Political parties participating in the June 18, Ekiti State governorship poll should conduct their primaries and pick candidates by January 29, going by the timetable released by Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The main election, many believe, would be a two horse race between All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Aspirants of the two parties are making the atmosphere charged by employing political intrigues, subterfuge to gain popularity.
Contrary to expectations that political actors would engage in decent and issues-based campaign devoid of name calling, blackmail and character assassination, the politicians have engaged one another in titanic battle especially on social media, calling names to undo their opponents to become preferred candidate of their parties.
For instance, a group in APC was said to have petitioned the Buni-led leadership against Governor Kayode Fayemi’s alleged romance with ex-governor Ayodele Fayose, while another group allegedly petitioned Senator Iyiorcha Ayu executive to call PDP party leaders in the state to order. There are several instances of social media rants deployed to attack certain personalities in the state.
Although the number of aspirants that have obtained nomination forms in APC are just a handful at the time of filing this report, nevertheless, notable aspirants that have indicated interest to contest the primary include member of House of Representatives representing Ekiti south constituency 2, Mr Femi Bamisile, former Secretary to the State Government, Biodun Oyebanji, former Commissioner on Public Utility, Mr Bamidele Faparusi, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, Ademola Popoola and Lagos based engineer, Kayode Ojo, among others.
However, the ruling party is currently facing political uncertainty following the alleged endorsement of Oyebanji as the preferred candidate by Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi. The endorsement, which has become an open secret has unsettled the party and ruffled feathers. Though Fayemi has denied endorsing any candidate, insisting that party members would exercise their rights in choosing the candidate to fly party’s flag, many believe the manner his aides have been rallying support for Oyebanji is enough pointer to believe that Fayemi might have endorsed him.
Some of the aggrieved aspirants, especially chieftains of the party from Ekiti southern senatorial district have not hidden their disdain for this purported endorsement.
It was learnt from impeccable sources within the party that aspirants, who felt shortchanged by the alleged choice of the governor, have rebuffed trouble-shooting efforts and rapprochement by the governor. Sources further disclosed that appeal by the governor was considered as rubbing insult on their faces. They have reportedly stuck to their guns. Some of them reportedly told the governor that, if they were good to be considered as deputy governor, why can’t they be good enough to be governor.
Fayemi’s cabinet was also not spared of the rumblings that followed the rumored endorsement of Oyebanji. Those who had hitherto positioned themselves as favorites to succeed the governor were alleged to have been furious with him for allegedly abandoning his core loyalists. The Chief of Staff, Biodun Omoleye, the Commissioner for Justice, Wale Fapohunda, other aides including Professor Bolaji Aluko, Commissioner for Public Utility, Bamidele Faparusi, who later resigned his appointment to pursue his governorship ambition, were said to have felt slighted by the choice of Oyebanji.
Aluko used his verified social media platforms to launch invectives at the governor, for avoiding the South in picking his successor. However, sources said that Omoleye, Fapohunda and some core loyalists of the Governor have been pacified to drop their ambition and support the Governor’s anointed candidate.
One of the southern agitators, Bamisile, who was said to have been wooed to drop his ambition, was said to have insisted that it would be a fatal error for his party to ignore the deafening agitation for power to shift to the southern zone of the state.
He said he was not rattled by the alleged endorsement of the immediate past Secretary to the State Government, who he described as “unpopular”, for the 2022 governorship race by Fayemi.
Bamisile said he remains one of the most experienced grassroots politicians in the state and that such endorsement can’t threaten him to drop his ambition.
He said he is already in the race, adding that he would win APC governorship ticket during its primary slated for January 22, to give people of Ekiti South their deserved reckoning in the politics of the state.
He said, “I am not disturbed by any unpopular endorsement. I am a veteran in politics and one of the most experienced grassroots politicians in Ekiti politics. I know what politics entails. In the last governorship election in 2018, Fayemi won with less than 19,000 votes, which was the least margin in the history of governorship in Ekiti State. So, someone like me can’t be troubled by any imposition or endorsement.”
