By Ehichioya Ezomon
Months to the 2018 governorship election in Ekiti, holding this Saturday, July 14, polity watchers had surmised that the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) would have a mountain to climb, to regain control of the state it lost in 2014.
That conclusion was based on the seeming stranglehold of the political terrain by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as powered by Governor Ayodele Fayose, on whose watch the party has swept all seats in elections conducted since 2015.
But the relaunch bid by the APC for the state, fielding former governor and Minister of Solid Minerals and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, gave strong indications that the PDP and Fayose’s suzerainty might not be impregnable after all.
This notion was premised on two reasons: One, the political environment of 2018 is different from 2014’s, which favoured Fayose with the so-called “federal might” to advance his cause and that of the PDP, against the then Governor Fayemi and the APC.
This time, besides having the “federal might” on their side, Fayemi and the APC have the backing of incumbent governors in 24 states, and a coalition of 32 aspirants that vied with Fayemi at the party primaries on May 12.
With a combination of these factors, and a well-executed campaign spearheaded by a committee of APC heavyweights from across the country, the party would be adequately prepared to climb the mountain, and grab the governorship on July 14.
That was the assumption until the news broke that the Action Peoples Party (APP), and a chieftain of the APC had separately filed matters in Abuja courts to disqualify Fayemi from presenting himself as the APC candidate in the election.
The APP filed a suit in a High Court at Bwari, praying for the disqualification of Fayemi for being indicted by a panel of inquiry established by the Ekiti government, which issued a white paper, banning him from holding any public office in 10 years.
Both Fayemi and the APC had canvassed dismissal of the case, and the court ruled in their favour last Tuesday, July 3. While Justice A.O Musa quashed Fayemi’s indictment for lack of fair hearing, he held that Section 182(1)(i) of the Constitution, on which the suit was based, was non-existent.
In the second case filed last Monday at the Federal Hight Court in Abuja, Mr. Oladimeji Olakunle Olatunji seeks disqualification of Fayemi on two grounds: That he did not resign his ministerial appointment before contesting the governorship primaries; and that he was indicted by a panel of inquiry, and banned by the Ekiti government from holding any public office in 10 years.
On the strength of the alleged anomalies, the claimant prays for an order of perpetual injunction, restraining Fayemi from parading or holding himself out as the validly/duly nominated gubernatorial candidate of the APC for the Ekiti election.
Spotlighting the APP case recently, all eyes were on Governor Fayose as being the instigator, in order to scuttle Fayemi’s chances at the poll. But observers couldn’t imagine that a bigger threat was coming from within, ostensibly at the behest of a co-contestant at the primaries, former Governor Segun Oni.
As revealed by Mr. Olatunji, he’s in court not only to protect the interest of the APC from being denied a candidate in the election should the opposition raise similar issues, as he did, before or after the election, but also to project the political aspiration of Oni, who came second behind Fayemi at the primaries.
Oni, former deputy national chairman (South) of the APC, was expected to lead the other 31 aspirants, to work with the 77-member National Campaign Council instituted by the National Working Committee (NWC) for the election. He did not decline this responsibility. Indeed, he asked his supporters to campaign and vote for Fayemi.
But has he been faithful to his avowal? That’s doubtful, as the director general of the Segun Oni Campaign Organisation (SOGO), Dr. Ife Arowosoge, claimed that the Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation (KFCO) had sidelined Oni, and maltreated his supporters at campaign rallies for the APC flagbearer.
Arowosoge boasted that Oni has the largest number of APC chieftains, party officials and supporters in the 16 councils of Ekiti, who, in the event of a stalemate from a court ruling or any other circumstance, would be mobilised to place him in good stead to slug it out with other candidates in the current or future election.
So, the question of why Oni would want Fayemi disqualified has finally been rested. If he’s disenfranchised before the election, or removed after winning, Oni, being the aspirant that scored the second highest votes at the primaries, would profit as a replacement, to stand as the APC candidate in Saturday’s election (if the debarment were to happen prior to the poll) or any new exercise.
Recall that the courts adopted this precept to sanction the APC’s choice of Mr. Yahaya Bello as candidate, and eventual winner of the Kogi State governorship election in November 2015, following the sudden death of Prince Abubakar Audu, who led in the results already declared by INEC, before his demise was made public.
Which brings us to where we started: That not long ago, Dr. Fayemi and the APC had only a mountain to climb. That mountain could just have been the Olumo Rock, a mere 137 m (449 ft) above sea level. Now with a divided house, they are facing the highest mountain in the world, the Everest, with a height of 8,848 m (29,029 ft). Will they be able to surmount the snowy peak?
In a matter of six days, we would know how formidable the APC was battling internal division, and combatting a political opponent as ruthless as Governor Fayose, who, though not on the ballot, has deployed all weapons at his disposal to install his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola.
* Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos Nigeria.