Battle for Ekiti Government House: Who Blinks First

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Fayemi

The political drumbeat in Ekiti State, the fabled “Fountain of Knowledge”, is fast assuming audible volume. The timeframe set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for parties to come up with their candidates for the June 18, 2022 governorship election has lapsed. In all, sixteen political parties have presented their flagbearers for the exercise.

Feelers in the state however indicate that, though there are sixteen aspirants holding forth for the various political parties, a chunk of the contestants for the Ekiti top job are as numb, dumb and mute as the political parties they represent, many of which are faceless and with no known relevance.

As it stands, the June 18 contest will obviously be a game among the ruling All Progressives Party (APC), represented by former Chief of Staff to incumbent government, Biodun Oyebanji, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with former State Chairman of the party, Bisi Kolawole as arrowhead, The African Democratic Party (ADC), led by Dr Wole Oluyede and the Social Democratic Party, (SDP), by Chief Segun Oni.

While the APC and its torchbearer, Oyebanji, are wrapping their victory joker in power of incumbency and the fact that they have the government support which has been obvious in the deployment of state resources and manpower to provide colourful outings that can bequeath a soft landing to victory for their candidate, the process that led to Oyebanji’s emergence, his antecedents and some miscarriages in the allocation of positions in a government yet to be approved by the people, stand as albatross to electoral success for the Ikogosi born lecturer turned politician.

For instance, even as it has become an accepted bitter pill in Nigeria that incumbents would always want to present his favourite within party to succeed him, the case of Oyebanji is a step ahead on the odd line. Governor Kayode Fayemi, it was learnt, has his own preferred candidate in the current Attorney General of Ekiti State, Kayode Fapohunda, from Oke Imesi, who had all along been his ‘Political Boy’ just as Oyebanji is ‘Political Boy’ to one-time governor of Ekiti State and current Minister of Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo.

But a prominent party member who spoke on condition of anonymity, informed that “lack of commitment to duty which sees the governor spending more time out of state and leaving governance in the hands of his wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, who was actually the one directing the affairs of the state by proxy, led to the unraveling of some information that made the wife of the governor rejects Fapohunda to found her choice in Oyebanji.

Dr Wole Oluyede of the ADC

Erelu Bisi Fayemi was said to have found the outgoing SSG more suitable and thus worked through influential politicians in the circle of government to ensure his endorsement.

And at the dawn of what looks like a political powerplay by wife of the governor, Fapohunda was swiftly sacrificed for Oyebanji; the latter being her lacky whose office as SSG, was said to have been used for various transactions on behalf of government.

Silence is golden, particularly when talking would lead to spinning of poisonous bean that may mar character and reputation. The choice of Oyebanji may not have gone down well with Dr Fayemi who ordinarily would have loved to hand over to his preferred loyalist but the contrary became a Hobson’s choice for the embattled governor and an embracement for key party leaders who were promised choice offices when Oyebanji’s government is in place.

Even as manipulation of APC primary to favour the SSG was obvious, party hierarchy believes that with the enormous clout it planned to wield around Oyebanji, victory is as sure as the savannah sky

They moved into action shortly after the primary, approached the deprived who were still leaking their fresh wounds and promised them juicy political future, including retention of office for those who strained from government to contest. However, promise for the latter may not endure too far with the recent signing of the electoral law which, among others, stipulates that primary election to the National Assembly must hold between April and June 3, 2022.

By and large, Oyebanji is from the Central Senatorial zone of the state, a district which has led for 12 of the 23 democratic years of Ekiti State. The northern zone will cover for the remaining 11 years with the completion of Fayemi’s second term in October. This has spurred rife agitation for a shift of power to the south, which has never produced any governor, in the coming election.

And to pacify the South, APC has made overtures to the beleaguered people by picking the deputy to Oyebanji from Ikere, a major town in the southern senatorial district, in the person of Mrs Monisola Christiana Afuye.

But as if APC is setting deliberate bubby traps on its way to success, the rejection that came from Ikere, hometown of the chosen deputy, has been overwhelming. A town that produced the likes of Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN and top APC members who are close to current government, like Prof Abiodun Aluko, Muyiwa Olumilua, Wale Adebola, Engr Fakoyede and incumbent Speaker of the State House of Assembly Hon Afuye and a host of top politicians and intellectuals, should feel slighted that the party overlooked their best, particularly, the one that are holding key positions in current government and have worked so assiduously to sustain the party, to narrow down on Monisola Afuye, popularly called ‘Moni Oniyan’, a Canteen proprietress, who many believe they are presenting as mere rubberstamp to curry southern votes.

A top monarch from the south, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the south will not settle for a second fiddle in the next dispensation, promising to use all means to ensure power dwell in the zone for the first time, this time.

Bisi Kolawole of the PDP is from Efon, Central Ekiti State. Kolawole is political son of maverick politician and former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose. He was State Chairman of his party and never planned to be governor. But Fayose, who had since been shopping for puppets he would nurture to the seat of power to have unhindered access to government house and as such secure indirect rule over a people he had the magic wand of milking with little or no resistance, is up for another game. The emergence of Kolawole as governorship candidate of the PDP, was deemed controversial by Segun Oni who felt shortchanged by the process that produced the former.  Talk of clout or popularity, Kolawole seems to score low points in that arena.

