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PDP: Segun Oni, Olujimi ticket on the cards

How all the contenders stand

By Rotimi Ojomoyela

2022 is the election year in Ekiti State. Candidates for the June 18 governorship election will be determined at the latest end of this week, according to the INEC schedule.

INEC had fixed the parties primaries for January 4th-29th.

Expectedly, pretenders, political mercantile and horse traders, as well as the serious ones are already jostling for the Ekiti top seat. The two big parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), parade several contenders.

The PDP has 17 aspirants but the most prominent among them are former Governor Segun Oni, Senator Abiodun Olujimi, Mr Bisi Kolawole and former Deputy Governor Kolapo Olusola Eleka

The APC, on its part, has seven aspirants: Senator Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (MOB), former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Biodun Oyebanji (BAO), Mr Olufemi Bamisile (BAFEM), Mr Makinde Araoye (MKD), Senator Dayo Adeyeye and Mr Bamidele Faparusi

Fayemi factor

It is only those playing the ostrich that will sell the idea that any incumbent will not be interested in who succeeds him. No matter how the incumbent plays the aloof and uninterested game, his eyes are fixed on the process that will throw up his successor. The game plan started since Governor Kayode Fayemi’s second term inauguration on October 16, 2018.

Multiple sources told Sunday Vanguard that the fear in the former Governor Ayodele Fayose camp (PDP) had been a Bamidele choice or Oyebanji in APC as that would spell a defeat for the PDP and had banked on the thinking that Fayemi might not support a strong candidate for the APC.

It was also gathered that the Fayose camp was anticipating a wrong move from Fayemi that could translate into an easy win for the PDP.

Despite the perceived neutrality of Fayemi, however, the governor is believed to be backing the aspiration of his former SSG, Oyebanji, and those who had mooted the idea of unveiling their aspirations within the cabinet such as Wale Fapohunda and Biodun Omoleye have collapsed their structures behind the governor’s anointed aspirant.

Meanwhile, Faparusi, the immediate past Commissioner for Infrastructure, insists on forging ahead with his aspiration, complaining it is unfair for Fayemi to support anyone outside Ekiti South which has not produced a governor since Ekiti’s creation in 1996.

Political watchers described the governor’s backing for Oyebanji as a masterstroke because the former SSG enjoys support from huge members of APC across the state.

It was also gathered that the Fayose camp, which anticipated a wrong move from Fayemi, was completely taken aback by the development.

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Oyebanji’s Strengths

BOA, as Oyebanji is fondly called, is a protege of former Governor Niyi Adebayo and has served three administrations in the state as Chief of Staff, Head, Office of Transformation, Strategy and Delivery, and SSG, a position he resigned from to pursue governorship ambition.

Oyebanji, easily the most experienced politician in Fayemi’s cabinet, enjoys the goodwill of APC members across Ekiti and he’s described by many as the first ‘homeboy’ to be Ekiti governor if he wins.

Presently, he’s standing on the shoulders of giants: Fayemi and Adebayo, incumbent Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment. Getting the resources to run his campaign wouldn’t be a headache for him because of his enormous goodwill

Weaknesses

Oyebanji, is from a small community, Ikogosi, in Ekiti West Local Government, with just one ward. He would need the strength of the whole of the local government which parades 11 wards to make a noticeable ‘homeboy’ impression.

This is the first elective position he will be jostling for, all his previous positions have been appointive.

On his own, he doesn’t have a strong structure, which means he would be relying on the support of the governor and his mentor, Adebayo. He would also be relying on the duo to sponsor his ambition because whoever wants to be governor must be buoyant. In that regard, his lack of financial muscle is seen by analysts as a major weakness, but they are quick to add that his promoters would come to his aid and provide the necessary support.

Bamidele

Another leading governorship aspirant with enormous goodwill and a clear understanding of the game is Bamidele (MOB), Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters and a former student activist.

He was a member of the 7th National Assembly (2011-2015) representing Ekiti Central Constituency 1. He returned to the National Assembly in 2019 after a near-death experience. As a senator representing Ekiti Central, he’s currently touring 177 wards in Ekiti, speaking to party members and faithful while seeking their support for the governorship ticket of APC

Strengths

MOB comes with massive political experience as a strategist and grassroots politician with a massive and intimidating political war chest. He has a very deep pocket and network of rich and influential friends who would not hesitate to bankroll his ambition.

He’s a protégé of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has served as Special Adviser and later Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Social Development during Tinubu’s tenure as Lagos governor and was later made Commissioner for Information and Strategy during Babatunde Fashola’s regime.

Bamidele had a robust relationship with Fayemi as Director-General for the campaign organization that successfully returned the governor in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

He’s described by many as a party man to the core as his purse is always kept open for APC executives at various levels in Ekiti.

Weakness

Iyin-Ekiti, where he hails from, has just been awarded in a local government with 10 towns.

And Iyin alone parades three major national political office holders: himself as senator representing Ekiti Central, Adebayo as Minister and Ambassador to Netherland, Dr Eniola Ajayi. Therefore having another strong position such as governorship coming from Iyin might be a difficult one, according to analysts.

Adeyeye’s Strengths

Adeyeye, a consummate politician with vast experience, is a former spokesman for Afenifere, Publicity Secretary of PDP and Minister for Works during Jonathan administration.

