Who will be the standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), for the 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State? This is one of the most frequently asked questions among politicians and observers in and outside Ekiti State as preparations for the number one seat gathers momentum.
The first cause of the anxiety, knowing who PDP will present as candidate came out of the fact that the ruling party in the state, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has declared publicly several times last year that the incumbent Governor, Kayode Fayemi, is its candidate. In spite of intrigues by those who do not want Hon. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (MOB), to contest the governorship election, it is obvious that since he left the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN, now APC) and revived the Labour Party (LP) with some aggrieved politicians and his admirers from the APC and PDP, it is obvious that he is the stanfard bearer of the Labour Party, at least, for now. Similarly, the Accord Party (AP), which is now in the fourth position of reckoning in the state already, has Barrister Kole Ajayi as its candidate.
Consequently, Ekiti people, looking at the strength of each party in the state, see the trio of APC, PDP and LP as the main forces to reckon with in the coming election. But while political observers and people in the state can easily rate Fayemi and Bamidele as two elephants in this contest, the absence of PDP standard bearer is still making the political calculations difficult for them to know which party is likely to win the contest.
Of course, the party that prides itself as the biggest in Africa (… at least before APC hurricane caused a serious crack in their camp recently) has a lot of people with high profiles like: former governors, ministers, Ambassador, former senators, former deputy governors, ex- House of Representatives member, ex-State Assembly Speakers, among others, in the race.
Other cause of anxiety in the state was the prophecy by the wife of former Governor Ayo Fayose on Wednesday, January 8, 2014, that her husband’s victory in the next election is certain and ordained by God. The cause of serious concern on the prophecy was that some people said the woman had earlier predicted the removal of her husband from office as governor in 2006, which came to pass when her husband was impeached on October 16, 2006 as Ekiti State Governor. Fayose, while responding at the 50th birthday ceremony of his wife which was used as a forum to convey the message at his campaign office in Ado-Ekiti that day, said he does not joke with anything that has to do with spiritual matters again, especially when it is coming from his wife, having prophesied his impeachment which came to pass. He added that when hegan to pray on the issue, he discovered that the contest is going to be between him, Bamidele and Fayemi. He told people at the gathering that he would definitely emerge as the flag bearer of the PDP.
This was however, described as an illusion by another PDP governorship aspirant, Hon Oluropo Ogunbolude, who told DailySun in an interview that, “Anybody can say whatever he or she likes. She has said it. We have had prophecies here and there. What do you expect her to say? Do you expect her to say that her husband will not emerge or what? Naturally, she won’t say that. Ekiti people are not gullible. He had become Ekiti State governor before, and had fulfilled his own term. I am not saying he can’t become governor of Ekiti State again, but not 2014. The ticket is going to Ekiti South Senatorial District and he is from the central. If anybody is talking of Ekiti Central or Ekiti North in PDP, the person must be joking, because it is something that cannot happen.” He pointed out that all the aspirants have held a joint meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the leader of the party and he has told them that he had not anointed any candidate and instructed them to go and get a consensus candidate among themselves.
Four other governorship aspirants who spoke with Nigerian gossip in separate interviews on the issue were of the same view. Former Deputy Governor during Fayose era, Chief Abiodun Aluko, Ambassador Dare Bejide, Dr Peter Obafemi and Hon Adewale Aribisala said they (all PDP guber aspirants in Ekiti State) held a meeting with the President and agreed that there would be no primary election. They agreed to come out with a consensus candidate that will be acceptable to all Ekiti people. Amb. Bejide and Chief Aluko, like Oluropo, said that the PDP ticket is going to the South Senatorial District, saying that it is the only zone in Ekiti State that has not produced a governor since the state was created over 17 years ago. They argued that Ekiti Central produced Otunba Niyi Adebayo and Mr. Ayo Fayose while Ekiti North produced Engr. Segun Oni and Dr Kayode Fayemi, saying for justice and fair play, it is time for Ekiti South. They added that the zone is the largest in population, size and number of local government areas and wards.
Contrary to this however, Aribisala said it is better the party considers a consensus candidate from the North Senatorial District where Fayemi comes from so that through that, they can share the votes from the zone with the incumbent governor and wrestle for votes from other parts of the state with other parties for them to win. The former House of Representatives member, however, added that though he is from the North, he has no objection to whatever the party agrees upon.