But the Efon-born politician is relying heavily on the street popularity of Fayose, which is unquestionable. Talk of a governor who has made himself very available to the people of Ekiti, through nearness and being so close to feeling their pulse, truly or feigned, there has been none like Fayose. He is seen by some as a man of the people, a friend of the oppressed and an outspoken governor, daring, combative and resolute on the side of the people. To some Ekiti people, particularly the illiterates and the lowly, which formed the bulk of the electorates, Fayose is the ideal governor; he can walk the street bare footed, drink local gin with Okada riders, eat on the streets and always doing the unthinkable.

But the high-handedness of Fayose, the lack of gift to quit when the ovation is loudest, inability to identify when popularity wane, aggrandisement and the choice for puppets for manipulations, are obstacles that may cripple Fayose’s ambition and make a mess of Kolawole’s success in the coming election.

PDP has also suffered a huge downsize in followership with the exit of Oni, who left the party with many of his followers in utter rage, ostensibly not to winning election but to put up a showing that the PDP without him in the State, has no electoral significance.

The eerie silence in Kolawole’s camp since victory at the primary is lending justification to the fact that PDP may not achieve much on the victory path in the June 18 election, barring a sudden rise to roar; a surprise Fayose is capable to spring to jostle naysayers who think it is over for the party.

Dr Wole Oluyede, of the ADC is much talked about as one politician that may hit the accurate mark in the coming election, judging by the high points trailing his candidature. Barring the fact that he is not a home-grown politician, which is a plus in some quarters where the current order is seen as hellish, he stands tall among other contestant.

He is also a menace to the grassroots politicians who wonder why he pull so much crowd and a domineering political followership despite living far away in Australia.

But Oluwole is an uncelebrated grassroots politician, who spend time, energy and money to attend to his people, particularly the lowly and the indigents, most of who are armed with his contact number and are sure of response anytime they call him. There are three things working for Dr Oluwole as a politician: humility, passion and philanthropism. To a man who is known to be successful professional, accomplished investor, influential and wealthy, his unfettered relationship with the masses and the tumultuous followership he is getting in return from that circle has grown from envy to hatred in the camp of his peer in the Ekiti guber race and some other top politicians.

Dr Oluyede was a strong member of the APC and a financial backbone to the party at some point too. He, among others in APC have reacted to the shoddy mode of governance by the incumbent and formed the Ekiti Stakeholders Forum to challenge the winners take all policy of governor Fayemi. They fought the injustice to court and held on until the national body of the APC admonished all members in court to withdraw their cases. When Fayemi would not bulge despite the withdrawal of the case, the stakeholders waited in the lurch, watching the incumbent government as it decimates the party, causing divisions among members with attendant implosions.

As the APC primary was inching in, Oluyede was quick to see what would be the end result. He joined the ADC to pursue his gubernatorial ambition, borrowing hindsight from the shenanigans recorded in the earlier congress where no election held but names of government favourites were written and forwarded to the national secretariat in Abuja. A case is in court, challenging the illegality of that congress.

Today, Oluyede is the only candidate in the Ekiti guber race from the deprived southern part of the state. His running mate, a female Muslim, Hidiat Simbo Popoola, is from Ado Ekiti. Ado is where the bulk of the votes in Ekiti election come from.

Political pundits believe that the combination of Oluyede and Simbo, from Ikere and Ado, respectively, is enough magic wand to make winning a reality for the undented fresh blood. The Ekiti people seem to have resolved to break away from the leadership ding-dong between the central and the northern parts of the state, the APC and PDP, that many believe have not met the desired democratic expectations of the people.

According to Chief Olusegun Adebayo, a native of Ikere Ekiti, “support for Oluyede by the deprived people of the southern senatorial district and indeed, Ikere will be massive. These are people who have waited endlessly for a period like this, to assert themselves and push the region to the line of relevance for once in Ekiti politics. The south is today speaking with one voice and what we are demanding is the number one seat and nothing else. Having waited for 23 years, I think it is expected that our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and younger ones across state, will team up with us in this deserved agitation for our own time to lead.”

Chief Segun Oni of the SDP would have been a force but for his perceived lackadaisical approach to political matters. Many who applauded his leadership style in 2007 are beginning to doubt if the Oni they knew then is still the same Oni of today. To many party juggernauts, he lacks firm approach to party matters and seemingly very feeble on political principles. For instance, he was quick to congratulate Bisi Kolawole when he was defeated in the PDP primary, only to take detour few days later, after pressures from his political allies, to condemn the process. Oni, also rushed to the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) moments later before he recently found a place in the SDP. The macabre dance before the final perch on SDP dangling rope is seen in many quarters as manifestation of a politician that has lost touch with modern realities in politics.

This action has also earned Oni the nickname: “Atiku of Ekiti Politics”, suggesting a man with eyes on power, without considering strategy and right climate that will midwife winning election

As it stands, the south may coast home this time with their agelong agitation to lead. Oftentimes the chance to lead are marred by several interests from the zone, jostling for the number one seat from various political parties.

 It may as well be the time for a fresh breath for Ekiti with a Oluyede, taking over Ekiti cockpit for a safe flight to democratic freedom and economic buoyancy.

By Gboyega Adeoye

 

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