ALO ABIOLA examines the issues surrounding the battle for supremacy as parties and aspirants strategise to outdo one another in the race for the Ekiti State Government House in the forthcoming governorship election
Few months away from the next governorship election in Ekiti State, political activities have peaked with politicians across parties engaging in what could be described as mild haywire meetings, consultations and alignment building to perfect plans towards winning their parties’ tickets and take over the mantle of leadership from Governor Ayodele Fayose, whose four-year term expires on October 15.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had fixed the date of the election for July 14, with no fewer than 60 gubernatorial aspirants from different parties and across the three senatorial districts of the state indicating interest in flying the flags of their respective parties at the poll.
The All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mega People Progressive Party (MPPP) and Accord Party are major political parties with more than one governorship aspirant seeking to vie for the ticket on their platforms.
There are also indications that the Social Democratic Party (SDP) is joining the ranks, going by the recent development about some political bigwigs’ resolve to pitch their tent with the party, which many have described as the beautiful bride of Nigeria’s politics.
Contestants from political parties like the Advanced Peoples Democratic Alliance (APDA), Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Independent Democrats (ID) and Action Democratic Party (ADP), are also in the race to get their party to the Oke-Ayoba Government House.
Those in contention for the MPPP ticket include, former deputy governor, Chief Biodun Aluko; former Nigeria’s envoy to Greece, Amb. Ayodele Ayodeji, and former Communications Minister, Chief Bode Olowoporoku. Others are Rev. Kunle Afe , Barr. Tope Adebayo (APDA), Com. Tosin Ajibare, (ID) and Otunba Segun Adewale (ADP).
The two major political parties in the state – the APC and the PDP, are always in the news for intra and inter-party bickering as the election approaches.
At the last count, 35 gubernatorial aspirants on the platform of the APC have visited the state secretariat of the party in Ado Ekiti, the state capital, to declare their intention to contest the plum seat on the platform of the party.
Several others had only registered their aspiration through adverts and jingles on radio and television and have been visiting party leaders and members across the 16 local government areas of the state for consultation and support for their ambition.
Notable among the APC aspirants gunning for the ticket are a former governor and the party’s deputy national chairman, South, Chief Segun Oni; Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu; former members of the National Assembly, Senator Ayodele Arise, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, Hon. Bamidele Faparusi, Hon Bimbo Daramola, Senator Gbenga Aluko; former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Femi Bamisile; an IT consultant and a successful businessman, Mr Kola Alabi; a renowned philanthropist, Kayode Ojo; former state Commissioner for Works, Chief Duran Adesua; a medical doctor turned politician, Dr Adebayo Orire; a medical doctor and farmer, Dr Sole Oluyede; Mr Olumuyiwa Olumilua and a former Commissioner for Information, Hon. Afunminiyi Afuye, among others have indicated their intention to contest for the party’s ticket.
Rumours are rife in the state that the immediate past governor of the state and Minister of Solid Mineral Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, was planning to stage a comeback. Though he is yet to make a public declaration to that effect, feelers have it that he may soon make his intention known to the party as his loyalists are urging him to join the race.
In the PDP, prominent among those who indicated interest in the race for the gubernatorial ticket of the party are the senator representing Ekiti South, Mrs Biodun Olujimi; a former Minister of State for Works and former Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prince Adedayo Adeyeye; a former Nigeria envoy to Canada Amb. Dare Bejide; the immediate past Commissioner for Justice, Mr Owoseeni Ajayi; and the deputy governor of the state, Prof Kolapo Olusola, among others.
Others are the former Commissioner for Works, Mr. Kayode Oso; former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon. Olatunji Odeyemi and former deputy governor, Dr Sikiru Lawal, who seemed to have opted out of the race.
Former Fayose’s deputy, Chief Biodun Aluko, has since dumped the PDP for the Mega Party of Nigeria, MPN, while another former deputy to the governor, who is also from Ikere Ekiti, Chief Adebisi Omoyeni, is still an aspirant on the platform of PDP.
Though there were no noticeable internal wrangling to contend with in the state chapter of the APC, political analysts were of the view that its long list of aspirants could trigger intra-party bickering as witnessed in the run-up to the last Ondo State governorship poll.
One thing that cannot be easily wished away is that the agitation for power shift has been a recurring one, especially from the southern zone of the state, which is yet to produce an occupant to the number-one seat since the creation of the state about 21 years ago.
The agitation gained more prominence in the build up to 2014 polls and has again come to the fore as there has been a loud clamour for the governorship ticket to be ceded to Ekiti South senatorial district, which has the highest number of aspirants ahead of the 2018 election.
