Ekiti State is, once again, occupying the front burner of major news items. The reason is not far-fetched; the race for the seat of power of the state, after the expiration of the two-term tenure of the sitting governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi, in 2022.
There are many aspirants from the registered political parties, jostling for the number one political office in the state. However, all eyes seem to be on the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and their aspirants seeking to take over the driver’s seat from Fayemi.
Both the APC and the PDP parade notable names as aspirants ahead the Ekiti State governorship election, taking place in June, 2022. This is as the two main political parties in the state are not leaving any stone unturned in their bids to produce Fayemi’s successor.
However, two thorny issues are threatening to tear apart the soul of the state chapter of the APC namely, direct primary and an alleged imposition or anointing of a particular candidate as the standard-bearer, ahead of the party’s governorship primary, scheduled to hold next January.
The Bill on direct primary was recently passed by the National Assembly and is waiting for the accent of President Muhammadu Buhari. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila who championed the Bill, gave reasons the National Assembly pushed for direct primary as the method by which political parties should elect candidates to contest elections.
Gbajabiamila said direct primary would ensure accountability and adequate representation, noting that political office holders would, henceforth, not be at the whims and caprices of some few powerful individuals, knowns as delegates. Rather, he said an elected public official, who emerged through direct primary, would seek to work for the generality of party members and also the electorate.
The Speaker also said direct primary would open up the space to embrace youths and also give more room for political participation. He is however not oblivious of the discomfiture the new arrangement would bring to some members of the political class.
The leadership of the APC, however, appears not comfortable with the direct primary for the conduct of elections in the country. The APC leaders therefore wanted it dropped on the ground that it would further spread the COVID-19 pandemic.
The APC leaders, including some of its governors, reportedly held a meeting with the vice president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and its elected National Assembly members at the Villa, on Tuesday, on direct primary.
One of the federal lawmakers, who did not want his name in print, disclosed that they had a superior argument supporting direct primary and thus leaving the vice president with no other option than to see things from their own perspectives.
“In the Villa, on Tuesday, we held a meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on the adoption of direct primary for future elections in the country. We told the vice president that that is what we want. But the APC national leadership and the governors present at the meeting told the vice president that they don’t want direct primary.
“The excuse they gave is even sickening; that we can’t have direct primary because of COVID-19. Members of the National Assembly present at the meeting didn’t take things lightly with them. At the end of the day, the governors and the APC leaders present couldn’t utter a single word.
“I don’t think they know what they are doing. What are they afraid of? What really is their fear? The National Assembly sat and took a decision on the pattern of voting in future elections in this country. The decision taken by the National Assembly is a reflection of what the people want.
“Direct primary is the best way to go. There is no commentator, be it from the civil society organisations or other groups, that have anything against direct primary. This is the most popular bill that has ever been passed by the National Assembly.
“It is very ridiculous saying they don’t want direct primary because of COVID-19. Didn’t we hold the 2019 general election during the pandemic? The political parties held their party congresses and an election was held in Anambra State, just last week. What nonsense are they talking about? They should let us work towards the development of our democracy.
“Some people within the APC and some governors said we passed the Bill on direct primary because we are angry. But we let them know that we are not angry in any way. We did what we were elected to do for good governance and for the development of our democracy.
“We are asking for direct primary as a prelude to the general election. If they say we would be spending too much money, what happen to the money we collect and spend on ridiculous projects that have no value? They should let us use such money on direct primary so that we can get the electoral process right, once and for all.
“At the end of the day, all those who opposed the Bill left the meeting with Vice President Osinbajo with their tails in-between their legs. The vice president said there is nothing anybody can do than to persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to accent to the Bill on direct primary, as passed by the National Assembly,” the lawmaker said.
The alleged anointing of a candidate is the main issue of discourse in the Ekiti State chapter of the APC in the last two weeks. It was initially alleged that Governor Fayemi wanted to adopt the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr Biodun Oyebanji, as his preferred candidate for the 2022 election. This allegation has been variously denied.
However, the allegation refused to go as the rumour mill was, again, agog last week that, rather than Governor Fayemi, it was his wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, who had allegedly anointed the SSG as the successor to her husband in 2022.
Of course, the alleged anointing has been denied too, but it was said to have rattled many government officials and an uneasy calm now reigns supreme in the government circle in the state. It has heat up the polity and set some of the appointees of the governor who are eyeing the number one seat in the state against each other.
