In Ekiti politics, every notable politician claims to be a kingmaker. None, at least openly, acknowledges having been assisted by others to climb the ladder to where they’re politically.
That’s why at every election, they want to be the king, as evident in last week’s primaries by Nigeria’s two dominant political platforms, for the June 18, 2022, governorship election in the state.
So, to keen watchers of the polity, the results of the primaries weren’t much of a surprise, but the bombshell is the free-fall of the big names and mighty politicians that took part in the processes.
In spite of their larger-than-life political image they’ve carved for themselves, many of the aspirants, without even casting a ballot, had foreseen defeats, but hoped for miracles to happen.
In the run-up to the contests, all the boastful politicians had literally written, in their favour, the outcomes of the primaries of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), respectively.
But when the real balloting was held by the PDP on Wednesday, January 26, and the APC on Thursday, January 27, in that order, the politicians, not short of excuses, fell like a pack of cards.
During the campaigns, politicians on both divides complained about the processes being stacked against them by former Governor Ayodele Fayose and incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi.
Specifically, the aspirants, while presenting themselves as “the best man/woman for the job” of governor, had accused the past and current governors of “anointing” their favourites, for whom they’re gaming the processes ahead of the primaries.
T he PDP aspirants alleged scheming of the congresses by Mr Fayose, to favour his protégée, Otunba Bisi Kolawole, at the primaries, and swing the June governorship poll for the rival APC.
They alleged that Fayose had received a princely amount from Governor Fayemi, in order for the PDP to present “an unviable candidate,” for a “walkover” by the APC at the June election. Repeated interventions by the National Headquarters and South-West branch of the PDP didn’t seem to work, as the allegations continued into the primaries on January 26 in Ado-Ekiti.
For instance, a key PDP aspirant, representing Ekiti South, Senator Abiodun Olujinmi, playing the hot-button gender card, “and an unfair resolution of matters arising from a lingering controversial congress of the party,” pulled out of the primaries before kick-off.
In a press interview, she said the list prepared for the primary election put her at “a disadvantage,” as her local government “is left with only 12 delegates,” as decided by the party leadership. In other words, Olujinmi, besides seemingly relying solely on the votes of delegates from her local government, had banked on being treated specially as a female, to gain the PDP ticket.
And sensing none of her expectations would pull through, she exited the poll. When the results of the delegate primaries were called, the sceptical aspirants’ mistaken and misplaced claims to political formidability, rather than their fears, were overwhelmingly debunked.
Fayose’s anointed candidate, Otunba Kolawole, who resigned as the PDP chapter chairman to contest in the primaries, trounced former Governor Segun Oni and others, including Senator Olujinmi.
The Chairman of the Primary Election Committee and Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom, declared Kolawole, as the winner of the election, having polled 671 votes against 330 votes by Chief Oni, who placed second.
While former Deputy Governor to Fayose and PDP’s candidate in the 2018 polls, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, came third with 93 votes, Adewale Aribisala scored 56 votes, Kayode Adaramodu 10 votes, Kazeem Ayodeji six votes, Olujimi two votes, and the remaining four aspirants ostensibly got their selfcast ballot of one vote each.
Oni, who succeeded Fayose in his first coming as governor between 2003 and 2006, rejected the results, on the grounds that the delegates’ register was mutilated and many delegates’ names were missing from the register.
Slamming the results, the Director-General of the Segun Oni Campaign Organisation, Mr. Yemi Arokodare, accused Governor Emmanuel of threatening to “arrest and lock up some 32 “automatic delegates,” even as the governor “deliberately” allowed Fayose “to sit in the hall after he has voted,” a situation, Arokodare said, was against the rules earlier pronounced by Emmanuel.
“Udom (Emmanuel) allowed aides of Fayose to sit in the hall purposely to intimidate other delegates,” Arokodare said, alleging, as Chief Oni had done prior to the primaries, that Fayose was chairman of the primary committee that oversaw the choice of Emmanuel’s election in Akwa Ibom, and that the Ekiti PDP primary poll was “a payback for Ayo Fayose.”
It’s a similar story in the APC, but more intriguing, as seven of the eight aspirants pulled out in the morning of the primaries, over alleged manipulation of the processes in favour of Mr. Biodun Oyebanji, reportedly backed by Governor Fayemi. So, the big guns, who called for the stoppage and cancellation of the primaries, were trounced by Oyebanji, immediate past Secretary to Ekiti State, who resigned to contest in the primaries.
The results, as announced by the Chairman of the Primary Election Committee and Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State, showed that Oyebanji won in all 16 local government areas of Ekiti, securing 101,703 votes from the 107,877 accredited members.
The breakdown of the results for other aspirants are as follows: Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele, 760 votes; Mr. Femi Bamisile, 400; Mr. Kayode Ojo, 767; Sen. Adedayo Adeyeye, 691; Mr. Bamidele Faparusi, 376; Mr. Ademola Popoola, 239 and Chief Oluwasola Afolabi, 47 votes in the “Option A4” variant of direct primary adopted for the poll.
Governor Badaru expressed shock that the aspirants boycotted the primaries he said were free and fair, noting that, “as we have earlier promised, we have ensured a level-playing ground for all aspirants.”
He denied allegations by the aspirants that they weren’t consulted, saying that 20 names each were submitted by the aspirants, “and added to the list of Returning Officers and they were all captured.”
As the winners and losers of the primaries in the PDP and APC await the intervention of the Appeals Committees, praying for approval or cancellation of the balloting, the January 26 and 27 primaries have indicated that when “push comes to shove,” many vocal politicians are mere paper tigers.
Consider the performances of Chief Oni, Senator Olujinmi, Chief Adeyeye and Mr Bamisile, who, hiding under nebulous allegations of hijacking and manipulation of the processes, boycotted and/or rejected the primaries they’d vowed they’re the aspirants to beat.
Particularly noteworthy is Governor Fayemi’s acceding to the agitation for direct primaries in the APC, mostly championed by Senator Bamidele, who expressed optimism that the contest would be credible, only to join six other aspirants to shun the voting.
Finally, the primaries have revealed that there’re “real kingmakers” in Ekiti politics in Mr Fayose and Governor Fayemi, as each has anointed a candidate that might receive the crown jewels in June.