By Rotimi Ojomoyela
THE body language of Mr. Fayose is pointing towards the Southern Senatorial Zone, the only zone that is yet to produce a governor of the state in the Fourth Republic for his successor next year. The only time the South came close to the state house was in the old Ondo State, when Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua who hails from Ikere-Ekiti, in the south governed the state between 1992 and 1993.
About 38 aspirants have indicated interest in the ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC. Prominent among them are former governor of the State and the deputy national chairman of the party, Engr. Segun Oni, Senator Ayo Arise, Congressman Bimbo Daramola all of whom are from the north. Among the prominent aspirants from the Central Senatorial District which also produced Fayose are Opeyemi Bamidele-Central, special adviser to the president on political matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu and Dr. Adebayo Orire.
Among the contenders from the South are former commissioner, Funminiyi Afuye, Bamidele Faparusi, Australian based medical doctor, Dr. Wole Oluyede, Senator Gbenga Aluko and Hon. Olufemi Bamisile. Reflective of the agitation for zoning to the south is the fact that 20 of the 38 currently jostling for the APC ticket are from Ekiti South Senatorial district.
Given the political dominance of Fayose in the PDP, conventional wisdom is that aspirants in the party would want to allow the outgoing governor’s body language guide whatever aspiration they may have. Presently, three associates of the governor are known to be in the race. They are the former Deputy Governor in Segun Oni’s administration, Dr. Sikiru Lawal, Fayose’s Deputy Kolapo Olusola and Senator Biodun Olujimi. Lawal is from the Central while Olusola and Olujimi are from the South.
Fayose ‘s Factor: The governor is believed to be trying to lure the people of the southern senatorial area into accepting his choice through projects he has been dangling on the people, notably through road works. Some political pundits in the state believe that Olusola and Olujimi may be mere facades to distract the people from the governor’s real choice from the South.
Governor Fayose, a shrewd politician, defeated two sitting governors, Otunba Niyi Adebayo in 2003 and Dr. Kayode Fayemi in 2014 to create the present aura of invincibility around him. But the unexpected victory of Rotimi Akeredolu in the governorship election in neighbouring Ondo State has in a way raised the hope of the APC in Ekiti that such a feat could be replicated in Ekiti. But how the party hopes to achieve this, given the cult image the governor wields in the state is yet to be seen.
The party is also challenged on how to unite the divergent and seriously entrenched political interests within its fold as accentuated in the battle of wits among the gladiators; notably, the Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Oni, Ojudu, and Bamidele.
Zoning : Aside from this, another potential time bomb threatening to rock the party’s foundation is the issue of zoning given the agitation of some party chieftains from the south who are canvassing that the position be zoned to the South. The agitation is being championed by a group with the name South Agenda, which is presently sensitising the populace through a one-minute radio jingle which every morning in both state and federal radio stations in the state.
The main thrust of their argument is that it would be unfair and a disservice to the people of the area for them to be shut out of power for eighteen years. Among the personalities championing zoning is Dr. Oluyede who threw his weight behind the agitation while paying a courtesy call on the party leadership at the state secretariat earlier this week.
Oluyede, who is an indigene of Ikere-Ekiti, urged the party to be fair in its consideration of zoning, describing the agitation as a child of necessity that would not only inject equity and fair play in the distribution of elective positions in the state but would make it easier for APC to win the poll.
Another prominent member of the party, who served as a Chairman of Moba Local Government Area, during the Fayemi administration, Chief Dolamu Adeniyi, lambasted the critics of zoning, describing them as self-centred and egocentric individuals, who only profit from lopsidedness within the system. He said it stands logic on its head for anybody in his right senses to brand the district as lacking people with potentials to lead Ekiti.
Adeniyi said: “All the aspirants that have signified intentions so far from the South are well qualified to occupy the coveted seat. They said many of them were mere local champions, this I believe was a product of ignorance on the part of these people. Faparusi from Gbonyin Local Government Area in the South speaking in the same vein said the time has come for the APC to deploy support for the ‘South Agenda’ the way it did for the North Senatorial District under the Action Congress, prior to the 2007 governorship election, that led to the election of both Mr. Oni and Dr. Fayemi in sequential order.
The former lawmaker also described as an empty boast, Governor Fayose’s consistent claim that PDP would ‘conquer’ the APC in all the 16 local government areas of the state in a manner akin to how he trounced Fayemi in 2014. Faparusi told Vanguard that zoning had become a child of necessity and veritable weapon for his party to dislodge Fayose and put his succession plan in disarray.
Faparusi advised his party not to toy with the agitation that was gradually gaining grounds in the state.
According to him, “Any party that jettisons zoning should forget the election. In 2007, there was what we called the North Agenda, and we all embraced it. Both Mr. Oni and Dr. Fayemi were beneficiaries of that, and it was made possible because we all supported the idea and time has come to reciprocate this for the south.
“Since 1999, the Central has produced Governor Fayose and Otunba Niyi Adebayo, and they have ruled for 12 years. The North has spent eight years leaving the south with nothing. So, the time has come for the South to produce the governor for equity, fair play, and justice.”
Equity, fair play, and justice
Another chieftain of the party and former commissioner in the State, Hon Funminiyi Afuye, while justifying his district’s position said: “Though I agree that whoever emerges will be governor of all Ekiti people, but that agitation then led to the emergence of Dr. Kayode Fayemi from the then Action Congress of Nigeria and Engr Segun Oni in the PDP. The two of them were from the north and what the south is requesting for is not out of place.”
No room for zoning: The strong opposition against zoning in the APC is that the party should be guided by the reality of getting a popularly acceptable candidate to wrest power from Fayose. While former Governor Oni has not overtly spoken against zoning, many of his close associates have argued that the agitation for zoning lacks legal basis and would spell doom for the party’s chances if adopted.
Congressman Daramola boldly described the agitation as illegal and portrays those canvassing it as political lightweights who are afraid of a tough contest. Daramola, who was the director general of the Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation during the 2014 poll said: “the issue of zoning is arrant nonsense. In a civilized clime, what the people always clamour for is good standard of living as reflected in the economy and not where the person who governs comes from.
“In the last governorship election, Governor Fayose, who came from the central that had produced himself and Otunba Niyi Adebayo defeated someone from the north.
“So, the idea of where you come from is inconsequential to our people provided they have implicit confidence in your personality and ability to deliver.”
Though the party is yet to make any categorical statement on this thorny issue that has gained currency in the state and the silence might be strategic, according to an insider, as making a decision on this might not augur well for the party, especially at the moment.
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