The final battle of the two scholars-Prof. Kolapo Olusola and Dr. Kayode Fayemi- are the major governorship candidates for the July 14 election in Ekiti State. Who succeeds Governor Ayodele Fayose between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag bearers
The die is cast between Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, Ekiti State deputy governor and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate, and Dr. John Kayode Folorunso Fayemi, out-going Minister of Mines and Steel Development and the flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A clash of intellectuals is imminent in the Fountain of Knowledge. The two candidates parade intimidating credentials. Both scholars have a date with history on July 14. Who succeeds out-going Governor Ayodele Fayose?
It is a two-horse contest. Although smaller opposition parties, including the Social Democratic Party (SDP), are also fielding candidates, they do not seem to have that capacity to match their PDP and APC counterparts.
According to observers, Ekiti is warming up for a historic poll. Olusola, a professor of Building at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife is flying on the wings of his populist boss, who defeated Fayemi four years ago. The poll will be his first baptism of fire. Many believe that a transformed and more combative Fayemi is on a revenge electoral mission, having claimed that he was robbed in 2014 by the coalition of Fayose, former Minister of State for Defence Senator Musiliu Obanikoro and former Police Affairs Minister Jelili Adesiyan, who used soldiers and police to scatter his foot soldiers.
However, the poll is not only about Fayemi, but also about the Southwest progressive bloc’s yearning for the return of Ekiti into its fold, and for the purpose of commencing the envisaged second phase of the rescue mission. More importantly, the July 14 election will determine how far the APC can go in next year’s general elections in the rustic and far-flung state.
For Fayose, it is a make or mar election. His future may as well be determined by the succession battle. If his succession plan succeeds, he may become more relevant in the state and in his party. But, if it fails, he may face a perilous political future. Since the contest is also principally between Fayose, a street-wise politician, and Fayemi, a war scholar, it will be tough. To Fayemi’s supporters, it is another war of liberation.
In four years, there is a reverse of positions of strengths and weaknesses. While the “federal might” was deployed in Fayose’s aid in the previous election under the Jonathan administration, the advantage is gone. It may now be the turn of the APC, which was oppressed and suppressed during the disputed poll, to leverage on its status as a chapter of a ruling party at the centre endowed with the indomitable weapons. But, since the poll is likely to be free and fair under President Muhammadu Buhari, the fate of the principal contenders will be decided by the people in an atmosphere of electoral sanity.
The strength of Olusola, a native of Ikere, lies in the perceived formidable machinery of the governor, who against all odds, regained power in 2014, eight years after he was impeached in error by the House of Assembly. However, during the campaigns, Ekiti will beam the searchlight on his worth and fitness for the exalted position.
This year’s governorship debate will be hot. Two dons endowed with adequate verbal facilities will be in the ring. Olusola will justify the continuity of the PDP administration beyond this year by reeling out what he believes to be the achievements of Fayose in the last four years. Fayemi will fire salvos at the PDP and expose the hollow in the score card of the governor. The former governor will delve into history, emerging with the evidence of effective and prudent management of resources when he was in charge. Ekiti elite will be divided between two egg heads in hot competition for the seat of government.
Also, there will be a clash of strategy. Following the footsteps of Olusola, who has selected Deji Ogunsakin from Ado-Ekiti as his running mate, Fayemi, who hails from Isan-Ekiti, in Ekiti North Senatorial District, is also likely to pick his running mate from the state capital. The choice of running mates from Ado may continually fuel the perception that Ado and Ikere are the major deciders of governorship victory, to the consternation of other big towns like Ikole, Efon, Ijero, Ilawe, Otun and Omuo.
But, how healthy and formidable are the two main parties? The PDP primary has generated bitterness, although only Olusola, who polled 1,191, and former Minister of State for Works, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, contested. The prince of Ise, who got 771 votes, has discredited the supposedly free and fair contest, saying that delegates were induced. He said he was on his way out. Fayose has dismissed his vituperation as the ranting of an ant. He said the PDP will win without the former PDP caretaker publicity secretary. PDP national leaders are still trying to reconcile the aggrieved with the governor.
Generally, it is believed that the PDP may not suffer extreme polarisation, owing to few aspirants who fought for the ticket. The APC had 32 aspirants who tested their popularity within the party. But, to prevent further division, Fayemi, who was not carried away by his victory, instantly begun reconciliation. He offered an olive branch by visiting co-aspirants, including former Governor Segun Oni, who came second, in Ifaki-Ekiti, Senator Gbenga Aluko, Femi Bamisile in Ado, and Wole Oluyede in Ikere. His media aide, Yinka Oyebode, said he will meet other aspirants between today and tomorrow.
Unlike the aggrieved PDP aspirant, some APC contestants demonstrated maturity by congratulating Fayemi. “We all won,” said Bamisile, former Speaker of the House of Assembly, who called for unity and cohesion. “We haven’t got to the finish line. We have a great assignment ahead, so that we can secure victory against the PDP and other contending parties,” he added.
Also, in the spirit of reconciliation, an aspirant, Muyiwa Olumilua, said: “From this point, we no longer have any aspirant; we now have a candidate. All parallel structures must be dismantled and fused into one single force. We must all stand firmly behind our chosen candidate.”
Lauding the shadow poll, Oni congratulated the Al-Makura Committee and the winner, Fayemi. He said he will not quit the party, stressing that he is a loyal party man.
