Ekiti State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is at the threshold of history. The polarised chapter has a succession hurdle to cross. The way the challenge is resolved will determine its future. How will the PDP governorship flag bearer emerge at the primary? How can the party avert post-primary crisis?
Eyes are on Governor Ayodele Fayose, the main character in the succession battle. His tenure of office expires on October 15. Initially, he diverted public attention by saying that he was waiting on God for direction. Peeping into the future, he has endorsed his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, son of a grassroots politician from Ikere-Ekiti, Pa Ojo Eleka. Like other aspirants, the anointed candidate was taken aback, since his boss had told him that he will not leave him behind at the Government House.
Hailing Fayose for the decision, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Hon. Kola Oluwawole, described it as an act of God. He said the choice of the accomplished scholar and Christ Apostolic Church (CAC) pastor reflected the wishes of the stakeholders. On why he changed his mind on Olusola, the governor said: “man proposes and God disposes.”
The decision to anoint the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) don has drawn the ire of co-aspirants, including former Minister of State for Works Prince Dayo Adeyeye from Ise-Ekiti, former Secretary to Government Ambassador Dare Bejide from Ilawe and Senator Biodun Olujimi from Omuo-Ekiti. Threatening fire and brimstone, they said the decision will not stand.
Other aspirants-Chief Adebisi Omoyeni, former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Owoseni Ajayi, former Deputy Governor Dr. Sikiru Lawal and a businessman, Otunba Segun Adewale, who had shifted his political base from Lagos to Ekiti-are enveloped in anxiety.
Miffed by Olusola’s endorsement, Olujimi described it as an imposition. She emphasised that it was in bad faith. In retrospect, having worked closely with Fayose, the senator from Ekiti South cannot underrate the governor’s resilience and capacity for maneuvering. Adeyeye, former National Publicity Secretary of the party, was more combative. He said the endorsement was a breach of the party’s constitution. The Ise-Ekiti prince called for a free and fair primary for all aspirants. “PDP as a political party is bigger and larger than an individual, no matter how highly placed he or she may be as to override the rules and regulations of the party, which are sacrosanct in the election of any candidate for elective position,” Adeyeye said.
The import of the endorsement was not lost on Bejide, the former secretary of the party. He disputed Olusola’s sole candidacy, urging party members to disregard the “comedy.” He vented his anger, saying: “Any caucus of the party can adopt any candidate. Whether the choice of Olusola by his caucus has Fayose’s backing holds no water as no one can impose a candidate on the party.”
In Ajayi’s view, the PDP National Working Committee (NWC), and not Fayose, will conduct the primary and determine who gets the ticket.
Despite these reactions, some followers of the aggrieved aspirants have been dumping them and gravitating towards the direction of Olusola, the favoured candidate. They know that reconciliation may be difficult after the poll. Also, although these contenders are united by common threat, they are not ready to pull resources together to confront Fayose. They are sharply divided by personal ambitions. The aspirants have been over-concentrate their efforts on Olusola’s endorsement, instead of concentrating energy on how to get delegates’ votes by selling their manifestos.
Olusola is a lucky man. He did not vie for the driver’s seat. Obviously, his staying power is that he is not a rival deputy and he has not aspired to the number one position under Fayose. Thus, he has stayed focused as a loyal spare tyre. That his boss had alerted him to the danger of growing wings when he told him categorically that they would vacate office together later became a blessing in disguise. On the day the deputy governor was endorsed by the Fayose camp, Olusola suddenly embraced the reality that he had become a politician. Yet, it is evident that he will leave the succession enterprise to his principal, whose political structure he will inherit.
His PDP predecessors were not that lucky. In eight years, Fayose, an aggressive politician, had four deputies. Three of them hail from Ikere. Olusola’s kinsman, Biodun Aluko, an architect, was impeached, following a quarrel with the governor. His successor, Omoyeni, a reputable banker, resigned after some months in office. He believed in the prospect of banking portfolio than deputy governor.
Since he was catapulted to the front burner, Olusola has been up and doing. Although the bulk of the partisan consultation and mobilisation will be done for him by his principal, he has also swung into action, especially in his Ekiti South Senatorial District. He is a silent operator gazing at the seat of power with prayerful hope. Two things are going for him. The deputy governor is perceived as an obedient ally. Also, his candidature is also acceptable to Ikere, his cradle. Even, prominent All Progressives Congress (APC) elders from Ikere have confessed that Fayose has tied their hands by picking an indigene as his successor.
Fayose had put on his thinking cap since 2014 when he returned to power. Political insiders confided that he had hoped to install a successor whose ascension will not possibly herald a successor-predecessor crisis. His permutation, they said, is to retain “party control” outside power. If PDP fails to retain power in Ekiti, Fayose may lose a measure of political influence. Although Ado had agitated for zoning to the state capital, the governor knew that the town could not be divorced from Ekiti Central, which had produced Otunba Niyi Adebayo and himself. But, the call for rotation of the highest office has been stronger in Ekiti South and the people of Ikere are more vociferous. A source said before unfolding his succession plan, Fayose had held consultations with Ado traditional rulers and other highly placed indigenes. He was said to have convinced them to settle for the deputy governor, stressing that Ekiti Central cannot produce his successor.
