With the Anambra State governorship election over, all eyes are now on Ekiti State as the tenure of the sitting governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, ends next year.
Although the election is billed for June 18, 2022, aspirants are already jostling for the number one political office in the state. The two main political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are poised to maintain leadership of the state or take over the driver’s seat as the case may be.
Parading notable aspirants ahead the Ekiti State governorship election, to be held in June, 2022, the two major parties are not leaving anything to chance in their bids to produce Fayemi’s successor.
However, two parties would have to deal with two thorny issues namely the prospect of a direct primary and an alleged imposition or anointing of a particular candidate as the standard-bearer.
In the PDP, these issues seem rather more defined within the party as it has repeatedly kicked against the direct primary option on grounds that parties reserved the right to choose the pattern it wants in conducting party primaries.
As for the imposition of candidates, with the party in opposition and no strong god-father like image in the state party so far, the prospects of a keenly fought primary is brighter.
But that isn’t the case in APC. So far, the heated debate within the party over the adoption of direct primary and possibility of imposition of a candidate at the party’s governorship primary election scheduled for next January is raising concerns among stakeholders.
The Bill on direct primary was recently passed by the National Assembly and is waiting for the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila who championed the Bill, argues that direct primary would ensure accountability and adequate representation.
He noted that political office holders would, henceforth, not be at the whims and caprices of some few powerful individuals, known as delegates.
Rather, he said an elected public official, who emerged through direct primary, would seek to work for the generality of party members and also the electorate.
The Speaker also said direct primary would open up the space to embrace youths and also give more room for political participation. He is however not oblivious of the discomfiture the new arrangement would bring to some members of the political class.
The APC leadership backed by its governors is not having any of that argument.
The party leaders are opposed to it on the ground that it will overstretch the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). They also said it could be undemocratic.
With the matter now in the hands of the executive, APC leaders, including some of its governors, and its elected National Assembly members, held a closed-door meeting with the vice president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo over the matter.
The vice president convened the meeting with the blessing of his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari who was away on a foreign assignment.
However, one of the federal lawmakers, who did not want his name in print, disclosed that they had a superior argument supporting direct primary.
“In the Villa, on Tuesday, we held a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the adoption of direct primary for future elections in the country. We told the vice president that that is what we want. But the APC national leadership and the governors present at the meeting told the vice president that they don’t want a direct primary.”
He added, “Direct primary is the best way to go. There is no commentator, be it from the civil society organisations or other groups, that have anything against direct primary. This is the most popular bill that has ever been passed by the National Assembly.”
As the debate over the adoption of direct primaries continues, the tension and uncertainty within APC, ahead of the Ekiti poll, is also bound to heighten, pundits argue.
However, the situation became dicey as allegations of a preferred candidate within the APC Ekiti State chapter emerged.
It was initially the secretary to the state government (SSG), Mr Biodun Oyebanji, was the preferred candidate for the 2022 election.
Although the allegation has been variously denied, it was said to have rattled many government officials and party leaders in the state.
A concerned top APC member in the state disclosed that the rumoured anointing had polarised the party. He said, “if the rumour is not checked such reckless, it is capable of tearing the APC apart and subsequently spoiling its chances during the governorship and other elections in the state.”
Chief of staff (CoS) to Governor Fayemi, Mr Biodun Omoleye, debunked the alleged anointing of the SSG or any other person for the election, during an emergency which he summoned over the matter.
But in a bid to nip the issue in the bud, Governor Fayemi held a meeting with the elected APC members in the House of Representatives.
Confirming the meeting with the governor, Hon Femi Bamisile, who represents Gbonyin/Emure/Ekiti East Federal Constituency, said it was held a day after the meeting with Vice President Osinbajo.
Bamisile, a former speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly and the chairman, House Committee on Federal Road Maintenance Agency, said the essence of the meeting was to hear directly from the governor on the rumour of a preferred candidate for the governorship election and to stem the drift in the party arising thereof.
“After the tripartite meeting we held with the vice president inside the Villa, we, the elected members of the House of Representatives from Ekiti State went to meet with Governor Fayemi the following morning (Wednesday),” he said.
Recounting his conversation with the governor, he expressed his fears about the rumour of a preferred candidate.
“I have come to intimate you of my intention to contest the governorship election to which you said no problem, that the leadership will decide. But all of a sudden, I just read that you have adopted the SSG, But I decided to keep quiet so that whenever we meet, we will discuss it.
“Three days later, we read again that your Chief Press Secretary said there was nothing like anointing, noting that anyone talking about it is talking from the pit of hell. He said no one has been adopted. Your Excellency, now that we are sitting together, we would like to know the true situation of things.
“I also confirmed that you are in Abuja when I read again that the Chief of Staff has summoned a meeting at the Government House with all political office holders, denying the story of the anointing candidate,” he said.
He added that he expressed concern at the way some persons in the administration have been parading themselves as being too powerful in the scheme of things.
“But the governor calmed me down, admonishing me not to mind them. I am not the only one that was at the meeting, other five members of the House of Representatives were also in attendance.
“The governor said the reality is that he cannot take any decision without us, the National Assembly members and that the truth is that the decision cannot be a one-man show,” he said.
Bamisile however cautioned that the “Governorship election in Ekiti is beyond one person and that is why someone like me is in support of direct primary.
“This is because, instead of hand-picking anyone, let the people choose their preferred candidate and the whole of Nigeria will know that we have been free and fair in choosing the party’s flag bearer.”
Without a doubt, the build up to parties’ primaries will result in heightened intrigues over the issue of direct primary and plots to impose candidates in both parties. But how the parties manage the situation might make the difference.