Barring any unforseen circumstance, the next governorship election in Ekiti State is expected to hold to hold by October 2022.
The last one was conducted on July 14, 2018, when Governor Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Prof. kolapo Olusola Eleka.
As expected, political gladiators across parties have begun overt and covert moves to put their platforms and their would be candidates in vantage position to clinch party tickets in anticipation of a date and timetable for the election.
So far, PDP appears to be more in the spotlight considering the internal wrangling the party has been battling. The party has been split between the camps of former governor Ayo Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi.
Nevertheless, a former governor of the state, Chief Segun Oni, who recently returned to the party, has thrown his hat into the ring despite the fact that the poll is still about 18 months away.
Oni was the governor of Ekiti between May 29, 2007 and October 15, 2010. He was removed from office after a judgement delivered by former president of Appeal Court, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, in a case instituted by Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress (AC).
Interestingly, Oni dumped PDP for APC in 2014 to support Fayemi’s second term ambition, and was made the deputy national chairman (South) of the party. He contested the 2018 APC governorship primary but was beaten by Fayemi who won the party’s governorship ticket and secured a second term mandate.
Oni returned to the PDP in 2020 following the allegation of maltreatment and ostracisation of his supporters in APC.
Since his return to PDP, the chieftain has been making statements about his governorship ambition in spite of the leadership crisis bedevilling PDP in the state and the jaded efforts to resolve the rift.
About two days into this year, residents of the state woke up to see a flurry of Oni governorship posters in strategic locations across the state.
The posters which had PDP logo and a bold inscription: “Segun Oni for Governor, for a Greater Tomorrow” were pasted in conspicuous places in Ado Ekiti metropolis and other major towns and communities across the 16 local government areas of the state.
Reacting, a former special adviser to Oni during his time as a governor, Dr Bayo Arowolaju said the posters must have emanated from those agitating for the return of his former boss as a governor.
Arowolaju who is a member of the media team of ex-governor’s political platform ‘Atunse Ekiti’, added that the pressure on his former boss to return as a governor has been immense in the last one year, saying the posters should be a product of one of those agitations.
“These posters to us were just a call that the right person should be allowed to govern the state for the people to feel the dividends of democracy,” he said.
But this move comes at a time the leadership crisis rocking the state chapter of the party appears to be getting worse.
The party has since been polarised with the emergence of two parallel state executive committee in the last year PDP state congresses.
One of the state exco, led by the former Environment commissioner in the state, Chief Bisi Kolawole is loyal to the former governor of the state, Mr Ayodele Fayose while the other headed by former house of representatives member, Hon Kehinde Odebunmi has the backing of the Senator representing Ekiti South, Mrs Biodun Olujimi.
The conduct and outcome of the party state ward congresses, held on March 7, 2020 has become a matter of litigation between the two factions as Fayose and Olujimi keep battling each other over the leadership and structure of the PDP in the state.
A recent stakeholders meeting in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, where Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike was expected to mediate between Governor Seyi Makinde and Fayose on their disagreement over the PDP leadership structure in South West could not hold because of the absence of the former Ekiti state governor and his perceived cohorts.
Apart from Governor Wike, other stalwarts of the party in the zone said to be in Ibadan for the meeting were former Osun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Segun Oni, Senator Olujimi, Eyitayo Jegede and some party leaders from Lagos State.
It was gathered that while state party chairmen of Ondo and Oyo were in attendance, those of Ekiti, Ogun, Osun and Lagos states were no where to be found.
The PDP crisis in Ekiti however got worse on January 27, 2021 as the Appeal Court, Ado Ekiti Division, dismissed an appeal filed by the pro-Senator Biodun Olujimi PDP faction against the judgement of a Federal High Court over the party’s ward congresses.
In the matter with suit number: CA/EK/57/2020, the Appeal Court upheld the verdict of the trial court and resolved the issues against the appellant.
One Samson Olalekan Oladimeji filed the matter on behalf of the PDP faction loyal to Olujimi.
