The former Ekiti State governor, Segun Oni’s defection from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC back to his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, may change the political permutations of the 2022 governorship election in the state.
In her 24 years of checkered political history, Ekiti State has produced four politicians who cannot easily be dismissed. They also have a huge stake in its future political permutations.
They include the first elected governor on the platform of Alliance for Democracy (AD) and current Minister of Trade and Investment in All Progressives Congress (APC), Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo, former Governor Ayodele Fayose on Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) platform, the incumbent, Dr. Kayode Fayemi of APC and Chief Segun Oni who was governor for three and a half years.
Of these four political titans, Fayemi and Oni stand out. It was because of their protracted legal battle for the governorship seat that led the state into off-season governorship election.
For a period of seven years (2007- 2014), the two political gladiators animated Ekiti political space with their battles of supremacy. They so engaged each other without giving room for any governorship poll to be held.
In 2007 governorship election, Oni was the candidate of PDP while Fayemi was the candidate of defunct Action Congress (AC). The two were the main contenders for the governorship position. At the end of the election, Oni was declared winner. However, after over three years in and out of court, Fayemi defeated Oni. He was then sworn in as governor on October 16 2010. In 2014, the two combatants buried their hatchets when Oni left PDP and decamped to Fayemi’s APC. Oni was then made the party’s Deputy National Chairman (South).
Oni’s travails in APC
Oni declared his interest in the governorship position of the state in early 2018. Fayemi was then a serving Minister of Mines and Steel Development in Abuja. Many had given the APC ticket to Oni until Fayemi came into the race a few weeks to party’s primary and changed the permutations. This led to bad blood among the aspirants to the extent that Oni and other aspirants ganged up against Fayemi. They started plotting against him because they felt he would use his connection in Abuja and the structure of the party, which he installed in his first term in office, to his advantage.
When the first primary was held, it was disrupted because Fayemi was coasting home to victory. The primary which was supervised by Nasarawa State governor, Tanko Almakura, was described as a show of shame as aspirants and their supporters openly chanted, ‘ole, ole’ (thief, thief) on Fayemi.
However, with the deployment of heavily armed security personnel to the venue of the second primary election, the exercise, which was conducted under the watchful eyes of APC’s electoral committee members, the police, DSS among others, held peacefully. At the end of voting on May 12, 2018, Fayemi won with a total of 941 votes to beat Oni, who scored 481 votes to the second place.
It was apparent that the outcome of the poll did not go down well with Oni and some other aspirants. The reconciliation efforts of both Fayemi and the party were able to calm frayed nerves. Oni, against expectation, even openly campaigned for Fayemi and was at the stadium when President Mohammadu Buhari came to Ekiti to campaign for Fayemi.
In the governorship election held on July 14, 2018, the candidate of APC defeated then incumbent deputy governor and candidate of PDP, Professor Olusola Kolapo, thereby setting the stage for another round of litigations.
Initially, Oni’s court action came to the people as a rumour. Many supporters of APC had doubted if Oni could be party to a suit challenging Fayemi’s candidacy. But it turned out to be true. In the suit, Oni urged the court to nullify Fayemi’s candidacy on the grounds that he did not resign from his position as minister 30 days before APC primary.
Oni also stated that Fayemi was not qualified to contest in the primary on the grounds that he was indicted and barred from holding any public office by Ekiti State Judicial Commission of Inquiry set up by Fayose.
Sources close to Oni said he went to court because in 2007, he had prevailed on Fayemi not to go to the tribunal, pledging to help Fayemi succeed him after one-term in office. This gentleman agreement was said to have been rebuffed by Fayemi, who gave Oni cold shoulders. This was why Oni remained adamant despite the intervention of elders of APC, who urged him to withdraw his suit.
However, Oni’s suit challenging Fayemi’s eligibility was dismissed at the High Court, Appeal Court and the Supreme Court.
For taking Fayemi to court, Oni was slammed with an indefinite suspension from the party. The letter titled: ‘Suspension from All Progressives Congress Ward II, Ifaki Ekiti’, reads: “Subject to Article 21 Subsections I, II and X of APC constitution 2014 as amended, read: “We the undersigned executive members of APC hereby suspend you indefinitely from our great party, based on your refusal to honour our invitation for investigation and fact-finding into the allegation of anti-party activities leveled against your person by the members of our party.
“We are, by the copy of this letter, informing both the local government and state working committee of the party for necessary information and action.”
What is more, Governor Fayemi made numerous appointments and Oni’s political associates and supporters were sidelined in the scheme of things. The governor ensured that only his trusted allies made it to the state assembly. Those elected to the National Assembly, without exception, were also close allies or those who worked for the success of his election at the July 14, 2018 governorship election.
