Victor Ogunje examines the electability of the All Progressives Congress’ contenders for the Ekiti State’s government house.

On Monday March 19, 2018, a team of members of the National Executive of the All Progressive Congress (APC) led by the National Chairman, Chief (Dr) John Odigie-Oyegun stormed Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State capital city to launch the nationwide APC Members’ Continuous Registration programme.

Aside from this, the party leaders were also at hand to show solidarity as the party gears towards the July 14 governorship polls considered to be a must –win, prelude to the 2019 presidential poll.
It was a colourful occasion where governorship aspirants numbering over 30 displayed their popularity. Aspirants at the occasion were: Former Governor Segun Oni, Dr. Oluyede, Kola Alabi, former Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Gbenga Aluko, former Member of House of Representatives, Hon. Bimbo Daramola, Chief Diran Adesua, Dr. Makanju Owolabi among others.

The significance of Oyegun’s presence was that it was a moment where the contentious imposition fear was laid to rest. Oyegun in his speech allayed the fears that there was a clandestine plot to lord a certain aspirant on the party. This calmed frayed nerves and aspirants are now approaching the much awaited primary with open minds and enthusiasm, believing that true democracy will prevail over jackboot politics.

However, as timely as Oyegun’s visit was, it hasn’t resolved the nagging issue of zoning that has gained tremendous traction among Ekiti electorate and aspirants from the south senatorial district. Though, Ekiti is seemingly homogeneous , there has been a groundswell of demands by majority of Ekiti people that the next governor should come from the Ekiti South senatorial district for equity and fairplay.

Since the advent of democratic rule in 1999, Ekiti North, where both former governors Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi are from, has ruled for seven and half years. In the same vein, ex-governors Niyi Adebayo and Ayo Fayose from the Central Senatorial District have superintended over the state for eleven and half years.

However, succour seems underway for the alienated southern people as the opposition PDP buoyed by Fayose has chosen Deputy Governor Kolapo Olusola, who is from the south. It could have been more dignified if the moves have come from the APC, because Ekiti people expect much more from the APC.

As dicey as the APC primary seems to be, pundits have however realised one thing, which is that there are contenders and pretenders among the numerous aspirants. Here is a peep into how the main contenders stand:

Chief Segun Oni
He was governor of Ekiti State between 2007 and 2011 under the banner of the PDP. He became the PDP candidate via contentious circumstances in 2007 as he came third in the PDP primaries , but was imposed on the PDP by former President Olusegun Obasanjo . He was removed abruptly after a long drawn legal battle by the Appeal Court in Ilorin, giving way for Dr Kayode Fayemi to mount the saddle. He left PDP and joined APC and was given the position of National Deputy
Chairman (South ).

Oni has a wide network of political friends across party divides and he is widely respected for his humility, which had endeared him to many. But the snag to his candidature has been that he is from the northern district. Another serious encumbrance to his candidature is that, the bulk of the delegates are of the ACN stock and this group has vehemently opposed his emergence.
Oni is supposedly in firm control of Ido/Osi Local Government Area delegates. He may also win in Ekiti
West Local Government, suggesting that he may only win delegates from one or two local governments, which will not be enough to secure the APC ticket.

Hon. Bimbo Daramola
This vociferous party man and well groomed grassroots politician , was the Director General of Campaign for Fayemi in the 2014 second term election in Ekiti which the APC lost abysmally . In the election, Fayemi lost in all the 16 local government areas, which had had a ripple effect on Daramola and diminished his political status.
To boost his political profile back to the former status, Daramola has been giving free JAMB forms to students and empowering the youths. He is also popular among the youth delegates and this seems to put him in a good stead.

But Daramola seems to be oiling the same structures he managed as the Director General of Fayemi’s campaign and this may be seriously eroded if Fayemi himself throws his hat into the ring as being rumoured.

Dr Wole Oluyede
A new entrant and neophyte in the game of politics but he has done a lot of legwork in his campaign, helped by his exposure and deep purse to reach out to party members.The Australian based medical doctor has covered thousands of miles superintending over his campaign, and trying to build his own structure.
He is from the South Senatorial District. He initially leveraged on his friendship with Fayemi, but the romance seems to have gone sour.