A concerned top APC member in the state disclosed that the rumoured anointing had polarised the party. He said, “if the rumour is not checked such reckless, it is capable of tearing the APC apart and subsequently spoiling its chances during the governorship and other elections in the state.”
To nip the damages in the bud, the Chief of Staff (CoS) to Governor Fayemi, Mr Biodun Omoleye, who is also said to have governorship ambition, on Tuesday, called an emergency where he specifically debunked the alleged anointing of the SSG or any other person for the election.
He was said to had told those gathered at the meeting that Fayemi has no anointed or preferred candidate, but he is rather committed to creating a level-playing ground for all governorship aspirants on the platform of the APC.
“You might be hearing around that the governor has chosen someone as his successor. This is not true. The governor has not spoken in this regards. He is focused at completing his tenure well and he will not be distracted by rumours. The governor is the leader of the party and he is the one in charge,” he was reported to have said.
However, and in spite of all assurances, it appears that peace still seems to remain elusive in the party, following the rumoured anointing of a preferred candidate. Apparently to douse tension, Governor Fayemi, on Wednesday, held a meeting with the elected APC members in the House of Representatives.
Confirming the meeting with the governor, Honourable Femi Bamisile, who represents Gbonyin/Emure/Ekiti East Federal Constituency, said it was held a day after the meeting with Vice President Osinbajo.
Bamisile who is a former Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly and the the chairman, House Committee on Federal Road Maintenance Agency, said the essence of the meeting was to hear directly from the horse’s mouth his position on the rumour of anointing a preferred candidate for the governorship election and to stem the drift in the party arising thereof.
“After the tripartite meeting we held with the vice president inside the Villa, we the elected members of the House of Representatives from Ekiti State went to meet with Governor Fayemi the following morning (Wednesday).
“Some people who were with us at the meeting were praising him. But I told him, ‘Mr Governor, well-done sir. I am not one of those hypocrites and praise-singers and you know me very well. When I was not with you, it was very clear that I was not with you. And when I joined your party, Your Excellency, you know we pursued a common drive.
“Sir, unknown to you now, and I am very scared. Number one, on the state of affairs, about a week ago, we suddenly read everywhere that you have adopted the SSG. Someone like me have come to intimate you of my intention to contest the governorship election to which you said no problem, that the leadership will decide. But all of a sudden, I just read that you have adopted the SSG, But I decided to keep quiet that whenever we meet, we will discuss about it.
“Three days after, we read again that your Chief Press Secretary said there was nothing like anointing, noting that anyone talking about it is talking from the pit of hell. He said no one has been adopted. Your Excellency, now that we are sitting together, we will like to know the true situation of things.
“I also confirmed that you are in Abuja when I read again that the Chief of Staff has summoned a meeting at the Government House with all political office holders, denying the story of the anointing candidate.
“This to me, as a politician and your friend and someone who knows you clearly, indicates that you are no more in charge of governance in Ekiti. That is exactly how I feel about the whole scenario because it is crystal clear that you are no more in charge of government.
“I don’t know the audacity and effontery that your CoS or SSG have to call or summon a meeting in a Government House that all Ekitis voted for you to hold in thrust for us to be the custodian and Chief Security Officer, only for some people to seek to undermine your power in the state. I have never seen such since I started my political sojourn.
“It is like they want to derail the government that we laboured for, God forbid. For your information sir, some people like me committed billions of naira into this government. They were only invited to come and eat, but they now want to swindle your hands.
“But the governor calmed me down, admonishing me not to mind them. I am not the only that was at the meeting, other five members of the House of Representatives were also in attendance.
The governor said the reality is that he cannot take any decision without us, the National Assembly members and that the truth is that the decision cannot be a one-man show,” he said.
Bamisile also sounded a note of warning as he declared: “Governorship election in Ekiti is beyond one person and that is why someone like me is in support of direct primary. This is because, instead of hand-picking anyone, let the people choose their preferred candidate and the whole of Nigeria will know that we have been free and fair in choosing the party’s flagbearer.
“I want to sound a note of warning to the SSG, CoS or anyone else not to derail the Fayemi-led administration. I am not saying they should desist from nursing their ambition but, instead, they should resign and join the race.”
As controversies continue to trail the issue of direct primary and the alleged anointing brouhaha, can these affect the chances of the Ekiti APC in the June 2022 governorship election? Many are of the view that the build up to and the outcome of the party’s primary, which is about two months away, will determine the fate of the party in the election.