For Ekiti, It’s a Two-horse Race!

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Although there are a few other candidates from other political parties, who are equally on the ballot for the July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State, the battle is unarguably between Peoples Democratic Party’s Kolapo Olusola and All Progressives Congress’ Kayode Fayemi. Victor Ogunje reports

On July 14, 2018, the Ekiti electorate will file out to elect a leader that will determine and manage their collective destiny for the next four years. The clash is going to be a game of ego and it will be highly exhilarating and intriguing, because many factors will come to play in shaping the outcome of the election.

The incumbent governor, Ayodele Fayose, will be fighting two battles in this election. He will be grappling to make the People Democratic Party (PDP) exert its stranglehold on Ekiti under his continuity agenda. He would also fight to prevent a colossal crash into political oblivion after his eventful reign.

In a brisk manner, which suggests that Fayose was ready for the electoral rumble, he had seen his deputy, Prof Kolapo Olusola, through the throes of primary and his continuity agenda seems to have enjoyed a boost. The governor will also be striving hard to remain relevant after his exit from the exalted governorship seat, since his party is no longer in charge at the centre.

The aggregate of the foregoing makes the impending poll looks titanic and a must-win for Fayose, who had posed as the most vociferous critic of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government.

Again, the APC will also be fighting for reckoning. Former governor and Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, sees the poll as a veritable window to fight for space and relevance at home. By his body language, the minister may also take a pound of flesh, having suffered hypnotising defeat in his political trajectory in Fayose’s hands in 2014.

Most importantly, the outcome of the 2014 elicited dissenting views. Fayose was of the opinion that his electrifying popularity brought him the resounding triumph. On the other hand, Fayemi and his backers alleged that the PDP under President Goodluck Jonathan deployed federal might to rout the former governor in the election.

The APC had been resolute in its accusation that military and police were used to perpetrate electoral fraud. All these are issues that are waiting for resolution and the final verdict is being awaited with the results that will be declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

However, whichever way one perceives the election, it is going to be a two-horse race. It is going to be a straight fight between Fayemi of the APC and Olusola of the PDP. Though other parties are going to parade heavyweights for the polls, structures, people’s perspectives and antecedents of candidates as well as that of parties, are strong denominators in where the pendulum will swing this July.

The Labour Party is fielding a former deputy governor, Dr. Sikiru Lawal; the African Democratic Congress (ADC) may end up fielding former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Canada, Mr. Dare Bejide, while the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP) has Rev. Tunde Afe as its candidate.
These three candidates are grassroots politicians with sound records that can attract electoral fortunes. But the mind-set of Ekiti electorate, which records showed, were only attached to the two dominant parties since the advent of democracy in 1999, may impede them from making remarkable showings in this contest.

The manner in which Fayemi and Olusola emerged gave potent indications that no one can be underrated in politics. Putting it succinctly, the duo didn’t get their tickets on a platter. Fayemi as a serving minister controls APC structures in all the 177 wards being the major financier since 2014. Olusola, on the other hand, enjoys the backing of Fayose, an avowed grassroots politician with staggering retail attraction.

In spite of these factors, the twosome worked very tirelessly before they could get their tickets. While Fayemi found a strong runner up in former governor Segun Oni, ex- Minister of Works, Dayo Adeyeye, was a hard nut to crack for Olusola and his godfather, Fayose. All these attested to the fact that the next election seems unpredictable as of now.

The two sides have something good going for them and they also have their weaknesses. Fayemi, a scholar with overwhelming carriage and charisma, is a former governor, who performed creditably well while in the saddle of governance in Ekiti. During his years in Ekiti, he executed landmark projects that touched the lives of every citizen directly and this might put him in a vantage position.

Without exaggerating his prowess for exemplary leadership, the minister executed at least two projects in each of the 133 towns in the state. That was why it took many by surprise, when he failed in getting the much sought after second term. But he could bank on these projects to ease his re-election this time round.

Fayemi’s operation renovate all schools, where over 800 public schools were face-lifted, the social security scheme, where 25,000 indigent elderly were put in monthly safety net of N5,000 stipend, urban renewal in Ado Ekiti, 12,000 capacity state pavilion, five kilometre roads in all the 16 councils, the new governor’s lodge on Oke Ayoba Hill, the food bank programme, Youth in Agriculture (YCAD), Peace Corps and many others numerous to mention are still fresh in people’s memories and may be of immense help in marketing him for another term.

During Fayemi’s reign in Ekiti, he enjoyed good working relationship with international organisations like the African Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, British Department for International Development (DFID), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Rockley Feller Foundation, United Nations Educational and Socio Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and many others.

At various times, these organisations collaborated with the state government in the execution of multi-million dollar projects in the areas of agriculture, health, tourism and road constructions.
Despite being an opposition figure, Fayemi worked seamlessly with the Jonathan government. It was during his period that many federal projects like the ongoing Federal Secretariat Complex, the Federal High Court, Central Bank of Nigeria and many others were approved for Ekiti. He didn’t perceive governance from the prism of politics alone and that accounted for his legacy performance in the state.

Fayemi also networked with his friends within and outside Nigeria to expose several opportunities that were abound in Ekiti to the global scene. More than two occasions, Fayemi brought the then Ghanaian President, Dr. John Mahama, to deliver lectures at convocation ceremonies organised by Ekiti State University (EKSU).

