As the governorship election draws closer in Ekiti State, the battle for the ticket of the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) has become tense. Correspondent RASAQ IBRAHIM examines the aspirants jostling for the party’s ticket and the issues likely to shape the shadow poll
For the people of Ekiti, June 18 is not going to be just one of the 365 days of the year 2022. It is a day of anxiety because of what is at stake for politicians across the political divide. For the opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the bid to elect the man that would represent the party during the June 18 governorship election is already underway. Governor Kayode Fayemi’s second term would elapse on October 15 when he would have completed his two terms in the helm of affairs.
The forthcoming governorship election has rekindled the fierce rivalry between various political parties, particularly the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP. The two parties have returned to the drawing board for the all-important contest. The poll is a must-win battle for the PDP, after its candidate in the July 14, 2018 governorship election, Prof. Kolapo Olusola was narrowly defeated by Governor Fayemi of the APC after a tough political contest.
To underscore the seriousness of the PDP to reclaim Ekiti from the stranglehold of the APC, the party’s national secretariat has waded into the internal rife in the Ekiti chapter, which many believe if not resolved could undermine its bright chances at the poll.
To this end, the national leadership has held a series of meetings with former Governor Ayodele Fayose, Senator Biodun Olujimi, former Governor Segun Oni and other leaders, with a view to resolve the contentious issues unsettling the party. A source who was privy to the details of the meeting told our reporter that the reconciliatory parley was a successful outing.
For the ruling APC, there was no vacancy in the Government House. The party wants to crack the age-long hard nut of succession and continuity this time around. Since the creation of Ekiti State, no political party has ruled for eight years uninterrupted. So, the party said that it would not take anything for granted and that it is ready to unlock the continuity and succession door.
The APC is upbeat about the prospects of the party retaining Ekiti State during the June 18 governorship poll. But, the party which ought to be a formidable contender is torn apart by a seemingly intractable intra-party squabble. The party is polarized into two factions and this may perhaps pose a potent threat for the APC’s quest to maintain a stranglehold.
The heat is on in full swing. Long before the unveiling of the timetable and schedule of activities for the election by the electoral umpire, intrigues, alignments, re-alignments as well as subtle campaign for the June 18 election had begun in earnest; a clear indication that the poll would be a fierce contest.
Going by the timetable of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), political parties participating in the election are expected to hold their primaries between January 4 and January 29, 2021.
Of all the political parties that have so far indicated interest to take part in the election, the ruling APC and the main opposition party, the PDP, are leading with the pack of aspirants jostling for their tickets.
The search for the governorship flag bearer of the PDP is fast gathering steam. The party’s National Working Committee (NWC), under the leadership of Senator Iyorcha Ayu, has fixed the party’s primary for January 26. The battle for the party’s ticket is likely to be a stiff one, going by the calibre of chieftains that have shown interest in the contest. Already, the PDP is saturated with the highest number of aspirants.
Over 17 chieftains have signified intentions for the ticket. While the number will certainly decrease before the party conducts the shadow poll in the next few weeks, only five of the 17 aspirants appear to have the necessary experience and competence for the race.
Analysts that are very familiar with Ekiti political landscape believe the aspirants are strong individuals who are capable of shaping the direction of parties’ primary and the general election. To them, the battle for the governorship ticket will not be an easy one.
The aspirants angling for the PDP ticket include Bisi Kolawole from Efon Local Council Government Area, Segun Oni from Ido/Osi Local Government, Senator Biodun Olujimi from Ekiti East, Prof. Kolapo Olusola from Ikere, Mrs Olumide Olubunmi also from Ido/Osi, Kayode Adaramodu from Ekiti Southwest, Adewale Aribisala from Ikole and Yinka Akerele from Oye.
Others are Ogunsakin Ayodeji from Ado Local Government, Alhaji Lateef Ajijola also from Ado, Mrs Arogundade Olutoyin from Ekiti East, Princess Adekemi Adewunmi from Efon, Mrs Cecillia Ebiesuwa from Emure, Mrs Adewumi Adesoye from Ado, Mrs Titilayo Owolabi, Mrs Modupe Asaolu from Ekiti Southwest and Mrs Deborah Alo from Ido/Osi.
These 17 aspirants have so far obtained their nomination and expression of interest forms and have been screened by the Ahmed Makarfi-led panel. Although the outcome of the screening has not been made public, multiple sources at the national secretariat told our reporter that five out of the 17 hopefuls were disqualified.
Looking at the local governments of origin of the aspirants, political pundits believe that majority of the aspirants are spoilers and pretenders. They are being sponsored to cause serious distractions and reduce the chances of some known aspirants to the advantage of others.
In the long list, one can easily pinpoint the pretenders and spoilers in the midst of the contenders. The pretenders and spoilers even outnumber the real contenders. Out of the 17 aspirants listed above, the real contenders are five. They are Olujimi, Oni, Kolawole, Olusola and Adaramodu.
