The July 14 governorship poll in Ekiti State is around the corner and gladiators are back in the trenches with the parties now holding their primaries, writes Victor Ogunje
In Ekiti State, intrigues and intra-party squabbles are becoming more convoluted and eliciting deafening hoopla on a daily basis as the July 14 governorship election stares everyone in the face. This frenzy is however prevalent in the two dominant parties â€“ the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The 2018 election might end up the most keenly contested election in the history of the state since 1999. This cannot, however, be divorced from the notion that governors wield enormous power. They command power to hire and fire and this has more or less made the battle for the Ekiti governorship fiercer and pulsating this time around.
To buttress the foregoing assertion, 30 aspirants have been given a clean bill in the APC by the Chief Timipre Sylva-led Screening committee to contest the Saturday, May 5 primary of the party. On the star-studded list are heavyweights like former governors Kayode Fayemi and Segun Oni. Other political juggernauts scrambling for the ticket are former members of the House of Representatives, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, Bimbo Daramola and Bamidele Faparusi.
The galaxy of stars in the race accounts for the scorching heat in the APC. There have been so much verbal abuses and serious brickbats among the aspirants in the party in the last few days and the most pummelled among them are Fayemi and Oni, probably for seeking re-election at a time many of the aspirants thought the race would be exclusively open to first timers.
This is not to mean that the PDP is immune from crises under this circumstance. The party has been experiencing cacophony of confusions over the shabby way Governor Ayodele Fayose adopted his deputy, Prof Kolapo Olusola as the sole candidate of the party in the election.
The governor did this brazenly in a manner that precluded other contestants like a former Minister of Works, Dayo Adeyeye and Senate Deputy Minority Whip, Senator Biodun Olujimi from veering into the race.
Moreover, the duo of Adeyeye and Olujimi has experiences on their sides and had proven not to be minnows in the game with the way they have maintained their beats over time. Their threats had also forced the PDP National Chairman, Uche Secondus and Senator David Mark to design a mediating team to broker truce among them. The trouble-shooting effort seems to be gradually dousing the raging tension for now.
A lot of factors are out to play pivotal roles in the primaries. Principal factors that will determine how and where the pendulum will swing in both parties vary. Prominent among these denominators are zoning, financial muscle, incumbency weight and the delegates in relation to how the electorate will behave on Election Day.
In APC, for instance, zoning has become a serious stump the party would have to scale to prevent it from disintegration.
The aspirants from the south have been agitating that the primary should be restricted to aspirants from the zone for equity and fair play.
They justified and predicated this on the strength that the district has not produced the governor since 1999. They have enlisted the backing of the traditional rulers across the three districts and this has further made the game more intriguing.
To salvage the situation, the partyâ€™s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun personally came to Ekiti and overruled such demand, saying it was antithetical to APCâ€™s constitution.
Again, this has refused to gain traction, because a majority of the delegates placed high premium on who could win and reclaim the seat for the APC.
In the PDP, zoning has not constituted any snag, because all the aspirants in the party are from the south senatorial district. Despite this compliance, the trio of Olusola, Adeyeye and Olujimi are battling one another in a manner that may endanger the chances of the zone and the party.
The countdown to the process leading to the primary had vividly shown that money is a determining factor in the APC primary. It has been a season of naira rain for APC delegates to the extent that popularity now depends on the amount of money spent during any interface with them.
Again, many of the delegates viewed the present situation as a veritable opportunity to make as much as they can from the contenders. They have been left in the cold since Fayemi was defeated four years back. The duo of Fayemi and Senator Gbenga Aluko are having an edge in this regard, that is, if the situation subsists till the day of the primary.
Fayose is currently the generalissimo of Ekiti politics and the PDP in the state. History favourably places him in a special position, having defeated two incumbent governors at two different times. He brooks no opposition in PDP and having his deputy, Olusola grabbing the ticket has become a fait accompli so to speak.
If Fayose had his way, he would have imposed Olusola without any primary. He was resolute to go the whole hog to achieve this, but he later soft-pedalled, when Olujimi and Adeyeye fought back ferociously.
In actual fact, the governor was not really rattled by the opposition to his anointed candidate; he was merely circumspect of litigations and decided to change the gear, so he wonâ€™t freely walk into a cul-de-sac.
Fayose as an incumbent governor controls the elected officials, who are automatic delegates. He also has firm grip on the party executives at all levels. Added to this is the fact that he is in charge of the state purse and being a smart politician, he would definitely deploy these to his advantage in the primary. Head or tail, Olusola appears the candidate to beat. As things stand now, a majority of the APC delegates are caught in the web of either to vote for a popular candidate or go for pecuniary influences. Without trying to overestimate his acceptability, Oni is currently putting up a good show in the APC.
However, Fayemi, being a serving Minister of Mines and Steel Development has the cash and party structure to his advantage, in addition to being a former governor with indisputable record of performance. He also appears to enjoy the confidence of the power brokers in Abuja.
However, the APC knows it would require more than conventional ways to reclaim Ekiti. In this regard, the delegates seem confused and this has made it difficult predicting the voting pattern before the exercise.
But in the face of the ongoing last minute horse-trading and seeming unpredictability of the outcome of the primary in APC, those to watch out for are Fayemi, Oni, Aluko and Bamidele.