Though the election into the Government House in Ado Ekiti is still two years away, there is fear that the Ekiti State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party may fail in its avowed determination to unseat the ruling Action Congress of Nigeria in view of the crisis rocking the opposition party, Raheem Akingbolu reports
One major challenge the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is working day and night to address is how to put its house in order ahead of the preparation for the 2015 general election. Despite the commitment of the party towards achieving this, there are hitches in achieving this in various states because certain stakeholders see the move as against their interest of maintaining a grip on the affairs of the party.
Ekiti State is though currently under the leadership of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the state is the next destination for PDP to try its luck on the possibility of returning to reckoning in the South-west.
For this reason, some stakeholders in party, within and outside the state, have begun to call on the leadership of their state chapter to position well if it intends to make it back to government house come 2014.
But as it appears, political pundits have continued to point out that a few factors could make it difficult for the PDP to get back to power. One, there is the belief in many quarters that the state under Governor Kayode Fayemi is not doing badly in the area of infrastructural development and revitalisation of the health and tourism sectors.
The thinking of those who share this belief is that it would be difficult for PDP to unseat the governor if he (Fayemi) continues with the current pace of development. But opposition to this view sees Fayemi’s recent face-off with civil servants as something that could be leveraged to wrest power from the Isan Ekiti-born politician.
Aside this, the state chapter of the PDP seems at war with itself and this may be its albatross as it matches towards 2014. For instance, nine months after congress ushered-in new officers to lead the party, the crisis generated by the exercise is still rocking the rank and file of the PDP family.
To that extent, the party is currently battling with factional and zoning crisis. As at the last count, four different factions, including Segun Oni, Yinka Akerele, Ayodele Fayose and Caleb Olubolade exist in the state. When it was preparing for congress in match, spirited efforts were made to unite the various groups which proved abortive.
Few hours to the congress, the Olubolade Group worked with Fayose while Ayinde Ekiti led by Akerele pitched tenth with the Oni Group. At the end, the Olubolade/Fayose Group had their way and installed Makanjuola Ogundipe, a loyalist of Fayose, former Ekiti State governor, as chairman.
Today, while a number of PDP members had since accepted Ogundipe as chairman, there are some, especially within the Segun Oni group, who believe he (Ogundipe) would not be just in his dealings with other members because of his attachment to Fayose, who incidentally has begun to warm up for the governorship ticket of the PDP.
Beyond Ogundipe’s unacceptability, many leaders of the party seem not favourable towards Fayose’s ambition. They see the former governor as a misfit in the current political clime because of what they described as “his controversial personality” which they insist, would work against the PDP.
The latest problem that is creating tension in the fold is the zoning of governorship amongst the three zones of Ekiti North, Ekiti Central and Ekiti South. While some leaders are agitating that power shifts to the South, which is said not to have produced a governor, a large number of party members are clamouring for just any good candidate, irrespective of zoning that would appeal to the majority from the three zones.
Interestingly, those who are interested in the race cut across the three zones. Amongst them are Mr. Bimbo Owolabi, a pharmacist from Ise-Ekiti, his kinsman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, journalist and lawyer, Ayodele Fayose, businessman and former governor, Senator Ayo Arise, another businessman, Senator Gbenga Aluko and former deputy governor, Sikiru Lawal.
Others are Mr. Bisi Omoyeni, a banker, Chief Abiodun Aluko, an engineer, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, former deputy governor and Femi Bamisile, former Speaker of House of Assembly.
Though Akerele, who won the gubernatorial primary in 2007 before the party leaders settled for Oni, has not declared his intention, close allies of the Lagos-based businessman confided in THISDAY that he would join the race at the appropriate time.
Speaking with THISDAY, a former Special Adviser to Oni, Mrs. Bolanle Olatunde-Bruce, warned the party of the danger of not coming out in time to work towards the election. She, however, dismissed the fact that what befell the party in Ondo would happen in Ekiti.
“The situation in Ondo is quite different from Ekiti. PDP in Ondo didn’t come out on time to state their readiness to chase out Governor Mimiko but in our own case, Ekiti PDP has said it times without number that Fayemi’s time is up in government house.
