Fayemi in a handshake with Fayose.

With the Anambra gubernatorial election out of the way, all eyes are now on the Ekiti governorship election which has already pitted old enemies against one another, writes Shola Oyeyipo

Ekiti State is reputed with parading highly educated individuals across the globe. It is a state that has produced many professors, a feat that has earned it the name ‘fountain of knowledge.’

In its political history, it had been governed by a Ph D holder, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, now Minister of Solid Minerals Development who had as his deputy, a professor, Mrs. Mudope Adelabu. Three years ago, Fayemi lost his bid to get re-elected. The electorate then voted for Ayodele Fayose, who though may not be as highly educated as Fayemi, is considered by many as more politically savvy.

After the election of Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress as president, Fayose has become a leading voice of the opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party. He has sustained a very bitter political enmity with the president. He attacked the president ferociously before, during and after the 2015 election and he doesn’t seem ready to back down.

Not only that, after defeating the progressives in the state in an unprecedented landslide victory tagged 16-0 in 2014, with his politics of ‘stomach infrastructure’, he has maintained a firm grip of the state’s politics.

Presently, the search for the next Ekiti governor is on. Not less than fifty aspirants from the All Progressives Congress (APC) are jostling for the seat while the incumbent governor had already settled for his deputy, Professor Olusola Eleka, an individual who is not too popular with the voters.

However, the governor has started building support base for his deputy and he has told whoever cares to listen that he will repeat the 2014 victory by defeating whoever APC presents as its candidate. Observers of Ekiti politics are of the view that delivering on that promise will be tough, but not impossible.

There are new realities that will make it difficult for Fayose to push through his plan to get his deputy elected as his successor. One is that Fayose will be going to the 2018 election without the ‘federal might’ at his disposal as was the case in 2014 when the former president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP supported him to create an inroad to the South-west which had become hostile to Jonathan’s government. Fayose received both financial and military support from the presidency during the 2014 election. When there no threat violence, the federal government deployed a military team led by a general to Ekiti for the election. This team allegedly helped to tilt the process in Fayose’s favour.

It is on record that the house of the Director General of the Fayemi campaign organisation, Abimbola Daramola a former member, House of Representatives (2011 – 2015), now an aspirant in the 2018 gubernatorial election, was stormed in a midnight raid, by military men in 10 Hilux trucks and his then 87 years old father and other members of his family were beaten black and blue.

Daramola reportedly came to the polling unit on the election day from the bush. Other major supporters of Fayemi such as the then Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Dapo Kolawole had their houses raided while a local government chairman, Mr. Ogundele was intercepted with money for election at Ifaki Ekiti among other incidents targeted at Fayemi’s support base.

The 2014 election in Ekiti State was further discredited by a tape leaked to the public which was recorded by an officer in the Nigerian Army, Captain Koli. The video clip in which detailed alleged plot to arrest and incapacitate key supporters of Fayemi on the eve of the election.
Now that Fayose does not enjoy the support of the presidency, observes believe that he does not have the capacity to repeat the sterling performance of 2014. Members of the APC see this governorship election as their best bet to take Ekiti State back from the PDP.

With less than seven months to the election, the question agitating the minds of observers of the state’s politics is whether Fayose, can successfully re-enact the 16-0 feat in 2018.
However, it is worth remembering that 2014 was not the first time Fayose had defeated an incumbent governor. He did it in 2003 when he equally defeated a sitting governor, the first democratically elected governor of the state, Niyi Adebayo of the Alliance for Democracy (AD).

With APC parading many heavy weights like Fayemi, Opeyemi Bamidele, Babafemi Ojodu, Segun Oni to mention just a few, will it be able to put its house in order and take the state back from Fayose who had boasted that he would hand over the state to his deputy? Will these heavy weights allow Fayose to retire them from politics? These and many more questions are some of the worries the APC’s faithfulls desperately what their leaders to address.

Interestingly, APC’s leaders in the state who are expected to work together to ensure a successful outing for the party in the governorship race, are allowing their personal ambition to create divisions within the party
Oni, whose tenure as governor was abruptly brought to an end in 2010 by the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin, is today the party’s Deputy National Chairman. He has declared his intention to run for the governoship. He left the PDP to join the APC.

