The struggle for the gubernatorial ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ekiti State has commenced in earnest with some prominent chieftains of the party declaring interest to succeed incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi.
Barring the unforeseen, the next governorship election of Ekiti state will be a fierce contest between the two major political parties in the state. While more than a dozen political parties are eligible to field candidates for the election, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are seen as the two political parties with the required strength and spread to lay claim to the governorship seat.
Observers of the politics of the state have also been speaking about the preparedness of the political parties ahead of the all-important election. To most of them, side the APC and the PDP that have been mobilizing their membership and structures across the state in preparation for the electoral battle, no other political party can be said to be doing much in terms of preparation for the forthcoming polls in spite of the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has given the go-ahead signals.
The APC had earlier in its official notice for the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states fixed November 16 for the commencement of the sales of nomination forms for Ekiti and November 18 for Osun. The notice was signed by the National Secretary of the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), John Akpanudodehe. Some of the aspirants have already obtained the nomination forms to contest the primary election.
The governor has constantly denied having any anointed candidate even when his opponents within and outside the party accused him of plotting to stop the gubernatorial ambition of some of his known critics and surreptitiously aiding the aspiration of a particular candidate. Within the governor’s cabinet also, there is a cold war ongoing among his aides and allies who are aiming to pick the ruling party’s ticket for the next guber election.
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Recently, a group within the party under the auspice of Agents of Good Governance (AGG) had alleged in a protest message that the governor had anointed one of his aides serving in the cabinet as his preferred APC governorship candidate for the 2022 governorship election. The group also claimed that Fayemi was using the resources of the state to work for the emergence of the said aspirant ahead of other party chieftains in the guber race.
In a release signed by its Chairman and Secretary, Femi Awolumate and Abdullahi Lawal, respectively, AGG warned that it is not in the interest of the ruling party for the governor to work against the aspiration of other party memebrs just because he has a particular person in mind for the governorship seat. The group urged party leaders and elders of the APC in Ekiti state to intervene and ensure that only the very best aspirant is allowed to emerge as the candidate of the party.
No anointed candidate
But the governor’s media team has been unrelenting in its explanation that Fayemi, along with his wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, has not anointed any candidate for the state governorship election in 2022. Yinka Oyebode, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, denied that the governor and or his wife, has anointed a particular aspirant to take over as Governor when Fayemi completes his second term in 2022. He described all the allegations and claims as unfounded.
Oyebode added that the allegations are coming from people who engaged in what he called “gutter and dustbin politics common with paperweight politicians.” He said the people spreading the rumour had no electoral value and were afraid of their own shadows. “There is nothing of such. There is no money being kept somewhere to sponsor anybody. The allegation can only come from people engaging and dwelling in gutter and dustbin politics.
“The date for the Ekiti APC primary has been set. Why should anybody bring up the issue of an anointed candidate? What are they afraid of? There have been constant assurances from the party hierarchy in this state of a level-playing field for the primary. Why are they afraid of their shadows? The issue of somebody anointing a particular candidate is a figment of their imagination. We are here in Ekiti State, where nothing of such can happen,” he said.
The government warned those peddling the rumours not to do anything that can truncate the peaceful process put in place by the party in the state to produce the APC gubernatorial candidate. Oyebode denied allegations that Fayemi has put aside a large chunk of money to sponsor the aspiration of his anointed candidate, urging all aspirants to work hard and reach out to the voters. “There is no money kept anywhere for the purpose of sponsoring any imaginary anointed candidate,” he said.
During the week, the governor announced December 18 as the deadline for governorship aspirants who are still in the state’s civil service to resign their positions. The directive is contained in a statement signed by his Chief Press Secretary, Yinka Oyebode, on Wednesday in Ado-Ekiti. According to the statement, “the development became imperative in order to ensure cohesion and excellent service delivery, the two major hallmarks of the administration.”
