Less than three months to the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State, three prominent candidates are leading their respective parties in the election slated to hold in the state on June 21, but nonchalance on the part of some of the candidates may be their undoing
| By Olu Ojewale | Apr. 14, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
IT IS election year in Ekiti State. In less than three months’ time, electorate in the South-West state are going to the poll to elect a governor that will preside over the affairs of the state for another four years. Three main political parties in the state recently anointed their respective candidates for the gubernatorial election slated for Saturday, June 21. Without any doubt, the contest is expected to be a three race affair featuring Kayode Fayemi, incumbent governor, on the platform of the All Progressive Congress, APC, who wants another four years in office. The other prominent challengers are Ayodele Fayose, former governor of the state, who is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Opeyemi Bamidele, a serving member of the House of the Representatives, who represents the Labour Party.
There are candidates from other parties but only the three candidates look formidable so far in the election. Even then, it appears Fayemi is the man to beat in the coming gubernatorial election. First, he has the power incumbency through which he can mobilise a lot of people and materials in his favour. Second, he belongs to the APC, a formidable party in the South-West. Third, Fayemi’s three and half years in office have been very good for the state because he has been able to put in place some infrastructures. But whether his performance in office so far would help win another mandate in office is a matter for the electorate.
On Thursday, March 26, the governor flagged off his re-election campaign in style with the hosting of fellow APC governors at the Oluyemi Kayode Stadium in Ado-Ekiti, the State capital. The 15,000 capacity stadium was filled to the brim with party supporters, trade associations, artisans, well-wishers and invited musicians who witnessed the grand occasion. Some of them put on specially designed Ankara, vests and fez caps with “Kayode Fayemi for Second Term” and the APC’s logo boldly imprinted on them.
The flag-off provided an opportunity for the eight APC governors and other dignitaries in attendance to take turns to eulogise Fayemi and give reasons why he should be given a chance to lead the state for another four years. Ali Modu Sheriff, former governor of Borno State, who was the first to speak among the APC national leaders, hailed Fayemi’s achievements as a hard working and “performing governor.” While endorsing Fayemi for another four years of meritorious service to the state, Sheriff said: “From what I can see, the people of Ekiti have already decided. They are only waiting for the time to vote. They have said that they are behind Fayemi to run for the governor. I have seen changes in Ekitki State. I congratulate him for performance. We are behind him for the second term.”
Similarly, Governor Aliyu Wamakko of Sokoto State, said the Ekiti governor had projected the APC as a credible platform by his commitment to democracy and transparency. “APC is about the unity of Nigeria. It is about performance and transparency. We are for a governor who can develop his state and people. We will continue to work for national unity. Our diversity will remain our strength. We want leaders who can accept responsibility. One of the rare leaders who must be supported and endorsed is Fayemi. It is the choice of Ekiti and we endorse your choice,” Wamakko said.
Echoing the same eulogy, Murtala Nyako, governor, Adamawa State, said local and international agencies had adjudged Fayemi as a transparent leader with honesty of purpose and “one of the most focused governors in Nigeria.” While commending Fayemi’s achievements so far, Nyako noted: “If Dr. Fayemi has not performed, they will not welcome us this way.”
On his part, Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, expressed the belief that the governor was ordained by God to institute change in Ekiti State, adding that: “If Fayemi contests for governor in other states, he will win.” Governor Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State, in his statement, observed that that the huge turnout at the rally clearly showed that the people appreciated what Fayemi has done in the past three-and-a-half years of his administration.
Ibikunle Amosun, governor of Ogun State, expressed satisfaction that Fayemi had done all the things his predecessors had said were impossible, adding that unlike before, Ekiti State now has good roads, social security for the elderly and many other life-enhancing programmes. With Fayemi in the saddle, Abiola Ajimobi, governor of Oyo State, said it had become obvious that Ekiti State as a land of intellectuals should not be governed by non-intellectuals.
The occasion similarly allowed the traditional rulers in the state to applaud the Fayemi administration for restoring peace and security. “Monarchs are no more abused and threatened with deposition in Ekitiland. We don’t have a noisemaker as governor. Yet, his works speak for him,” a traditional ruler said.
Also lending credence to the achievements of Fayemi was an old woman, who was led into the stadium by two of his grandchildren. She said: “This governor has not let hunger kill us. He finds time to remember us. I am old and cannot work again. But, he sends salary to me every month.”
