Ekiti 2022: Oyebanji, Kolawole, Oni, Others Battle For Soul Of Ekiti

The political drumbeat in Ekiti State, the fabled “Fountain of Knowledge”, is fast assuming a deafening dimension. The deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), for parties to come up with their candidates for the June 18, 2022 governorship election has expired. In all, the electoral umpire has announced that 16 out of the 18 registered political parties will participate in the election and it has drawn up a list of candidates that will fly the flags of the parties.

Out of the 16 candidates listed by INEC, only two are females. One of the two female candidates, Christiana Olatawura, appeared on the list as the governorship candidate of the Action Peoples Party (APP), while the second, Elebute-Halle Kemi, is of the Action Democratic Party (ADP)

Watchers of political developments in Ekiti States have expressed the opinion that only four candidates, out of the 16 on the list, are in real contention for the topmost job in Ekiti. The others, they conclude, are as numb, dumb and mute as the political parties they represent, many of which are hardly known by the electorate.

To pundits, the June 18 contest will obviously be a big battle between the governing All Progressives Party (APC), represented by the immediate past Secretary to the Ekiti State Government, Biodun Oyebanji; the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with a former Chairman of the party in the state, Bisi Kolawole, as its arrowhead; The African Democratic Congress (ADC), led by Dr Wole Oluyede; and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) led by a former Governor of Ekiti State, Chief Segun Oni.

It is gathered that the APC and its standard bearer, Oyebanji, are wrapping their victory joker in the power of incumbency and the fact that they have the government support which has been obvious in the deployment of state resources and manpower to provide colourful outings that can bequeath a soft landing to victory for their candidate. The process that led to Oyebanji’s emergence, his low political participation and experience, as well as some miscarriages in the allocation of positions in a government yet to be approved by the people, is seen as a barrier to the electoral success of the Ikogosi-born lecturer turned politician.

It was gathered that in the process leading to Oyebanji’s emergence, Governor Kayode Fayemi, had his own preferred candidate in the current Attorney-General of Ekiti State, Wale Fapohunda, who had all along been his ‘political son’ just as Oyebanji is the ‘political son’ to one-time governor of Ekiti State and current Minister of Trade and Investment, Niyi Adebayo.

A prominent APC leader said, on the condition of anonymity, that Oyebanji was stubbornly supported by Erelu Bisi Fayemi who found the former SSG more suitable and thus worked through influential politicians in the circle of government to ensure his endorsement.

Sources informed the Truth that the choice of Oyebanji may not have gone down well with Dr Fayemi, who ordinarily would have loved to hand over to his preferred loyalist.

Despite the fact that the alleged manipulation of the APC primary election to favour the SSG was obvious, party leaders believe that with the enormous clout Fayemi planned to wrap around Oyebanji, victory is certain in the forthcoming election.

Oyebanji’s loyalists moved into action shortly after the primary election and approached those who were aggrieved at the outcome and still leaking their wounds and promised them a juicy political future, including retention of office for those who resigned from government to contest in the election. However, promises for the latter may not endure for long with the recent signing of the Electoral Act which, among others, stipulates that primary election to the National Assembly must hold between April and June 3, 2022.

Oyebanji is from the Central Senatorial District of the state, a district which has led for 12 of the 23 democratic years of Ekiti State. The northern zone will cover for the remaining 11 years with the completion of Fayemi’s second term in October. This has spurred an intense agitation for a shift of power to the southern part of the state, which has never produced any governor, in the coming election.

But to pacify the Southern District, APC has made overtures to them by picking Oyebanji’s deputy from Ikere -Ekiti, a major town in the Southern Senatorial District, in the person of Mrs Monisola Christiana Afuye. It was however gathered that the people of the South are not well disposed to the post of a Deputy, hence the rejection that allegedly came from Ikere, the hometown of the chosen deputy, is said to be overwhelming.

A town that produced the likes of Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN and top APC members who are close to the current government, like Muyiwa Olumilua, Wale Adebola, Engr Fakoyede and the incumbent Speaker of the State House of Assembly Rt. Hon Funminiyi Afuye and a host of top politicians and intellectuals, is said to be feeling slighted that the position of Deputy Governor is what they could be offered.

Many politicians and top monarchs from the South, are said to have vowed that the South will not settle for a second fiddle in the next dispensation, promising to use all legal means possible to ensure that power shifts to the zone for the first time.

