The formal declaration of the Minister of Steel and Mineral Resources and former governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi to join the crowded league of aspirants jostling for the ticket to contest the governorship election has not only changed the game, but has also generated ripples among chieftains of the state’s All Progressives Congress (APC).
Before Fayemi made his intention known, no fewer than 40 aspirants had been criss-crossing the 177 wards in the state to seek support of party members for the primary, slated for May 5, this year.
Though observes are of the opinion that not all the aspirants are serious to remain in the race till the primary, as the pretenders among them may not eventually pick nomination forms.
But, be that as it may, Ekiti APC primary will be one of the fiercest in the history of party primaries in Nigeria, because of the strength of many aspirants vying for the ticket.
Before Fayemi’s declaration, other aspirants had been having a field day, but that has changed and all discussions now centre round the former governor. While some of them see his decision as a worrisome development, others believe that the “big masquerade” has finally joined the race to lead the onslaught to wrest power from the state’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
In his letter of intent to party leaders, Fayemi said his decision to join the governorship race was informed by the need to partner other patriots to rescue the state from the grip of the current insensitive and incompetent PDP-led administration, which has plunged the state and its people into unimaginable misery and poverty.
He said: “My mission in public life, which has always cantered on transforming the material conditions of our people has always revolved around these three imperatives – breaking the yoke of ignorance that keeps our people down; liberating them from ill-health and other limitations that restrain them from achieving their potentials; and breaking the stranglehold of poverty, which keeps people from living full, creative lives.
“In practical and policy terms, this for me has always meant prioritising social investments in education, healthcare and other social interventions that reduce the cost of living, while raising the quality of life.
“Public office is too serious to be left to charlatans, and when men and women of good conscience that are committed to the ideals of social justice and common good turn away from politics, we pave way for unprincipled opportunists to take power.
“My convictions about how much more is possible in Ekiti stem not from any sense of entitlement, but from a sense of service, of obligation and from my belief that posterity has positioned us for such a time as this. There is much that we have to repair and redress in Ekiti before we can go forward.”
Although Fayemi’s critics within the party have been vociferous in asking what he wants after governing the state for four years and losing to the PDP in 2014, this set of party members are not just folding their arms, but are ready to fight “dirty” to ensure that Fayemi is stopped from contesting the primary.
Only last Thursday, a group describing itself as “APC Ekiti True Democrat Group” placed an advertorial in a national newspaper, an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari to stop Fayemi from contesting.
According to the group, which party executive said was not known to Ekiti APC: “The only clog in the wheel of progress in our gallant march to victory, with respect to the forthcoming APC governorship primaries and general election in Ekiti State is the way and manner in which Dr. Kayode Fayemi continues to pursue his inordinate and self-serving ambition for the number one seat in our dear state without recourse to the popular wishes of party members and the generality of Ekiti people.”
The group also dwelt extensively on reports of the judicial panel instituted by Governor Ayodele Fayose to probe Fayemi’s administration, its findings and the White Paper that indicted Fayemi for misappropriation.
They urged the President to use his good office “to prevail on Fayemi to drop his self-serving, egoistic and inordinate governorship ambition so as not to heat up our party’s affairs in Ekiti State and give room for greater peace, unity, tranquility and progress within the party’s rank and file, and for us to muster the much-required strength to win the July 14 governorship election and subsequent elections in the state.”
But the former governor’s supporters within the party saw criticism trailing his aspiration as a normal thing, as Fayemi remains the only aspirant to beat in the party. They said other aspirants should rather go to the field and sell their candidacy to the delegates, rather than dissipating their energy on fighting Fayemi.
To the optimistic supporters, Fayemi will not only win the primary, but will also be a stronger force to match Governor Ayodele Fayose. They likened his political trajectory to that of former Kano State Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso, who governed the state, was defeated in an election and later became a Minister only to return to win the election again and Kano was said to be the better for it.
They also declared that the judicial panel and White Paper reports that indicted Fayemi, which are already in court, will be quashed because the whole process was politically motivated, which was why
Fayemi did not “dignify the panel with his presence.”
But even if his critics fail to secure the President’s nod to stop Fayemi from contesting the primary, aspirants like former Governor Segun Oni, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Senator Ayo Arise and Hon. Femi Bamishile will give him a tough fight.
Other aspirants that are capable of springing surprises are Senator Gbenga Aluko, the Director General of Fayemi campaign Organisation in the last election Hon. Bimbo Daramola, 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.
So far, Arise, who represented Ekiti North in the Senate between 2007 and 2011, as well as Bamisile, have picked nomination forms to clinch APC ticket.
Speaking after obtaining the form, Arise said he was confident that APC would conduct free and fair primary, which would produce a credible and experienced candidate like him that would wrest the governorship seat from PDP.
He said as a politician with tentacles spreading beyond APC, having been a member of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he has a unique advantage over other contenders.
The erstwhile Ekiti North Senator warned that, if the APC made mistake of manipulating the primaries in favour of any anointed candidate, the PDP, which is already laying in ambush, would take advantage of such to retain power in Ekiti.
He said: “We have a sitting governor in Ekiti, who is in PDP and he knows that if I win this ticket, he is a goner, and he is waiting for us to make a mistake, which can only come if the party imposes a candidate. And the party cannot allow that to happen because we know what we want.”
Arise promised that, unlike the incumbent Governor Ayodele Fayose, who established the despicable ‘stomach infrastructure’, if given the mandate, he would prioritise physical infrastructural development and turn around the state’s economic fortunes through public/private partnership initiative.
On his part, Bamisele, who told journalists that Ekiti has been grossly underdeveloped in the last three years of PDP administration, promised to revamp the state in areas of security, education, employment and agriculture, if given the mandate.
Though opinions are divided among analysts, about the implication of the large number of APC aspirants on going to the election with one house, some leaders like Chief Oni saw it as a good omen and a clear indication that Ekiti people are tired of the PDP in the state. He advised delegates not to vote for aspirants looking for jobs, but should consider all aspirants’ pedigree before casting their votes.
Others believe many of the aspirants would be disappointed and leave the party. They hinged their pessimism on what they described as APC’s lack of internal democracy.
Asked how the party intends to avoid the pitfalls of the Ondo APC primary, which resulted in crisis due to the large number of aspirants, the party’s state Publicity Secretary, Hon. Taiwo Olatunbosun said the experiences of Anambra and Abia States have become reference points in dealing with such issues.
He said the party intends to ensure fairness and transparency as its principle 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 people’s confidence in the party.
He said: “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 of imposing a candidate on the people. We will have to allow democratic tenets prevail in the coming primary.”
The next few weeks will be tough in the APC camp, as the aspirants have engaged in all manner of politicking to outsmart one another and emerge as the party’s flag bearer.