Following that understanding, attention shifted from former Works Commissioner Kayode Oso, a native of Ado, who was said to be on the list of likely successors. But, according to a source, Oso is not off the radar. The deputy governor is up for grab. He and Mrs. Tosin Aluko, also from Ado, may now jostle for the running mate. The implication is that, in the perception of the PDP, Ado and Ikere are now permanent factors in pseudo-ethnic balancing in Ekiti politics.
In particular, Ikere has politically positioned itself as the second most important town in Ekitiland, after Ado, the state capital. It has vibrant, articulate and patriotic indigenes across the professions. Their activities have made the town the beneficiary of an imaginary zoning, although most Ekiti believe that the state is one indivisible zone. One of their leading lights, legal luminary Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), has maintained that it is the turn of the town to produce the chief executive. He is devoid of political bias. The eminent lawyer said the onus is on the two main political parties to zone the governorship to the ancient town. Ikere’s greatest blessing, however, is that it hosts a College of Education, which has increased its economic activities and boosted its population. It also benefits from a network of intra-town and intra-state roads. Having produced three deputy governors, it is being perceived as a strategic voting community.
In PDP, the coast may be clear for Olusola. So strong and influential is the Fayose structure that its members have resolved never to have any dealing with other contenders. During the Christmas period, some potential delegates even shunned the gifts offered to them by other contenders. They reiterated their loyalty to Fayose and Olusola. In the Fayose camp are the majority of statutory delegates, who rose to political stardom as state and federal lawmakers, commissioners, special advisers, special assistants, council chairmen, councillors and supervisors. Also loyal to the governor are party officers at the state, local and ward levels. Among the populace, Fayose has managed to remain relevant. His gospel of stomach infrastructure is captivating to rural dwellers. Among the artisans and peasants, he is popular.
However, the gulf between the Fayose administration and highly educated indigenes of Ekiti has become more widened. Thus, while the ordinary people have not rejected Fayose’s government for obvious reasons, it carries the burden of predictable elitist onslaught, which Olusola can only avert by embracing the eclectic styles of populism and elitism. Therefore, the envisaged difference between Fayose’s government and any administration that may be presided over by Olusola is that the latter should have a direct touch of scholarship. This is in the enlightened interest of the aggrieved elite.
But, will the primary be a walk over for Olusola? His rivals are sharpening their arrows which can either be deflected by Fayose’s power of incumbency or resisted by the governor’s his war chest. A party source said the PDP may not be able to avert primary crisis, owing to the stubborn nature of Ekiti politicians. “They will prefer to fight to finish, but the governor will have a upper hand,” he said. Predictably, scores of light weight PDP chieftains may defect from the party to the APC. Olusola’s co-aspirants may be in a dilemma. While Olujimi may take solace in the fact that he will still be in the Senate till 2019, others may wallow in self-pity as they may not be able to successfully subvert or undermine the platform during the election.
If Olusola becomes the PDP candidate, can he defeat the APC candidate? There are over 50 aspirants in the opposition party. But, the acting chairman, Mrs. Kemi Olaleye, disclosed that only 25 have indicated their interest at the party secretariat on the Ado-Ikere Road. The contenders include Femi Bamisile, Yinka Akerele, Dr. Wole Oluleye, Kola Alabi, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Chief Segun Oni, Senator Ayo Arise, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, Hon. Bimbo Daramola, Ishola Fapounda, Dr Adebayo Orire, and Muyiwa Olumilua. There are indications that Dr. Kayode Fayemi, former governor, who is Minister of Solid Minerals and Steel Development, will declare his ambition next month. Out of the lot, Ojudu said only four are serious contenders.
Ekiti APC is a wounded lion. Members of the party have not recovered from their electoral defeat in the 2014 election. Then, the PDP was the ruling party. Thus, the federal might was deployed. After the poll, there were startling revelations. But, since the Appeal Court did not upturn the poll, observers said they paled into a conjecture. Ahead of the election, APC chieftains have said that Fayose and Olusola are day dreaming. In their view, the governor has performed below expectation.
Will the APC-Federal Government deploy its might during the Ekiti poll? In all the post-2015 polls, President Muhammadu Buhari has maintained the profile of a statesman ready to defend the integrity of the ballot box. Unlike his predecessors, the president has always frowned at electoral manipulation and deployment of troops to the advantage of his party.
While the PDP is divided in Ekiti, the APC is also polarised. The opposition party is not considering zoning because it is not in its constitution. The battle for the ticket may escalate the tension in the opposition camp, ahead of the poll. According to observers, if the APC gladiators fail to put their house in order, the mistake of 2014 may be repeated to the advantage of Fayose’s candidate