- ‘Buhari Boys’ set for showdown
With Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State still having a little less than two years to spend at the Oke Bareke Government House, political calculations on how to ensure that the All Progressives Congress regain power have reached fever pitch in the state.
Consequently, indications have emerged that the state chapter of the APC may be plunged further into crisis ahead of the 2018 gubernatorial election with no realistic chance of regaining power, as two former state governors and two other groups interested in the number one seat, battle for the soul of the party and, indeed, Ekiti.
Asiwaju Oni and Dr. Fayemi are eminently and legitimately qualified to aspire for the governorship position and I do not see how this will tear apart the APC in Ekiti. The party has a well-crafted constitution that will be followed in selecting the right candidate
The Point reliably gathered that a former governor of the state, Segun Oni, who is the incumbent National Deputy Chairman, South, of the party, and was governor between May 2007 and October 16, 2010, is plotting a return to the seat he once occupied.
In the same vein, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development and immediate past governor of Ekiti State, Kayode Fayemi, is also said to be plotting a return to the office he occupied between October 16, 2010 and October 15, 2014.
The two former governors seem to have federal support. Oni enjoys that of the top party hierarchy in Abuja, while Fayemi is believed to be one of the President’s boys. Fayemi literally controls the party apparatus in Ekiti, but most of his foot soldiers have queued behind different governorship aspirants within the party
The return plots of the two gladiators, the long standing aspiration of Opeyemi Bamidele, a former gubernatorial aspirant of the Labour Party, and the interests of a few other guber hopefuls angling for the endorsement of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, have now created fault lines within the state chapter of the party and its leadership.
At the last count, not less than 15 aspirants have been touted as jostling for the gubernatorial ticket of the APC in Ekiti State. Some of these include the Special Adviser to the President on Political Affairs, Senator Babafemi Ojudu; Bimbo Daramola, Senator Gbenga Aluko, Bamidele Faparusi, and Olufemi Bamishile, among others. According to findings by The Point, the Ekiti APC is already divided into four major factions, with one allegedly loyal to Tinubu; while Oni, Fayemi and another former governor of the state, Niyi Adebayo, lead the remaining three factions.
Of all the aspirants, however, Fayemi’s bid is allegedly said to be the most problematic for the party, as regards the chances of the APC in the 2018 gubernatorial election.
According to a competent source, however, Fayemi had, at a meeting held in October, defiantly informed some factional APC leaders about his return bid. And his touted shot at the governorship is reportedly said to be creating an atmosphere of acrimony, recriminations and fingerpointing among party faithful, especially after the free fall of the APC in Ekiti, from the pinnacle of power to a party with just one seat in the state legislature and none at the National Assembly.
Currently, both Oni and Fayemi seem to be enjoying the support of the APC national leadership and the Buhari administration’s top loyalists in their respective bids. Reacting to enquiries on the development, a former Director of Publicity and Media, Ekiti APC, Mr. Segun Dipe, told The Point that both former Governors Oni and Fayemi were eminently qualified to aspire for the governorship of the state.
He said, “Asiwaju Oni and Dr. Fayemi are eminently and legitimately qualified to aspire for the governorship position and I do not see how this will tear apart the APC in Ekiti. The party has a well-crafted constitution that will be followed in selecting the right candidate. But apart from the two leaders, there are others that are also eyeing the seat.
“2018 is still way ahead, and no one’s undeclared ambition is strong enough to have a negative effect on the party. Besides, it is too early in the day to decide who the ‘best’ candidate is.”
Dipe debunked the insinuationthat the aspirations of the two former governors would break the party, and stressed that party men had the collective responsibility of “confronting our common monster and restoring sanity in Ekiti.”
Following Fayemi’s defeat in 2014 by Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party, the APC had remained enmeshed in intra-party wrangling. And keen watchers of unfolding events opined that if the aspirants’ selection process was not handled with maturity and understanding, the crisis might consume the party.
A former speaker in the state Assembly, who craved anonymity, said that the APC could not afford to field a candidate “who is highly unpopular,” as it could hurt the party’s brand and the chances of its down-ballot candidates.
In another reaction, a political observer and analyst in Ekiti State, who asked not to be named, told The Point that the ambition of the two former governors were not rumours but the reality.
