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Ekiti APC governorship primary: Day of long knives

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Kayode Fayemi. PHOTO: NAN

The South West leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was not under any illusion that yesterday’s primary for the Ekiti State governorship election would be easy and without intrigues.

The leadership of the party had held a meeting with all the aspirants in Lagos, to assure them of fairness, transparency and a level playing field. They also got assurances from them that all the aspirants that will support whoever emerged as the candidate.

Present at the meeting were the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; former Interim National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande; National Vice-Chairman, South-West, Chief Pius Akinyelure; former Ogun State governor, Chief Segun Osoba; his former Ekiti State counterpart, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; Speaker, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, and Ekiti State Chairman of the party, Chief Jide Awe.

At the end of the meeting, Tinubu said: “What I admire about them is that we called them and they answered our call. They all asked for a free, fair and transparent process and that is what we are committed to doing.

“The leadership is determined to respect that wish. There would be no interference, no collusion with any of them. But we told them they must all maintain the peace. And once we all recognise our roles and play the roles, we will all move forward.

However, the meeting could not prune down the number of aspirants as they were left to sort themselves out.

Indeed, the primary was one of the fiercest ever conducted by any political party. Out of the 40 aspirants that submitted letter of intent to the State Working Committee (SWC) of the party, only 33 eventually paid N7.5m to the national secretariat of the party – N5m for the form and N2.5m administrative charges.

With the assurance from the leadership of the party that a level playing field would be provided, the game became intense as all the aspirants and their cronies as at Friday were using all manner of political gimmicks to convince the 2,600 delegates to their side.

The aspirants included two former Governors of the state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Chief Segun Oni; former Senators, Gbenga Aluko, Ayo Arise and Babafemi Ojudu; and former House of Representatives members, Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, Bamidele Faparusi and Bimbo Daramola.

Others include, Dr. Wole Oluyede, a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Mr. Olufemi Bamisile; Dr. Christiana Yaya Kolade; Mr. Kola Alabi, Mr. Kayode Ojo; Dr. Oluwole Oluleye, Chief Sesan Fatoba, Mr. Diran Adesua, Mr. Muyiwa Coker and Mr. Muyiwa Olumilua, Dr Adebayo Orire, Mr. Debo Ranti Ajayi, Mr. Victor Kolade, Mr. Oladipupo Ogunkoyode, Captain Sunday Adebomi and Chief Dele Okeya among others

One of the delegates from Ado Ekiti who spoke to The Guardian on Friday morning said: “The truth is that I am confused and I am finding it difficult to zero my mind on any of the aspirants. The good thing is that we have many of them that can win election for the party but we must seek the face of God for the best candidate that will be acceptable to the electorate.”

There seemed to be heavy deployment of money to buy over the delegates but some of the delegates who admitted to have received “transport fare” after meeting with some aspirants said, money inducement would fail in determining the winner.

He said: “There is no way you can rule out money in politics, but what is paramount to us is to get a candidate that will defeat the PDP. Fayose is a misfit and there is no way we can allow him to impose his stooge on Ekiti people. But the best way to get PDP and its candidate out is to elect an acceptable candidate. We are tired of playing opposition.”

An aspirant was said to have given N20, 000 to each of 2,000 delegates he invited for a meeting at his residence, while another was alleged to have doled out N50, 000 to each of the delegates. Another aspirants was said to have collected the account numbers of all the delegates after the meeting and promised to “appreciate “ them after the primaries.

Considering the large number of the aspirants, two-thirds of them came from the Southern Senatorial area, the zone that had never produced governor since the creation of Ekiti State.

Few hours to the primary, it was obvious that Fayemi, Oni, Aluko, Oluyede and Bamishile were the toast of delegates. Aspirants like Ojudu, Faparusi, Arise had fazed out, but were ready to support any other candidate apart from Fayemi.

Before the election, analysts were of the opinion that it was going to be another political battle between the two former governors of the state; Fayemi and Oni. Both of them had at a different platform contested for the governorship in 2007. While Oni contested as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Fayemi was the flag bearer of the ACN, which later became APC.  Oni was declared winner by the electoral body and the legal battle led to a re-run and eventual declaration of Fayemi as the winner by the Appeal Court, sitting in Akure on October 15, 2010.

But yesterday’s contest was different. Both of them are chieftains of the APC, with ambitions to govern the state again. While Fayemi is currently a Minister of Steel and Mineral Resources, Oni is the National Deputy Chairman of the party.

The primary also played out the silent political contest between those insiders refereed to as core loyalists of President Muhammadu Buahari known as “Abuja boys” and Tinubu loyalists, they often referred to as  “Bourdilon boys.”

But the leaders of each group were said to be discreet in their involvement to avoid what happened in Ondo State during the primary that brought in Governor Rotimi Akeredolu as the flag bearer of the party. The Bourdilon boys were roundly defeated and with support from Abuja boys, Akeredolu won the election.

Apart from the support of the Presidency, which many claimed Fayemi got, he was also in control of the majority of the party structure from the state to the ward level. They were elected into office while Fayemi was the governor. But that was in exclusion of the chairman of the party, Chief Jide Awe who pitched his tent with Oni.

There was no doubt that Oni had the support of the core Bourdilon boys as Tinubu’s name was being dropped during the campaign. And to give credence to their claim, former member, House of Representatives, Hon Oyedele Ojo, who is also the son in-law of Tinubu was one of the arrowheads of Oni’s campaign team. Ojo was being touted to become running mate of Oni.

While Fayemi enjoyed huge support of members that believe in his ability to win the election for the party, some of the powers that be in the party led by Ojudu pitched their tent with Oni. So also were members of the party that decamped from the PDP to the APC, who saw Oni as their natural leader.

Fayemi was said to have offended many of his supporters by not confiding in them his intention to join the race. Some of them said they had promised their support for other aspirants before he finally made up his mind. Though Fayemi had argued that he could not have declared his intention before the date permitted in the electoral law. For instance, his former Director of Campaign organisation, Hon Bimbo Daramola said if Fayemi had told him that he would contest, he wouldn’t have entered the race.


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