Ekiti 2022: Imperative of healing wounds created by APC, PDP primaries
The All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) recently held their governorship primary elections in Ekiti State for the June 18, 2022 governorship. Two winners emerged due to some political factors, which worked in favour of the candidates.
The immediate past Chairman of the PDP, Mr Bisi Kolawole and former state Commissioner for Environment emerged winner of the opposition party’s ticket through indirect primary, while the immediate past secretary to the state government, Biodun Oyebanji was declared winner of the direct mode of primary conducted by the ruling party.
Prior to the emergence of Kolawole, the leadership of PDP had embarked on reconciliation efforts of the warring parties. However, despite several meetings conveyed to find truce, the principal actors in the political imbroglio, including ex-governor Fayose and Senator Biodun Olujimi expressed their commitment to working together in an atmosphere of peace but were unwilling to concede anything to each other. For instance, while Fayose was expected to harmonise the ward, local council and state executives with Olujimi’s repositioning group, he stuck to his gun. Olujimi’s group on the other hand, refused to withdraw the case it filed at the Supreme Court.
When the reconciliation efforts did not yield the desired result, other aspirants, aside from Kolawole, started piling pressure on the national leadership of the party to replace the pro-Fayose executives with a caretaker committee across board ahead of the primary election. This was because the party had earlier recognised the said executive. Unfortunately, these moves were not successful because in the reckoning of the Senator Iyiorcha Ayu-led NWC, doing so could throw up litigations that could affect the legality of the election of Ayu himself. Sources in the party disclosed that the pro-Fayose executive participated in the national and zonal convention, which makes it insensible to do away with the executive on the altar of fair play.
So, the party settled for the use of 1,208 automatic and statutory delegates to determine its flag bearer, with most of them being loyalists of Fayose. This was the situation in the build-up to the party primary. So, because the party and its aspirants were unable to reach a compromise ahead of the shadow election, no one was in doubt the emergence of Kolawole, who hails from Efon Alaaye-Ekiti in the central senatorial district as the party’s flag bearer, was a done deal. This is because he was being supported by Fayose who controls the party structure in the state.
It is true that Kolawole could not on his own have defeated the likes of former governor Segun Oni in any free and fair election. Fayose’s support for the candidature of Kolawole and his political structures which he donated to him largely contributed to his emergence as winner during the shadow election, supervised by the Akwa Ibom state governor, Udom Emmanuel-led electoral committee.
Olujimi, Oni and some other aspirants who participated in the primary election are still very bitter about the outcome. This is why some political watchers in the state are of the opinion that for the PDP to win, the national leadership of the party must begin fence-mending efforts.
This is also why some have applauded the Ayu-led leadership for setting up a national reconciliation committee headed by the former President of the Senate, David Mark to reach out to the aggrieved aspirants and other stakeholders ahead of the June 18 governorship election.
Also, the choice of running mate, which is most likely from southern district, will play prominent role in the chances of the party at the poll. It was gathered that Segun Oni would be reached out to so as for him to support and mobilise for the candidate of the PDP. His commitment and involvement in the election would be vital for the party to stand a chance of winning.
Above all, the greatest challenge to the success of the reconciliation, according to analysts, would be the disposition of Fayose to all the conditions given by the aggrieved aspirants that would help the party to approach the election with all leaders and aspirants working together as a political family.
Meanwhile, Kolawole who won the primary, has promised to reach out to all other aspirants, saying, “Today, I want to say that we are all winners. Chief Segun Oni is my brother and friend and I won’t take his leadership role for granted. I want to commend other aspirants and appreciate them; nobody can do it all alone.”
Can APC Put Its House In Order And Break The Jinx?
It is no longer news that the former SSG and preferred aspirant of the state governor, Oyebanji has been declared winner of the APC direct governorship primary conducted across the 177 wards in Ekiti.
Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State declared Oyebanji, who hails from Ikogosi-Ekiti, central senatorial district winner with 101, 703 votes to defeat seven other aspirants who had boycotted the exercise due to alleged irregularities.
