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Ekiti 2022: X-raying the leading aspirants

By Afiz Abolayo
24 July 2021   |   3:56 am
It's an open fact that the most important or trending mainstream political topic in Ekiti State at the moment is who succeeds Kayode John Fayemi as Governor after he must have concluded his term of office in October 2022 The topic is expected because our Constitution does not allow for a vacuum in leadership even…

It’s an open fact that the most important or trending mainstream political topic in Ekiti State at the moment is who succeeds Kayode John Fayemi as Governor after he must have concluded his term of office in October 2022

The topic is expected because our Constitution does not allow for a vacuum in leadership even for just a minute. Nature itself abhors a vacuum. It’s therefore incumbent on the people of Ekiti State and other stakeholders to begin a searchlight on who their next Governor will be. Of course, different interests and varying sentiments will be a major catalyst in driving the narrative of who’s most competent, qualified or acceptable to take over the baton of leadership from Governor Kayode Fayemi.

As expected, the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) has released the timetable for the election which will serve as a guide to all the political parties and their operatives on one hand, and other critical stakeholders, on the other hand,  on how to go about picking their candidates for the election, the campaigns and the election proper. The primaries election is scheduled to take place in January 2022 while the general election is for June 2022.

It’s the season, no doubt. The political firmament of the state created in 1996 by the military junta of the late General Sani Abacha is buzzing with all kinds of aspirants across the two dominant political parties – the All Progressives Congress(APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – sprouting from different corners of the state projecting themselves as the Messiah the Ekiti electorates have been yearning for.

Among the throng of aspirants contending for space and relevance are old political horses and new emerging political leaders in their respective rights across the two political parties trying to warm themselves into the consciousness of the public on the need to see them as the one with the Midas touch to turn the fortunes of the state for good if elected.

Ekiti South is the only geopolitical district that has not produced a governor since the inception of the state and 23 years of a democratic rule which makes it one of the zones with a high number of aspirants. Ekiti being a culturally homogenous state has not place much emphasis on where the governor comes from but there are agitations from the South geopolitical zone that the contending political parties should zone the Governorship ticket to Ekiti South. A former Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Chief Abiodun Aluko recently stated that for fairness and equity to prevail, the next Governor must come from Ekiti South Senatorial District.

While there are countless aspirants laying claim to having the requisite capacity, exposure and temperament to take over from Dr Fayemi, careful observation of the gubernatorial race field shows about ten candidates across the PDP and APC have shown strong interests and are oiling their political structures to contest the election all things being equal.  

The aspirants in no particular order of significance are: Barr. Olawale Fapohunda, Rt. Hon. Femi Bamisile, Hon. Makinde Araoye, Mr. Ademola Popoola, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, and Engr. Kayode Ojo, all belonging to the APC party while Engr. Segun Oni, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, Professor Olusola Eleka, Mr. Kayode Adaramodu, Otunba Bisi Kolawole are all of the PDP party

There may be more aspirants as time goes by but the aforementioned remain the leading aspirants occupying the frontpage of political discussion and analysis in Ekiti State at the moment.

Wale Fapohunda
Wale Fapohunda from Okemesi Ekiti in Ekiti Central has a law degree from University of Jos and a Masters from Kings College, University of London. Wale is seen as one of the core loyalists of Governor Fayemi and some of his loyalists are even boasting that he is the anointed successor of the governor already going by their closeness.

Fapohunda, cerebral and articulate, is the serving Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General of the state. He served in the same capacity during the first term of Governor Fayemi between 2010 and 2014. He was also an Adviser to Fayemi when the latter served as Minister of Mines and Solid Minerals between 2015 and 2018.

He has political strength in some Local Governments in Ekiti Central and has successfully delivered his Local Government for APC in all elections. However, there may be a gang up against the calm gentleman by the party leadership because of the alleged blood relationship he shares with the wife of the governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi. Some commentators are already kicking against this form of nepotism saying having him as Governor might be perceived by the electorate as Fayemi’s third term plan. Others also feel he does not have enough street credibility to face his opponents and sustain the rigor of a political campaign.

Femi Bamisile
Femi Bamisile is a seasoned grassroot politician from Kota Ekiti in Ekiti South Senatorial district. He has a diploma degree in Networking and Data processing from Eden College in London and a Bachelors’ degree in Business Administration from Ekiti State University.  He was appointed as the Liasion Office to Ekiti in Lagos State in 2003. He was speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly during the term of Segun Oni on the platform of the PDP but later resigned in 2009 after a protracted internal crisis that rocked the Ekiti State Assembly. BAFEM dumped the PDP in 2014.

He is from Ekiti South Senatorial District and an experienced politician who is known across the length and breadth of the state.

Currently serving as a member of the Federal House of Representatives representing Ekiti South Federal Constituency 2 on the platform of the APC.

Some commentators who have insider knowledge of the workings of the APC in the state say the leadership of the party are not comfortable with his grandstanding and aluta style of politics. The leaders of the party are of the opinion that BAFEM could upturn the current structure of APC in the state which currently serves Governor Fayemi and former Governor Niyi Adebayo if he is elected Governor.