Known to be a performer in any position she finds herself, Olujimi has grown to be a veteran governorship contender; as one can always predict that she would be in any governorship election in the state. A sitting senator representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Olujimi is one of the most experienced female politicians in Nigeria. She has been in active politics since 1999 when she was an ally of the late Olusola Saraki.
She was the national publicity secretary of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) until 2003 when she joined the PDP and became a Special Adviser to then-Governor Ayodele Fayose. In a twist of fate, that same year, she became a member of the House of Representatives, when she replaced the late Abiodun Talabi, who represented Ekiti South Federal Constituency 2. She spent only just five months at the Red Chamber when Fayose nominated her as the deputy governor to replace Bisi Omoyeni who returned to the Wema Bank as managing director/chief executive officer.
The Omuo-Ekiti born politician almost became the acting governor of the state after the impeachment of Fayose in 2006, but she was outsmarted by some forces. When Oni took over in 2007, Olujimi became the commissioner for works. At the national scene, she has always been a member of several presidential campaign councils of the PDP. It was Olujimi who persuaded President Goodluck Jonathan and the leadership of the party at the national level to consider Fayose‘s return to Ekiti in 2014 as governor. Fayose quickly resolved his differences with Olujimi, who joined hands to give him victory at the poll. In return, Olujimi got the ticket to return to the National Assembly, but this time, the Senate.
In the 8th Senate, her political activism earned her the office of deputy Minority Whip. She later became Minority Leader when Senator Godswill Akpabio left the PDP for the APC. In 2018, she threw her hat into the ring for the PDP ticket but later withdrew from the race on the eve of the shadow poll for Senator Dayo Adeyeye.
The Omuo-Ekiti born politician has over the years grown to become an entrenched grassroots politician with a formidable and followership. One of the factors that may favour Olujimi is the agitation for zoning. Unarguably, the journalist-turned-politician remains an aspirant to beat, given her wide acceptability, vast experience and financial war chest.
Although many are of the opinion that Ekiti is too sophisticated to be left in the hand of a female, but with the magic wand she has deployed in the past, it would be risky and suicidal to underrate her in the party’s shadow poll.
This influential politician is an old horse. He governed the state between 2007 and 2011 under the banner of the PDP. He emerged as the PDP candidate under contentious circumstances in 2007, as he came third in the primary, but was imposed on the party by former President Olusegun Obasanjo. He was removed after a long drawn legal battle by the Appeal Court in Ilorin, giving way for Governor Fayemi to mount the saddle.
Going by the perception of the people, the Ifaki-born politician was admired for his legendary performances in the areas of infrastructure and the management of the lean resources of the state, in spite of the distraction caused by long-drawn litigation against him. Oni defected from the PDP to the APC in 2014 to support Governor Fayemi’s second term ambition and was given the position of Deputy National Chairman (South). He participated in the 2018 APC governorship primary, where he garnered a total of 482 votes to emerge runner-up to Fayemi, who clinched the ticket. Oni later returned to the PDP in 2020.
There is no doubt that as an ex-governor of the same state, Oni has the needed solid experience to launch Ekiti on the part of socio-economic growth and development. He also understands the affairs of the state, including the political intricacies and peculiarities of the Ekiti electorates. Perhaps, based on these, sources believe all the odds favour him as the best for the job.
Many believe that his wide network of political associates across party divides and goodwill among Ekiti people would be an added advantage for him. His supporters are of the view that if he picks the ticket, his well-oiled structure across the state would give him an edge in the general election. They also averred that what may advance his acceptability is the perception that he is not corrupt.
If this perception is not punctured and if he wins the PDP ticket, Oni will be a strong candidate to watch. It is believed that he enjoys the support of the super-rich and the powerful elite in the state, including Chief Afe Babalola. But, one of the major factors that may hamper his ambition is the zoning factor, as his Ekiti North senatorial district is not favoured by the zoning formula because Fayemi hails from the same district.
From the look of things, Kolawole, fondly called ‘Bisi K’, is a force to contend with as far as the poll is concerned. The Efon Alaaye – born politician was the chairman of the PDP in Ekiti State before he resigned to contest the June 18 governorship poll.
Kolawole has served as councillor and a former lawmaker representing Efon Constituency in the Ekiti State House of Assembly between 2007 and 2011. He was commissioner for environment during Fayose’s second term between 2015 and 2018. He is a holder of several chieftaincy titles in different parts of Ekiti, including his hometown, Efon Alaaye, Igbara Odo and Odo Owa Ekiti.
His ambition to govern Ekiti received a huge boost when Fayose endorsed him as the sole candidate of the Osoko Political Association (OPA). Some members of Fayose’s political family who had indicated interest in the election voluntarily stepped down for Kolawole.
He is backed by the maverick Fayose, a two-term governor and astute politician. This is a great impetus for his ambition.
The Ilawe-Ekiti born politician is another influential hopeful for the PDP governorship ticket. Like the others, he is also not a pushover in the quest for the party’s flag in Ekiti. Known to be a grassroots mobiliser and political vortex, he enjoys grassroots support.