Fayemi, who succeeded him also wants his job as governor back. Now, the Minister for Solid Minerals, Fayemi has not left anyone in doubt that the job he wants is that of the governor of Ekiti and not a ministerial job. Will he resign and join the race? Time is of essence. He will have to decide soon.

Hate or like Fayose, one thing you cannot take away from him is his ‘street wisdom’ and ability to identify with the down trodden. He is the self-styled ‘friend of the masses.’

He has maintained a cordial relationship with commercial motorcyclists, artisans and others. So what he may not have in federal might he has smartly made up for in his mobilisation of the grassroots.
Nevertheless, the PDP is not as united as Fayose would want many to believe. His decision to declare his deputy as the party’s candidate for the election even when a primary has yet to be conducted irked many members of the party. Others who are interested in the race have vowed to challenge Fayose. Yet, the PDP in Ekiti can ill-afford to be divided. The party is already surrounded by external enemies.
In Ekiti, the reality is that both parties have their issues. For instance, the APC is grappling with a growing list of aspirants some of whom are sworn enemies. Therefore, how will the APC manage the rivalry between Oni and Fayemi? Many are suspicious of Oni but others think that he is their best bet to defeat Fayose. Others think that he is too young in the party to allow him become the party’s flag-bearer. But those rooting for him say that Fayemi is too elitist and will be difficulty to sell to the voters.

Ironically, the national leadership of the party is sharply divided a luxury it can not afford because any clash of interest among the leading players can only make the APC vulnerable, because if the APC goes to the Ekiti election divided, it will be weak against a formidable incumbent and ruling party in the state.

Fear is that if no concrete reconciliatory steps are taken, some divisions will make it nearly impossible for the APC to go into the election as a united house.

For instance, formerly of the PDP and now an aspirant on the APC platform, Senator Ayo Arise and Fayemi are not best of friends. Arise was the arrow head of the rerun in Oye where 18, 000 voters dramatically became less than 3,000 which dealt a devastating blow to the then ACN.

Can Arise and Fayemi work for each other after the primary assuming one of them wins? In fact, there is the rumour that Arise once had a confrontation with Fayemi during the preparations for the Ekiti re-run election.

Also, there is the case of Senator Femi Ojodu, now Special Adviser, Political Adviser to the President who obviously broke ranks with Fayemi immediately after Fayemi lost the re- election in 2014. He reportedly fomed a faction of the party called the Action Group with plans to rescue the state’s exco from Fayemi’s men.

How will these two people work together to ensure the success of the party, because today, it is clear that the relationship between Fayemi and Ojudu is far from cordial and both of them want to be governor under the APC.

There is also the case of former House Representatives member, Opeyemi Bamidele (MOB). He broke ranks with the APC and ran for the 2014 election on the platform of Labour Party (LP) against all entreaties, even from the National Leader of APC, Bola Tinubu, and former Governor of Osun State and one time national chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande.

Many are yet to forgive Bamidele for the perceived betrayal and for being a contributory factor to the loss suffered by Fayemi and APC.

After what they refer to as Bamidele’s unholy romance and alliance with the then Ondo State governor, Dr. Segun Mimiko and later President Goodluck Jonathan, who allegedly funded his campaign and his obvious alliance with Fayose, can anyone trust Bamidele to support the APC if he does not get the party’s ticket?

Till now, Bamidele and Ojudu are yet to fully reconcile from the hostility that trailed the contest for the Ekiti Central Senatorial seat in 2011.

So, there are possibilities for a re-enactment of old bitterness among leading members of the party many whom are also aspirants. Will the Ekiti APC be ale to approach this crucial election with a formidable team and with a united front to face a formidable governor like Fayose?

As it is, the best option available to the APC will be to bury the hatchet and present a candidate that enjoys widespread support in Ekiti State. In politics, that is easier said than done.

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As it is, the best option available to the APC will be to bury the hatchet and present a candidate that enjoys widespread support in Ekiti State. In politics, that is easier said than done.