Beaming with satisfactory grin on his face, Fayemi said it was obvious that no one could deny the achievements of his administration in the state. “Look at the streets and see what we have done. Three and half years ago, I made some promises at my inauguration. I have fulfilled my eight-point agenda,” Fayemi said, adding: “The reward for hard work is more work. The work of development in Ekiti has not been completed. We must continue to fight against poverty and want in Ekiti. I have laid the foundation. We should now build on it.” Nevertheless, the governor pledged to work harder and also deliver more dividends of democracy to the people of the state if re-elected.
Indeed, Fayemi has some remarkable achievements to show his opponents. He is the first, and, perhaps the only governor who pays monthly stipend of N5,000 to the elderly and give them adequate health care. Apart from building roads and other infrastructures, his administration has provided 30,000 laptops for students and another 18,000 laptops for their teachers and ensured that they were all trained to use them.
After about 21 years in doldrum, Ikogosi Spring, which emits both cold and warm water, is now a tourist attraction, which is bringing in revenue for the government under the Fayemi administration. This has helped to create jobs, especially for young school leavers in the state. Based on his record of achievements so far, Fayemi said the June 21, governorship election would not be about him, but about “consolidating on the achievements of the last three-and-a-half-years and ensuring that the state does not go back to the dark days of one-week-one-trouble, violence and looting of public funds.” The governor thus, appealed to the electorate not to be deceived by “the propaganda of the opposition” that he would ban commercial motorcyclists and sack teachers, if re-elected. He further debunked claims by the opposition that he would demolish markets, if re-elected, rather, he said the administration had built modern markets across state.
Despite his acclaimed achievements, the PDP is strongly warming up to push Fayemi out of the Ekiti government house. On Monday, March 24, the PDP constituted a five-member team to handle the campaign of Fayose, its candidate for the June 21 governorship election in Ekiti State. Tope Aluko, secretary of the PDP Ekiti State Chapter who disclosed this in a statement, named Dipo Anisulowo, a lawyer and businessman, as the director-general of the campaign team. To serve as deputy-director general is Owoseni Ajayi, former state chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, and one-time attorney-general and commissioner for justice. Other members are Modupe Alade, a retired permanent secretary, secretary; Gboyega Aribisogan, director of publicity while one chief Awodunmula will serve as the treasurer.
Fayose, who is still standing trial for his alleged embezzlement of more than N400 million of government funds while he was state governor between 2003 and 2007, has, however, been boasting that he brought Fayemi to government and would remove him from office on June 21. He said as a political lion, who had lived all his life in the trenches, his emergence had become a threat to Governor Fayemi. Fayose said: “I won’t look for government appointment because if they appoint you today, you may be removed tomorrow.
I won’t ask the Federal Government for appointment if I fail to win this election. Let the federal government not consider me or any member of my family for any appointment if I fail to send Fayemi packing. I’m sending Fayemi back to where he came from and we shall take over the government house.”
Apparently in a reconciliatory mood, Fayose also appealed to all he might have wronged in the past to find a place in their hearts to forgive him. He assured them that he had learnt his lessons having gone into political hibernation for 12 years. “Nobody can run a government alone. Fayose of 12 years ago is different from Fayose of today. The new Fayose is reformed, refined and more enlightened,” he said.
Fayose, who defeated 13 other aspirants during the party primary on Saturday, March 22, to emerge the PDP flag-bearer, promised to defeat Fayemi because he knew how he became the state governor in the first place. He pleaded with the 13 aspirants who contested with him for the governorship ticket to put whatever grievance they had against him and join hands with him to ensure PDP’s victory in the state. According to him, there was the need for reconciliation, even as he promised that he would do their bidding and that he only needed the governorship and would not contend for other positions. “The way forward is that other aspirants should support me and work with me. It is their right to be angry and if I had lost, I would also be angry because it is not easy to lose N11 million,” he said.
In Abuja on Friday, March 28, at a ceremony where Fayose was given his certificate of return to contest Ekiti State gubernatorial election, Ahmadu Adamu Mua’zu, national chairman of the PDP, urged Fayose to ensure equity and justice. He also cautioned aspirants on the platform of the party to work with the people at the grassroots for their electoral victories instead of putting their hopes in their political god-fathers. Mu’azu assured that his leadership would ensure reconciliation of the aggrieved members just as he expressed optimism that the PDP would take over Ekiti Government House after the June 21 governorship election.