What is more, the chastisement by the foremost lawyer, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, who blamed politicians in the South senatorial district, whom he called “midgets” for betraying the zone’s cause to mount governorship seat since the creation of the state in 1996, was said to have further strengthened southern politicians’ resolve to fight on.
Olanipekun said that the alleged political marginalisation of the zone was because politicians from Ekiti south senatorial district were ready to trade their rights in exchange for “political tokenism”. The senior lawyer, who was visibly angry by the development, said that some Ekiti south politicians have made themselves willing tools in doing the dictates and biddings of those from the North and Central zones, solely for their parochial and selfish interests.
The former NBA President spoke in Ikere-Ekiti during the annual Wole Olanipekun Christmas carol and lesson, on the current agitations for power shift to the South and allegations of political marginalisation of the zone in the state’s governance structure.
He said, “I pity those who say they are politicians from Ekiti south. They want to play second fiddle because they think they are inferior. That is the way I see it. But if you say I want to be deputy governor and I want to play a second fiddle, then, they will treat you as such.
“To me, I don’t blame people from the North, if the so-called politicians from the South feel inferior and they give them political tokenism and they will accept it. They see themselves as midgets and see those from the North and Central as giants. And they behave like zombies.
“To me, whether you are in APC, PDP, APGA or YPP, they should say this time around, Ekiti South should produce the next governor come June 18, 2022. You see I hate cheating and God doesn’t even like it. When you look at your Bible after the people of God entered the Promised Land and Moses was trying to share the land, he started with all the tribes.
“So, what are we talking about power shift to the South come 2023, if we can’t practice what we are agitating against right from our home. We must not allow Ekiti State to become a state of landlord and tenant that some people are tenants and others landlord. Everyone is equal”, Olanipekun said.
However, if the southern agitation had unsettled APC, the entrance into the race of Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, who also hails from Ekiti central senatorial district with Oyebanji, has further worsened the situation for the party.
Bamidele, who currently chairs Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, at the Senate, is not a pushover in the politics of the state, having contested for governorship twice and was also a member of House of Representatives. He was the Director General of Fayemi Campaign Organisation in 2018, during which he was accidentally shot in the campaigns, thus ending his political involvement in the said election. The rich political resume of Bamidele is part of reasons the party has been thrown into more crises.
MOB as he is fondly called visited the secretariat of the party after obtaining his nomination form, where he pleaded with Fayemi not to impose a candidate during the primary of the party.
He described himself as the best to seek to govern Ekiti, in view of his experience in public service that spanned over 30 years and cut across the executive, legislative and judicial arms.
Urging the party to give him ticket and win easily, Bamidele said: “Ekiti people are ready to vote for me, they are waiting for me already. And if APC refuses to give me, I won’t get these ready votes. So, APC must give the ticket to a popular person, one who can win election easily.”
Addressing the party leaders, Bamidele said his contributions in the Senate included his being instrumental to the passage of a bill for the establishment of Medical Science University and a branch of Law School in the state, saying these were testimonials to his competence to lead Ekiti.
Speaking on why he decided to join the race, Bamidele said: “We will strive hard to ensure that we don’t create crisis for APC. I am particularly happy that the party had not endorsed anybody or is under any instruction to impose anybody. I know that Governor Fayemi won’t do anything that will scatter the party as a leader, I am confident that this will not happen.
Political analysts are of the opinion that some knotty issues that the party may have to deal with include the southern agitation for power shift, the Bamidele factor, Adeyeye SWAGA and how to market Oyebanji to all APC tendencies. Analysts say that APC needs to put its house in order before the primary by trying as much as possible to reconcile the various tendencies and entrenched interests in the party. For instance, the Adeyeye-led SWAGA is in court, challenging the congresses held by the party. In addition, the group held parallel congress where factional executives emerged.
Stressing why the party should move swiftly to solve some of the issues, analysts sense that those who held parallel congresses might as well hold parallel primary election.
Although, it may be difficult to toy with the idea of consensus candidate for the party because of the old crises bedeviling APC in Ekiti State, analysts are yet of the view that reducing the number of aspirants is imperative, so as to minimise post primary controversy. To them, with fewer aspirants, the job of reconciling the aggrieved would be easier.
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