Monday, May 5, 2014 5:52 pm
As Ekiti, which has as its slogan, Fountain of Knowledge, prepares for the Saturday, 21 June 2014 gubernatorial election, from all indications, it is not going to be a walk-over for any of the gubernatorial candidates. The statement attributed to the Vice-President Namadi Sambo that the forthcoming election is a war to be won by Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has set all the candidates and stakeholders preparing for the election as if it is a war.
The major political parties in the race are not mincing words in sending signals to their opponents that they will match them strength for strength and money for money. The signals being perceived by the electorate are ominous. Confessing to the magazine that they would not risk their lives for any candidate, many have said that if the environment is not conducive and they are not sure of their security, they would not come out to vote. Some also said they would not risk incurring the wrath of the soldiers expected to be deployed to the state by the Federal Government that has threatened to capture the state.
Nonetheless, there are obvious signs all over the state that election is around the corner. From its borders with neighbouring states, to the nooks and crannies of the state, different billboards, posters and flyers of different governorship candidates compete for attention. On the hills, trees, street light poles, fences, houses and any other available place, the names of the major contenders are boldly inscribed. These are backed up by campaigns of the candidates in different parts of the state, convincing or confusing the electorate on their suitability to be voted for.
It is difficult to predict with certitude the outcome of the election, the power of All Progressives Congress’ incumbency notwithstanding. Interactions with some segments of the state revealed that the state is polarised, based on various logical and illogical sentiments expressed by the different segments of the state, including market operators, commercial motorcyclists, commercial drivers, civil servants, farmers, traders, and artisans. Significantly, however, what is important to indigenes and residents is the credibility of the election and their safety during the process. They are unanimous on not wanting a clueless, illegal government in the state. But this does not seem to matter with the politicians, who are all out to win the election, whatever it would take. And to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the election is another test of its ability to conduct a free and fair election.
The major contenders in the election are: the incumbent governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi of the APC; one-time governor of the state, Mr. Ayo Fayose of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Opeyemi Bamidele of the Labour Party, LP, a member of the House of Representatives representing Ado-Ekiti/Irepodun-Ifelodun Federal Constituency.
Seventeen other contestants jostling for the position include: Barrister Kole Ajayi of Accord Party, AP; Dr. Gbenga Afeni, All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA; Mr. Bola Oroko, African Democratic Congress , ADC; Mr. Opeyemi Michael Osekita, Action Alliance, AA; Engr. Goke Animashaun, Progressive People’s Alliance, PPA; Prince Bamigbade Peter, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN; Mr. Victor Oluseyi Osekita, Alliance for Democracy, AD; Mrs. Folashade Aluko, African Peoples Alliance, APA, and Mr. Francis Oluwafemi Idowu of Citizens Popular Party, CPP.
Others are Pastor Ade Ogunkolade of Kowa Party, KP; Mr. Ajibola Akinwale, Mega Progressive Peoples Party, MPPP; Comrade Ilesanmi Bankole, National Conscience Party, NCP; Prince Banjo Gboyega of People for Democratic Change, PDC; Evangelist Kehinde Rufus, Peoples Party of Nigeria, PPN; Engr. Ayo Adeleke Adekole, Social Democratic Party, SDP; Mr. Philips Adeniji Akinropo, United Democratic Party, UDP, and Engr. Odunayo Babatola Ogundana of United Progressive Party, UPP.
While a section believes that the contest is between Fayemi and Fayose, another section holds that Opeyemi should not be undermined because “he could spring a surprise going by the crowd he pulls”.
In Ado-Ekiti, many residents expressed their opinions equivocally on the merits and the shortcomings of each of the candidates.
As regards Fayemi, who hails from Isan-Ekiti in Oye Local Government in Ekiti North senatorial district, many acclaim he is the best governor the state has had so far. In other words, they see him as a governor who has greatly transformed the state. Residents listed the life-changing projects executed by his administration to include construction of standard roads across the state, upgrading of the state university, provision of street lights, execution of rural electrification, provision of social security to various segments of the society, resuscitation of tourism, empowerment of youths, provision of decent jobs, renovation of schools, enhancement of the capacity of teachers through training and retraining, distribution of laptops and other learning aids to students. Others are building of a befitting government house complex on Ayoba Hill (visible from all angles of the capital city) and monthly payment to the elderly as social security in the state, and improving healthcare delivery.