While the accreditation was in progress, the seven aspirants announced a boycott of the poll over alleged compromise by the electoral committee in favour of Oyebanji. They argued that the local council and ward returning officers were made up of the loyalists and campaign coordinators of the candidate.
Even though the aggrieved aspirants had solicited the adopting of direct primary which the party agreed to, which they believed would help the process being taken away from the hands of the government and reduce manipulation, the aggrieved aspirants including Opeyemi Bamidele, Dayo Adeyeye, Femi Bamisile, Kayode Ojo, Bamidele Faparusi, Olusola Afolabi and Demola Popoola, nevertheless boycotted the exercise.
However while declaring the results, the Chairman of the electoral committee expressed shock over the protests and boycott by the seven aggrieved aspirants, saying the committee provided a level playing ground for the contestants.
According to him, the aspirants had agreed at the stakeholders meeting to all the guidelines for the shadow election, insisting that the exercise went peacefully, free and fair with substantial compliance with the guidelines and regulations of the party.
The Ekiti APC had been in the trenches for some time due to battle of wits embarked upon by major stakeholders for the control of party structure. Fayemi won as he succeeded in taking control of the revalidation of the membership of the party. What is more, the governor also put his core loyalists in the ward, local council and state executives during the Congresses of the party last year.
No doubt, the emergence of the ex-SSG as the candidate of the ruling APC has renewed hostilities within the party. Fondly referred to as the homeboy, Oyebanji, apart from the overwhelming support he got from governor Fayemi, received serious boost from former governor and Minister of Trade and Industry, Niyi Adebayo. Also expectedly, virtually all the political appointees of the governor including commissioners, SSAs, heads of parastatals, five of the six house of representatives members from the state, and 26 members of the state house of assembly, among others backed his candidature.
Looking at the political credentials of all the aspirants, many are of the view that they are capable of becoming the flagbearer of their parties. An analyst however posited that irrespective of the rich political resume of these aspirants, only one of them could be governor.
He said that without the perceived shortcomings in the conduct of the shadow election that the aggrieved aspirants have highlighted, the bigger picture should be how the parties could come victorious in election.
The analyst recalled that no political party has won election back-to-back in Ekiti since 1999, saying that if the party could end the acrimony thrown up by the primary, it could be on the verge of making history.
Apart from the power of incumbency and federal might, he reckoned that the candidate of APC, if given the needed support by all party stakeholders, is capable of winning the June governorship election.
In a rare show of the spirit of sportsmanship, Oyebanji, in his acceptance speech, promised to personally reach out to the aggrieved aspirants, in a bid for them to support and work for his candidature during the election.
Since there are several political solution options available to the party to assuage the aggrieved aspirants and bring them back to the fold, some are of the opinion that the winner of the primary must do away with winner-takes-all attitude.
The choice of Deputy governorship candidate, which many believe should be zoned to the southern senatorial zone that have been agitating for power shift, it is believed, would go a long way in healing the wound created by the primary.
Some also argued that those who are currently in the National Assembly among the aggrieved aspirants should be encouraged to return to their current positions.
Since the performance of APC in Ekiti governorship election would be a litmus test for what to expect in 2023 elections, the party must not take anything for granted by commencing the process of reconciliation to pacify those who felt shortchanged by the primary election, because doing so may be costly for the APC.
On his part, zonal Publicity Secretary, APC, Karounwi Oladapo noted that the party’s primary was very credible, fair and transparent, adding that the process as laid down by the party was followed through.
He expressed surprise at the boycott by other aspirants. “What happened was that the leadership of the party under governor Mai-Mala Buni embarked on credible revalidation of membership register. The register of membership in Ekiti state was signed and handed over to the committee, which was why we have credible and verifiable register now. Hitherto, there has not been verifiable register of membership. And on January 27, I saw the beauty of democracy. Also on the field, there was the presence of security and INEC and votes were recorded,” he recalled.
Oladapo, however, said that reconciliation is an ongoing process in the party. He urged those who had issues with the primary to take advantage of that because to certain extent, the party constitution has provisions that can take care of issues that arose from the primary. “There is internal resolution mechanism within the constitution. The aggrieved aspirants know what to do if they have issues and I am sure that our party is very good at resolving those issues,” he said.