THIS is not the first time Engineer Segun Oni and Dr Kayode Fayemi would be sparring on the same turf.
This time, though with a little difference, both are not operating from opposing camps.
The governorship election in Ekiti State between the two, which promises to be another epic battle, will be fought within the same party.
How the battle span out would be an interesting scenario, as the two gladiators, familiar with the political turf of their party would be engaging in a dog fight in the All Progressives Congress, APC, on May 5, 2018.
Aside Fayemi and Oni, others who have thrown their hats in the ring are Messrs Opeyemi Bamidele, Babafemi Ojudu among others.
Whoever emerges as the APC candidate will slug it out with the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the July governorship election.
In the APC primary, over 3,000 delegates across the 177 wards in the state are expected to choose among the 26 governorship contestants who would fly the flag of the party in the July 14 poll.
Oni and Fayemi’s first and second encounter were in the governorship elections of April 14, 2007 and April 25, May 5, 2009 respectively.
Oni, then a candidate of the PDP, was declared as winner twice.
He was declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, when Fayemi was candidate of the defunct Action Congress, AC.
Fayemi headed for the Election Petitions Tribunal twice and the Court of Appeal twice before he was eventually declared winner and sworn in as governor on October 16, 2010.
Oni’s ambition and chances
Oni also challenged Fayemi’s court victory up to the Supreme Court, but was unsuccessful before he defected to the APC and emerged as the Deputy National Chairman (South), a position he occupied until recently when he threw his hat into the ring to contest the governorship primary of his party.
Oni’s entry into the race is throwing up some issues, which would shape the APC primary and the election, if he wins the primary.
While some forces in the APC are comfortable with Oni’s entry into the race, others are kicking against it.
To them, Ekiti has seen the best of Oni, he had gotten three and a half years to prove his mettle, he needs to give others the chance to prove their worth and bring new initiatives.
His Special Adviser on Media, Mr Steve Alabi, told
Vanguard that Oni has not forgotten anything in the Government House.
Alabi said: “He is a man being called upon by the people, he was actually persuaded to come into the contest, not that he’s the one who showed interest in the contest.
“You would recall that there was a time when he was still in the PDP, the party hierarchy called on him to contest because they felt he had the clout to win the election for the party. He told them categorically that the party should go and pick a person from Ekiti South Senatorial District, he said anyone they pick, he would support.
“Oni believes that the state deserves a person that would put everything into delivering the dividends of democracy to the people and not ask for anything back. He thinks the people deserve that kind of leadership and the people have told him that he’s the kind of leader they want at this time, so, he didn’t forget anything in the government house.
He’s just a man being persuaded by the people to come out and rescue the state, Oni is not an arrogant person, he probably wouldn’t have listened to the people, he would have said I was unjustly asked to go and why are you people calling me again?”
According to Alabi, Oni’s chances are very bright. “I believe and everybody knows based on the feelers we have been having from the field, that he’s the leading aspirant, not only in APC but among all the parties. He’s going to win the primary.
“The chances are very bright, everybody in the state, civil servants, teachers, local government workers, university students and lecturers, pensioners, artisans, Okada riders, drivers etc., are calling on him to come back, because what he did when he was the governor the first time are the things that convinced the people that he’s the right candidate for the job. I do not know anyone among the contestants who can seriously say that he has the kind of support we are getting.”
Fayemi is the current Minister of Mines and Steel Development, whom despite his controversial defeat by the incumbent, Governor Ayo Fayose in the 2014 election, bestrode the political space in the state like a colossus.
Before he eventually made official his intention to run for the governorship seat of the state last week Saturday, Governor Fayose had made many attempts to stop him in his track.
To many political observers and analysts in the state, Fayemi’s return is beyond the much touted unfinished business.
Political pundits opine that it is a battle to restore his pride and give his political career a sure footing.
He’s therefore expected to fight every inch of the way, to earn the flag of the party as candidate for the July 14 gubernatorial election.
Speaking a day before his declaration, Fayemi said his declaration had sent jitters down the spines of many politicians within and outside APC in the state
He said: “There has been a propaganda machine by the sitting governor of Ekiti State and I must say, even some members of my own party, who probably felt if the former governor joined the race, it will upset the apple cart.”
Explaining the general acclaim for his return among party members, he said: “My reception during the tour of the local governments was beyond my expectation. The tour afforded me the opportunity to remind the people of what we used to do and what we used to have. I told them I was not infallible as Governor, I made my mistakes but I have also learnt my lessons in the course of being out of office in the last four years.”