“What we need now is for the contestants to come out on time and begin to move from one ward to the other to canvass for support. Let me add that Mr. Bisi Omoyeni and Chief Dayo Adeyeye are trying in this regard but others must come out of their shell and take the bull by the horns,” she said.
On Fayose’s aspiration, the public relations practitioner said she had made her thought known at many fora that Mr. Fayose did not leave behind anything in Government House to warrant his return.
“To me, Mr. Fayose is only embarking on a project he cannot achieve because I don’t think he forgot anything in Ado Ekiti Government House. More so, it is not right for any right thinking person from Ekiti Central Senatorial district, to be eyeing the governorship seat.
“But it looks as if Mr. Fayose likes turning things upside down. If he is keen about any elective post, I think he should be rooting for a senatorial seat and he can be sure that people like us we support him because I have also advocated the need to allow somebody from Irepodun to go to Senate instead of Ado Ekiti Local Government.
“I think it is high time we advised him to stop living under the illusion that he was as popular as he was towards the 2003 elections. This must have informed his recent outburst that anybody that wanted to become anything in PDP in the state must pass through him. And just recently, the ex-governor’s wife met women in the party, assuring them that his husband would return as governor. All these are exaggerated opinions about the personality of Mr. Fayose,” she said.
But contrary to Olatunde-Bruce’s stand on Fayose, there are party members, who believe that Fayose’s coming into the party could make a huge difference.
A PDP leader in Okemesi Ekiti, who was a councillor while Fayose was governor, Prince Durowade Aderemi, described Fayose as a political bulldozer, who could help the party win the 2014 gubernatorial election.
“Like the Sarakis and Adedibus, I think Fayose has the Midas touch to bring positive change to the party because of his power of mobilisation at the grassroots. The only thing is that it is necessary for other leaders to work with him,” he said.
Another member of the party, Mr. Femi Fasan, called on members not to wait till the last minute before they start preparing for the election.
“PDP chances are bright in Ekiti if only we can put our house in order. To win the 2014 election will involve thorough reconciliation and early start of our campaign activities. We shouldn’t wait till the eleventh hour and we should conclude on time on who to put forward. Whether Fayemi is performing or not, we should not forget that he is the incumbent governor with a lot at his disposal.
“Therefore, we should not forget that a house against itself can never make progress. By now, I expect all loyal members to have put the issue of the aftermath of the last congress behind them and cooperate with the Ogundipe-led executive to work for the victory of the party.”
Given the qualities expected of anybody intending to fly the party’s flag in 2014, a former Commissioner for Special Duties during Oni’s administration, Prince Segun Ilori, is of the opinion that the PDP under Oni had elevated governance in Ekiti away from mediocrity and criminality.
“Governance in Ekiti has gone beyond the era of thuggery, of fraudsters, of people without pedigree. Starting from Segun Oni’s administration, the PDP had introduced civility and good governance.
“Going forward, the PDP can no longer afford to go back to ‘Egypt’. The Bible says woe to those who go back to Egypt. Claims to governance in Ekiti will no more be based on how much you can abuse the people or dance on the street. We need someone who can continue with the good governance ethos of Segun Oni.
“Yes ACN under Fayemi has tried but Ekiti is still hollow, even though those in charge now mouth and give the impression that they could do it better; the people have seen that they have not met their expectations, so, PDP has a chance in 2014. I can tell you that over 20 aspirants from PDP are already parading Ekiti and you can be sure our people will have a good choice, not necessarily the one who makes the loudest noise or appears on the pages of newspaper the more.”
But in what looked like a ray of hope, a PDP chieftain, Alhaji Abdulazeez, told THISDAY in Ado Ekiti recently that elders of the party were working round the clock to bringing all the warring parties under the same roof.
“PDP leaders are on top of the game in Ekiti State and I can assure you that we will soon resolve all our differences. The fact that many people are showing interest in flying the party’s flag is enough to convince Ekiti people that we are still fully on ground.
“Aside the fact that the scores of people showing interest to be governor from our party will help us engage our members at this critical period, it has shown to millions of PDP members on the street that the party still controls a large number of credible personalities,” he said.