He said, “I think the two former governors have oiled their political machines towards the realisation of their ambitions, but it is not going to be an easy task. Already, the supporters of the two gladiators have begun to devise ways of running down one another. The Fayemi camp has adopted the slogan, ‘no decampee can be trusted with any political post in Ekiti,’ a veiled reference to Oni and other prominent PDP defectors to the APC.
“Interestingly, the two former governors seem to have federal support. Oni enjoys that of the top party hierarchy in Abuja, while Fayemi is believed to be one of the President’s boys. Fayemi literally controls the party apparatus in Ekiti, but most of his foot soldiers have queued behind different governorship aspirants within the party.”
He opined that, more importantly, the two ex-governors must work hard and meet at a common ground if they did not want their ambition to do more harm to the already dented image of the party.
He added, “The division in the party is real. But the party stands a chance if it fulfils certain conditions and if the incumbent too fails to put in place certain things. Elections these days have gone beyond crowd followership.
The hope of APC returning to power would be based on a number of factors. “One, if the incumbent fails to deliver on his campaign promises, which more or less seems to be the case now.
Secondly, if the incumbent fails to present a sellable candidate as his successor. Again, Fayose may not also be getting the same support he got in 2014.”
However, Fayemi’s Media Adviser, Yinka Oyebode, told The Point that the former governor has not shown any interest in the Ekiti governorship ahead of 2018. He however did not deny that there were insuations that he is interested in the race, adding that those making the insinuations are those who believe in his ability and eligibility. Oyebode said, “Fayemi, has not shown any interest in the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State.
Yes, there are insinuations that he is interested. Those making the insinuations and clamouring are probably doing so because they know he is eminently qualified to contest, first as a bona fide citizen of the state and as a former governor, who has a record of excellent performance in the areas of infrastructure development, education, health, youth and women empowerment and community development, among others.
“But I can tell you the minister is focused on his present assignment as Minister of Mines and Steel Development, and as such, he is one of the key drivers of the diversification and job creation plans of the present government. So, all his energy is being channeled to his current assignment so that he can deliver excellently.” Oyebode debunked the notion that Fayemi’s touted ambition is tearing APC apart in Ekiti, saying that he does not see how that could happen.
Checks by The Point across the state have shown that both Fayemi and Oni may, for now, be unpopular among the electorate. But there are fears that, unless proactive actions are taken, a repeat of the Jimoh Ibrahim versus Eyitayo Jegede scenario in Ondo State PDP may play out in Ekiti APC come 2018, especially now that the party is not in control at the state level.
This is against the backdrop of an alleged gang-up of high-profile ministers and politicians in the Buhari cabinet, who are reportedly seen moving swiftly to rally support for one of their own, Fayemi, who has been clandestinely meeting with APC members in the state.
The Point’s investigations revealed that Fayemi had met with some party leaders across the state.
Furthermore, it was discovered that a meeting called late last year by elders in the party to harmonise the varying interests in the party and also nip in the bud the intractable crisis in Ekiti APC, met with little or no success. This crisis, observers said, was occasioned by the struggle for the soul of the party by progressives and those referred to as centrists.
Former Governor Adebayo was said to have angrily denounced Tinubu, saying that he would not reconcile with the former governor of Lagos State nor recognise him as a leader.
“We were both governors at the same time,” he was quoted to have said. The attempt was further shot down by Oni and Fayemi, who were said to have attended the meeting with copies of the APC constitution, pointing out that the party’s constitution did not recognise ‘Elders’ Forum’, and as such, whatever was done at the meeting remained a nullity.
They allegedly told the elders that their attendance at the meeting was borne out of their respect for the elders and not because they were recognised as APC elders. An elder of the APC in Ekiti State, who craved anonymity, confirmed to The Point that the meeting actually took place and that the efforts of the elders to broker peace were thwarted.
He, however, said that they (the elders) would continue to advocate for peace, so that their case would not be like that of the PDP in Ondo. He said, “It is true that things are not as they should be in our party in Ekiti. And it is not unconnected with the 2018 gubernatorial election.
The APC has become the beautiful bride and everyone wants to fly the flag of the party. But we will ensure that the emergence of our candidate for the 2018 election is devoid of any acrimony.”
Meanwhile, efforts by The Point to get official reaction from Ekiti APC proved abortive as the Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun neither responded to emails and SMS sent to him, nor picked calls made to his two mobile numbers.