Fayemi was magnanimous in victory. He cautioned against post-primary partisan abuse, urging his supporters to avoid being rude to his rivals at the intra-party poll. The lesson of the primary is that delegates rejected the push for zoning in Ekitiland, which is one zone. Since the primary was approached like war by all aspirants, Fayemi called for cessation of hostilities. It is acknowledgement of the fact that he would need more than delegates’ votes to bounce back to power. “I plead that we put our differences aside and work together as one strong and indivisible party for success in the upcoming election,” he said.
In Fayemi’s view, the APC can displace the PDP, if the there is unity and harmony among the gladiators.
The next critical step for the APC candidate is the setting up of a campaign structure for the election. A chieftain said: “The campaign organisation must reflect the spread of aspirants, districts and party leadership. We must go for the election as one family. Fayemi should not permit vendetta. No exclusion. To win the governorship election, all the critical stakeholders must work for victory.”
Last week, Fayemi congratulated his opponent, Olusola, for emerging in an orderly and peaceful primary. But, he told him that whoever becomes the APC candidate will be the preferred choice of the electorate. Yesterday, he beat his chest, saying he would be more acceptable to Ekiti than the PDP flag bearer.
However, Fayose has challenged Fayemi to a duel, saying that he will lose his deposit at the poll, reminiscent of 2014. “I thank the APC for giving Ekiti people a candidate they love to vote against all times. Fayemi should not celebrate this pyrrhic victory yet because it is nothing but a flame that will be quenched on July 14. He should expect to suffer worse defeat compared to that of 2014,”he said.
Fayose’s bravado, according to analysts, is premised on the gains of the PDP as the dominant party in Ekiti. All members of the State Executive Council and functionaries across the 16 local governments are his loyalists. All the members of the House of Assembly, except a defector, are PDP chieftains. Party members are also on the state boards and parastatals.
To the PDP chairman, Gboyega Oguntuase, 9 lawyer, APC cannot withstand the PDP structures, especially at the grassroots, where he said, Fayose is popular with the people. Other party chieftains are basking in the euphoria of the power of incumbency, despite its limitation. The APC family has disputed the PDP’s strength while making reference to the confession of Dr. Tope Aluko, who said the 2014 was rigged. In his victory speech, Fayemi also punctured the notion of token populism premised on stomach infrastructure. “We have seen a cynical approach to politics that exploits the penury of the poor and the vulnerability of the marginalised. We have seen the entrenchment of the disdain for elders, traditional institutions, and all forms of constituted authorities.
“Instead of continuing the quest for freedom from ignorance, disease and want, what we have seen is a paradigm that deepens captivity to these ills. In short, the last four years have called into question all that we stand for as a people; the timeless values of honour, dignity, nobility and civility encapsulated in the omoluabi ethos have been eroded,” he said.
Observers predict a clash of incumbency powers as the PDP and the APC do battle on the slippery field of politics. A right activist and potential election observer said that Ekiti may be enveloped in anxiety and tension during the poll.
Born in Ibadan on February 9,1965, Fayemi, a pro-democracy activist, was the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, a research and training institution dedicated to the study and promotion of democratic development, peace building and human security in Africa. He is a product of Christ School, Ado-Ekiti and Federal School of Arts and Science, Ondo. He attended the University of Lagos where he studied History and Politics, OAU where he obtained a Masters degree in International Relations and Kings College, University of London, England where he obtained a doctorate in War Studies.
Fayemi has worked as a lecturer, journalist with the Guardian and City Tempo, researcher and strategy development adviser in Nigeria and United Kingdom. He taught at the Police College, Sokoto during his national youth service. He was responsible for the founding and management of the opposition Radio Freedom, Radio Democracy International and Radio Kudirat. He also served as an adviser on transitional justice, regional integration, constitutionalism, security sector reforms and civil-military relations to the Governments of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Uganda Rwanda and Ghana. He was the main technical adviser to Nigeria’s Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission (Oputa Panel), technical expert to ECOWAS on small arms and light weapons and to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa on governance issues.
Fayemi is a visiting scholar in Political Science Department, University of Ibadan and Fellow of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Ibadan. He was an Adjunct Professor of Security Studies at the African Centre for Strategic Studies, National Defense University, USA, and a Scholar-In-Residence in African Studies Programme at Northwestern University, Evanston, USA in 2004. He has many academic papers and well researched books to his credit.
Olusola, a priest, is a professor of Building Technology at OAU.
Forty nine years old Olusola is the son of Pa Ojo, the Eleka of Ikere-Ekiti. He attended St. Mathew’s Primary School and Annunciation School, Ikere before proceeding to the OAU to study Building. He holds a Master’s degree in Construction Technology from the University of Lagos and a doctorate degree in Building Technology from OAU. He started his career as a Graduate Assistant in 1990. He became an Associate Professor in 2009. Few months ago, he became a professor.
In 2014, he became the deputy governor. He has been described as a stabilizing factor in the Fayose administration. His special interest is the education sector. As the supervisor of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Ekiti received the award of the ‘Best First Timer Performance’ nthrophy during the international debate in Singapore. It also won the ‘Best Performance in Junior Engineers, Technologists and Scientists (JETS) in Interstate Quiz Competition last year and overall best student performance in the 2016 Science Teachers Association of Nigeria (STAN)-organised science written and quiz competitions.