Ekiti governorship primaries and the epic battle ahead

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Uba Group

BY ADEGBOYEGA ADEOYE

Come Saturday, January 22, 2022, the battle for the destiny of Ekiti State (Fountain of Knowledge), will kick off with the primary elections of the All Progressives Congress. The primary election will decide who picks the flag of the ruling party for the governorship election fixed for June 18, 2022, by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

Already, political activities in the state are gaining audible volume as some aspirants in the ruling party have been signifying intention to contest the Ekiti number one seat. Because Ekiti is a state where succession has always been a hard nut to crack, a lot is expected from the aspirants that will break the jinx of inconsistency in governance to ensure continuity this time around.

An investigation by The Point revealed that the ruling APC is divided into two major blocs in Ekiti State. A division loyal to the incumbent governor, christened “Tokantokan” is holding sway for the moment while the others, which seem to be in the majority, are venting their anger under the South West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023. The SWAGA group is uniting to present a single candidate it plans to rally around to win the January primary and take away power from the Tokantokan group, which they view to be vicious and vindictive. The SWAGA group says it wants to restore order for the party to stand.

Also, in preparation for the battle ahead, other political parties are gearing up for the primaries which will eventually throw up their flag bearers.

Even though Peoples Democratic Party has been out of power in Ekiti State, the state remains a strong PDP state and dominant too, with several frontline and influential politicians.

The air of zoning is also blowing ferociously across the major parties, PDP inclusive.

Major personalities in the APC like Senator Dayo Adeyeye, Oluwole Oluyede, Tony Adeniyi and Abiodun Aluko from the south, are rooting for a shift of power to the southern part of the state in the coming election. Several other notable politicians as well as influential party leaders are receptive to this idea and have also alluded to this fact in their recent comments. Hence, in the interest of justice, equity, inclusiveness and popular demand, both APC and PDP will most likely uphold zoning as a factor and go south for their flagbearers.

Adeyeye, Oluyede and Olufemi Bamisile, are top among contenders coming from the southern Ekiti bloc which has not produced a governor since 1999. They will slug it out with Biodun Oyebanji, (Central), the taunted favourite of the incumbent government. The three major contenders are from the south by birth, with requisite qualifications and achievements.

However, politics is nothing without principles. Politics is about integrity and fairness. Therefore, on the part of the party, politics should reflect inclusion and balance. It is an art of compromise in a bid to aggregate all interests. Nobody takes it all.

Ekiti APC has been haunted by a division, in the lingering winner takes it all game that is walking tall and on four legs. This is made worse by the inability of the leadership to harmonize all interests and harness them properly for coming elections. As it stands, stakeholders who are aggrieved with the process leading to the primaries may work against the party in the election proper, hence the need for the party to get its acts together so that the current victory will not go the way of the past.

Among the four major contenders for the Oke-Ayoba Government House in the coming polls, only Bamisile has come out boldly to declare his interest. Both Adeyeye and Oluyede seem to be waiting for the verdict of SWAGA, their constituency, on who to bear the flag for the contest. Oyebanji seems to be the favoured candidate of the Tokantokan group loyal to the incumbent governor and maybe the adopted aspirant from the government circle.

“The SWAGA bloc led by Adeyeye, the Kayode Fayemi bloc, is yet to endorse any aspirant and a floating bloc known as the ‘Kogba group’, is expecting a yet to be identified credible aspirant to support”

How the gladiators stand:

Oluwole Oluyede

He is a politician from Ikere Ekiti and a Medical Doctor with an interest in Emergency Medicine, Rural and Remote Medicine. He runs the Gnowangerup Shire Medical Practice in Gnowangerup W/A Australia and he is a Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Oluyede appears to be the beautiful bride of the APC, with a lot of popular appeals and an electrifying personality that warms up a room by his sheer presence. He is the most experienced in public service among all the aspirants. In terms of international contacts and networks, he is well-positioned and ranks high. He is arguably the only candidate coming into the contest on the strength of his achievements for his people with his personal resources.

And when he set out to transform his rural rustic community and make it a city shining on the hill, politics was not even in his mind. It was sheer selfless love. Oluyede has invested vastly in agriculture in his hometown and is also venturing into the hospitality and education sector with a landmark touch.