President, Student Union Government, SUG, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Temitope Ibitoye, summarised the achievements of Governor Fayemi thus|: “In terms of developing the state, in terms of the execution of his 8-point agenda, in terms of the execution of his projects, I will give him a pass mark. I think he deserves a second term to consolidate and finish the good work he has started. I give him 80 per cent mark. Look at Ado-Ekiti, there is street light everywhere; when you are walking on the streets of Ado-Ekiti in the midnight, it is like a mega city. The man is trying. He employed 10,000 youths, giving them N10,000 every month.”
While the Chairman, Okada Riders Association of Ekiti State, Ademo Olu Michael, disclosed that Fayemi has empowered and employed 15,000 youths through Youths in Agriculture programme, the Chairman, National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, Prince Julius Jegede said, “He constructed roads across the state, renovated schools, improved healthcare, pays old people N5,000 every month, which is called Owo Arugbo (Elders’ salary). He did many free surgical operations where patients did not pay a dime. Roads are well constructed and tarred in Ekiti. Fayemi gave students of secondary schools laptops.”
Secretary of the state chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Ade Obatoye, said, “We might not appreciate Fayemi now but later we will.”
But some people hold that Fayemi should not be allowed to return, for various reasons. Top in this category are some civil servants who believe that the governor would be brutal in the implementation of some anti-civil servant policies previously resisted. Among them are assessment test under Teachers Development Needs Assessment, TDNA, for basic school teachers, which was vehemently rejected. Though the governor has assured them that the test had been completely cancelled because another better way of assessing them had been put in place, they do not trust the him, believing that the governor is putting the test on hold until his second term in office when it will be mandated for them to write it.
Also, some civil servants believe that Fayemi might come up with a tough tax regime and other measures that might not be in their best interest.
But Comrade Obatoye, and his counterpart in National Union of Local Government Employees, NULGE, Comrade Victor Adebayo, believe that Fayemi is a listening governor who would not deliberately do anything to the detriment of the workers. They stated that for Governor Fayemi to have ensured that workers are promoted as and when due, his reversal of a perceived obnoxious tax regime introduced by his government when he was contacted, payment of N19,000 as minimum wage instead of the N18,000 recommended, and redressing contentious issues between the government and workers show that he has the interest of the workers at heart.
Another section holds the view that Fayemi is not frugal with the state funds, querying the rationale behind the administration’s building of a new government house when nothing is wrong with the current one. According to them, for the building to have been sited on top of a hill, making access difficult, is an indication that Fayemi intends to alienate himself from the masses. In fact, one of Fayose’s aides hinted that Fayose might convert the building to something else if elected, as he did with the first three-star hotel occupied by his predecessor, Otunba Niyi Adebayo.
Reacting, Fayemi said that his intention is to bequeath the state a more befitting government house. “The old government house where we are now which is originally a presidential chalet cannot accommodate a governor with a wife and three children. The new government house is not just a government house, but a government house complex. It is a massive office for the governor; it is a banquet hall for events. It is a meeting place for dignitaries. It is also a gallery for the state. We are not a second class people. We are a proud people who want to be treated as decent. With heavy rain this morning, the whole of this place was flooded. All of where you are sitting got flooded. Because you are coming in here, I said they should come and clean it. The ceiling gets repaired every month. The government house leaks,” Fayemi explained.
Another minus to Fayemi, some people say, is that he is stingy, unlike Fayose, who the praise for giving them instant relief by releasing money to the public. They also claim that Fayemi is arrogant and does not relate freely with the masses, unlike Fayose who would sometimes visit local eateries (buka) to eat with commoners and foot the bill of everyone in the joint.
A rumour making the rounds in Ekiti State is that Governor Fayemi and his wife established a university in Ghana. Many say he should have established such university in Ekiti if he loves his people as claimed, stressing that such a university would create jobs. But Fayemi disclaimed this, saying that though, as an academic, he looks forward to having a university, he does not have one yet. His words: “I don’t have a university in Ghana. Whosoever says that I have a university should produce evidence from the Universities Council of Ghana, which is the equivalent of the National Universities Commission, NUC, in Nigeria.”