As if to add more insult to his injuries, the position of Deputy National Chairman (South) hitherto being held by Oni was given to Adebayo.
State of PDP prior to the return of Oni
The Peoples Democratic Party is bedeviled by intractable crises and the foundation of that crises, arguably, was laid in September 2017, when at a stakeholders meeting, Fayose masterminded the adoption of his deputy, Olusola as the sole candidate of the party.
This singular action, coupled with what some leaders of the party perceived as Fayose’s high- handedness, led to the protracted crises. Expectedly, PDP’s bigwigs who had hoped they would have a free, fair and credible primary to test their popularity and influence in the party kicked against the governor’s action.
In spite of the efforts made by the national leadership of the party to arrest the drift, not much was achieved. The deep-rooted animosity persisted. This state of affairs led to the exodus of many leaders of the party and their supporters to other political parties.
By the time PDP’s governorship primary held on May 7, 2018, only two top shots remained in the party. They are Senator Abiodun Olujimi and Dayo Adeyeye and even then, it soon dawned on Fayose that Adeyeye had merely taken part in the primary to find out if truly the then governor actually meant it when he pledged that he would allow a free and fair contest.
The inevitable consequence of the intractable crises was that by the time the July 14, 2018 governorship poll took place, many of PDP’s strongmen, who would have held forte in areas where they had made strongholds for the party in the past and collaborated with the ex-governor to gain landslide, had abandoned PDP. APC merely cashed in on the division in PDP and dealt the party a deadly blow at the polls.
As if that was not enough, the party lost all the 26 seats in the House of Assembly to APC. It lost six House of Representatives seats. Except for the return of Olujimi to the Senate, through the tribunal, the party would have lost all three Senate seats.
Still counting the cost of the crises, the party lost the presidential election to APC because Fayose, who was the leader of the party in the state, engaged Olujimi in titanic battle as soon as he left office.
The battle was centred on who should be the rightful leader of the party. The two political gladiators set up parallel Atiku Campaign Councils and PDP ended up going into the poll a highly divided and battered party.
The ongoing PDP congresses have further divided the party. The ward congresses held recently resulted in free-for-all fight between the two factions led by Fayose and Olujimi over alleged rigging. The matter is yet to be resolved as the two factions are laying claims to victory.
Oni’s second coming to PDP
Feelers from both camps of PDP indicate that they are ecstatic about Oni’s return to the party. Oni was said to have met with the leadership of both factions and tabled his wish list. According to sources in both camps, they are not averse to Oni’s governorship ambition.
In Fayose’s camp, they are already said to be working on pairing of Oni and the erstwhile deputy governor, Prof. Olusola. It is not clear whether the Olujimi camp would accept the pairing. What is not in doubt at the moment is that both factions are eagerly awaiting the return of Oni.
To many political observers, Oni might just be the unifying factor the PDP needs to cement the party’s fractured and bruised ego. On the other hand, given the antecedent of Fayose, known for his domineering personality, it is yet to be seen how or whether he would work with Oni who left the party in 2014, principally because of Fayose’s leadership style.
State of APC after Oni
There is no doubt that Oni has sizable number of followers in APC. In fact, he has his political structures in all the 177 wards in the state. His move to leave APC at this time would no doubt have some negative impact on the party. This is coupled with the fact that his associates were sidelined in the scheme of things in APC.
Besides, there are other cleavages and disruptive tendencies within the party. Former Senator and Special Adviser on Political Matters to President Mohammadu Buhari, Mr. Babafemi Ojudu, is an aggrieved APC member who though might not leave the party, but his next move is said to be unpredictable. Bimbo Daramola, a former Reps member is also an aggrieved member of the party. He was reported to have worked for Atiku Abubakar in the last presidential election.
There are those, who though worked for the party in the various elections but have become disillusioned because they have not been rewarded. It is on record that the Chief Hide Awe-led State Working Committee, who was installed in Fayemi’s first term, worked for Oni during the party’s primary. As he exits the party, it is not unlikely that these personalities may follow him to his new party.
The biggest test and challenge APC may face in the state in not too distant future is the 2023 permutations. The party may be divided by the political interests of former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, and that of Fayemi. Already, some elements in the party are said to be positioning themselves as Tinubu’s project.
As for the 2022 governorship poll, it is yet to be seen who Fayemi will anoint to succeed him. Before now unconfirmed reports suggest that it could be former governor Adebayo or his kinsman, Senator Opeyemi Bamidele. However, their closeness to Tinubu may have put paid to such permutations as Fayemi struggles to chart his own political path away from Tinubu’s clutches.