Apart from his opponents in the party, Fayose also has the corruption case against him to contend with as he begins his election campaign. A last ditch effort by Fayose to have the trial for fraud postponed until after the June 21, gubernatorial election met a brick wall on Thursday, March 27. During the corruption hearing against him at the Federal High Court, Ado-Ekiti, Fayose appealed to the court to halt the trial until first week in July to allow him to focus on his gubernatorial election bid. Raji Ahmed, SAN, the lawyer, who represented the former governor, argued that his client must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
But Rotimi Jacobs, SAN and lawyer to the EFCC, who vigorously objected to the application, said: “It would be in the interest of the accused person [to stand trial], so that his people can make up their mind about him and his name cleared before the election.”
In his ruling, Justice Adamu Hobon said the case should continue and fixed the next hearing date in the case to May 6. Fayose is standing trial for allegedly misappropriating state funds to the tune of N416 million during his first stint in office between 2003 and 2006 before he was impeached.
No doubt, Fayose whose turbulent record in office has not been totally forgotten in the state has mountainous challenges to scale through to get back to the State House. Apart from Governor Fayemi, he also has to contend with Bamidele, the flag-bearer of Labour Party. In his informal campaign, Bamidele has promised his supporters and people of the state that he would only serve a single term of four years if elected as the governor of the state. Speaking at a press conference at his residence in Iyin Ekiti on Wednesday, March 23, the LP candidate said that his promise not to seek a second term in office was a personal decision and not the decision of his party. The former commissioner for information and strategy in Lagos State, promised that his government would run an all-encompassing social welfare programme, which would benefit the youth, women, aged, physically challenged and children below age five.
“The situation in Ekiti now calls for sacrifices because part of what destabilises a state most is when the incumbent is seeking re-election or trying to implement a programme the people don’t believe in. I quite understand and believe that I am capable of assembling a solid team that will turn around the fortunes of the state within four years. With my experiences as a public servant, I will hit the ground running. For Ekiti to be united, there is the need for the political class to realign forces and make sacrifices for us to remain as one. After my reign, I won’t want anybody to be fighting over which senatorial district should produce the governor. So, the decision that I am going to rule the state for just four years is personal and not the position of my party,” Bamidele said.
The aspirant, who is a member representing Ado-Ekiti/Irepodun-Ifelodun federal constituency in the House of Representatives, was a member of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and a buddy of Fayemi before his decision to run for the governor severed his relationship with the governor and the APC, in which the ACN was subsumed in the last year merger of three political parties. The lawmaker also pledged to conduct election into the local government councils as part of his policies, which he said, would bring development closer to the grassroots.
As the campaigns of the three major political parties garners steam, it is expected that mud-sliding, would characterise the electioneering campaigns whereby candidates and their supporters would try to gain cheap political points against one another. It, therefore, did not surprise anyone when Niyi Adebayo, who governed the state between 1999 and 2003, asked the APC supporters to be vigilant not to allow opponents to rig Fayemi out of office, and admonished that rigging would only lead to chaos.
Speaking during the governor’ campaign, Adebayo said no PDP candidate was fit for the State House. “I read in the newspapers that the PDP is bringing a man of questionable character to rule us. The APC is presenting a scholar with a doctorate degree. But, they are presenting a man with dubious credential,” he charged. Adebayo similarly took an exception to the remark credited to Fayose that he chased him out of office in 2003 and installed Fayemi in 2010. “In 2003, the PDP stole the governorship. We are in 2014. Ekiti will never accept thieves and charlatans to rule us again. We are campaigning, but their candidate is in court facing the EFCC charges. They said Adebayo is a gentleman and he didn’t fight. This is a different time. If I am tempted, I will fight. Ekiti was under darkness. Today, Fayemi has brought light,” the former governor said.
Echoing the same sentiments, Jide Awe, interim chairman, Ekiti State APC, described Fayemi as a 21st century administrator and scholar, who would do well at the poll. He lamented that the PDP chieftains were threatening fire and brimstone, instead of engaging in a campaign of ideas and issues. “Some people need the combined forces of Russia and America to win. But, what do the people of Ekiti want? The people of Ekiti will vote for us. No matter the threat and intimidation, Ekiti will move forward to elect Dr. Kayode Fayemi for a second term. Go in peace, Vote for the APC. APC will rule Ekiti again in 2014”, he said.