While addressing the crowd that came to witness his declaration, he described the government White Paper pronouncing his ban from public office for 10 years as nothing but “a tissue paper.”
Explaining why he’s returning to government house, Fayemi said: “I feel a profound sense of unfinished business. Unfinished business in the sense that all of what I did in office, have been abandoned to rot, particularly our efforts in the areas of human capital development, entrepreneurship, tourism development and health care have actually been severely damaged.
“So when you go around Ekiti and when you talk to people, the young, old, pregnant women and people who benefited from the variety of things that we did, pupils in schools, university students benefited from our bursary and scholarships that no longer exists in this state. Nobody gives scholarships again, nobody gives bursary again, and then you can understand the pain I feel about missed opportunities for our people.
“If it were to be about me, I really do not need to be governor in order to live a decent life, and I’m sure you will agree with me, Abuja is an easier setting to operate from as a minster, if I were to see politics as business, it is also a better place to network and gain opportunities to do other things but I will not be fulfilled if I were to ignore all of the damage that have been done in this state.”
Dismissing the insinuations that the primary is already tilted in his favour because his administration installed the leadership of the party and that the President has given his nod, Fayemi said: “All manners of brick-backs are going to be thrown in a race of this nature. I’ve heard some of these allegations, but I’m assuring that when people say that, I believe it’s actually an insult on the delegates who are independent minded to the best of my knowledge and who are actively associated with one aspirant or the other. If you go out in the field, you will see delegates in different camps, so if what you are saying is true, then I shouldn’t be going round the state seeking the support of the delegates, I should just sit in Abuja and wait for the election to happen on May 5th and then I know that they are in my pockets. I’m not taking any of our delegates for granted.”
Chances and Presidency endorsement
One would have thought, as one of the pointmen for President Muhammadu Buhari, his governorship ambition would have been a fait accompli but he said: “I’m running on the basis of a record that I established as a governor in this state and I can also not detach myself from the government in which I served, that is also going to play up. I work for a principal, so it is not possible that I’m running around the way I’m now, if I had not gone to my principal and say, ‘Sir I’m thinking of going back to Ekiti, that I need your approval for me to pursue that and if you think I shouldn’t, good, but if you don’t have any objection, I would like to crave your indulgence to go home and repair the damage that has been done in my state.’
That is not necessarily an endorsement and anyone who knows President Buhari the way he functions, would know that he is not the type that would insert himself in a race that is clearly based on clear guidelines and principles and you would see him demonstrate it consistently, including most recently with the question of elongation in our party, he doesn’t have that track record, he’s not the type that we had seen with the PDP government, where once the president said this is my man, no one dares to oppose him. President Buhari would not even say that.
“On the second purported claim that I installed the leadership of the party, there is no doubt that the leadership of the party emerged at the time I was the governor of the state. This leadership emerged in 2014 and four years after, according to the constitution of our party, the leadership will change in 2018, apart from Osun and Ekiti states, which would change in September 2018, that was when they came into office.
“But again, when you look at the background of the leadership you were talking about in our party, you have in the executive of our party, people who come from the PDP or new PDP in the state executive, you have traditional ACN who came from my side of the party in that same executive, you have people who also came from other tendencies even within the brother APC family. So, we are not all sleeping and facing the same direction, but the most important thing for me is people have a record to serve. If you are running, it is a market place, you need to look at your own unique selling point and place that before the delegates.
“So, anyone who says Fayemi has the same president backing and that he has the structure of the party in his pocket, I believe that person is mistaken on both count.”
Beyond the surface
A very close ally of the Minster told Vanguard that the party’s ticket is very safe and secure in Fayemi’s pocket.
The source said 5 out of the 13 ward member executives in all the 177 wards in the state are solidly behind the minister, while the rest are open for grabs. He added that 26 member of the party in each of the 177 wards were receiving 5000 each since Fayemi was appointed as Minister.
Aside from this, Fayemi, the source noted also dishes out occasional and regular largesse to the state and local government executives of the party.
This, perhaps, has also ensured that party members get federal boards and commission’s appointment.
Fayemi’s perceived arrogance and rigid nature have been his Achilles heel, analysts readily point to the running battle he had with the Teachers, Local Government workers and civil servants.
They also pointed to his inability to exert effective political control over some of his appointees who were given free reign and used such powers to sabotage his administration.