For Fayose, who many see as a major force to dislodge Fayemi from the government house, things seem to be working well for him. in fact, a sizeable section of the state apparently longs for his style of governance. As governor of the state, Fayose, who hails from Afao, Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area in Ekiti Central senatorial district, was noted to have identified with the low class – petty traders, okada riders, drivers, and so on. Some people pointed out also that as a governor, he was passionate about ensuring that state projects were executed promptly and strictly to terms of reference. He ensured that contractors did not abandon projects and strictly followed deadlines, which was seen as a plus for his administration. They pointed out that virtually all the new roads constructed in the state were started by his administration. They also noted that the state needs a stern person to rules, a description which fits Fayose more than any of the contenders.
However, one major issue threatening his success in the election are multiple allegations of corruption levelled against him, for which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has dragged him to court. Fayose was accused of stealing N416 million public funds while in office, a case he is still standing trial for.
Recently, during a court session on the matter, Fayose was alleged to have lied on his asset declaration as EFCC argued in the court that Fayose never had a house prior to when he contested for the state governorship, contrary to his declaration that he had two buildings in Iyaganku area of Ibadan, Oyo State. The commission further held that Fayose had no huge amount in the bank as against the claim that he had N100 million in an account with the former BankPHB (now Keystone Bank), saying, “When we conducted our investigation, it was discovered that the said account belonged to PDP and the balance in the account was less than N50,000, as against the claimed N100 million.”
In another petition received by the EFCC was the allegation that Fayose embarked on a poultry project in Ekiti State, which he used to siphon state fund. The 16 local government councils of the state were said to have contributed about N400 million to the poultry project and about N400 million came from the state government for the four designated centres for the project. The EFCC prosecution witness said that N300 million was released to Biological Concept Limited, a contractor handling the project for the construction of the Poultry Farm headquarters in Afao, Ekiti State, but completed only four out of 20 projects for which fund was released. In the court, further investigations by EFCC as well as documents recovered from the house of one Mr. Wale, a friend of Mr. James, the Chairman of Biological Concept, revealed what the chunk of the money was expended on.
According to the prosecution witness, among the documents recovered from Wale’s house was a cheque book: “From the cheque book, we discovered that about N9.5 million was used to construct Fayose’s building in Ibadan; a particular amount was used to purchase a brand new Mercedes Benz for the mother of the accused in Ibadan. Also, there was an acknowledgement of $50,000 that Fayose instructed James to give to Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, a former deputy governor of the state. Also, some amount was paid into Feyi Fayose and Moji Fayose’s accounts respectively. Wale explained that he got hold of the document from his friend, James, who kept it in his custody.” The prosecution witness further told the court that N150 million was used by James to purchase a battery cage for Avian Specialists, a company belonging to James.
Also working against Fayose are strong indications that Ekiti monarchs would want to ensure that Fayose does not come back, considering how badly he allegedly treated them. One of the victims of such treatment was Attah of Aiyede-Ekiti, Oba Joseph Adeleye Orishagbemi who, allegedly on the order of Fayose, was whisked away from his palace by security men and subsequently detained for three days.
Other issues working against Fayose are the killing of five students of College of Education, Ikere-Ekiti during a peaceful protest on 15 March, 2004 against a perceived imposition of a provost on them. While several students were badly injured, Gbenga Jaiyeoba, one of those who survived, had one of his legs amputated. Fayose also allegedly attempted to kill a frontline politician in the state, Senator Bode Olowoporoku. He was quoted as saying, “Where is Bode Olowoporoku? I want to kill him,. I have immunity for eight years as governor of Ekiti State. And this will be till year 2011.”
Fayose was also said to have threatened the life of Chief Afe Babalola, the owner of Afe Babalola University. The deaths of Taye Fasuba, Dr. Ayodeji Daramola, a World Bank consultant and governorship aspirant in his Ijan-Ekiti home, and Tunde Omojola are also linked to Fayose by his foes.
His supporters however discountenanced issues raised against Fayose, saying they are political, and affirming that he is the best among the candidates standing election. They stated that it would be wrong to disenfranchise him from contesting the election considering the fact that he has not been pronounced guilty by a competent court of the allegations levelled against him.
Efforts to speak with Fayose by the editor of the magazine, Ademola Adegbamigbe, were rebuffed as he vowed that he would never grant interview to the magazine and its sister publication, P.M.News. But the Publicity Director, Ayo Fayose Campaign Organisation, who doubles as Director-General, Information Media and Publicist, Ekiti PDP, Dr. Gboyega Aribisogan, spoke on his behalf. “The court case against Fayose is political and I know that he will come out victorious,” he said, pointing out there is no single murder case that could be linked with Fayose directly and that if anyone has proof that Fayose was ever involved in criminal act, such a person should come out with proof.
