Less than two weeks to the primary election of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State, no fewer than seven aspirants have obtained the party’s nomination form, which qualifies them for the contest. Victor Ogunje, in this piece, x-rays the six governorship aspirants gunning for the party’s ticket, pointing out their areas of strengths and weaknesses, as well as their strategies for the contest
Senator Opeyemi Bamidele:
A Senator of the Federal Republic, representing Ekiti Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly. Before his election to serve in the Senate in 2019, Bamidele had served in the lower chamber of the National Assembly, representing Ekiti Federal Constituency I. He had previously served as a Special Adviser and later Commissioner in two administrations in Lagos State. Beyond being an experienced and grassroots politician another major strength of this Iyin-Ekiti born lawyer- turn politician is that he’s not new to the governorship contest, having given it a shot as candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in 2014 and as an aspirant of the APC in the 2018 primaries of the party that was won by Dr Kayode Fayemi, the incumbent Governor of Ekiti State.
Weakness : Among other challenges, MOB as he is popularly called by his supporters is from Iyin- Ekiti, the country home of the current Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and first Executive Governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo. The town also produces the current ambassador to Netherlands, Dr. Eniola Ajayi. In a State where many communities are clamouring to have just one of such plum positions, observers think it would be unfair for Iyin to produce the governor again with Adebayo, a former governor serving as Minister and Ajayi serving as ambassador. To this end, concerned stakeholders are already advising Bamidele to stay put in the Senate and possibly re-contest the seat to become a ranking member of the National Assembly.
Added to this is the belief in many quarters that Bamidele is not pushing any serious message or agenda for development in his campaign outings. He appears interested only in appealing to the sentiments of the people, urging them to support him in view of sacrifice to the arty, a veiled reference to the stray bullet that hit him during the welcome party organised by the party for Governor Fayemi after he won the party’s ticket in 2018. His critics however believe that he was not the only one hit by the stray bullet from an overwhelmed policeman. No fewer than six members of the party were injured in the accidental discharge incident. Many people would rather MOB come up with better campaign strategy other than the “bullet story” and “an unwritten agreement” supposedly reached with Dr Fayemi in 2018 ceding the governorship ticket of the party to him in 2022.
Prince Dayo Adeyeye:
A former Publicity Secretary of the Afenifere and later spokesperson for the Alliance for Democracy and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), is regarded as an experienced politician with a robust resume. Adeyeye has had stints as Chairman SUBEB under the administration of Engr Segun Oni; as Minister of the Federal Republic under President Goodluck Jonathan and as a Senator in the National Assembly before he was removed by the Court of Appeal which upheld the election of Senator Biodun Olujimi. He is currently the arrowhead of SWAGA, a group championing the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s presidency in the South west.
Among other advantages is the fact Adeyeye, a prince from Ise Ekiti, comes from the Southern Senatorial District, which is making serious agitation to be allowed to produce the next governor of the state.
Weakness : As a result of his penchant for changing political parties anytime he is slightly aggrieved, Adeyeye is regarded by the Ekitis as an inconsistent and unstable. It is on record that between 1999 and now, Adeyeye has spent quality times in both PDP and the APC (taking his days in AD and AC into cognisance) where he held both elective and appointive positions. Another major challenge for the former Journalist is his position as the coordinator of SWAGA, a group that is seen as a pain in the neck of the APC Ekiti State chapter because of its antagonistic stance and its desire to factionalise the party.
Abiodun Oyebanji: A well-known Ekiti technocrat and politician with work experience that cuts across academia, private sector and public service. Regarded more as a technocrat and administrator, Oyebanji has served in the government of Ekiti State in different capacities since 1999, manning several strategic offices. He started as a Special Assistant in the Otunba Niyi Adebayo administration and later got elevated to the position of Special Adviser and then Chief of Staff to the Governor. In Fayemi’s first term in office, Oyabanji was appointed Commissioner for Regional Integration and Inter-Government Affairs. He was later moved to the Office of Transformation and Service Delivery (OTSD) as pioneer Director General.