The statement added that the APC in the state had fixed the governorship primaries for between January 4 and 29, 2022. But sources within the government told our correspondent that the move is part of efforts to reduce the number of aspirants seeking the gubernatorial ticket of the party. “Many of those currently expressing interest in the race are still undecided about whether to run for the state governorship seat or not.
“There are many others who are waiting for the endorsement of the governor before they can fully plunge into the race. Mr. Governor had refused to urge anybody into the guber race and it is obvious that the crowd of aspirants will reduce once it becomes compulsory to resign from the cabinet in order to contest in the primary election. It is the desire of APC to reduce friction before, during and after the primary election,” our source said.
In spite of the initial anxiety over the possibility of a crowded race for the ticket of the ruling party, APC’s outing is turning out a lethargic one with just a handful of aspirants currently in the race. Sources within the party also told The Nation that it is not likely that all those currently jostling for the ticket will obtain the nomination form ‘as talks are currently ongoing to urge some of them to jettison their aspiration in the interest of party cohesion.
The Secretary to the State Government, Biodun Oyebanji, promptly left the cabinet to contest the 2022 governorship election. Fayemi accepted his resignation. Observers of the politics of the state claimed there has been subtle campaigns and mobilization for Oyebanji by the governor’s men within and outside the government. “This is at the root of allegations of imposition against Fayemi by his critics and those opposed to Oyebanji’s ambition,’ a source said.
Chieftains of the party from the southern senatorial district are chiefs among those opposed to Oyebanji’s aspiration as they see his ambition as a breach of the zoning principle operating in the state. “They are insisting the southern zone should produce the next governor of the state, noting that the position has eluded the zone since 1999. They have urged the party to pick its candidate from the southern senatorial district for fairness and equity,’ our source added.
Oyebanji, from Ikogosi in the central senatorial district, was Chief of Staff to former governor and present Minister of Trade, Industry, and Investment, Chief Niyi Adebayo. He equally served as Commissioner for Budget and Economic Development during Fayemi’s first term as governor between 2010 and 2014. He came into the limelight as the youngest member and Secretary of the Ekiti State Creation Committee at the age of 27 in 1996 and until his resignation, the SSG since 2018.
Oyebanji, who has promptly obtained the governorship nomination and expression of interest forms at the national secretariat of the APC, has constantly denied the insinuation that his aspiration is being sponsored by Governor Fayemi. He dispelled the rumour making the rounds in some quarters that he has been anointed by his former principal to contest the Ekiti State governorship election. He assured the people of the state of his readiness to lead Ekiti.
“The governor of Ekiti is the leader of the party in the state. The governor has no preferred candidate among the aspirants. A candidate will emerge at primary. I am not his anointed, everyone that is running belongs to APC and he is our leader and I am sure everyone enjoys his support. I am not aware of any faction in our party in Ekiti state. Politics is a game of ideas and there are a million views on how things should be done.
“The APC is one family. As long as we are still in the APC, we are one big family. And even in families, there are always disagreements. So it is not a big deal. So, I am not aware of any division in Ekiti APC. We had our congresses, it went well and everyone participated. The party has also put in place a level playing field for everyone who might be interested in contesting to come and pick forms. So, there is no faction in APC in Ekiti State. We are one,” he insisted.
Ahead of the primary election of the ruling party in the state, Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, who is also the APC member representing Ekiti Central senatorial district in the national assembly, has made public his intention to contest for the governorship position in Ekiti state. Though he has long been touted as a leading contender for the APC ticket, Bamidele reiterated his aspiration during the week.
Senator Bamidele, who is also the Chairman of Southern Senators Forum, in a letter written to APC Senators dated December 5, 2021, said that he has what it takes to lead Ekiti state having served in Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary Arms of government in the country. He sought the support of his colleagues and vowed to move Ekiti forward as a Governor if given the chance to contest as the candidate of the ruling party.
“I have got what it takes to lead Ekiti state in such a peculiar time, like this, following my over 35 years in various leadership positions and brilliant exposure in the three-arm of government (Operating within the judicial arm), a three-term cabinet member of Lagos State government ( operating in the Executive arm), and as elected Hon. Member of the House of Representatives and distinguished Senator ( operating in the legislative Arm ) of government.
