Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja
All eyes are on the National leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) as the party prepares to nominate its candidate for the July 14 Ekiti governorship election.
The governorship primary scheduled for tomorrow will no doubt be a litmus test for the opposition party in its quest to retain Ekiti in its kitty in the run-up to the 2019 general election.
Ahead of the nomination of the party’s standard bearer, tension has been mounting in the state chapter of the PDP.
The Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose had in September last year openly endorsed his deputy , Professor Olusola Kolapo, as his preferred choice as the next governor of the state.
Other aspirants kick
Expectedly, the deputy governor’s endorsement did go down well with the other aspirants.
In the aftermath of the endorsement, four governorship hopefuls namely: former Minister of State for Works and immediate past PDP national spokesman, Prince Dayo Adeyeye; Senate Minority Whip and former Deputy Governor, Senator Biodun Olujimi; former Secretary to the State Government and former High Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador Dare Bejide and former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Owoseni Ajayi came together to denounce the governor’s action, describing it as undemocratic.
However, Fayose, who is also the chairman, PDP Governors’ Forum has not wavered in his support for Kolapo. Speaking at a political event earlier in the year, the Ekiti governor said “the PDP has taken a position; I say we have taken a position and we have no apologies for that and the position is that Olusola should take over after me as the governor of Ekiti.
“It doesn’t matter to us how many people that are abusing us because of our action. They are even free to join our adversaries, but we will defeat them as God liveth.”
In protest, Bejide, Ajayi and some other governorship hopefuls have defected to other political parties in pursuit of their gubernatorial ambition.
Apart from Kolapo, the two others in the struggle for the PDP governorship ticket are Adeyeye, and Fayose’s former deputy, Olujimi.
The Minister of State for Works and Olujimi have pointedly accused the Ekiti governor of using state and party machinery to intimidate their supporters.
Speaking at separate interviews with journalists in Abuja, the duo said the decision of Governor Fayose to openly endorse his deputy for the governorship ticket of the PDP and by extension, the governorship seat, has created an atmosphere of fear in the state.
According to Adeyeye, “so, many party members are so afraid in associating themselves with other aspirants apart from the one anointed by the governor. But we are not bothered about all that, we are still confident that we are going to win.
“This is not the right time to contest for governorship in any state where the entire body of the party has been deployed against you. And party members are being intimidated and harassed on daily basis just for no other reason that they are supporting you.”
Olujinmi also concurs. However, she said no one can bully her out of the governorship race. “All aspirants are being intimidated; but I can’t be intimidated at all. Many of our people have defected because of what they are going through. The governor was biased; the party in the state was biased.
“All other former deputy governors aspiring for the position have left because of high handedness, because they are been harassed, because they are been intimidated. I can’t leave the party because of anybody; I can’t go to any other party.”
Fayose’s deputy counters
But Kolapo says there is nothing wrong with his adoption by Governor Fayose as his preferred candidate for the governorship of the state.
The Ekiti State deputy governor, who spoke after submitting his nomination form at the PDP National Secretariat, noted that “to be anointed is not a new thing. God himself anointed Jesus Christ for a purpose. Every one of us have destiny to fulfil and it is going to be through certain means and persons.
“Governor Fayose has the right to pick interest in someone and I don’t think he should be crucified for that. I have been under his tutelage for over two years now; I have acquired a lot of experience from him. He is my leader, my mentor and my benefactor”.
Kolapo was however quick to deny allegations that the governor is using both the state and party apparatus to intimidate other aspirants so as to brighten his chances in the forthcoming PDP governorship primary.
Adeyeye, Olujimi want level playing field
Adeyeye, who is the immediate past National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, said the least, he expects from the party’s national leadership is a level playing field.
“All we ask for is a free and fair election and total security for everybody coming to participate in the election. We have a chance of winning the governorship election if the primary election is fair and free. But if we allow impunity and imposition I cannot guarantee the chance.”
On her part, Olujimi said “can anybody who wants to win the election for PDP wish us away? If anybody wants to wish us away in the party, the consequences will be grave.”
Party leadership steps in
Arising from accusations of partiality against the PDP leadership in Ekiti State in wake of the endorsement of Kolapo, the party dismissed the endorsement, stating that it does not have a candidate yet.
The PDP Publicity Secretary in Ekiti, Jackson Adebayo, revealed that its governorship candidate would only emerge after the primary election.
According to him, “the governor is a member of the party, he has his interest and that is his right; and he has only one vote, he has the constitutional right to support and canvass support for the candidate of his choice.
“But for us as a party, we do not have and we cannot have a candidate until the primaries are over. The showing of any aspirant at the primaries will determine whether he will emerge our candidate or not.”
On its part, in a bid to smoothen all rough edges and calm frayed nerves ahead of the May 8 governorship primary, the national leadership of the opposition party held a meeting with all the critical stakeholders in Ekiti PDP recently.
At the end of the meeting, which was held in Abuja, Fayose and all the governorship aspirants resolved to work together to ensure victory for the party in the July 14 governorship election in the state. The meeting was midwifed by former Senate President, Senator David Mark.
In a statement issued at the end of the meeting, the PDP National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus promised that the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) would ensure a level playing field for all the aspirants in all processes leading to the nomination of its candidate for the Ekiti governorship poll.
Fayose stuck to his guns
Reacting, Fayose says “in the spirit of understanding we had with (the) Senator David Mark-led reconciliation committee, knowing that we have more than one aspirant, I will ensure a level-playing ground.”
However, he maintains that there is no going back on his support for his deputy to succeed him. “I have pitched my tent with Prof. Olusola and I stand with him, today and tomorrow. We are going to give everybody the right of primary,” the governor noted.
The Ekiti nomination process would be a test to the much talked about resolve for the new leadership of the party to do things differently. Analysts say PDP must draw useful lessons from the last Anambra governorship election, where it suffered a humiliating defeat.
Regardless of promises by the then leadership of the opposition party to provide level playing field for all the aspirants, its governorship candidate in the 2017 Anambra governorship emerged through what many described as a very controversial circumstance. Consequently, the PDP went into the election a divided house.
The Ekiti State governorship election is strategic for the PDP in two respects- it is the first the election the Secondus- led National Working Committee would be prosecuting since the change of guard in Wadata House last December.
Besides, coming barely less than eight months to the 2019 general election, it is going to be a test case for the preparedness of the opposition party for next year’s election.