He was later appointed Commissioner for Budget, Economic Planning and Service Delivery towards the tail end of the administration. He was appointed Secretary to the State Government (SSG) during Fayemi’s second term where he resigned in December 2021 to join the governorship race. In the last one month, his supporters have been consistent in hinging his campaign on his vast knowledge of the workings of Ekiti State Government and his “street credibility”. Besides, his loyalty to the progressive fold since 1999 has helped him build a robust political structure across the three senatorial districts of the State. Added to this is the fact that he is an alumnus of the state owned University (Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti) whose members are mobilising support for the emergence of a product of the 40 year old University as the number one citizen of the state.
Weakness: His experience and consistency notwithstanding, the fact that Oyebanji has never contested an elective position is considered a minus in some quarters. Although he has always been around, the fear in some quarters is that the Ikogosi-Ekiti born politician may be too close to his former bosses, Governors Niyi Adebayo and Governor Kayode Fayemi.
A former Speaker of the State House of Assembly and currently the member representing Ekiti South Federal Constituency II in the House of Representatives. Bamisile is a great mobilizer and grassroots politician, who has once contested for the party’s gubernatorial ticket. Like Adeyeye, Bamisile is also from Ekiti South Senatorial district that has been clamouring for the zoning of the governorship seat to the area. He is also seen as having support base that cut across both PDP and APC.
Weakness: Having traversed many parties, including PDP, APC, and the Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA), Bamisile is also regarded as an inconsistent politician who only pitches his tent with people that would serve his political interest. Political observers are also of the opinion that his history of political hooliganism may work against him. Also, as a serving member of the House of Representatives, some Ekiti leaders are already urging him to return to the House as an experienced parliamentarian to enable him clinch one of the principal offices come 2023.
Engr Kayode Ojo:
The relatively unknown Engineer turn politician, Kayode Ojo shot into political limelight during the run up to the APC primaries in 2018 where he ran a colourful campaign and came third at the primaries. Kayode Ojo’s perceived strength is his deep pocket and a fairly large following among the youth and young politicians. If money would play a big role in the 2022 contest, then Ojo has a chance as he will have an unbridled opportunity to woo and influence the delegates and build a well- oiled support base. His campaign has been subtle and smooth working on the ward and local government chapters of the party. Many believe his unassuming style and spending power is an advantage.
Weakness: The fact that Kayode Ojo left Ekiti political stage immediately after losing at the primaries in 2018 without building on the goodwill he garnered at the primaries is seen as a major minus against his aspiration. Signs that he might not be a force to reckon with in the 2022 elections start to emerge when he did not show interest in the party’s ward , local government and state congresses that produced the present crop of officials at different levels. This has left him with little or no structure on ground, In addition Ojo is believed to have lost the grip of few politicians who identified with him in 2018 because of his long absence.
Hon Bamidele Faparusi:
Engr. Faparusi, until December 2021 was in charge of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Utilities where he put up a spectacular performance in view of the administration’s focus on infrastructure development and his background as a trained engineer, who also ran a successful engineering company. Like the duo of Adeyeye and Bamisile, coming from the Ekiti Southern Senatorial District may be a huge advantage for Faparusi. Another thing that may work for him is his political experience and the fact that he was part of the exercise in 2018 as a contestant.
Weakness: Faparusi who hails from Ode-Ekiti is perceived as having low political influence and structure. It is also believed that the former commissioner may not enjoy the backing of the vast majority of the party elders and officials. His campaign also seems woven around the Ekiti South Agenda and nothing concrete outside that.
Otunba Demola Popoola : Another new entrant into the Ekiti political scene, Popoola who hails from Oye Local Government Area, is said to be a moneybag who appeals to the few waiting to indulge inexperienced politicians. He would have been considered a breath of fresh air if he had the necessary ground experience required for such an aspiration.
Weakness: Lack of experience and necessary structure may be a stumbling block as observers do not take him seriously. Many are questioning his decision to start his political participation from the governorship contest. His known public service experience was as one of the aides to one time Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan. It is also almost an impossibility for a candidate from the North Senatorial District to succeed Fayemi, who is also from the North.