“By the God’s grace I will be a round peg in a round hole if given an opportunity to serve as governor and Ekiti people will be better for it,” he pledged. Sources within the party described the Senator as one of the strongest aspirants on the platform of the APC. “He is not new to the gubernatorial contest in Ekiti state and he enjoys widespread following across the state. His machinery is one of the most visible within the party.
“Also, his position as a serving senator gives him an edge over and above many of his co-aspirants. He has structures in almost all parts of the state and he is well known to the people as a politician of repute. His closeness to the grassroots is also an added advantage for him. Within the governor’s camp, he is one aspirant that enjoys a lot of support too. In addition, many see him as a candidate that can contest and win the election for APC,” The Nation gathered.
Bamidele was appointed as Senior Special Assistant on Political and Intergovernmental Relations to the Lagos State governor in 2000. Between 2000 and 2003, he was the National Director of Publicity of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD). Between 2003 and 2007 he served as Lagos State Commissioner for Youths, Sports and Social Development. He was reappointed to serve as Commissioner for Information and Strategy, under the government of Babatunde Fashola.
In April 2011, he was elected as a Member of the 7th National Assembly, to represent Ekiti Central Federal Constituency 1. While in House of Representatives, he served as the Chairman of the House on Adhoc Committee on Media and Public Affairs. He currently serves as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters as well as leading the Southern caucus of the senate as chairman.
A member of the House of Representatives and former Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Olufemi Bamishile, has said he remains the candidate to beat in the coming governorship primaries of the APC in the state. During the week, he dismissed the reports making the rounds that he accompanied another aspirant to the national secretariat to obtain his nomination form. He urged his supporters to be ready to go all the way with him in the contest.
Bamisile currently represents Ekiti South II Federal constituency in the lower chamber of the national assembly. He is also a former Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly (Third Parliament). He was among the candidates for the All Progressive Congress (APC) at the Ekiti State gubernatorial election for 2019. He says he is the race to bring his wealth of experience to bear on the administration of the state.
In 2006, he was appointed as the Ag. Chairman of Ekiti State Sports Commission, and later as Special Assistant (General Duties) to the Governor of Ekiti state. He contested for the membership of Ekiti State House of Assembly in 2007 and won. He eventually emerged the Speaker of the third parliament on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He left the PDP in 2014 to support the aspiration of Governor Kayode Fayemi.
While declaring his aspiration weeks back, Bamisile said he decided to vie for the governorship seat to build on the lofty legacy built by Governor Fayemi when he exits on October 15, 2022. “APC is a party with a strong internal mechanism for the conduct of primary and I am looking forward to a primary that will be free, fair, credible and that can accommodate all”, Bamisile said, stating his confidence in the process that will produce the party’s candidate.
Ekiti State Commissioner for Public Utilities Bamidele Faparusi, is one aspirant many people are still waiting for to walk his talk by quitting the cabinet and picking his nomination form to contest the primary election. The APC governorship aspirant has constantly insisted that anything short of a governorship candidate from the South senatorial district for the 2022 governorship election in the state would be a costly mistake for his party, the APC.
Faparusi, a former member of the House of Representatives, argued that the North and Central senatorial districts of the state had produced the governors since the creation of the state in 1999 while the South was yet to produce one. “This time around, people are agitating that there should be balance of power in Ekiti State. I agree with the agitation,” said the politician who had declared his interest in the gubernatorial race months back.
Dismissing claims that Fayemi had endorsed an aspirant, Faparusi said “As a senior official of this party, there has not been any forum where such (endorsement) has been discussed. Even, if this should be discussed, it would be a candidate from the South, not from any other zone outside of the South, because that is what can win us the next election. It will be a costly mistake if my party, APC, should do otherwise.” As at the time of filing this report, Faparusi was yet to quit the cabinet in furtherance of his gubernatorial aspiration, as directed by Governor Fayemi.