The third major contender, Bamidele Opeyemi, from Iyin-Ekiti in Irepodun/Ifelodun Local Government Area in Ekiti Central senatorial district, served under the former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, as Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Commissioner for Youth, Sports and Social Development, Special Adviser and Special Assistant. He was the former National Director of Publicity, Alliance for Democracy, AD. He is viewed as a very humble and generous individual. Currently, he is a serving member of the House of Representatives, representing Ekiti Central Federal Constituency and is House chairman, Legislative Budget and Research. A unique aspect about him is the fact that since he assumed office at the National Assembly, he has never received a salary; rather, he put his salary in a consolidated account to take care of the indigent in Ekiti State. He has campaigned across the state and is a notable crowd-puller.
Though he is seen as a very good governorship material who is genuinely minded to serve the state, many believe that he came out at the wrong time.
Another school of thought feels that this is the right time for him to come out. Considering the fact that no Ekiti governor has served two consecutive terms, the say Bamidele should be given a chance to rule the state. They further argue that both PDP and APC have records of violence, hence, Opeyemi, to whom no evil could be attributed to, is the best governor they are yet to have.
All attempts to speak with Bamidele however proved abortive as he neither picked the calls nor responded to text messages. But LP Secretary, who is a former deputy leader of the state House of Assembly, Abiola Olowookere, spoke on Bamidele’s behalf.
Claiming that lack of internal democracy forced some members of APC, including Bamidele, to defect to LP, he said the wonder that would happen at the forthcoming election in the state is that LP would win while PDP and APC would come second and third respectively, just like it happened at the last Ondo State governorship election. Stressing that Ekiti would regret bringing Fayose back, he noted: “If Fayose comes back, that will be the end of Ekiti.”
He explained further: “We know Fayose’s antecedents. We know what he did as a governor before he was disgracefully sacked and he ran away. He ran away in the booth of his car. When Fayose left, we all rejoiced. Fayose contested governorship election with HND; he is now contesting with school certificate as his highest certificate. The road network that is being claimed that he opened up is for the little minds. If you are a governor for three and half years, collecting allocation from the Federal Government on behalf of the state, you have to do something. You can’t pocket the whole money if you don’t want to go to jail. Poultry scandal is still there. Where is the poultry now?”
Kole Ajayi of Accord Party, a lawyer and publisher who hails from Ado-Ekiti in Ado Local Government Area of Ekiti Central senatorial district, is the former National President, University of Ado Ekiti now Ekiti State University Student Union Governor, SUG, who in 2003 took a shot at a seat in the Ekiti House of Assembly but failed. In 2004, he was appointed by Fayose, who was governor then, as a member of the Advisory Council. It is stated that he is not a serious contender who is only contesting to make himself known and relevant in the state.
Many of the candidates, as the state chairman of NURTW puts it, are inconsequential. “They are not known to us. We don’t even know that such persons exist in the political circle. So there is nothing to talk about regarding the other candidates.”
Though it is very difficult to predict the outcome of the election because virtually the major contenders have political clout, certain variables would go a long way in determining the eventual victor.
It was gathered that Ekiti South senatorial district under which is Ikere-Ekiti, which produces the second highest votes in the state, has never produced a governor for the state. People of the district do not have a candidate but want to be powerfully represented in the government of the winner and anyone that can assure it of this is likely to get their votes. The magazine learnt that the PDP and Labour candidates, who are from Ekiti Central, are already working towards picking their deputies from Ikere in a bid to secure the votes of not only Ikere but the entire district.
Also, whatever political party that wins a clear majority of votes in Ado-Ekiti and Ikere-Ekiti – which have the highest voting strength in the state – as well as Ikole-Ekiti, Ijero and Efon Alaye has a high chance of emerging as the winner. All political parties are currently involved in different ferocious political permutations in this direction.
Of course, the power of incumbency would go a long way in swinging success toward Fayemi but he needs to come to terms with the reality that some members of his cabinet might not be trusted allies. The magazine further gathered that at the last minute, the electorate might put aside emotion and vote for the most credible candidate against the expectations of many.