Ekiti Guber: Fayemi, Fayose renew rivalry through proxies | Newspot

In the forthcoming June 18 gubernatorial contest in Ekiti State, Bisi Kolawole would be at the red corner, while the immediate past Secretary to Ekiti State Government (SSG), Biodun Oyebanji, takes the blue spot.
 
Conversely, while Oyebanji has incumbent Governor John Olukayode Fayemi as his technical adviser, Kolawale would depend on the immediate past governor, Peter Ayodele Fayose, as his corner man.
  
Both men emerged as standard bearers of their parties through contentious primaries, which belie the determination of their ‘trainers’ to settle old scores outside the ring of electoral combat.
  
Governor Fayemi mounted the saddle for the second term after vanquishing Fayose’s candidate, Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, in the 2018 governorship. Prior to that contest, Fayose had robbed Fayemi of the opportunity to serve his second term as governor, by stopping him with the legendary 16-0 technical knockout at the 2014 governorship poll.

Primary Gymnastics
IT would be recalled that during the 2014 encounter, Fayose of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leveraged his famed stomach infrastructure on the federal might cover to defeat the incumbent, which was the second time he was kicking out an incumbent Ekiti State governor to mount the saddle.

  
However, in the 2022 edition of the chequered political supremacy battle between the two young Ekiti leaders, Fayemi holds the ace. His party, the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), is in power at the centre, just as he holds more than a watching brief as the incumbent.
 
The historical jostle by Fayemi and Fayose repeated itself also as their parties-APC and PDP-held their straw polls to nominate candidates for the main governorship election.
 
For instance, prior to the emergence of Oyebanji as APC flag bearer last Thursday, seven well-heeled aspirants announced their withdrawal in protest. The protesting aspirants included, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, Dayo Adeyeye, Demola Popoola, Femi Bamisile, Kayode Mojo, Afolabi Oluwasola and Bamidele Fapurusi. 
  
The furious aspirants not only prayed the APC national leadership to cancel the Ekiti State governorship primary, but they also alleged that Fayemi filled the list of delegates to the primary with his loyalists, ostensibly to favour his former SSG, Oyebanji.
  
The protest by the G7 seemed to replay the similar exercise by APC in last year’s Anambra State governorship primary, when the Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, led other 13 aspirants to raise placards against the exercise.
 
And, like in the Anambra instance, time is also against those protesting the governorship primary, because going by the timetable of activities released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties are expected to round off their primaries today, January 29, 2022.
  
But quite unlike the Anambra episode, Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar Badaru, went ahead to ensure that the delegates cast their ballots for their preferred candidates, thus leaving holes on the protesters’ argument.
  
At the end of balloting, Governor Badaru declared that Oyebanji polled 101,703 votes to beat Kayode (767), Opeyemi Bamidele (760) and Adeyeye (691), even as others trailed in similar manner.
  
Announcing Oyebanji as winner, Badaru disclosed that the mode of balloting was earlier agreed on by all the aspirants during a meeting on the eve of the primary, just as he maintained that primary was “transparent and devoid of any manipulation.”
  
Also, prior to the PDP governorship primary election, which had Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel, as committee chairman, Senator Biodun Olujimi excused herself from the exercise citing “gender bias.”
 
Similar development played out in the build-up to the 2018 governorship, when the outgoing governor, Fayose, threw his weight behind his then deputy, Olusola Eleka. Adeyeye complained of interference and quit PDP, a move that earned him a ministerial appointment by the governing APC.
   
Apart from Olujimi, former Governor Olusegun Oni, whom Fayemi succeeded after three years of legal battle over the 2007 governorship poll, also protested against what he called imposition of Kolawole by Fayose.
    
It would be recalled that towards the tail of end of his tenure, Fayose paid a visit to Oni, which sparked rumours of a possible attempt to lure the former governor back to PDP from APC with the promise of PDP governorship ticket.
  
However, some analysts wondered how Oni would believe that Oshokomole, who was impeached in 2006 to pave way for him (Oni), would be altruistic enough to gift him with PDP ticket.
 
At the end of the PDP governorship primary last Wednesday, the truth must have dawned on the Civil Engineer and gentleman politician, Oni, when he was able to earn only 330 votes to trail behind the former Ekiti State chairman and Fayose’s man, Kolawole.
  
Governor Emmanuel, who declared Kolawole as the winner for the primary election, said Bisi Kolawole polled 671 to beat other five aspirants including Oni and the 2018 flag bearer, Eleka, who scored 330 and 93 votes respectively.
  
The vote tally showed that Olusola, who was supported by Fayose paid for his fight with the godfather of Ekiti PDP. While some party chieftain argued that Senator Olujimi, who was Fayose’s deputy in 2003, chickened out to avoid ignoble defeat, the 52,10 and six votes garnered by Wale Aribisala, Kayode Adaramodu and Deji Ogunsakin in that order, show that Fayose still casts his shadow over the party in the state.
 
