Political posters, banners and billboards in various colours and sizes have adorned Ekiti State, even when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has not lifted ban on politics.
Though, the electoral agency has fixed April 15, this year for the commencement of political campaigns; and for the political parties to begin their primaries for the election that will hold in July 14, but the governorship aspirants have kick-started campaigns in the guise of submitting their letter of intent to their political parties.
Ekiti governorship election has never been a tea party and a contest for the Lilly-liveried. The state has the record of fiercest political contest in Nigeria and an unpredictable electorate, the reason, why some of the aspirants have started scheming since last year.
Analysts believe that the election is going to be a battle of wits among old political rivals, especially within the political parties as they prepare to choose their flag bearers.
While the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seems to be sensitive to the clamour for zoning the next governorship seat to Ekiti South Senatorial District that has not produced a governor since the creation of the state, that sentiment is not strong among All Progressives Congress (APC) gladiators, who are of the opinion that what the party needed is a strong candidate who can match PDP, especially Governor Ayodele Fayose on all fronts.
For Fayose who is serving his second term, his determination to hand over to his Deputy, Professor Kolapo Olusola is a political battle that has caused serious disaffection in the PDP.
While some party leaders, especially those who have ambition to succeed Fayose have publicly denounced the decision of Fayose and ready to fight it out, Fayose is not looking back on his support for Olusola.
Other PDP aspirants that are battle ready against Fayose, include the former Minister of Works, Prince Adedayo Adeyeye, Senator representing Ekiti South senatorial district in the National Assembly, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, former Ambassador to Canada, Ambassador Dare Bejide and the former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Owoseeni Ajayi.
They are of the view that the decision by Fayose to endorse Olusola was done in bad fate. They are also of the view that the decision has precluded them from the race.
The aggrieved aspirants petitioned the Uche Secondus-led National Working Committee (NWC) to wade into the matter; otherwise the party may lose the governorship election to the opposition APC.
The aspirants said for credible primary to hold in Ekiti State, the State Working Committee (SWC), led by Gboyega Oguntuase must be dissolved and a caretaker committee must be set up to conduct the primary.
At a press conference jointly addressed by the aspirants they said: “We reject without reservation the adoption of Prof Olusola as the sole candidate of the party for the July 14 governorship election.”
Speaking on behalf of others, Adeyeye called on the National Chairman of the party to exclude Fayose and the State Chairman of the party, Gboyega Oguntuase from being part of the conduct of the primary, saying the “duo have already compromised, they have taken positions and cannot be fair to all the aspirants”.
They demanded further that: “SWC having betrayed its expected neutrality role, should be disqualified in the process leading to the gubernatorial primary in April. We demand for a caretaker committee to replace them for the state.
“Governor Fayose has pitched his tent with Prof Olusola and he should bedisqualified from playing any role. The relevant provisions of the electoral Act and the PDP constitution should be followed strictly and arbitrary and illegal use of state apparatus like radio and television stations to subvert the truth must stop.
“We don’t want to lose Ekiti but Governor Fayose is messing up the whole process. It was because people like us worked hard in 2014 that made the 16-0 possible for PDP.
“Prof Olusola was only a beneficiary of our sweat, he didn’t contribute anything and now he wants to be adopted against the party’s constitution, this we will not accept,” they vowed.
The Party’s NWC has intervened by setting up a Reconciliation Committee led by Senator David Mark. The committee was said to have met the feuding gladiators, but it seems Fayose is not going back in his open endorsement for Olusola.
Only last week during the celebration of the International Womens’ Day held in Ado Ekiti, Fayose said: “I stand with Olusola. My good women show me your voter cards. Will you vote for Olusola? This is my man. This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. He will follow women agenda. Everybody will have a chance for primary, but as at today, tomorrow and for ever, I stand with Olusola.”
Though Fayose also agreed that there would be primaries and other aspirants are free to contest but he is entitled to his opinion to support any of the aspirants and he sees Olusola as a loyal and trustworthy ally that will continue his programmes.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) is also not insulated from crisis as over 35 aspirants have signified their intentions to clinch the party ticket for the governorship election.