While Ekiti North has produced the state governor twice (2007 – 2010, 2010 – 2014), and Ekiti Central has equally governed the state thrice (1999 – 2003, 2003 – 2006 and 2014 to date); Ekiti South as the third senatorial district of the state has not been lucky to occupy the coveted position even for once.
Other factors that could decide who clinches the parties’ tickets according to observers, is an aspirant being in the good book of acceptability of the Federal Government and the national leadership of the APC, while the seemingly overbearing influence of Fayose, who is expected to play a crucial role in anointing his successor with the machinery of the party at his disposal to ride on his name to power, is also expected to play a vital role.
The victory of the party in the 2015 presidential election, to some people was responsible for the large number of aspirants. The fear and concerns of many of the party’s supporters and aspirants alike is that some of the contestants may use their influences and connections with the presidency, party national leadership as well as party machinery in the state to influence the processes leading to the shadow election in their favour.
The agitation by some of the aspirants that the ticket should be ceded to the southern district of the state is a major factor which seems peculiar to all the political parties in the state.
For Faparusi and some APC governorship aspirants from the zone, the APC must hearken to the agitations of zoning the governorship ticket to the zone or end up regretting it if it acted otherwise.
Faparusi who noted that zoning has become a serious issue the party can’t discountenance, except it was not desirous of winning the election, said what Ekiti people were craving for is fairness, justice and fair play among the three senatorial districts.
Speaking on the zoning issue, Bamidele, alongside some aspirants, most of whom are not from the south, described the agitations as legitimate, but opined that such would not preclude contestants from other districts from exercising their rights in line with the constitution.
Bamidele said, “I want to say that zoning is a legitimate issue. It is also legitimate for every district of the state to aspire in line with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The constitution of our party didn’t respect zoning and even the constitution, so we are free to contest irrespective of the legitimacy of the agitations.”
The crisis within the PDP in the state began on Wednesday, September 8, 2017, when Governor Fayose cleverly brought all the critical stakeholders within the party in the state together to adopt Olusola, from Ekiti South Senatorial District, as the preferred governorship candidate of the party.
The meeting held at the Government House pavilion had in attendance the state PDP chairman, Gboyega Oguntuase, the Secretary to the State Government, Dr Modupe Alade, the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Kola Oluwawole, the PDP chairmen in the 16 local government councils and ward leaders, among others.
The action, which did not go down well with members and notable aspirants has been generating serious crisis within the party.
To reject the governor’s action, which was capable of foreclosing their ambitions, Adeyeye, Olujimi, Bejide and Ajayi addressed a press conference, where they described the action as a flagrant violation of Section 50, sub-sections A and B of the party’s constitution, which made it imperative for the conduct of a primary when consensus can’t be reached for any elective positions.
The aspirants who appealed to the National Chairman of the party, Chief Uche Secondus, to conduct a free and fair primary election in the state, warned that the party may lose the election if Fayose is allowed to subvert the party’s constitution and impose his favoured candidate.
They also called for the dissolution of the State Working Committee (SWC), led by Oguntuase and set up a caretaker committee to conduct the primary.
They also called on the national leadership of the party to exclude Fayose and the state chairman of the party, Oguntuase, from partaking in the conduct of the primary, saying the “duo have already compromised, they have taken positions and cannot be fair to all the aspirants.”
At an event held about a week ago in Ado Ekiti, Fayose said he would support whoever emerged as candidate of the PDP and ensure a level-playing ground for all aspirants in the primary.
He, however, hinted that nothing would make him waver in his support for his deputy to succeed him in the July 14 poll.
He said, “In the spirit of understanding we had with the Senator David Mark-led reconciliation committee, knowing that we have more than one aspirant, I will ensure a level-playing ground.
“I have pitched my tent with Prof Olusola and I stand with him, today and tomorrow. We are going to give everybody the right of primary.”
Despite the disagreement on Olusola’s adoption, which has polarised the PDP in the state, some of its members and supporters still believe in the popularity of Fayose to deliver the goods and repeat the 2014 feat.
Other major stakeholders in the PDP were also of the opinion that if the aggrieved aspirants, the majority of whom are from the same southern zone as Olusola were not properly pacified, it may spell doom for the party in the election.
As it is, it may be too late for other contenders to join the race, the political parties are expected to look for a way to prune down the number of the aspirants to a manageable size before the end of April, when the parties are expected to hold their primaries.
Until the primaries are conducted, the aspirants continue to work on how they will emerge victorious and fly their parties’ banner at the July 14 poll.