The Nation (Nigeria)
Ekiti poll: South District clamours for power shift
As the July 18, 2022 governorship poll draws nearer in Ekiti State, the increasing agitation for power shift by the Ekiti South Senatorial Zone has dominated political discourse in the state.
BARELY a year to the governorship poll in Ekiti, the political tension is rising steadily as preparations for the battle over who occupies the Oke-bareke Government House gradually gets underway. Already, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed June 18 for the election.
The release of the timetable/date has prompted a beehive of political activities. The quest over who succeeds Governor Kayode Fayemi whose tenure will end in the midnight of October 16, 2022, has started heating up the state's political hemisphere as politicians across party lines have begun intense politicking.
Many governorship aspirants have begun consultation with various interest groups for alignment and realignment. While politicians in the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) have commenced subtle moves, those in the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) have kick-started political campaigns with many billboards adorning the state’s landscape.
However, the agitation about which zone of Ekiti should produce the next governor has been a raging issue in the political hemisphere. While some are supporting the agitation for power shift to the Ekiti South senatorial zone, others are of the opinion that the position should be thrown open to all the zones.
Ekiti State, like all states in the country, is divided into three senatorial zones comprising Ekiti North, Ekiti South and Ekiti Central. The state has 16 local government areas. While both Ekiti North and Ekiti Central have five local governments each, Ekiti South has the highest number with six council areas.
The Ekiti Central senatorial district is made up of Ado, Efon, Ekiti-west, Ijero and Irepodu/ifelodun, while Ekiti North comprises of Ido/osi, Ikole, Ilejemeje, Mona and Oye. And in the South, there are Gbonyin Ekiti East, Ekiti- Southwest, Emure, Ikere and Ise/orun.
Since 1999 when democracy returned to Nigeria, after a few years of compulsory sabbatical leave occasioned by military incursion, the exalted governorship seat in Ekiti has been the exclusive preserve of the North and Central districts. Ekiti South had never produced the governor despite the fact that it paraded eminently qualified and highly exposed scholars with global reckoning.
While North and Central senatorial zones have consistently dominated the state's political space for the past 24 years, Southern zone have only produced the deputy governor at different times.
The first civilian governor after Ekiti State was carved out of old Ondo State in 1996 was the Minister of Trade and Industry, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo of then Alliance of Democracy (19992003). Adebayo who hails from Iyinekiti, Irepodun/ifelodun in Ekiti Central was defeated during the 2003 election by Ayo Fayose of the PDP.
After falling out with the then President Olusegun Obasanjo, Fayose who hails from Afao-ekiti in Ekiti Central district could not complete his tenure, as he was impeached in 2006 under questionable circumstances. Chief Segun Oni, who succeeded Fayose as governor is from Ifaki-ekiti in Ekiti North. He ruled the state for three and half years while the incumbent, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who hails also from Isan-ekiti in Ekiti North took over from him, through judicial pronouncement.
Fayose staged a comeback in 2014 and truncated Fayemi’s second term bid by trouncing him in all the 16 council areas. Similarly, Fayemi won against all odds in the 2018 governorship poll by defeating Fayose’s anointed candidate, Prof. Kolapo Olusola of the PDP to mount the saddle as a governor for a second term.
By October 15, 2022, when Fayemi’s second term ends, Ekiti North would have spent 11 and half years while the Central zone would have spent 12 years, with Ekiti South still only nursing the tall dream of occupying the Oke-bareke Government one day.
Perhaps, it is for these reasons that the agitation for the governorship slot by the South has become a recurring decimal. Ekiti South nearly occupied the position in the 2018 governorship election when PDP fielded ex-deputy governor from Ikere-ekiti but APC'S political machinery led by Governor Fayemi shattered that hope. Olusola came a distant second in the poll.
Although, zoning of political offices has never been an issue in Ekiti politics from time immemorial, the clamour for power shift to Ekiti South ahead of next year’s election is already giving Governor Fayemi and the leadership of his party and the opposition PDP headache and sleepless nights.
Political pundits opined that next year's election is widely expected to be a fierce contest among the three districts, but Ekiti South is insisting that it is its turn to occupy the most exalted seat in the state.
For the APC, political observers believe that the party's ticket would be a straight fight between Ekiti Central and South. Their argument is premised on the grounds that since Fayemi hails from the North, the party will not field a candidate from that zone in the spirit of fairness and equity.
