By Dayo Johnson and Rotimi Ojomoyela
THE political haze in Ekiti State ahead of the July 14 governorship election is now clear.
With the emergence of the candidates of the two main political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka and Dr Kayode Fayemi respectively, the men have been separated from the boys.
Other political parties have followed suit by nominating their candidates but suffice it say that 44 days to go, the governorship election in the state may end up being a two-horse race between the ruling party in the state and the opposition PDP.
The question on the lips of many political analysts is, Governor Ayo Fayose, who is sponsoring Eleka, be able to score the 16-0 victory he recorded against Fayemi, four years ago, as he has boasted or will the table turn against him and his candidate?
One thing that is so clear is that the July 14 election will determine the continued relevance of Fayose in the politics of Nigeria. That means his candidate wins the election or he dies politically and be hounded by the powers-that-be for his many “sins”.
Regardless of the emergence of Eleka as his candidate, this election is going to be a straight fight between Fayose and Fayemi, and those expecting the electoral tussle to be a repeat of the June 21, 2014 poll are living in fool’s paradise.
The July governorship election will be tough, it is not going to be an easy ride because of the personalities involved. It is going to be a battle of ego, a fight for political relevance and effort at creating a stronghold for negotiation in later days.
Ekiti and Osun governorship elections (Osun poll holds in September) are major political fights for the South-West principalities in the APC to showcase their control of the area in readiness for the 2019 general elections.
Analysts are of the view that politics is dynamic especially in Ekiti.
Forces at play at the federal level during the 2014 election that created the enabling environment for the very popular 16-0 win for Fayose are no longer in power to rally round the governor’s candidate this time around. Fayose is expected to go it alone, the table has turned.
Virtually all the senior members of the PDP in Ekiti who contributed immensely to the 2014 victory have abandoned the party and those left are at daggers drawn with the governor.
Founding members and financiers of the PDP in the state, such as Senator Clement Awoyelu, Dare Bejide, Abiodun Aluko, Senator Gbenga Aluko, Bisi Omoyeni, Senator Ayo Arise and Engr. Segun Oni, have abandoned ship while the likes of Senator Abiodun Olujimi, Senator Fatima Raji-Rasaki, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, among others, are being hounded out of the party.
Also, most of Fayose allies and members of his kitchen cabinet have either parted ways with him or defected to other parties. The allies include a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Owoseni Ajayi, and General Manager/Special Assistant on Procurement Matters, Segun Akinwunmi.
Half of the 26-member House of Assembly, whose loyalty are in doubt are either being hounded out or placed on permanent suspension.
Adeyeye, together with Olujimi, Rasaki and some members of the state House of Assembly have since parted ways with Fayose and the PDP.
Adeyeye reportedly turned down the offer of producing the deputy governor and automatic Senate ticket from the national leadership of the party.
Ekiti PDP is going into the governorship election with a divided house, as a result of unaddressed and deep seated grievances.
However, the choice of Eleka, not only from Ado -Ekiti, Ekiti Central but is also a Muslim, was seen as a masterstroke by Fayose and his party. This is an added advantage to the victory of the Fayose godson.
Meanwhile, analysts say part of what may work against the governor’s anointed candidate was the inability of Fayose to capitalise on the presence of the aggrieved senior members of the PDP, during the May 8 governorship primary, to make special appeal to them that, irrespective of the outcome, they remained members of one family.
The analysts argue that the governor had, for the umpteenth time, demonstrated to the aggrieved senior members of the party that he could go it alone and return his anointed candidate to the Government House. But of concerned even to Fayose was the betrayal by many of the delegates during the primary that protested by voting for Adeyeye. This is a strong statement that things have fallen apart within Ekiti PDP.
The analysts also believe that the fallout of the PDP primary was not properly managed as they describe the trading of words between the governor and Adeyeye after the primary as uncalled for.
Three legacy projects, the 1.5 kilometre – bridge, new High Court Complex and Oba Market, stand out as some of the high points of the Fayose administration but critics are quick to ask, of what value are these to workers who are being owed several months of salaries or pensioners who are equally owed?
The governor has addressed the issue at different forums that specific amount had already put aside for states by the
Federal Government for capital projects and the money cannot be diverted.
Payment of salary arrears
Recall that the undoing of his former colleague in the neighbouring Ondo State, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, which he publicly admitted, was the non-clearance of the backlog of workers’ salaries before the last governorship election in the state. Mimiko paid dearly for this as workers revolted against his anointed candidate in the Ondo poll, Eyitayo Jegede.
In the case of Fayose, civil servants and teachers are owed six months salaries while local government staff, including primary school teachers, are being owed eight months. Pensioners are owed eight months. The last time gratuity was paid in Ekiti was in 2012.
He had said it severally that he would not leave the state a debtor. According to him, all salary arrears would be cleared before he leaves office but recent comment from him appeared to have been altered, when he was reported to have said his deputy and PDP candidate in the July poll, Eleka, would clear whatever debt he leaves behind, since it is a continuity agenda.
In 2014, the PDP controlled the Federal Government and all the security apparatus which could be deployed at will. Hooded security agents, aside the army and mobile policemen, invaded Ekiti days before then governorship election, and most of the APC stalwarts waiting for electoral functions were hounded out of town.
The question on many lips in Ekiti today is whether this same show of power is imminent as the election approaches.
Fayemi, an incumbent minister in the APC federal administration, has dismissed the insinuation that he is out for vengeance, which many have said may have influenced his decision to contest the gubernatorial election.
He made his mission clear in his acceptance speech after being announced as the APC flagbearer.
According to him, Ekiti is in dire need of rescue.
“I want you to rest assured that I’m not any vengeance mission. I have a profound sense of an unfinished business – the business of deepening our development agenda and making poverty history in this land”, he had said.
Where the APC candidate picks his deputy from would determine how far he would go in the election. Will he go to Ekiti South, which has been clamouring for the coveted seat as he hails from Ekiti North, to placate the ‘marginalised zone’ which has never produced governor, or go to the Central, which has produced many governors because it has bulk votes, to pick the deputy?
And will Engr. Segun Oni, the influential former governor of the state who came second in the Ekiti APC primary, whole heartedly support Fayemi?
Recall the no love lost relationship between the duo following Oni’s removal by the Appeal Court and the installation of Fayemi as governor.
Fayemi, on assumption of office, had reportedly did all he could to obliterate all the achievements of Oni in the state.
Out of his magnanimity, Fayose seized the moment by restoring all that Fayemi denied Oni.
Oni has even threatened to quit the APC if Fayemi’s associates continued to threaten his “political family “that they won’t be accorded recognition if the Minister of Mines and Steel Development wins the July poll. Many see this as a pointed of what should be expected on July 14.
Definitely, the July poll will not be a walkover for Fayose while federal might and money may equally fail Fayemi. Who will emerge as Ekiti next governor is in the belly of time.