In addition, he is a prince from Ise town, Coordinator, South West Agenda (SWAGA) for Tinubu presidential ambition and former Chairman of Ekiti State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).

His tenure as senator representing Ekiti South was short-lived when the Appeal Court nullified his election and replaced him with Olujimi.

Working in a very difficult political terrain is not new to Adeyeye. He almost snatched victory from Fayose’s anointed candidate in the PDP primary of 2018 before dumping the party for APC and his defection aided Fayemi’s victory over PDP in the 2018 governorship election.

He controls a very strong section of the APC members who belong to SWAGA which now constitutes a major threat to the party.

SWAGA connection

Nobody in Ekiti can deny that SWAGA has gained in-road into Ekiti and also established its presence in all the 177 wards in the state, with a solid structure. Both aggrieved APC members and those who had fallen out of favour with Fayemi find a common home in SWAGA. Meanwhile, the structure Adeyeye brought from PDP is also entrenched in the movement.

Weakness

He has never held an elective position, except the stint in the Senate in 2019. His alliance with Tinubu appears to have out him against Fayemi who is rumoured to be nursing a presidential ambition like the former Lagos governor.

Bamisile and Faparusi’s Strengths and Weaknesses

For Bamisile, a former Speaker from Ekiti South, governorship ambition is not a new project to him. He was in the race for the flag of APC in 2018 but lost to Fayemi and was compensated with his present position in the House of Representatives, Ekiti South Constituency 1.

The Chairman, House of Reps Committee on Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) re-ignited his governorship ambition for the APC ticket in 2021. He’s regarded as a strong contender because of his track record and loads of achievements as a serving member of the National Assembly.

Weakness: His relocation to Abuja has made him lose touch with the politics at home; though he commands a large following within the party, sources said he needs to do more to put him in good stead to earn the APC flag for the forthcoming governorship election.

Faparusi: This Ode-Ekiti born engineer is described by many as a rugged seasoned and fast-rising political star, who has earned his place in the political space in Ekiti. He was a member of the 7th House of Representatives and served as Commissioner for Infrastructure and Public Utilities, a position he resigned form to contest for the governorship ticket of the APC.

A strong advocate of power shift to Ekiti South, this is not his first forage into the race, he was among those jostling for the APC ticket in 2018 but lost and eventually compensated with a Commissioner slot.

Weakness:

Political experts are of the view that if Adeyeye and Bamidele could work together, there is the possibility of snatching the ticket but the fact remains that whoever has the backing of Fayemi among the gladiators would eventually emerge as the party flag bearer.

Segun Oni, Biodun Olujimi’s debacle

Among the galaxy of stars in the PDP, Segun Oni and Olujimi constitute a major power bloc within the party in Ekiti but Fayose holds the ace. This is because the former governor (Fayose) controls the party structures from ward to state level.

Olujimi, a ranking senator, former member, House of Representatives, one-time Deputy Governor to Fayose and Segun Oni’s Commissioner for Works, holds firm the entire Ekiti South and is the leader and main financier of Ekiti factional PDP Exco. She is contending the leadership of the PDP in the state with her former boss, Fayose.

Weaknesses

The broadcaster-turned-politician, apart from being a grassroots politician, is said not to be seen as a serious aspirant in the race because of gender as it is perceived that Ekiti people do not support the female gender.

Segun Oni, a former governor whose tenure ran between May 29, 2007, and October 14, 2010, was troubled with legitimacy litigation.

For the three and a half years he was in the saddle before his removal by the Justice Ayo Salami led Appeal Court, he amassed for himself political goodwill among the Ekiti people with his sterling performance which could be traced to the 133 Ekiti communities but lack the political brinksmanship and shrewdness of Fayose. It is true that Ekiti people want him back in the saddle but he has to scale the party primary hurdle first.

As a former National Deputy Chairman (South) of the APC, he must have learnt one or two political tricks from the APC enough to square up and defeat any candidate the party is bringing forward but his albatross remains Fayose.

For the second time, the key to Okebareke seat of government lies in the hand of his traducer, Fayose. Both of them are old foes and a repeat of history could happen.

Weaknesses

As a result of his penchant for changing political parties anytime he is slightly aggrieved, he is seen as an unstable politician.

Kolawole

He is an Efon-Alaye-born politician and former member of Ekiti State, House of Assembly, and former factional Chairman of PDP.

Weaknesses

He is said to have been in the camp of Fayose which has made people see him as a stooge who will be controlled by his former principal if given the opportunity. He is a new entrant into the race due to his lack of experience.

Fayose’s influence

Fayose, a thoroughbred politician with a clear understanding of Ekiti politics, controls the levers of power in Ekiti PDP. The present structures from the ward to state-level belong to him and whichever form the primary takes, direct or indirect, he holds the ace.

But the politics of diatribe and rivalry between him and Segun Oni may give birth to the rehash of the old situation where, in 2009, Fayose, as a PDP member, supported and openly campaigned for Fayemi, who was the governorship candidate of the then Action Congress against the PDP flag bearer, Segun Oni.

But if the trio of Olujimi, Oni and Fayose work together and produce a candidate for the party, it could be a serious threat to the APC in the 2022 election.

The majority of party members are rooting for the Oni and Olujimi joint ticket, with a major role for Fayose but whether this is possible, the answer lies in the hands of Fayose and other leaders of the party.

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