At the last count, 33 persons have shown interest in becoming the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the July governorship election in Ekiti state. Despite being an opposition party in the state, pundits believe APC stands a chance of winning the election if the party picks the “right candidate”.
The Oluyemi Kayode stadium in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, venue of the primary election, is agog. On the eve of the primary, Tanko Al-Makura, governor of Nasarawa state, who is chairman of the electoral committee, assured all aspirants of a free and fair primary election.
“We will ensure all the aspirants get equal treatment, and it will be unfair for anybody to say the party already has a preferred candidate,” Al-Makura said.
TheCable gathered that a list containing names and contact details of all the delegates has been made available to all the aspirants— this to allow them reach out for canvassing.
In Ado-Ekiti, party members, some of them delegates from across the 16 local government areas, shared their thoughts on the popular candidates with TheCable.
This politician is a former member of the house of representatives. During the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti, he served as director-general of the campaign organisation of Kayode Fayemi, the then governor who, eventually, lost to the PDP.
Over a year ago, Daramola made his intention known. He had met with a considerable number of socio-political groups in the state and many of his supporters are young people who see him as one from their generation.
“Daramola may have more votes as a governorship candidate, but it would be difficult for him to win the APC primary,” a party member from Ido-Osi local government area told TheCable.
Another party member from Ijero local government area described Daramola as a good candidate who, unfortunately, does not have the structure to win the primary.
“He did so well when he was in the national assembly. He is a politician who stands out among others, but his chances at the primary are not bright. He has public chances but not primary chances.”
Daramola is from Ekiti north senatorial district.
Ojudu is currently an adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on political matters. He represented Ekiti central in the seventh national assembly. Ojudu boasts that he is the only politician who can defeat Ayodele Fayose, the incumbent governor, having done so in 2011 when the duo contested the Ekiti central senatorial seat.
“Any crowd you see behind Ojudu is rented,” a party member from Ilejemeje said.
“During his declaration, party members were financially mobilised. I don’t think he has good chances at the primary because most of those who came to support him during the declaration are not delegates.”
Another party member from Ado-Ekiti local government area described Ojudu as a “noisemaker” using media to get popular.
“I was one of his coordinators when he was senator. He didn’t do well and people may not want to trust him this time. In fact, to me, he is not really contesting; he is just trying to feel among.”
In 2010, Oni was almost completing his tenure as Ekiti governor when the court ruled that the 2007 election that ushered him in was, actually, won by Fayemi.
Oni, 64, who was made governor on the platform of the PDP, defected to the then newly-formed APC in 2014 where he later became the south-west deputy national chairman. He did not immediately make his intention known, but the moment he joined the APC, many believed his long term goal is to return as the governor of the state.
“Segun Oni, I think stands a better chance,” a party member from Moba local government area told TheCable. “The popularity of a politician is measured by who your followers are. As regarding a primary election, the kinds of people who are your followers really matter. I can tell you that most of the party executives, who themselves are delegates, are supporting Oni.”
He explained that politicians who have held various positions are also behind Oni.
“Even those politicians, who worked with Fayemi (Ganiyu Owolabi for example) when he was governor, are supporting Oni. Former APC senators, house of representative members, state assembly members who are also delegate are supporting Oni. At his declaration rally, all of these guys were there.
“In my local government area, only five aspirants I know have delegates, and most of the delegates are for Oni.”
Another party member from Ikole-Ekiti local government area said those who really matter in a primary election are standing behind Oni.
“I won’t lie to you, Jide Awe, the state party chairman is standing behind Oni. Although as a party chairman, he acts as if he supports all, but we know who his preferred candidate is.”
He added that the former governor appears to be people’s favourite because of his seeming meekness and tolerance.
Oni is from Ekiti north senatorial district.
Fayemi currently serves as the minister of mines and steel development. He is a pro-democracy activist who fought military regimes until 2007 when he joined politics, launching his ‘collective rescue mission’ to become the governor of Ekiti state on the platform of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
He lost to Oni, but seeking redress through the election tribunal, Fayemi was declared and sworn in governor in 2010.
Fayemi, seen as an elitist— during the 2014 electioneering— who wasn’t always around the masses, lost to Fayose in the polls.
Over the months, Fayemi did not provide a direct answer when asked if he had plans to contest the 2018 governorship election. But, it wasn’t much a surprise when the minister announced he would be running, just a month before the primary election.
“Well, Fayemi has the financial resources, but I doubt if he stands a better chance at the primary,” a delegate from Ijero local government area said.
“Fayemi will pull crowd at the primary,” another party member from Ikere local government area, said.
“He has issues with almost everyone in the party. Daramola who was his campaign DG in 2014 feels betrayed. We gathered that thrice Daramola went to Fayemi to inform and seek his support as a governorship candidate. Fayemi had given him a nod, saying he was not going to contest, but see what’s happening now.”
Another party member from Ado-Ekiti local government area believes if Fayemi loses in the primary, he would be rendered irrelevant politically, hence, the politician will put everything he has in use to ensure he wins.
“Imagine, Fayemi, one time governor and current minister fail a state primary election? That would be too heavy for him to deal with.”
Another member, however, told TheCable that if the APC presents Fayemi, the party is going to be defeated by the PDP.
“Now, if Fayemi emerges as APC candidate, what exactly are we going to be campaigning with? That Fayemi didn’t do well in his first outing, but he’s here seeking another chance to do well?”
For this party member from Emure local government area, Fayemi is a distraction for the APC.
“Some of us just think Fayemi has come to distract us. Most of the other aspirants have been working for over a year, and Fayemi just came a month ago. If he, eventually, wins the primary, I am afraid, the party may split.”
Fayemi is from Ekiti north senatorial district.
Bamidele, a former commissioner in Lagos state, joined Ekiti politics in 2011, winning a seat in the house of representatives.
After losing to Fayemi in the APC primary in 2014 governorship race, he defected to the Labour Party (LP). An aggrieved Bamidele had accused APC leadership of not being fair in the process that led to his defeat. Bamidele, however, is back to the APC, and also running to be governor of the state.
“Please count Bamidele out of the race,” a party member from Ado-Ekiti local government area said.
“He would have been the most suitable aspirant, but the moment he left the party for LP, his popularity dropped. We are, however, hearing he may bow out for Fayemi but up until yesterday he was still moving around the local government areas, seeking support.”
Bamidele is from Ekiti central senatorial district.
Aluko, on the platform of the PDP, was elected senator in 1999. He became the deputy chief whip and chaired a few senate committees.
After leaving office, he defected to the LP to contest the governorship election in 2007. In 2009, he returned to the PDP, and now he is in the APC, fighting for the governorship ticket.
Party members who spoke with TheCable say Aluko is popular within the grassroots, but his chances at the primary are slim.
Aluko is from Ekiti south senatorial district.
Arise, then member of the PDP, was elected senator in 2007. A court verdict voided Arise’s election, and after leaving the senate, he has not been in the forefront of Ekiti politics.
“Arise, from all indications, may bow out — stepping down for Oni— before the conclusion of the primary,” a party member from Ado-Ekiti said.
He added that Arise has not done much within the party to secure the governorship ticket.
Arise is from Ekiti north senatorial district.
TheCable will bring you live updates on the primary election.