Although Bamisile is a vibrant politician with street credibility, Senator Biodun Olujimi who also happens to be from the same Local Government from Bamisile might be his biggest headache and neutralizer.

Makinde Araoye
Makinde Araoye popularly known as MKD is one of the young Turks in the executive cabinet of Governor Fayemi and the youngest in the Ekiti Gubernatorial Race. He is from Ilawe Ekiti in Ekiti South. He is a son to the renowned Emeritus Professor Araoye.

Urbane, cosmopolitan, vibrant and highly compassionate, Araoye, armed with first degree in Accounting and Information Systems and also an MBA in Finance and Public Administration from Georgia State University, Atlanta, United States is a chartered accountant and project management professional whose work experience of over two decades straddles the private and public sectors both in the US and Nigeria.

He was Special Adviser on Revenue Mobilization to Fayemi when the latter served as Minister of Mines between 2015 and 2018. In 2018, He contested for the seat of the House of Representatives (Ekiti South Constituency 1) but was persuaded by the Ekiti APC leadership to step down from the race for Chief Yemi Adaramodu the former Chief of Staff to Governor Kayode Fayemi. He currently serves as Special Adviser to the Governor on Federal and Intergovernmental Matters.

MKD Araoye’s Social Security program for the elderly where he gives out monthly cash and food items to the indigents has made him popular with the senior citizens and drawn him closer to the grassroot in Ekiti South Senatorial district. This is a charitable program that he has been running over the past 10 years in Ekiti South Senatorial zone. The soro soke Ekiti youths’ clamor for a youthful Governor combined with Former Governor Niyi Adebayo’s case for a generational shift in governance in Ekiti State gives Makinde Araoye a good competitive advantage above others into the Gubernatorial race. Ekiti State has a track record of electing youthful Governors from Niyi Adebayo to Ayodele Fayose, and Kayode Fayemi.

Araoye’s albatross, for now, is that his political experience is still green. But some analysts and commentators say that won’t be a hindrance to governance if he wins the APC primaries and is eventually elected the governor of the state.

Kayode Olubunmi Ojo
Engineer Kayode Ojo, a Lagos-based businessman who hails from Ikoro Ekiti in Ekiti Central Senatorial district is not new to Ekiti State politics, at least as far as the APC in the state is concerned.

He was a gubernatorial aspirant in the 2018 election in the state who placed third right behind Kayode Fayemi and Segun Oni. Kayode Ojo, also known as KO has declared his interest to vie for the ticket of the party ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election in the state. Kayode Ojo financial wall chest puts him ahead of all the potential candidates as they see him as their biggest threat.

Ojo does not believe in the ekiti south zoning agitation and says he will concentrate on infrastructural development of the state if elected without neglecting human capital development.

Although known within the APC party at the state level, he does not appear as someone who has gained the trust and confidence of the party structure to fly the gubernatorial ticket for the party.

Otunba Ademola Popoola
Otunba Ademola Popoola who is from Oye Local Government in Ekiti North Senatorial district is a successful aviation consultant. Otunba Popoola who is new in the political terrain of Ekiti State is making inroad with his philanthropy work and the recent grassroots football tournament he set up across the 16 local government areas of the state.

Popoola had declared his ambition to take over from Governor Kayode Fayemi and has started vigorous campaigning in Ekiti State. He had a wide network of influential friends across the length and breadth of Nigeria. The momentum at which he is canvassing for support across Ekiti State is quite impressive considering he is new to the APC party.

Observers are of the opinion that the Governorship ticket cannot go back to the same local government that Governor Kayode Fayemi is from and this might hinder the ambition of Otunba Popoola.

Biodun Oyebanji
If there is anyone who knows Ekiti State like a walking encyclopedia, it is Biodun Oyebanji who hails from Ikogosi Ekiti in Ekiti Central Senatorial district.

He was the youngest member of the Movement for the Creation of Ekiti State in 1996 where he served as the Secretary of the august group that lobbied the late General Sani Abacha for the creation of the state. He is currently the Secretary to the State Government where he serves as the engine room of the administration and the multipurpose secretariat for all the activities – policy, politics and actions of the government due to the vacuum created by the unavailability of the Chief of Staff to Governor Fayemi. A former university don, banker, private businessman, astute administrator and consummate politician,

He is completely committed to public service and would not mind going out of his way to be of altruistic service as long as it will promote the development of the state.

He had served in various capacities during Fayemi’s first term in office which include D.G, Office of Transformation, Strategy and Delivery, Commissioner for Integration, Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, served the government as the liaison man between it and DAWN, among other various briefs.

Before then, he served as Special Assistant on Legislative Matters to the first civilian Governor of the state, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, before ending up as his Chief of Staff.

Governance and government are Oyebanji’s just as he is no greenhorn to high-wired politics and politicking yet he is self-effacing and unassuming, always following in the footsteps of his principal -Fayemi.  

In terms of having the requisite experience to take governance to the next level in Ekiti State, some insiders say Oyebanji is the man for the job.

