By Dayo Johnson, South West Editor
The emergence of the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr Kayode Fayemi, as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the party’s governorship primary, penultimate Saturday, has generated interest across the country. This is partly because of the keen nature of the contest, which featured a record 33 aspirants, and the tension generated with the initial rescheduling of the contest after the first one was disrupted on May 5.
At the end of the May 12 exercise, supervised by Nassarawa State Governor Tanko Almakura, Fayemi, immediate past governor of the state, was declared winner having polled 941 votes. He was followed by another former governor of Ekiti, Engr. Segun Oni, who, until recently, was the APC Deputy National Chairman (South). Oni polled 481 votes.
A new entrant to Ekiti politics, Engr. Kayode Ojo, scored 281 votes to place third. Former Speaker, Ekiti House of Assembly, Rt Hon. Femi Bamishile, scored 179 votes while an Australian based medical doctor, Dr Wole Oloyede, polled 121 votes. A female aspirant Mojisola Kolade got four votes.
Other aspirants: Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele (eight votes), Adeyanju Bodunde (3), Ajayi Adebowale Oluranti (1), Akerele Oluyinka (11), Alabi Kolawole Oladipupo (14), Aloba Adebisi (7), Senator Gbanga Aluko (86), Senator Ayo Arise (2), Olumuyiwa Coker (2) and Hon. Bimbo Daramola (28 votes).
Others are Eledunmare Ogunkoya (1), Esan Adekunle Patrick (0), Faparusi Bamidele (23), Fatoba Joseph (43), Kolade Victor Olumuiwa (16), Elizabeth Taye (1), Okeya Dele (13), Ajayi olatunji Olowo (2), Olatunji olofunluyi (14), Oluleye Oluyede Oluwole Bamidele (6), Muyiwa Olumuiwa (2), Oluwole Oluyede (121), Orire Andrew (3) and Owolabi Makanjuola (5). Senator Ojudu Babafemi, who pulled out of the contest a few days to the rescheduled primary, polled ten votes.
Analysts have attempted to deconstruct the election, which many believe was arguably the most bitterly fought primary in recent times. Many of them have also situated the outcome of the contest on the influence of money. Some believe the number of contestants was huge and unmanageable, stressing that the APC leadership did a poor job at the screening which should have helped to reduce the number and the stress associated with the conduct of the election. Some also believe outside influence played some role in the contest.
Many close observers of the Ekiti politics however believe that the outcome of the APC primary was a reflection of a battle that had been won and lost since last year.
According to them, the outcome of the May 12 contest had long been determined by the interplay of forces and intrigues that had characterised the party in the past 15 months. Specifically, it is believed that for many of the big names, the battle had been lost when their concerted efforts failed to cut short the tenure of the present executive from the ward to state levels.
The current executives of the APC were elected into office in October 2014 for a four-year tenure that will end in September this year. The principal officers among them formed the delegates that participated in the primary.
But after the APC lost the 2014 election, leading to a change of government in Ekiti, there were attempts by a section of the party, called the Action Group (AG) and led by Ojudu, who is also the Special Adviser to the Vice President on Political Matters, to control the soul of the party. The group believed that Fayemi’s defeat by the PDP had made him politically irrelevant and was ready to change the party structure believed to be in control of the minister.
AG became a formidable force within the party within. And while this lasted, the group attempted to change the structure of the state APC by canvassing for the replacement of the executives from ward to state levels with a new congress to elect new set of officers. The group however could not pull this through as Fayemi was said to have risen stoutly in defence of the executives and the congress that produced them, stressing that there was no need to sack them since there was nothing wrong with the congress that produced them.
With time, however, AG faded out and the executives retained their seats. It was also gathered that when Oni consolidated his position as Deputy National Chairman (South) of the APC, members of the AG also co-opted him into their project of changing the leadership of the party from the ward level. This happened despite some seemingly irreconcilable issues between the leadership of AG and Oni’s camp. He was said to have supported the idea, although quite cautiously, but his intervention, laced with deft diplomacy, could not ensure the sacking of the executives.
