.
Analysts observed that his campaign has been well articulated and his messages straight to the point with the view to change the political thinking of the Ekiti voters who are inundated with the trends of money politics. His plan to develop the state through industrial revival has been considered well proposed and realizable.
But his performance at the forthcoming polls could be affected by the fact that the LP in the state may have literally gone comatose since the defection of Opeyemi Bamidele back to the APC.
Also, the obvious lack of funding of the Lawal campaign when compared with the two other contending parties is likely going to adversely affect the number of votes that would be registered against his name. This is because of the mindset of people who would follow only those who are willing to part with a lot of money.
A young banker, Mr. Akinloye Ayegbusi, 44, is the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) for the July 14 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State.
Akinloye Aiyegbusi who hails from Usi-Ekiti in Ikole Local Government Area of the state defeated a former ambassador to Canada, Dare Bejide, and others, to win the SDP ticket for polls.
The banker turned politician is described as a fresh face on the block and poised to take advantage and ride a storm of grassroots support into the state’s government house in Ado-Ekiti.
Some observers said Aiyegbusi is gunning to become the David who upends the Goliaths in the forthcoming elections with his intention to usher in a youth revolution in the state.
But his party is not known to the people of the state and the way the party treated a former ambassador to Canada, Dare Bejide, during the primary election, may have some negative effects for the SDP candidate.
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