Though not too long in the political arena, he has already acquainted himself with the pros and cons of Ekiti political process, building bridges with power players and making them buy into his vision for the party and for the state. Ekiti has many political philanthropists, people who indulge in the act of giving to curry votes. But Oluyede is an example of a philanthropist in the true sense of the word, sparing no cost in his avowed mission of developing his community and empowering its human capital with his personal funds while expecting nothing in return. He also appears to be the joker of Ekiti abroad, who find in him the right person to prove the capacity and competence of Ekiti in the diaspora. Furthermore, the fact that he remains untainted by the murky waters of Nigerian politics is a plus to his candidacy. He comes without any baggage, unfettered and free from any soiled past. Aside from the fact that he is a self-made man, he has no godfather and he is self-financed, and therefore has no strings that will impede his ability to deliver on the job and affect his mission. Since joining the SWAGA, Oluyede has been one of the biggest financiers of the group.

Because of his independent-mindedness, he evokes fear among other contenders in other political parties because he is at home with the masses at the grassroots, the Ekiti religious class and the elite. His ideology hinges richly on hard work, which to him, is the spirit the Ekiti people need to adopt to lift them out of perpetual bondage of poverty and lack. He looks forward to entering the State House and changing the current orientation of the people and lifting them from the present state of peasantry to a position of honour where dignity and self-worth count.

If SWAGA decides to present a consensus candidate for the primary election, Oluyede’s chances are very high because he is largely seen as a neutral candidate without ties to any party bloc, and with the force, the means, the energy and the capacity to turn around the fortunes of the party and the people at the elections and emerge victorious.

Dayo Adeyeye

He is a fine gentleman, a lawyer and a journalist who understands and embodies the principle of grassroots politics. Of the four, he is the most experienced politician. Adeyeye’s political journey began as a pro-democracy activist at the National Democratic Coalition which was a frontline campaign body against military rule during the dark days of military interregnum.

He was earlier Director of Publicity for Falae for President Campaign Organisation in 1992 and later became an Adviser on Policy and Press Matters, MKO Abiola for President Campaign Organisation in 1993.

Sequel to these, he was the National Publicity Secretary of the Pan Yoruba Soco-political group, Afenifere, in 2001, and then became the Publicity Secretary for Alliance for Democracy in 2004. In 2006, he wanted to be governor of Ekiti State and was an aspirant in the AD for the governorship ticket. The party became the Action Congress of Nigeria, but he was beaten to second place by the current governor of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi, in controversial and disagreeable primaries.

Adeyeye and 12 other members of the ACN defected to the PDP after their grievances were unresolved. Thus, began his sojourn in the PDP. As a member of the PDP, he was appointed Minister of State for Works by the Goodluck Jonathan administration. He served in the administration until its expiration in 2015.

It was the view of the PDP leaders in Ekiti that his departure from the party over his ambition to be governor in 2018 was both wrong and unfair, given that he had benefited so much from the party, even more than he could have benefited from the other parties. His crossing to the APC was compensated with a senatorial reward. But the court later declared his opponent in the last Ekiti South Senatorial election, Biodun Olujimi, as the validly elected senator for the district.

Adeyeye stood tall as a senator on the platform of the APC and some party members are of the opinion that he would be more suitable for the Senate, come 2023. He only joined the party in 2018 when his governorship ambition was aborted by the maverick governor, Ayo Fayose, who was hell-bent on fielding his deputy, Kolapo Olusola, as the PDP flagbearer for the 2018 governorship election and so he is not trusted by a section of the party, enough to be voted the flagbearer of the party.

Adeyeye, in spite of the pleas and promises made by the leaders of PDP, led by no less a person than the former Senate President, David Mark, had walked away from the party to pitch his tent with the APC, in a bid to have his pound of flesh, so many believed. He was willing to forego his governorship ambition, provided he could stop the PDP from winning the governorship election. That was his perceived mission to the APC.

As it is with politics in Nigeria and with Nigerian politicians, it is about personal interest. The party is a vehicle to accomplish and advance that interest. Once the party appears to have a flat tyre, it is abandoned for another vehicle that would take you to your desired destination. The Ise Ekiti born Senator had been a PDP man. At a time, he was its spokesman, serving as the National Publicity Secretary for the Ahmed Makarfi group of the PDP during its crisis. For him to have the trust of the majority of APC members would be difficult.

Adeyeye’s plight is not altogether strange. He will take a cue from a few of his colleagues who had suffered the same fate. And as a loyal member of the APC, he might be considered for other appointments.

The Ekiti people are the ones in need. Whether Oluyede or Adeyeye, their interest remains the most important and that is what should be served by SWAGA.