However, the effectiveness of his political machinery was greatly hampered by Fayemi’s interest to return to the government house. A number of core members of Oluyede’s team, still loyal to Fayemi, had started disembarking from his train , making his structure to gradually roll into a hitch.
He has been adopted as Ikere candidate for APC, but other Ikere aspirants have rejected such proposal. He is likely to win Ikere Local Government Area.

Senator Gbenga Aluko
A smart, intelligent, unassuming, bold and energetic politician. He is the son of the renowned economist, Late Professor Sam Aluko. He was Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate 1999-2003 and retired as Director of Government Affairs, Chevron Nigeria Mid Africa Strategic Business Unit in January 2018 to pursue his governorship ambition.
He has enormous connections within political and business circles. He has traversed the 177 wards in the state to woo delegates. He is reputed to be the only political leader in the state that has invested in manufacturing in Ekiti State, a sprawling industry on five hectares of land producing luxury toilet rolls and bathing soap. This has added to his popularity and acceptability in the state.

He was said to have been drafted into the 2018 electoral battle by the trio of former governors Niyi Adebayo, Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi to run as governor of the state, to help reinvigorate the APC after
the abysmal loss to PDP in 2014 . The aim was to realize the southern agenda, having been rated as possessing the financial war-chest to finance the campaign. It was gathered that he is the most favoured for the south agenda and other aspirants from the zone may queue behind him to deal a fatal blow on the bigwigs at the last minute.

Aluko has succeeded in getting tacit support of a sizable percentage of the known delegates who will vote at the primaries and he is expected to have tremendous supports in about 12 of the 16 local government areas comfortably, according to party sources. He has been a player in the politics of Ekiti State since 1991 when he first contested for the House of Representatives under the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
He has been dubbed as an enigma in politics since 1999 when he was the only Senator that won on the platform of the highly vilified and hated PDP in the entire South-west region. He has a good chance in this election unless the unexpected happens.

Senator Femi Ojudu
Senator Babafemi Ojudu, is the Political Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari. Ojudu has been identified as the proponent and leader of a group called the APC Action Group. His previous stance that the state APC executives should be dissolved from state to the ward level had pitted him against the delegates. Ojudu has an advantage working for him , he is from Ado Ekiti, the most populous town in terms of electoral strength in Ekiti. However, he is alleged to be at loggerheads with his people in Ado Ekiti Local Government and even up to the state level. The chess game he has up his sleeves to be able to win under this circumstance still remains a puzzle.

Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele
Bamidele is not a neophyte in the game of politics. He cut his teeth under the tutelage of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. He served in Lagos as commissioner for ten years and later was elected into the House of Representatives in Ekiti. He was an ardent member of the Action Congress of Nigeria before the misunderstanding he had with Fayemi in 2014 pushed him out to contest on the platform of Labour Party.
Bamidele has at various fora claimed he has settled his differences with Fayemi, but the latter’s supporters are yet to forgive him on the disastrous loss they suffered in 2014.

One thing that may be working for him is that he is a free spender. He was also rumoured to have the backing of some moneybags in Lagos. But his great
impediment has been the 2014 election, which has made the delegates who have passion for him to slip off his fingers. They are no longer loyal to him. Some delegates say it will be a miracle for him to win the primaries.
However, the parameters for winning might be altered when Fayemi officially declares . This notion becomes imperative because there may bea last minute horse trading that will change the statistics in terms of delegate structures within the party.

The aspirants are daily being rattled by the claim that President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC National Working Committee have endorsed Fayemi to return as governor. This the National Chairman himself openly
debunked unequivocally. The aspirants expect Fayemi to resign as required by law and join the fray accordingly.

However Fayemi declaring his interest in the election may be counterproductive to the APC owing to his criminal indictment through a white paper by a judicial commission of inquiry set up by Fayose to comb the financial dealings during his reign.
The fear is that the judicial indictment may be sanctioned by a competent court of law and the APC may end up approaching the election without a candidate, if Fayemi emerges .

Whatever strategy the party adopts to win the election is welcomed, but it has to put into consideration the zoning issue and guard against unnecessary imposition. The next few weeks will be hectic and decisive for APC. The actions taken by the party at the primary will either shore up or mar its fortunes in Ekiti.

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Whatever strategy the party adopts to win the election is welcomed, but it has to put into consideration the zoning issue and guard against unnecessary imposition.