The UK-based policy expert has, despite overwhelming odds and very humble beginning, been able to build an enviable career that has taken him from Nigeria to other African countries, Europe and other parts of the world. He rose through the ranks to hold senior leadership positions that cut across public, private and international development sectors, with invaluable links and interfaces, and a reputation built on character, passion and integrity.
In October 2010, he resigned from GTBank to launch an attempt under the PDP, albeit unsuccessfully, to represent Ekiti South senatorial district at the Senate. After the failed mission, he was re-employed and posted back to the Sierra Leone subsidiary of the bank, where he was till his final exit from the company. After a fulfilling career in the banking sector, the ex-GTBank deputy managing director left for the UK where he has worked as a business analyst and policy consultant to the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and as an economic adviser at the UK Office for National Statistics.
Factors that may work in his favour include his cognate experience in the banking sector, philanthropic gestures and of course the fact that his Ekiti South senatorial district is favoured by the current zoning formula. Although Adaramodu as an individual is not a pushover in the game, he still has a slim chance of securing the PDP ticket.
The Ikere-Ekiti born politician came into the political limelight in 2014 when he emerged as deputy governor to the then Governor Fayose. He served in that capacity until 2018. Olusola was the PDP governorship candidate in the 2018 poll which he lost to Governor Fayemi with a narrow margin.
He graduated from the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, in 1990 with Bachelor’s Degree in Building Technology. He was retained at the university where he served until his appointment as the Ekiti number two man. He is a professor of Building Technology. He never held any political office until 2014 when was made the deputy governor. Though he may have little knowledge of the dynamism of Ekiti politics, Olusola will be a major contender to watch in the race.
Some factors that may favour his ambition include experience, humility, exposure and the fact that he has instituted structures when he held sway as deputy governor and the PDP candidate in 2018. Added to these is that he hails from Ikere Ekiti, the second largest town in the state, which falls within Ekiti South, the zone that has never produced the governor. This sentiment has percolated deeply into the psyche of the people and it may help the PDP candidate. So, being from Ikere is an added advantage because the town has the capacity to produce swing votes that can upset any party.
He is from Ayede Ekiti in Oye Local Government. He was a special assistant to former minister of works, Senator Adeseye Ogunlewe. He was one of the PDP governorship contestants ahead of the 2007 governorship election. Akerele came first in the primary with Prof Adesegun Ojo coming second and Segun Oni coming third. Because Akerele did not secure the mandatory 50 per cent to win the primary at the first ballot, a run-off election with Ojo was needed to get a clear-cut winner.
But, the Obasanjo presidency intervened and Oni who came third in the primary was adopted as the consensus candidate. The Ekiti North PDP senatorial ticket already won by Prof. Tunde Adeniran was given to Akerele who rejected it insisting on the conduct of a run-off with Prof Ojo. The senatorial ticket was later given to Ayo Arise who had just defected from the then Action Congress (who later won the senatorial seat).
Akerele later defected to All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) where he contested the main governorship election in 2007 but lost to Oni. He later defected to the APC before returning to the PDP. Akerele’s chance of winning the primary is slim, if not impossible.
A businessman turned politician and a native of Ado Ekiti, Lateef Ajijola is very popular among the youthful elements in the PDP. He is a philanthropist and a generous politician. He contested for the PDP senatorial ticket in Ekiti Central in 2015 but lost narrowly to the eventual winner, Senator Fatimat Raji Rasaki. He gave Mrs. Raji Rasaki a run for her money in the PDP primary but later went to court to challenge the senatorial primary election result which he claimed was manipulated in favour of his rival. But, the primary result was upheld by the court. Now back in frame for the PDP governorship ticket, Ajijola doesn’t seem capable of having a serious outing because he lacks political structures.
If there is one political strategist, master tactician and a dependable political ally of Fayose, the Ikole-Ekiti born politician easily comes to one’s mind. The down to earth Aribisala attended the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Osun State, where he obtained a B.Sc. in Accounting and later an MBA in Management.
Aribisala is a former member of the House of Representatives between 2007 and 2011. He is the immediate past national treasurer of the PDP. He was elected at the PDP national convention in December 2017 with the massive support of Fayose. He is one of those categorized as pretenders in the race.
This grassroots politician is believed to be interested in the governorship ticket of the PDP. The former chairman of Ado Local Government Area is a graduate of Economics from Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti. Ogunsakin holds a Masters’ degree in Business Administration from the University of Lagos. The PDP chieftain is currently one of the most intriguing young politicians in the state. When he first joined politics and showed interest to govern the state on the platform of the PDP in 2018, not many took him seriously. But he made an inroad and was unilaterally nominated by Fayose as the party’s deputy governorship candidate. He is now counted as a major force in Ekiti, especially among the youths.
Ogunsakin was said to have been planted by Fayose to cause distractions and reduce the chances of some known aspirants to the advantage of his anointed candidate, Bisi Kolawole.
Contenders, pretenders for Ekiti PDP ticket .