Bisi Kolawole of the PDP is from Efon in the Central District of Ekiti State. Kolawole is the political son of former Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose. He was the state chairman of his party. The emergence of Kolawole as governorship candidate of the PDP was deemed controversial by Segun Oni, who felt shortchanged by the process that produced the former. In terms of clout and popularity, Kolawole seems to score low points. But the Efon-born politician is relying heavily on the popularity of Fayose, which is unquestionable.

Talk of a governor who has made himself very available to the people of Ekiti, there is none like Fayose. He is seen by many as a man of the people, a friend of the oppressed and an outspoken governor, daring, combative and absolutely on the side of the people.

To some Ekiti people, particularly the illiterate and the lowly, which formed the bulk of the electorate, Fayose is the ideal governor; he can walk the street bare footed, drink local gin with Okada riders, eat on the streets and always do the unthinkable.

But many see Fayose’s high-handedness and his choice of puppets for manipulation as obstacles that may cripple his ambition and affect Kolawole’s chances of success in the forthcoming election.

It would also be recalled that the PDP has suffered a huge downsize in followership with the exit of former Governor Segun Oni, who left the party with many of his followers in utter rage,

The silence in Kolawole’s camp since he emerged victorious at the primary is lending justification to the fact that PDP may not achieve much in the June 18 election. Fayose is however seen as a man capable of springing a surprise in the forthcoming governorship election.

Dr Wole Oluyede of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) is much talked about as one politician that may hit the accurate mark in the election, judging by the high points trailing his candidature. Barring the fact that he is not a run-of-the-mill politician, which is a plus in some quarters where the current order is seen as hellish, he stands tall among other contestants.

He is believed to have penetrated the grassroots, to the surprise of many grassroots political leaders in the state, who were surprised at his growing political followership, despite living far away in Australia.

Watchers of political developments in Ekiti State believe that Oluwole is an uncelebrated grassroots politician, who spends time, energy and money to attend to his people, particularly the lowly and the indigent, most of who are armed with his contact number and are sure of his response anytime they call him.

“There are three things working for Dr Oluwole as a politician: humility, passion and philanthropism. To a man who is known to be a successful professional, accomplished investor, influential and wealthy, his unfettered relationship with the masses and the tumultuous followership he is getting in return from that circle has grown from envy to hatred in the camp of his peers in the Ekiti governorship race and some other top politicians,’ said Ayo Komolafe, a political analyst from Ekiti.

Dr Oluyede was a strong member of the APC and a financial backbone to the party at some point, too. He, among others in APC, have reacted to the shoddy mode of governance by the incumbent and formed the Ekiti Stakeholders Forum to challenge the winner-takes-all policy of Governor Fayemi. They fought what they described as injustice in court and held on until the national body of the APC admonished all its members having issues in court to withdraw their cases. When Fayemi would not bulge, the stakeholders waited in the lurch, watching the incumbent government as it gradually decimated the party by causing divisions among its members with attendant implosions.

As the APC primary approached, Oluyede was quick to see what would be the end result. He joined the ADC to pursue his governorship ambition, borrowing hindsight from the shenanigans recorded in the earlier congress where no election held, but the names of the government’s favourites were written and forwarded to the national secretariat in Abuja. A case is in court, challenging the illegality of that congress.

Today, Oluyede is the only candidate in the Ekiti governorship race from the southern part of the state. His running mate, a female Muslim, Hidiat Simbo Popoola, is from Ado Ekiti. Ado is where the bulk of the votes in Ekiti election come from.

Political pundits believe that the combination of Oluyede and Simbo, from Ikere and Ado, respectively, is enough magic wand to make winning a reality for the fresh blood in politics.

What may help Oluyede is the decision of the Ekiti people to break away from the leadership struggle between the central and the northern parts of the state, the APC and PDP, that many believe have not met their desired democratic expectations of the people. Chief Segun Oni of the SDP is another strong candidate in the forthcoming election. He received applause for his little time in governance in 2007, but many are in doubt as to whether he still remains the one they know in his first term in office or he has changed.

Many believe he is too desperate to return to Government House and they cited his first movement to the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) before finally settled for the Social Democratic Party (SDP).

Speaking on the June Governorship election, a Public Affairs Commentator based in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State Capital, Peter Ajayi said, “As it stands, the four leading candidates remain, Oyebanji, Oni, Kolawole and Oluyede and anyone of them may coast home to victory. However, if the South can mobilise for their age-long agitation to lead the state, then Oluyede, an accomplished surgeon and businessman, may take over Ekiti cockpit for a safe flight to democratic freedom and economic buoyancy.”

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