This, according to him, was targeted at making the university to sign Memorandum of Understanding with other great ivory towers beyond the chores of the country for academic breakthrough. He also had hitch-free relationships with some Kenyan and Cuban experts in exposing the Ikogosi Warm Spring to global reckoning.

Also going for him is the fact that APC, which seems divided by the primary are gradually closing ranks. APC bigwigs and aspirants like Segun Oni, Opeyemi Bamidele, Bimbo Daramola, Kayode Ojo, Gbenga Aluko, Bamidele Faparusi, Femi Bamisile and other influential persons like Dr. Olusegun Osinkolu, Chief Jide Awe, Mrs. Kemi Olaleye, Hon Ife Arowosoge, Senator Tony Adeniyi, Hon Karounwi Oladapo and other top party hierarchy are already drumming supports for Fayemi.

However, the support might not have come naturally, because the primary created serious cleavages in APC. But Fayemi walked his talk that he was not as arrogant as they portrayed him, by visiting all other contenders at their homes barely 12 hours after the primary to crave their supports and this seems to be working for him. His campaign will also be buoyed by federal government’s backing and strong financial war chest.

As lofty as his achievements seemed, Fayemi was perceived by many, particularly the grassroots and middle class as too elitist and aloof to operate in a closed and agrarian society like Ekiti. Sadly enough, the minister’s acceptability was too abysmal within these strata, which represented over 75 per cent of the voters. This is believed to have accounted for why his re-election was rejected in 2014.

Another stump Fayemi would have to scale is how to convince the civil servants, teachers and local government staff that he was not on a vengeance mission. Though in his acceptance speech, he was categorical that the mission was to reclaim the state from the claws of those he described as plunderers, he needed more than ordinary speech to make the message percolate deeper into their minds. The fact that Fayemi introduced rural and core subjects’ allowances for teachers have not aligned the teachers’ perceptions to the reality that he was their friend.

The teachers, who operate cult-like in terms of voting, are still nursing the fear that the minister may reintroduce the controversial Teachers’ Development Needs Assessment (TDNA), which generated furore in his first term.

Many of them believed they will be shoved out of the system with this appraisal test, though Fayemi had vehemently denied this. Despite this denial, it remains an element of suspicion the former governor would have to defuse to shore up his acceptability. But his shortcomings regardless and in spite of the fact that he lost in 2014, Fayemi is still generally regarded as the best governor the state has ever produced.

On his part, however, Olusola is a newcomer in politics. He was drafted into the game in 2014 due to his father’s closeness to Fayose. He was with the thinking that he would leave Oke Bareke Government House with his boss on October 16, 2018, before the clarion call came and he was ready to answer it. He may not be popular but he has the backing of the governor, who remains an overwhelming politician in today’s Ekiti. The fact that Fayose had succeeded in defeating two incumbent governors attests to his importance on the turf.

Fayose, being a smart politician had promptly realised that the fight was between him and Fayemi and he never relented in ensuring that his much touted continuity mantra scales the hurdles. In the first instance, the two-term governor played a crafty game by picking Olusola as the governorship candidate from Ikere Ekiti, the second most populous town.

Again, he dexterously picked the deputy, Kazeem Ogunsakin, from Ado Ekiti. Ogunsakin, former Chairman of Ado Local Government, is a Muslim. In actual fact, the Muslims now see the contest as theirs and consider this chance as one that should not slip off their fingers.

Ekiti is presently financially challenged. In spite of this, Fayose has been able to execute some projects that will be of advantage to him in his campaign. He has done dualisation projects in 10 local government headquarters. The flagship of his programmes is the flyover he built in the capital city.

He also constructed a new Judiciary Complex, the Funmilayo Olayinka Women’s Development Centre, a new governor’s office and his much patronised stomach infrastructure policy is operational. These may be a good campaign points for the PDP in this election.

The governor has always been a clever person. Few months to the election, he set up a judicial panel to probe his predecessor and part of the recommendations was that Fayemi should be barred for 10 years from holding public office. He had also consistently scandalised the minister of leaving behind huge debts and this he said has been a burden on the state and form part of his inability to pay salaries, even when he has borrowed more than Fayemi. The six local governments from the Ekiti south senatorial districts perceive Fayose as having hearkened to their agitations and that time was ripe for them to produce the governor. He had enlisted some traditional rulers to preach the gospel, which they are doing with vigour. Olusola is from the region while Fayemi is from the North. The votes from that zone may sway victory for the deputy governor, if proper counter moves were not made from the APC.

As politically savvy as Fayose is, he would have herculean task in convincing the Ekiti electorate why he has failed to pay salaries. As of now, the civil servants, local government and pensioners were owed between four and eight month arrears.

The 2016 leave bonuses were just paid recently. And Ekiti being a monolithic civil service economy relies on the civil service structure for survival. This problem has affected every facet of the state and people are groaning on daily basis as a result of the fallout of this snag. So, Fayemi may catch in on this to wreak serious havoc on the PDP.

No one can claim that there is no crisis in APC; that of the PDP looks more convoluted. Adeyeye, after losing the PDP primary had resigned membership of the party. He was poised on contesting the election on another platform and if this fails, he may want to return to APC, being a former Publicity Secretary of Afenifere. This may be a fatal blow to Fayose.

As things stand today, no one can predict where the pendulum will swing and the two sides are determined to go the whole hog to win the election.

How judicious they are in applying those favourable parameters and prevent their areas of disadvantages from taking a toll will help in determining who wins the diadem in the end.