On his part, Fayemi accused President Goodluck Jonathan of foisting Fayose on the PDP as its governorship candidate with the aim of using him to unleash violence on the state ahead of the June 21, governorship poll. The governor, in a statement issued by Dimeji Daniels, spokesperson of his campaign organisation, said that the opposition party wanted to prepare the ground for rigging through violence. Fayemi said that the president would be held responsible for any act of violence by the PDP’s governorship candidate and also warned Fayose against violating the law, saying he would face the wrath of the people if he caused violence in the state. “Fayose was made to win the PDP primaries because of his anti-democratic credentials of violence, a clear pointer that the Presidency and the PDP have perfected strategies to rig the June 21 governorship election. What this means is that the Jonathan presidency and the PDP have no sense of history regarding Ekiti people. Ekiti people have been known to resist shady characters. This same man was sent packing with his tails between his legs by Ekiti people when it became apparent that he had no respect for human dignity.
“By throwing up Fayose again in a race that should involve decent people, the PDP is clearly spitting on the grave of Tunde Omojola, who on 28 May, 2005 was mowed down in Ifaki-Ekiti. The PDP is also spitting on the graves of Ijan Ekiti-born Dr. Ayo Daramola who was ruthlessly killed on 14 August, 2006, because of his governorship ambition and the students of College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti whose lives were cut short on March 16, 2004,” the statement said.
But Fayose said that the governor was attacking him because his emergence was causing confusion in the camp of the ruling APC. The former governor said that he remained unperturbed by allegations from Fayemi’s camp, adding that he would do the talking during the election.
On his part, Bamidele while assuring his supporters of electoral victory disclosed that more than half of members of Fayemi’s cabinet members were behind him. But this has been refuted by Tayi Ekundayo, commissioner for information and civic orientation in the state. Ekundayo, in a statement in Ado Ekiti, on Friday, March 28, Ekundayo described the statement credited to Bamidele as another in the series of lies being peddled by a “desperate politician struggling to stay afloat in the face of the defeat that awaits him in the June 21 polls.”
Bamidele was said to have made the statement in Ido-Ekiti during his rally on Wednesday, March 26, saying that “over half of Governor Fayemi’s cabinet members are behind my ambition.” But the commissioner pointed out it was a ploy by Bamidele to cause disaffection among Ekiti people and a further “demonstration of the fact that the Labour party candidate had the false belief that the political scene was populated only by untrustworthy and backstabbing fellows like him that were willing to sell their conscience for a pot of porridge.”
Whatever the true position, it is obvious that some members of the APC are still ruing the departure of Bamidele from the fold. In press interview, Bimbo Daramola, a member of the House of Representatives and director-general of the Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation, admitted that Bamidele’s departure could have some effects on the popularity of his candidate. But Daramola insisted that the June 21 governorship in the state would be based on issues and not personalities. “We are going to have a campaign that will be issue-driven, agenda setting, my candidate, the campaign organisation and by extension, the people are not just angling for a second term for the sake of second term. We are doing this out of the strong conviction driven by the tangible template that Dr. Kayode Fayemi has laid in the past three and a half years,” he said.
Fayose is similarly cashing in on his perceived popularity in Ekiti State as well as the approval of some party elders in the party who feel that his candidature could swing the election in favour of the PDP. But there is another school of thought which says if the party would want to be serious about winning election, Fayose should not have been its choice. According to some analysts, the recent visit of the South-West governors might have could have been the occasion for horse trading where the governors must have warned the president that the PDP should desist from rigging the state if he does not want another conflagration on his hand.
President Jonathan had a private meeting with Fayemi, Ra’uf Aregbesola of Osun, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun and Babatunde Fashola of Lagos states on Tuesday, March 11. The purpose and outcome of the meeting was not made public. But some political watchers said it must have to do with coming elections in the APC stronghold states. However, with what happened in the Anambra State governorship election where the PDP candidate was reduced to a mere party symbol, it would not be a surprise thing if the same situation is replayed in Ekiti State.
In any case, as the build-up to the Ekiti State governorship election continues to heat up, reports said Fayemi has started the use of the new media to win over the electorate. Willie Obiano, now governor of Anambra State, was said to have used the new media platform during the November 2013 election campaign. Obiano, who claimed that he “campaigned vigorously on Twitter” and while relishing his victory at the poll said: “We must thank God for the social media.” While Fayemi is said to have been doing the same thing, his opponents seem to be unaware or care less about it.
Be that as it may, from the current standpoint Ekiti State gubernatorial election is not likely to produce any surprise result unless something happens before the election. But it is not likely that Fayose and Bamidele would continue with their current lacklustre election campaigns for long unless, they are not really serious about the plum job.