Many partisan groups have been urging Minister of Solid Minerals and Steel Development Dr Kayode Fayemi to run for governor of Ekiti State. To them, the entry of the former governor into the race will alter geopolitical calculations and rekindle a fierce battle between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the Fountain of Knowledge. EMMANUEL OLADESU reports.
Many indigenes still remember the Fayemi years with fondness in Ekiti State. Although he failed to secure a second term in the 2014 poll, his legacies are evergreen. Party chieftains may have faulted his style of party management, his achievements speak for him. It is therefore, not beyond expectation that many leaders, individuals and groups are rooting for his second coming.
No fewer than 50 governorship aspirants are scrambling for the APC ticket in Ekiti. They include former Governor Olusegun Oni, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Senator Gbenga Aluko, Hon. Femi Bamisile, Isola Fapounda, Bimbo Daramola, Dr. Wole Oluleye, Aare Muyiwa Olumilua and Hon. Dele Faparusi. However, in the past few weeks, some groups have been urging Fayemi to join the race. The former governor is still largely perceived as one of the arrowheads of the party. In fact, it is generally believed that Ekiti APC has three leaders-Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, Oni and Fayemi. Already, Oni has thrown his hat in the ring. If Fayemi joins the race, the buck of leadership will now stop at Adebayo’s table. However, the former governor is silent on his next step.
Fayemi has spoken of an unfinished business in Ekitiland. The remark has been given two interpretations. Many felt that he was ousted from power in a controversial election, judging by the post-election confession of soldiers who alleged connivance among top PDP leaders and security chiefs in the power shift plot. The other interpretation is that the former governor is entitled to a second term if given the ticket. A source said the on-going probe of his administration by a panel is part of the agenda by the ruling party to a thrown obstacle on his way if he signifies his intention to run.
Fayemi is a household name, not only in Ekiti but also in Nigeria. Apart from serving the state creditably, he is also an asset to the APC. As a founding member of the party, he presided over its presidential nominations in Lagos. As a minister, he has been up and doing, traversing the country to establish the non-oil sector as another income-yielding sector in the country’s bid for economic diversification. A party source said if Fayemi had joined the race, many aspirants would not have shown interest because he commands their loyalty.
But, it is a most challenging time in Ekiti. The APC appears to be a divided party in the state. The activities of the contenders may have further polarised the platform. Also, some politicians have introduced zoning, which ordinarily has no basis in Ekiti politics, thereby creating a gulf between aspirants from the South Senatorial District and their counterparts in the Central and North.
In 2006/2007, Fayemi did not vie out of his own violation. He was raised as an aspirant in the image of his leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. The former governor of Lagos State rallied the party machinery behind him. At the primary, he defected other formidable rivals, including Prince Dayo Adeyeye, Ayo Arise and Paul Alabi. A post-primary crisis engulfed the party, leading to the defection of many progressive politicians to the PDP.
Although Fayemi won the election, Oni was declared a winner by the electoral commission. Tinubu threw his weight behind Fayemi during the protracted litigation. Later, he retrieved his stolen mandate at the Court of Appeal. However, between 2010 and 2014, a sort of gulf was said to have developed between the godfather and the godson. Indeed, during the ministerial nominations in 2015, Fayemi’s name was conspicuously absent from the list recommended by the ‘APC National Leader.’ Analysts have highlighted some of the factors that led to Fayemi’s failed second term bid. Sources said key chieftains were aggrieved about his style. Among them was Opeyemi Bamidele, who temporarily left the Labour Party (LP). Others said the scholar and pro-democracy activist-turned politician was arrogant. But, the defunct Ekiti Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN)’s crisis resolution mechanism was also weak. Once there was conflict, reconciliation was difficult, if not impossible. Although observers have said the 2014 poll was not devoid of foul play, it was evident ACN went into the exercise as a divided house.
After the poll, Fayemi conceded defeat, until the confession of the soldier on electoral duty fueled the rigging controversy. But, party chieftains also started to trade blames. The party was polarised into four camps. The blocs were led by Fayemi (Isan Group), Ojudu, Bamidele and Oni, who defected from the PDP to become the APC National Deputy Chairman. The chairman of the party, Chief Jide Awe, fled the state for fear of persecution by the ruling party. The camps, sources said, started working at cross purpose as they gazed at 2018.
However, the rival camps have not been able to edge Fayemi out of his leadership role. He is a busy minister. But, he is also in touch with home. The former governor had wanted to unite the camps through the regular meetings he initiated, but some leaders have refused to cooperate with him. Today, he is the link between the Federal Government and Ekiti State. He is a trusted minister of government, held in esteem by the president. Almost all the federal appointments by President Buhari from Ekiti, except those of Ojudu, the presidential political adviser, and Emmanuel Adesoye of the Board of Ports Authority, had his blessings. Fayemi has attracted Federal Government’s presence to his far-flung state. Through his efforts, it appears that Ekiti will now be included in the Western Standard Gauge Rail Line. He will also take the credit for the construction of the Federal Secretariat in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. Following his complaints to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the agency has sent relief materials to victims of floods in Ekiti.
A credible source said Fayemi is interested in returning to the familiar terrain, but it is not a do or die affair. “The minister is holding forte in an important ministry. He is busy laying a solid foundation for the ministry in terms of creating a roadmap, solid minerals development, creating a synergy among the federal, state and host communities. He cannot resign abruptly to pursue a governorship ambition. It is a matter he has to discuss privately with the president before he dumps his portfolio for the governorship ambition,” he said.
According to the source, “it is not proper for the minister to no go and informs the president that he has a governorship ambition in Ekiti State as soon as the president returned from his medical vacation. The proper thing is to allow him to settle down, give an account of his stewardship and set a date for disengagement. If he does not obtain a clearance from the president, he cannot return to Ekiti.”
If Fayemi declares his ambition, the atmosphere of the contest may change. The race may be narrowed down to him, Oni and Aluko, who may lean on zoning. But, zoning has never shaped the governorship race in Ekiti, except that it may now become a strong factor, following the strategic decision of Governor Ayodele Fayose to endorse his deputy, Prof. Olusola Eleka, from the South. Olusola is also expected to pick his running mate from Ado-Ekiti.
APC governors; two from the Southwest-Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun and Rotimi Akeredolu(SAN) of Ondo-their northern counterparts and some ministers may build a wall of goodwill and solidarity around Fayemi during the preparations for the primary. Many of them want him to return to the Ekiti Government House to resume his unfinished business. But, since charity begins from home, the onus is on him to unite the party and rally its key chieftains, if he will run. It is most likely that some contenders may withdraw from the race, if he unfolds his agenda.
If Fayemi does not run, who will be back? At the primary, he cannot be neutral. Will the former governor back Oni, from who he retrieved his stolen mandate in 2010? Will he back Ojudu, who appears not to be on the same page with him? Or Bamidele who fought him with the LP arrow? Will he endorse zoning by supporting an aspirant from the South?
Source: The Nations