However, most within the Fayemi government see him as a core loyalist of Otunba Niyi Adebayo, current minister of trade and industry, his first principal than Fayemi, his current boss and hence if he becomes the governor his loyalty won’t be towards Governor Fayemi. Most observers are also of the opinion that Oyebanji does not have the street credibility and grassroot connection to mobilize the people and win a general election in Ekiti. Most of the Fayemi and party loyalists see Oyebanji as just playing to the gallery and trying to be in Mr. Governor’s good books because of his gubernatorial ambition. One question everyone is asking is if Oyebanji had been accessible and charitable before he became the SSG to Governor Fayemi.

In all, Oyebanji is yet to publicly declare his intention to run but analysts say he has a good chance to grab the APC primaries ticket if he decides to throw his hat into the ring.

Segun Oni
Chief Segun Oni, virtually a household name, has remained as constant as the Northern Star in the political landscape of Ekiti State.

An ex-Governor of the state on the platform of the PDP, he wants to occupy the seat again on the platform of the same party.

His first tour of duty was cut short by judicial pronouncements which invalidated his controversial victory at the 2007 gubernatorial election in the state and thus pronounced Fayemi, then candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) as the winner of the election.

From the same Ekiti North as the incumbent Gov, Oni, a trained chemical engineer is highly cerebral, urbane and a gentleman.

It’s believed that he performed to the best of his ability while in office as Gov even though there were many hurdles on his way then.

At a point, Oni left the PDP for the APC where he became the Deputy National Chairman(South) of the party. However, he found his way back to the PDP again where he has been meeting all the who’s who in the party on his latest ambition.

Other things being equal, while being a strong contender, it does appear he won’t get the ticket of the party so long former Governor Ayodele Fayose is the one calling the shots in the party except perhaps Fayose cozies up to him. The current state executives of the party are almost all loyalists of Fayose.

Besides Fayose being in charge of the party, it does not look politically expedient to give the ticket of the party to Oni who hails from Ekiti North as the incumbent Governor. It’s looking increasingly possible as well that the candidate of the APC will come from either Ekiti South or Central as the case may be.

Senator Abiodun Olujimi
A two-term senator, Mrs Olujimi from Ekiti South remains a recurring decimal in the politics of Ekiti State. A tough politician and smooth political operator to the core.

She had been a commissioner, former Deputy Governor, perhaps the first female deputy Governor ever produced by the state, she was once in the House of Representatives and now in the Senate, representing Ekiti South.

Were she a soft nut to crack, she would have left the PDP because of former Governor Ayodele Fayose. Yet, she has remained a committed member of the party fighting her own battles.

In 2019 during the national assembly election, Fayose openly campaigned against, encouraging PDP faithful to vote her out. She won the election eventually through judicial affirmation as the courts threw out Dayo Adeyeye, candidate of the APC who was initially declared the winner of the election.

Senator Olujimi leads a strong caucus of the party that’s at variance with that of Fayose with neither of the two leaders ready to shift grounds.  

Except the national leadership of the party decides to throw its support behind Senator Olujimi, it will be a Herculean task for her to emerge as the candidate of the party in the forthcoming gubernatorial election.

Olusola Eleka
An academic, Professor Eleka from Ikere Ekiti in Ekiti South was the Deputy Governor of the State between 2014 and 2018.

The then Governor, Fayose, also anointed him as his successor and therefore did everything humanly possible for him to win the general election.

Eleka, a professor of Building Technology, lost the election by a slim margin to the incumbent, Dr Fayemi.

He has since ditched the camp of his former principal, Fayose. He is believed to be supported by Governor Seyi Makinde who even gave him an honorary appointment at the inception of his administration.

While he remains a leading aspirant in the PDP, his chances of clinching the party ticket remain slim in the interim.

Bisi Kolawole
Undoubtedly, Chief Bisi Kolawole, the incumbent state chairman of the party,  is the preferred choice of former Governor Ayodele Fayose.

Bar all odds, unless Fayose decides to switch his support to another aspirant, it does appear Kolawole is the candidate to beat though there may be a gang up against him from other caucuses of the party led by Senator Olujimi and Chief Segun Oni.

Kolawole is a grassroots politician and has been in the game for quite a while. He hails from Efon Alaaye in Ekiti Central the same as Fayose.

While the choice of Fayose as his godfather may be a fillip to him in terms of garnering the needed support especially among Fayose fans, the support could turn a liability or burden because of those who are politically opposed to the former governor.

Kayode Adaramodu
From Ilawe in Ekiti South, Kayode Adaramodu is a policy honcho and boardroom expert.

If Ekiti electorates are looking for a thoroughbred technocrat to lead the state, they need not look farther again. Adaramodu is their right plug.

A successful banker who once was the Deputy Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank(GTB) and formerly a staff banker with the Barclays Bank, United Kingdom, Adaramodu, who has declared his intention to be Governor on the platform of the PDP is an international development consultant with a vast network of high profile contacts in the development sector.

While he is a successful policy wonk in every ramification, it appears he is a political greenhorn without a tested grassroots political godfather who may do the groundwork for him.

It remains to be seen how he is going to convince the PDP delegates to elect him as the flagbearer of the party.

His message is clear: he is coming to reduce poverty in the state to the bare minimum and also revolutionise education which is the pride of every Ekiti man.