But all eyes are still on the former governor of the state and Minister of Steel and Mineral Resources, Dr Kayode Fayemi, who has not publicly declared his interest, but who will certainly be one of the determinants of who flies the APC flag.
Some of the aspirants that have shown interest are, the former governor of the state and National Deputy Chairman of the APC, Chief Olusegun Oni, Special Adviser to the Vice President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, former governorship candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the state, Hon Bamidele Opeyemi, Senator Gbenga Aluko, Senator Ayo Arise, the Director General of Fayemi campaign Organisation in the last election Hon. Bimbo Daramola.
Others are former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Hon Olufemi Bamisile, Oladiran Adesua, Hon Bamidele Faparusi, Wole Oluyede, Yinka Akerele, an Afenifere chieftain and former Majority Leader in Ekiti State House of Assembly, Hon Funminiyi Afuye, a member of Ekiti Elders Forum, Dr. Adebayo Orire, Kayode Ojo, Kola Alabi, Dr. Makanjuola Owolabi, Olajide Akinyemi Jnr: Engr Muyiwa Olumilua and Sunday Adebomi.
It was also gathered that former Chief of Staff to Fayemi, Chief Yemi Adaramodu is also warming up to join the league of aspirants if his boss decided otherwise.
Though opinions are divided among analysts about the implication of the large number of APC aspirants to the winning of the election, some leaders like Chief Oni sees it as a good omen and a clear indication that Ekiti people are tired of the PDP in the state.
Others believe many of the aspirants would be disappointed and leave the party. They hinge their pessimism on what they describe as the lack of internal democracy in the APC.
Asked how the party intends to avoid the pitfalls of the Ondo APC primaries, which resulted to crisis due to the large number of aspirants, the State Publicity Secretary of the party, Hon Taiwo Olatunbosun said the experiences of Anambra and Abia States had become reference points in dealing with such issues.
He said the party intends to ensure fairness and transparency as its principle at the primaries as a first step to averting any major crisis.
He said, “The truth is that the high number of aspirants showing interest in the governorship ticket should not be seen as a disadvantage, but rather as a demonstration of the confidence people have in the party.
“We have rules and we will adhere strictly to them and provide a level playing field for all the aspirants.
“It is not like the PDP where it is a one-man show who will impose a candidate on the people; we will have to allow the tenets of democratic principles to prevail in the coming primaries.”
Fielding question on whether he will give the governorship race another shot, Fayemi said: “The bottom line for us is that we have to ensure that our party is well positioned and strengthened to go into elections.
It has nothing to do with personal ambition or an intention to contest. I believe that is the burden leadership has thrust upon me, and I don’t want to shirk that responsibility.
“The choice really for every Ekiti free-born is either to walk away and avoid Ekiti like a plague. And many have done that, particularly the elite. The alternative is to treat Ekiti as a sick child.
We all know how a concerned mother treats a sick child; when a child is sick, and the child refuses to take any food and the prescribed drugs, our mothers apply tough love to that child and what is that tough love?
“In Ekiti, mothers have a way of force-feeding the sick child – blocking his two nostrils, pinning his hands and legs down, before putting the food and drugs in the child’s mouth. Of course, the child will wail and cry as mothers apply this tough love, but ultimately, it is for the good of the child because, if you agree with me that Ekiti is a sick child, I leave you to speculate about the application of tough love on a sick child.
As for contest or no contest, we will cross that bridge when we get there.”
The contest may not be a straight battle between PDP and APC as some other parties have some strong aspirants that might spring surprises at the election. For instance the Mega Party in Ekiti State has aspirants like second republic Minister, Senator Bode Olowoporoku and former Deputy Governor of the state, Surveyor Abiodun Aluko.
While the Australian based Doctor of Applied Chemistry, Joseph Olugbenga Ayenimo is selling the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the state; Pastor Tunde Afe hopes to occupy the Government House through Abundant Renewal Peoples Party (ARPP).
Source: Guardian newspaper