The contest to replace Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State has gone into full swing with intrigues and calculations almost comparable to the wit and drama that the outgoing governor deploys in the politics of the state that he has dominated in the past four years.
ALL eyes are on the two major political parties in the state – the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP and main opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, as the two major combatants in the forthcoming election due on July 14.
According to the regulations of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, candidates for the election are to emerge by April.
33 aspirants jostle for APC ticket
Aspirants in the APC have been declaring their intentions at the ward, local government, and state levels. Many of them have been unfolding their blueprints for the development of the state. Of the multitude that have declared their intentions to vie for the flag of the party at the primaries, only 33 are recognised by the party secretariat, according to the Ekiti State Deputy Chairman, Mrs. Kemi Olaleye.
Aggrieved aspirants kick as Fayose, Ekiti PDP anoint a sole candidate
In the PDP, only six aspirants have indicated interest in the race so far. Remarkably, of the six aspirants, only one, that is, the Deputy Governor, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, who is Governor Fayose’s choice has been able to access the state secretariat to obtain the form for the primaries.
Other aspirants on the banner of the PDP are Deputy Minority whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi; former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye; former banker, Chief Adebisi Omoyeni; former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Owoseeni Ajayi; and former Nigerian Ambassador to Canada, Chief Dare Bejide.
Although the Gboyega Oguntuase-led PDP State working committee has shown its bias towards Fayose’s anointed aspirant, it has not ruled out primaries to select the standard bearer.
Given the inclinations of Governor Fayose, other aspirants have mouthed allegations of dictatorship on the part of the governor and accused him of violating the party’s constitution by imposing his anointed aspirant on the party.
They have appealed to the National Chairman of the party, Chief Uche Secondus to conduct free, fair and credible primaries that would produce a popular and acceptable candidate, if the party is desirous of retaining power in the state.
We will ensure free and fair primaries – Ekiti PDP
Despite the seeming proclivity of the party towards the deputy governor, officials of the party have repeatedly given their assurance of conducting free and fair primaries.
In a recent statement, Oguntuwase seen as Fayose’s right hand man, reiterated that “organising a free and fair election for Ekiti PDP is not negotiable because it is the constitutional responsibility of the party.”
Dissolution of Ekiti PDP SWC way forward — Aspirants
Despite his assurances, the aspirants have continued to kick and recently called for the dissolution of the Oguntuase- led State Working Committee, SWC, for a credible primary to be organised.
“We reject without reservation the adoption of Prof. Olusola as the sole candidate of the PDP for the July 14 governorship election,” the aspirants said in a joint communiqué read out by Prince Adeyeye not too long ago.
“Governor Fayose has pitched his tent with Prof. Olusola and he should be disqualified from playing any role. The relevant provisions of the Electoral Act and the PDP constitution should be followed strictly, and arbitrary and illegal use of state apparatus like radio and television stations to subvert the truth must stop.”
Adeyeye urged Secondus to act fast and checkmate Fayose to prevent the calamity that befell PDP in Ondo from playing out in Ekiti.
Olujimi, who is representing Ekti South in the Senate added: “Whoever says we are politicians that can be wished away will have himself to blame, the result will be grievous. We don’t want to lose Ekiti but Governor Fayose is messing up the whole process. It was because people like us worked hard in 2014 that made the 16-0 possible for PDP.
“Prof. Olusola was only a beneficiary of our sweat, he didn’t contribute anything and now he wants to be adopted against the party’s constitution, this we will not accept,” she vowed.
Owoseeni and Bejide, who cited Section 50(1) ( 2) and 50(2b) of the PDP constitution, clarified that the governor and the SWC have no role whatsoever to play in the conduct of the primary, saying “allowing the governor to have his way in a crude manner may spell doom for the party.”
‘Fayose has done nothing wrong’
However, his aides insisted that Governor Fayose has not violated the PDP and the 1999 constitutions, arguing: “What the Governor did was in the exercise of his own right as a member of the party and as a Nigerian.
“He has exercised his fundamental rights, which he is entitled to. I want to assure other aspirants that his support for Prof. Kolapo Olusola has not precluded them from the primary or foreclosed the conduct of the primary. The primary will still hold and it is the delegates that will pick any of the aspirants as the candidate.
Problem of choice in APC
Although the APC is not bogged down by any of these agitations, it may have problems of choice going by the array of political heavyweights showing interest in the race.
Among the prominent aspirants in APC are Deputy National Chairman of the party and one-time Governor of the State, Asiwaju Segun Oni; Minister of Solid Mineral Development and another former Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi; Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Matters and one-time Senator, Babafemi Ojudu; former Chairman, Senate Committee on Privatisation, Senator Ayo Arise; former member of the House of Representatives and former Commissioner for Information and Strategy in Lagos State, Opeyemi Bamidele; two other former members of the House of Reps, Bimbo Daramola and Bamidele Faparusi; former Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Femi Bamisile; Senator Gbenga Aluko; and Afunminiyi Afuye.
Some newcomers whose activities have been so loud and attracted large followings include Australia-based medical doctor, Dr. Wole Oluyede; a businessman, Kola Alabi; Sunday Adebomi and Diran Adesua among others.
Too many hands
Some observers believe that the number is unwieldy and if not effectively and wisely pruned down, it could trigger intra-party bickering as witnessed recently in the run-up to the Ondo State governorship poll.
At the last count, about 33 aspirants have officially declared to run, by officially informing the state executives of their intent to vie for the party’s governorship ticket.
Zoning still dominates the Ekiti governorship race. Out of the three senatorial districts, only Ekiti South has not produced an elected governor. Ekiti North has produced twice (2007 – 2010, and 2010 – 2014). Ekiti Central has equally tasted the governorship thrice (1999 – 2003, 2003 – 2006 and 2014 to date).
This accounts for the loud clamour for the governorship slot to be ceded to Ekiti South. The senatorial district has the highest number of aspirants ahead of the 2018 election.
The motley crowd of aspirants is expected to be pruned down in the first quarter of 2018 when the parties are expected to hold their primaries. While some aspirants can be regarded as “serious contenders” others are “mere pretenders” who are only out either to test the waters or to be noticed.