Ekiti 2018: Fayose’s bold step, the ripples
Two things are settled about the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti State: It is not going to be a walkover and it would feature old combatants. As to how the outcome would affect politics in the state, a lot of issues would be at play. Signs that various interest groups have started strategising emerged recently, when the incumbent governor Ayo Fayose supported the endorsement of his deputy, Professor Kolapo Olusola for the next governorship poll.
Picking his deputy as the arrowhead for the poll could be seen as Fayose’s way of celebrating the favourable apex court ruling in the protracted leadership challenge in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Had the court ruled otherwise, Fayose would have got more to lose. That would have led to the further shrinking of PDP. And crumbling at a time he was the chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum, the Ekiti governor would have been forced to ground zero. Of course he had announced that if the verdict favours Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, he would look elsewhere for a political platform.
Losing that safe ground would have opened multiple battle fronts, thereby making his succession plans, notably getting a preferred candidate to succeed him, quite challenging. Saved from such anti-climax, Fayose remains one of the political forces that would feature in Ekiti 2018 governorship.
Peter Ayodele Fayose
FOR the greater part of his hard fought second term in office, Fayose continued to make gleeful references to the 2014 governorship poll that returned him to the Government House. It is therefore such continual mention of 16-0 that would help to wake up ancient political animosities between the Fayose’s arm of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the old/brand new progressives in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
With eyes focused on 2018, everything seems to be about politics to the ancient and modern governor of Ekiti State. Therefore standing with surefootedness like the Rock of Gibraltar, Fayose has been dribbling, mesmerizing and confounding the opposition, both at the left, (Kayode Fayemi) and left of centre (Segun Oni).
When he is not raising the alarm about a phantom conspiracy being engineered by his detractors in a vain attempt to even out the odds presented by his 16-0 walloping, Fayose maintains a steady barrage of attacks on the APC leadership.
Having succeeded in warding off any secret plan to remove him from office before the constitutional expiration date, the governor applies a mixture of street wisdom and native intelligence to keep his rivals at bay.
Not long ago, Fayose paid a surprising fraternal visit on a former governor of the state, Dr. Segun Oni. The gesture sent tongues wagging, to the extent that the Fayemi camp began a subtle campaign against Oni, whom they started associating with anti-party activities and hobnobbing with President Muhammadu Buhari’s traducer-in-chief.
Some even flew the kite that Oni had struck a deal to return to PDP and take over from Fayose. But events of last two weeks show that nothing of such transpired or that if it was on the cards, it was a decoy.
Managing Olusola’s Endorsement And Its Fallout
THE first strong salvo in the buildup to Ekiti 2018 governorship election was fired on September 6, 2017 by PDP stakeholders in the state: incumbent deputy governor, Prof. Kolapo Olubunmi Olusola was endorsed for the party’s ticket. The adoption was historical in many ways.In the first place, it amounted to giving PDP and Fayose one for the price of two. The party and incumbent stand to benefit from the elevation of the deputy governor through the great mileage the gesture would cover in attracting electoral goodwill.
Additionally, the candidate fits into the picture of an ideal Ekiti governor, who connects with the elite. For the greater part of his first and second term, Fayose was buffeted by detractors who deprecated his streetwise politics and stopped short at concluding that the governor did not attend a higher institution of learning.
Although the governor confounded his accusers by publishing academic certificates, side talks remained, as some Ekiti people, mostly in the opposition express wonder at why the state famed for its high educational accomplishments should have a regular person as governor.
Moreover, Fayose exacerbated the envy his politics was attracting to his reputation when he conceptualized the stomach infrastructure paradigm. Having Prof. Olusola as a possible flag bearer, therefore sort of changes the narrative against those who may have been getting ready to raise the banner of opposition to the governor’s preferred aspirant on the basis of academic status of the candidate. Olusola is a professor of Building Technology, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State.
To some extent, the endorsement of Olusola many months to the election could be said to be done by a broad and representative section of party stalwarts. Party functionaries involved in the adoption of Olusola included the electoral foot-soldiers of the party: chairmen and councilors of the 16 councils of the state.
Others were members of the state legislature and commissioners, as well as, party officials in the State Working Committee. It was perhaps on account of the expanded nature of the leadership caucus that endorsed Olusola, that people of his Ikere Etiti went on instant jubilation that at last their prayers have been answered for the next governor to hail from their area.
Poignantly, Ikere is the capital of Ekiti South Senatorial district, as such, allowing the deputy governor access to the governorship seat would be a clever way of harvesting his experience in the past four years. With the twin concept of continuity and promotion, the endorsement of the deputy governor marks a clear departure from the usual belief that deputy governors are mere spare tires that are not good except during emergency.
However, while the people of Ikere were rejoicing at the development, some notable aspirants for the exalted position cried foul. And this is where PDP and Fayose would need tact and conflict reduction strategies the most.Prominent among those known to be nursing governorship ambition are the former deputy governor, Dr. Sikiru Tae-Lawal, Senator Biodun Christine Olujimi, former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Canada, Dare Bejide and current National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prince Adedayo.
In apparent show of opposition to the endorsement of Olusola, Prince Adeyeye resigned his appointment with the Ekiti State University, even as he denounced the action as an ambush against due process. Similarly, his political structure, PAAM (Prince Adedayo Adeyeye Movement), described the stakeholders meeting and the very action of adopting a candidate as a breach of PDP constitution. PAAM stressed that the gathering was organised by Fayose “to impose a stooge as the sole candidate for PDP.”
But state chairman of PDP, Chief Gboyega Oguntuwase, dismissed the fears expressed by other aspirants, assuring that ultimately, an open and transparent primary would be held to select the party’s flag bearer in line with the rules of the party. Even when the chairman maintained that the adoption of Olusola did not prejudice the chances or right of others to pursue their ambition, knowing how such things go, a lot of odds have already been stacked against whoever would dare to move against the stream of the stakeholders.
And that is where the party, especially Fayose should eat the humble pie and engage the internal opposition on fence mending to achieve a united front, particularly in the light of old supporters of the erstwhile Sheriff’s camp.
A Peep At the Opposing Side
JUST like Fayose, another Ekiti politician that would feature prominently in the ensuing governorship tussle is former governor Segun Oni. As the national deputy chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Oni would be trying his luck again to see if he can replicate Fayose’s magic by staging a comeback to the governorship.
Oni would have to contend with in-house frictions before knowing his fate in the election. Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, is also associated with the 2018 race.
But while Oni and Ojudu seem to be the main contenders on the rival APC platform, the party would also contend with a possible spirited challenge from Otunba Oluyinka Akerele, who claimed that he defeated Oni for the PDP’s ticket in 2007 before Obasanjo intervened on his (Oni’s) behalf.
All this points to the possibility of counter political fireworks in the state in the days ahead. For instance, what would be Adeyeye’s plan B assuming he contests the primary and loses to the deputy governor? Is there a faint likelihood that the PDP spokesman could decide to cross over to another party so as to requite PDP and Fayose in political mischief making? Which political party would harvest the lot of disgruntled or displaced aspirants from the governorship primary elections in PDP and APC? How far would the third leg go in upsetting the two big rivals at the election? A lot remains in the realm of conjecture, but definitely one politician that is sure the most about Ekiti 2018 is Mr. Ayodele Fayose.