They are of the view that the opposition PDP might throw its ticket open to all intending aspirants across the three districts with a view to produce a sellable candidate that can give the APC that has the power of incumbency and federal might a tough time.
As permutations for the poll heightens, the people of Ekiti South, irrespective of party divide are agitating that zoning should be activated in their favour.
The warbles on many lips are now, “Ekiti South Agenda”, Ekiti South is not a slave to Ekiti Central and Ekiti North“, and “Oke-bareke House is not exclusive privilege for Ekiti North and Ekiti Central but for the three zones, “it is Ekiti South’s turn” and others.
Analysts are of the view that the agitation for Ekiti South to take a shot at the governorship will be a difficult task because both the North and Central are also interested since zoning has not been a major issue in the politics of the state before now. However, they believe Ekiti South can break the jinx if aspirants from the zone in both the APC and PDP present a consensus candidate who has widespread acceptability and political tentacles spread across the 16 council areas.
Currently, the zone already parades an array of aspirants for the plum position. One of them is Senator Biodun Olujimi, the woman representing the district at the National Assembly. Olujimi's name has continued to ring a bell in the minds of the people as the best choice for the job.
Olujimi, who have so far scaled many huddles to survive in a terrain dominated by men is believed to be interested in the position. The Omuoekiti born journalist turned politician is not a pushover in Ekiti politics.
The former Senate Minority Leader has cult-like followership across the length and breadth of the state with strong political structures in all the 16 council areas. Some of the factors that may favour her if she decides to contest would include experience, competence, philanthropic gestures and humility. She also has structures across 133 communities in the state.
Aside from Olujimi, the ex-deputy Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank, Kayode Adaramodu is also in the race. The Ilawe-ekiti born politician is also not a pushover in the game of politics. He enjoys grassroots support. Adaramodu has a financial war chest and wide connections that place him as a man qualified for the job.
Also rumoured to be in the race is a former Nigeria envoy to Canada, Amb. Dare Bejide. The Ilawe-born lawyer was the candidate of the People Party of Nigeria (PPN) in the 2018 governorship poll. He is a grassroots mobiliser with connections across parties’ lines.
Olusola is also believed to be in the race. He came into the political limelight in 2014 after his emergence as deputy governor to Fayose. He served in that capacity until 2018. He was the PDP candidate in the last governorship poll, where he lost to Fayemi with a narrow margin.
The current Speaker of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Funminiyi Afuye is also believed to be nursing the ambition. Afuye who hails from Ikere-ekiti has a rich political experience that spreads across both legislative and executive arms. This factor may put him in good stead in the race for the ticket.
A member of the Green Chamber, Yemi Adaramodu is also believed to be interested in the race. The grassroots politician popularly called "Ijinle" hails from Ilawe-ekiti. He is a former council chairman. He later became Chief of Staff to the Governor during Fayemi’s first tenure.
Another member of the Green Chamber, Olufemi Bamisile who currently represents Emure/ Gbonyin/ekiti East Federal Constituency is also eyeing Oke-bareke Government House in 2022. The Kota-born politician began his political career in Lagos where he served as Special Adviser to former Chairman of Surulere Local Government, Hakeem Dickson. He contested the APC primary in 2018 but lost the bid.
Senator Dayo Adeyeye is also believed to be nursing the ambition to run. The prince of Ise-ekiti in Ise/orun Local Government is a seasoned politician with experiences as a journalist and lawyer. He ventured into politics as a student activist during his undergraduate days and a loyalist of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo during the Second Republic.
The serving Commissioner of Public Utilities, Bamidele Faparusi is also warming up to contest for the APC ticket. He hails from Ode-ekiti in Gbonyin council area. He was one of the 33 aspirants that vied for the party’s governorship ticket in 2018. He lost the bid and was compensated with commissionership because of his loyalty and contribution to Fayemi’s victory.
Ekiti APC Caretaker Chairman, Paul Omotoso is also interested in the race. He is a very trusted loyalist of Fayemi. Being entrusted with the chairmanship of the ruling party speaks volumes about the confidence and trust reposed in him by the governor.
‘ Although, zoning of political offices has never been an issue in Ekiti politics from time immemorial, the clamour for power shift to Ekiti South ahead of next year’s election is already giving Governor Fayemi and the leadership of his party and the opposition PDP headache and ’ sleepless nights