Informed party sources disclosed that while the group was trying hard to tamper with the tenure of the executive, Fayemi was ahead of them in making members of the NWC recognise the fact that there was no parallel congress when the executive members were elected and ending their tenure abruptly will lead to injustice, which will not be palatable to the APC that believes in the rule of law.
But while the group was making this effort, the Mines and Steel Development Minister was said to be keeping the executives from ward to the state intact, holding quarterly meetings with them and keeping them abreast of developments within the party and government. A sizeable part of the meeting, held at his Isan Ekiti country home, usually devoted to getting feedback on activities and progress recorded by the Buhari-led Federal Government.
The elders of the party in Ekiti were also said to be rooting for Fayemi, even though they could not do it openly for fear of being labelled as biased. But they, as the conscience of the party, believed the party would do better at the polls with someone who had garnered enormous experience and exposure as a former governor and Minister. They saw him combining his scholarly credentials with political and administrative experience earned as governor and minister. This they believed was much preferable to new comers in the race.
In addition, Fayemi was said to have made it a point of duty to extend “goodwill” to them during Christmas and other religious celebrations.
The APC primary was thus seen as payback time by the delegates, who were drawn from the ward, local government and state executives of the party. The statutory delegates, who are mainly former or serving office holders, constitute just a fraction of the 2,630 delegates.
Said a party faithful, Lekan Ajayi, “Many people did not understand party politics, we know ourselves. We know leaders we can trust. If not for Fayemi, most of us would not be part of delegates today; they had planned to change us. Had it been they have succeeded in changing us, would we have been delegates today? We know Fayemi, we know why we lost the 2014 election, and we know how to prevent re-occurrence.”
Asked if the outcome was not determined by financial inducement, he said, “This is not about money, it is purely a family affair, it is about confidence building and whom we trust. Is there any election or primary where people will not spend money? If they didn’t like you, people will collect your money and vote their conscience; after all, you can’t see them while voting. The truth is that we know Fayemi and he is our leader, even if he didn’t contest, he will still show us the way.”
He believes that the failure of the other 32 aspirants to reach a consensus also worked in favour of Fayemi, who many have also come to sympathise with over the barrage of verbal attacks on him by co-contestants and their supporters.
Another glaring error on the part of many of the aspirants is what many consider their poor knowledge of the state APC structure. Many of them joined the party less than two years ago, hence were yet to fully acquaint themselves with the grassroots leadership of the party. So, their campaign message was received with a pinch of salt by the largely conservative delegates, who see them as too new to be trusted.
Unfortunately for some of the aspirants, they also were misled by their overzealous campaign directors to assume that they already had the delegates in their pockets once they (the delegates) attend their meetings and some goodies distributed.
“I believe the extensive work that Fayemi did as governor in uniting the party and taking care of the party as governor and even now as Minister also helped him. Many cannot imagine sidelining him for someone else, all because he was said to be holding a position.”
Fayemi, was however magnanimous in victory, as he stressed in his acceptance speech that the successful conclusion of the primary is a further proof that political power resides with the people. The minister also lauded the doggedness of the co- contestants in the primary, stressing that he would be counting on their support and wisdom in the main contest, notwithstanding the acrimony that characterised the shadow election.
“The first major step is the immediate setting up of the Candidate Advisory Council (CAC), comprising all the co-aspirants. “What we have witnessed today, is one of the essential elements in the electoral cycle in any democracy – the exercise of the collective will over the aspirations of many”, he said.
While pledging his support for the winner of the election, Oni said, “I feel normal and okay with the outcome of this result, the people have spoken and we are not complaining. I will not only support the winner of this primary, I will rally others to support him. I congratulate Fayemi for his victory and congratulate Governor Al- Makura’s team for a job well done.”
Bamishile, who was unanimously commended to have started the campaign very early, did not only pledge his support for Fayemi but also assured that APC will win the July 14 Ekiti governorship election.
Bamidele, while congratulating Fayemi, described him as a consummate politician with vast experience in administration, being a former governor and serving minister, exuding confidence that the candidate will deliver and bring the lost glory of the party back in the coming election.