That could explain Senator Olujimi’s allegation that the process was heavily compromised by the former governor in favour of his preferred candidate, just as the female aspirant contended that the delegate list was tampered with to side-line delegates from the two local governments in her constituency.
   
The ranking female Senator disclosed that from a long conversation she had with chairman of the PDP Governorship Primary Election Committee, Emmanuel, before the exercise, it was obvious the Akwa Ibom governor did not know that the delegate list was tampered, “until he brought out the list of Ekiti East.”
    
She added on three sheets of paper containing only 12 names of delegates that would vote were written, ‘undecided, yet to be decided’ on the top sheet, adding that another sheet contained 10 names that could vote.
   
Olujimi said of the primary, “I thought it was very unfair, it was unjust, it was disenfranchising me because of my gender or because the party feels I have not done enough for it. Going forward from there would mean that I am condoning what is wrong.
 
“So, my best was just to pull out and I pulled out. I did not step down. They can continue with it, I will also internalise the problem, there will be some introspection, then I will take a decision.”
 
Speaking after he was returned as winner of the primary, Kolawole described the process, noting that party faithful were happy with the entire exercise. He stated: “We promised that once the process is very open and fair to all, we will all accept the result.”
 
In a show of unfeigned loyalty Kolawole paid homage to Fayose, stressing that the former governor after reviewing his antecedents decided to prop him for the governorship race. He stated: “Let me commend a good coach, who discovered me. He just saw something in me; read my antecedents. He is wizard. I thank him for willingly endorsing and making me the winner of this primary. The person is former governor Ayodele Fayose.
 
“Today, I want to say that we are all winners. Engr. Segun Oni is my brother and friend and I know that he will support this process. I want to commend other aspirants and appreciate them. Nobody can do it all alone.

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“We are committed to delivering the people from sufferings being meted out to them in the last three years. You could all attest to the fact that the process of this election was free and fair, so I willingly accept to be the flag bearer of our great party in the forthcoming governorship election in Ekiti”

Between Governance, Politics
DESPITE the little recriminations that attended their emergence, Kolawole and Oyebanji would be slugging it out in what promises to be a proxy battle between two old political rivals. The two candidates of PDP and APC will go into electoral field with their different backgrounds: one, a grassroots politician, the other a seasoned administrator.
   
The APC standard bearer, Oyebanji, had been in circulation around the corridors of Ekiti State Government House. After serving former Governor Niyi Adebayo as Special Adviser on Parliamentary Affairs, he was appointed as Chief of Staff, Government House during Governor Fayemi’s first term.
   
It is therefore possible that the goodwill of Governor Fayemi and Adebayo, the current Minister for Trade and Investment, would be part of his armour as he wrestles with the PDP standard bearer and his main backer, Fayose.
  
Kolawole was the state chairman of PDP and it is possible that his ability to hold party structure firmly under Fayose’s control helped to win him the support of the rugged Oshokomole.
   
The outcome of the June 18 contest would therefore depend on what Ekiti people want: an assertive politician or a seasoned administrator that focusses on governance to deliver the goods?
   
Whoever wins, between Kolawole and Oyebanji, would however remain a proud lackey to Fayemi or Fayose. Most importantly, on Saturday June 18, the political rivalry between incumbent Governor Fayemi and his immediate predecessor, Fayose, will witness a final denouement.

    
Both Fayemi and Fayose have been holding the office of Ekiti State governor as a baton in a relay race. After Fayose assisted Fayemi to win a bye election in 2010, his expectation to represent Ekiti North Senatorial District on the platform of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) was aborted as Fayemi calculated that doing so would equip his predecessor to stage a come back.
  
In 2014 however, that which Fayemi dreaded most happened: Fayose bounced back, defeating him in all the 16 Local Government Areas of Ekiti State. Although APC stakeholders complained that Fayose and the ruling PDP used inducement, stomach infrastructure and intimidation to sway voters, Fayemi was also accused by some of resorting to elitist politics which cost him the second term.
    
The June 21, 2014 poll witnessed some show of force, during which some APC national leaders were barred from entering Ekiti. In 2018, APC tended to requite PDP, when Fayose was forced to cry out that he was ‘under severe pain,’ alleging the APC was using the coercive instruments of federal power to influence the election in which he wanted to implant his then deputy, Olusola Eleka. Fayemi, who had resigned his appointment as Minister of Solid Mineral and Steel Development, eventual won the July 15, 2018 poll.
  
With the balance of power tilted towards Fayemi and Oyebanji, how far could Fayose and Kolawole go to replicate Fayose’s feat as giant killer, who dethrones incumbents from power?
    
Having benefitted from the removal of direct primary by deploying strong arm tactics to return their protégés, both Fayemi and Fayose have given Nigerians strong pointers to what would obtain between APC and PDP in the main election and even the 2023 poll.  
 
 

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