Richard Olufemi Bamisile

Olufemi Bamisile is currently a member of the House of Representatives for the Ekiti South 2 and the first aspirant to come out to declare his interest for the Ekiti number one seat among APC contestants. He is a former Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly in the third parliament a member of the PDP. He was also among the candidates for the APC at the Ekiti gubernatorial election for 2018.

Ever since he declared his interest, Bamisile has not hidden the fact that he was coming to power to consolidate on the legacy of the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi.

Bamisile vied for the APC gubernatorial primary held on April 5, 2018 and came fourth out of 33 contestants.

He is also an experienced politician, who contested the House of Representatives seat in 2004 and lost to Biodun Olujimi. He later contested for the House of Assembly seat to represent Ekiti East Constituency 1 in 2007 on the platform of the PDP and won.

He became the Speaker of the House between June 6, 2007 and 2009 before he resigned during a protracted crisis with his colleagues.

Coming this time, Bamisile said his mission is to fast-track development in Ekiti, by expanding the scope of policy thrust initiated by Governor Fayemi, centred around good governance, agriculture and food security, education and Human capital development, health and human services, among others. Bamisile maintained that though, he was not an advocate of zoning, the idea of allowing the southern part of the state to assume the governorship seat in 2022 after 23 years of unbroken democratic rule, was apt and equitable.

In spite of his experience, the federal lawmaker may not make a meaningful impact in the coming primary for his dual partisanship and political baggage incurred during his past political undertakings.

“Analysts believed that the political future of Fayemi would be bleak if his wife should dictate who would be the next governor of Ekiti State in 2022”

Abiodun Oyebanji

Abiodun Oyebanji is the incumbent secretary to the state government. He is a former university lecturer and had previously served as Chief of Staff during the administration of Niyi Adebayo. He was also the Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning during Fayemi’s first term. To many politicians in Ekiti State, Oyebanji is seen as a politician who has been leaning on godfathers to float. As an ardent “Adeniyi Boy”, it came as a surprise when news first filtered out that he is being considered to fly the flag for the Tokantokan group. It is believed that supporting Oyebanji would mean Governor Fayemi is ceding the control of state power to former governor Adebayo, who has been the political life-support for Oyebanji, a la carte. But recent revelations have confirmed that there are more to his selection than meets the ordinary eyes. There are some undercurrents, suggesting that the wife of the Ekiti State governor, Bisi Fayemi, deliberately set up the machinery to displace her husband in the political power game in the state by tipping Oyebanji for the number one job.

The move, which is already tearing the Tokantokan group apart, has pitched a majority of the caucus against the governor, who has been found to have ceded the leadership of the party affairs to his wife, as a result of inadequate attention to governance. This has further polarized the Ekiti APC and decimated it to the Bisi Fayemi bloc supporting Oyebanji.

The SWAGA bloc led by Adeyeye, the Kayode Fayemi bloc, is yet to endorse any aspirant and a floating bloc known as the ‘Kogba group’, is expecting a yet to be identified credible aspirant to support.

Oyebanji’s emergence has removed the veil on who has been the de facto ruler of Ekiti State, all along. Bisi Fayemi has been found to be more politically on the ground than her husband and she is taking full advantage of that. It is believed that she is nursing a senatorial ambition to represent Ekiti North Senatorial district come 2023. She is very ambitious, aggressive, and determined to unseat Olubunmi Adetunbi from the Senate; a seat most political observers believe should be reserved for her husband if his (Fayemi) rumoured presidential ambition does not sail through.

The south is not still relenting on determining who should be the next governor of the state. They have other political gladiators like Yemi Adaramodu, former Chief of Staff to Fayemi, and now a member of the House of Representatives, Bamidele Faparusi, former member of the House of Representatives and presently serving under Fayemi as the Commissioner for Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Funminiyi Afuye, former commissioner and presently the Speaker, Ekiti State House of Assembly. They are also waiting in the wings.

Analysts believed that the political future of Fayemi would be bleak if his wife should dictate who would be the next governor of Ekiti State in 2022.
This is indeed a trying time for the ruling APC in Ekiti. The party appears to have lost focus, and the people are disenchanted. It is hoped that the cloudy weather settling on APC will not make the PDP step in again and salvage the situation.

But the winning starts from the primaries. If the APC hearkens to the voice of reason and presents a popular candidate, the top seat is there for taking.