Delivering the judgement, the presiding Judge, Justice T.N Orji-Abadua, said, “the appellant’s case was not justifiable since it was centred on internal affairs of a political party.”
Oladimeji and others had filed an exparte motion at the lower court seeking an order to restrain the National Working Committee of the PDP from announcing, publishing, and recognising any list as a result of the March 7, 2020 election of ward executives and three ad-hoc delegates.
They also sought an order of the court restraining the party from acting on, or making use of the names of winners of the congresses for the purpose of the local government, state and zonal congresses.
Justice Uche N. Agomoh of the Federal High Court, in an earlier ruling on the matter on Friday, July 17, 2020, dismissed the suit, describing it as “undoubtedly not justiceable as the same is within an internal affair of the PDP.”
Fayose while reacting to the judgement of the appellate court said, “To all PDP members, please see this as victory for all. No victor, no vanquished. We are in deep talks to reconcile all.”
But Olujimi, who spoke through her media aide, Chief Sanya Atofarati, said “Our lawyers are currently reviewing the judgment and at the appropriate time, we will take a position”.
Few days after, Olujimi’s faction declared its resolve to approach the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling of the Appeal Court which affirmed pro-Ayodele Fayose’s ward congresses.
Despite the unstable posture of the party, Oni made a bold step towards realising his ambition when on February 1, 2021 he openly expressed interest in contesting the 2022 governorship election in the state.
He spoke in Adebayo area of Ado Ekiti, the state capital during the inauguration of his campaign office christened: “PDP family edifice”, ahead of the poll.
The PDP chieftain said he would work with other worthy leaders of the party, including Fayose, Olujimi and others, to reposition the party and achieve his dream of becoming the next governor of the state.
Oni who boasted that APC will be defeated in the 2022 governorship election, posited that the masses were already disenchanted with APC.
He said, “except the parameters change, I am interested in the governorship. Though, only God knows tomorrow, but as of now yes, I am contesting and we are projecting that God will sanction it”.
Describing incumbency power as not really an uphill task to the party, Oni stated: “Ekiti PDP is not afraid of incumbency power and the federal might. At a time in the history, Nigeria was being controlled by PDP. But Nigerians changed their minds and voted for APC in 2015.”
On the appeal to other leaders to midwife the process of reconciliation in Ekiti PDP, Oni said: “No single action can cement any crack in a political party, but when the process are coming from different ways, then you see the crack filled up.
“I have been in politics for long and I understand the importance of unity. Let all leaders play their roles. Politics is a team game. As for me, I am not going to engage in names calling”.
Oni, it would be recalled, was one of the party bigwigs that attended the state congress conducted by pro-Fayose group last year but the two term former governor is said to be backing one of his allies from Ado Ekiti, who served as commissioner under his government for the party ticket in 2022.
Fayose’s deputy, in the immediate past administration, Prof. Olusola Eleka who was the PDP candidate in the 2018 governorship election and several others are also said to be interested in contesting for the seat.
Speaking on Oni’s interest in the governorship contest, the publicity secretary of the pro- Olujimi state executive, Mr Sanya Adesua said Oni has every right to contest for any position but added that he cannot evaluate the former governor on his decision.
Also, the publicity secretary of the PDP state exco loyal to Fayose, Mr Rapheal Adeyanju said Oni is eminently qualified to contest for any position in the party.
According to him, “Segun Oni is a bona-fide member of our great party, and he is entitled to all the rights and privileges of the party like any other member of the party. He is legally qualified to aspire to any office in the party, he had once served as a governor in the state and the constitution has not disqualified him from contesting for another term.”
Although both camps seems to have backed his stance in the party so far, whether it can serve as a springboard towards mending the fraction in the party is another matter.
Perhaps time will tell whether the feuding camps are courting Oni’s patronage to boost their stance in the party.
Oni still has hurdles ahead of him to scale, being the first person to indicate interest in the plum seat as several other aspirants within and outside his party will in no distance time express their interest in the contest.