Speaking with Nigerian gossip on the new agreement to use a consensus candidate, Chief Aluko said: “We were with Mr. President in Abuja on Saturday, January 4, 2014, where we all agreed with him to use a consensus candidate. There was no dissenting voice. I was there. Fayose was there. Adeyeye was there. The minister (Caleb Olubolade) was there. We all agreed that we should make it transparent. No single person opposed this. All of us agreed to the consensus arrangement as proposed by Mr. President that there is not going to be primary election. All the aspirants were invited. Even Prof Tunde Adeniran, Senator Awoyelu were all there. However, Aluko said the issue of zoning was part of the consensus arrangement.
By the end of this month, January, our candidate will emerge. On what will happen if somebody who feels he would emerge as candidate doesn’t emerge, the former deputy governor said: “We have all agreed that whoever emerges as the flag bearer, we will all work together with him to ensure that the party wins the governorship election. Senator Ayo Arise was there. Yinka Akerele was there, Peter Obafemi. Bejide, Olowoporoku, Ogunbolude, Bimbo Owolabi, Senator Gbenga Aluko, Femi Bamisile; all of us were there. Nobody was left out. You can quote me, nobody objected. We all agreed.”
The list of PDP gubernatorial aspirants include: (from Southern Senatorial District) former Deputy Governor, Chief Abiodun Aluko; former Nigeria’s envoy to Canada, Ambassador Dare Bejide; former deputy governor Bisi Omoyeni; former deputy governor, Mrs Abiodun Olujimi; former National Assembly member, Senator Gbenga Aluko; former Afenifere chieftain, Prince Dayo Adeyeye; former minister, Chief Bode Olowoporoku; former Speakers, Rt. Hon Femi Bamisile and Tunji Odeyemi; Mr Bimbo Owolabi; and Hon Oluropo Ogunbolude. Among aspirants (from Central Senatorial District) are former Governor Ayodele Fayose; Police Affairs Minister, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade; and former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s aide, Mr. Bodunde Adeyanju; Contenders from the Northern Senatorial District are former National Assembly members, Senator Ayo Arise and Hon Adewale Aribisala; a businessman, Dr Peter Obafemi; former commissioner, Mr. Segun Olanrewaju; and Mr. Davies Olaosebikan.
When should people be expecting the consensus candidate to emerge? The PDP State Chairman, Mr. Makanjuola Ogundipe told Nigerian gossip that he was still awaiting the directive from the leadership of the party in Abuja, “Only the national leadership of the party can give directive. No State Chairman of the party can give directive on this in our party, going by the constitution of our great party, which I respect so much. I have no favourite among the aspirants. On the time the primaries will be held or our candidate will emerge, I want to tell you that in politics, 24 hours is a long time. That is the answer. Only God and leaders of our party can determine when we will get the candidate. As I am talking to you now (Sunday January 12, 2014), we are still expecting directive from Abuja.” On whether the ticket will go to the South zone or not, Ogundipe said: “If you have a product you want to sell to people and you advertise it, you don’t restrict the people you are going to sell it to. It is only the national leadership of the party that can determine that.” On the prophecy from the former first lady on Fayose’s ordained victory, Ogundipe said: “unfortunately, I am not a prophet.
So I don’t give comments on prophecies. We are only to live according to the word of God. And that is the only thing I can say on that.” Going by the electoral law with which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) operate to regulate the conduct of election and electoral activities in Nigeria, the primary election of each party can only be held three months before the general election to elect the candidates, except where the party has consensus candidate, who can emerge before the stipulated period of three months.
It would be recalled however that it was the clamour for zoning to the south that led to serious crises in the party in mid July 2013, when six out of the14-member executive of the party issued a press release and suspended the Chairman of the party, Mr. Ogundipe, for one month over sundry offences to allow for a full investigation of allegation of corruption and bribery leveled against him. There was also counter suspension of those who first carried out the early suspension by the party chairman when he returned from his Abuja trip, until the leadership of the party had to intervene.
In spite of all these however, people are eagerly waiting for the person the PDP will present to Ekiti people to face Fayemi and Bamidele in the struggle for number one seat in the state.