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Ekiti 2022 and The Intriguing Battles Over Zoning

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Despite the unambiguous choice of governorship candidates in Ekiti State made by Governor Kayode Fayemi and former Governor Ayodele Fayose, Victor Ogunje writes that agitation for a governor from the Southern senatorial district is stronger than ever

With the political manoeuvrings going on in Ekiti State currently, the reality is gradually dawning on all politicians from Ekiti South Senatorial district that it would take providence and concerted efforts of political bigwigs for them to produce the next governor of Ekiti State in 2022.

Before their hope was became dim and shattered, politicians from that axis were of the high spirit that Governor Kayode Fayemi will hearken to their voices this time and back an aspirant from that axis to continue with his much-desired continuity agenda.

But two minutes is too long a time in politics, game changes every minute and second.

The rumour of Fayemi having on his card a member of the House of Representatives, Hon Yemi Adaramodu, his Special Adviser, Makinde Araoye and the Special Adviser, office of Transformation and Delivery, Prof Mobolaji Aluko as part of his game plans for 2022, had earlier kindled this hope and gave respite that the task of a southern governor will be accomplished this time.

But the current change of events, which signaled that the governor and his handlers had shifted preference for the Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Biodun Oyebanji, is causing a lot of ripples and unsettling the system in Ekiti. In fact, the zone is no longer comfortable as the political matrixes unfold and tilting away and putting them in a disadvantaged position.

Oyebanji is a consummate politician and humane personality. Quiet, humble , highly experienced, being a former Personal Assistant to Otunba Niyi Adebayo. He had also been a Governor’s Chief of Staff and Commissioner to Fayemi before becoming the State’s Scribe. He is also considered a good spender and unfetteredly accessible, which had buoyed his magnetic and electrifying acceptability and broadening his support base among the All Progressives Congress members, elites, and civil servants.

But without the risk of being immodest, as intimidating as the foregoing scorecard seems to be, the issue of zoning is one glitch and one albatross that is constituting a stump and barricade on Oyebanji’s way.

Though, himself and his handlers are rising to scale the uphill and thorny hurdles as well as obliterate the appeals and sympathies it has attracted among the members of the public by reaching out and lay a solid reason for why critical stakeholders , including Fayemi are solidly backing his aspiration .

But time will tell how well these pleas and highwired political horsetrading being spewed by his supporters in APC will sink to pacify the highly aggrieved APC members and others from that enclave.

Since the advent of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, the zone remains the one being sidelined in the Ekiti political equation. It has not produced any democratically elected governor for once.

The only time the zone had ever come close to the coveted seat was in February 17 ,2009 when the Appeal Court sitting in Ilorin, Kwara state removed the then sitting Governor, Engr. Segun Oni and brought in the Speaker, Hon Tunji Odeyemi in acting capacity.

Odeyemi only had a stint as he could only rule for 79 days after which Oni won the controversial and litigation- dogged rerun and returned to the saddle of governance.

The immediate past Governor of the state, Mr Ayodele’s Fayose also brought a ray of hope in 2018. Through manipulation and armtwisting, Fayose succeeded in picking his deputy, Prof Kolapo Olusola as the candidate of the Peoples Demicratic Party for the July 14, 2018 election, but lost. So many shenanigans were responsible for that loss among which was the unbridled tyranny and inability to brook opposition by the then governor .

Despite that colossal and unexpected loss, the people then had a ray of hope that they were gradually inching towards that seat. But with the current permutations in town, the equation had tilted and boxing the highly agitated people of the zone to a corner as the 2022 governorship election beckons.

Fayose who was boisterous in his believe in Southern agitation in 2018 was the first to betray the course in 2021. When it was least expected, the former governor hastily picked former Commissinoer under him and incumbent PDP State chairman, Hon Bisi Kolawole as his preferred candidate in the PDP. This was the beginning of the troubles for the South. Kolawole is from Efon Alaaye in Ekiti Central.

The likes of former Minister of Works, Dayo Adeyeye and Senator Biodun Olujimi tried to enforce zoning in the PDP in 2018, and it worked out. The then Governor, Ayodele Fayose backed his deputy,Prof Kolapo Olusola from Ikere local government and headquarters of the district, but was eventually defeated by Fayemi from the North.

What makes the election wondrous was the fact that Fayemi won four out of the six councils in the district to emerge victorious over Prof Olusola, despite the zoning hoopla . This was a clear indication that the zoning mantra didn’t get the expected and desired resonation at that time.

With the body language of some of the politicians from that axis and their conducts then, the zoning thing was sabotaged completely and this could be hinged on divergent interests of political bigwigs and many other primordial sentiments.
But heaven, they say, helps those who help themselves. The mantra seems to be gaining ground with politicians of Ekiti South extraction from the ruling APC and PDP converged and jointly demanding the zoning of the governorship tickets of the parties to the district as the gubernatorial election holds in the state in 2022.

The political heavyweights, including aspirants on the platforms of the two dominant parties clearly told those perceived as godfathers of Ekiti politics that no effort will be spared to resist attempt by anyone to sideline the zone that has not produced the governor since 1999.

The stakeholders , at a political summit tagged : ‘Ekiti South Conference Towards 2022 Governorship Election’, held at Uncle Eagles Civic Centre along Ikere Road, Ado Ekiti on December 2 , convened by a group called Concerned Ekiti Citizens’, chaired by Hon. Femi Babalola, opined that something is automatically amiss in Ekiti if the South could not produce a governor 25 years after its creation.

Prominent politicians at the event were: Former Speaker and serving member of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Bamisile, Senator representing Ekiti South, Chief Biodun Olujimi, former Works Minister, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, Commissioner for Public Utilities, Hon Bamidele Faparusi, former Deputy Governor Biodun Aluko, Special Adviser to Governor Fayemi on Federal Matters, Mr. Makinde Araoye, former Commissioner for Special Duties, Adewumi Apalara, PDP governorship aspirant, Kayode Adaramodu, an ex-Commissioner, Mr. Debo Ajayi

Others include: Former Deputy Governor, Kolapo Eleka, ex-Speaker, Ekiti State House Assembly, Dr. Adewale Omirin, former Acting Governor, Ekiti State, Hon Tunji Odeyemi, Special Adviser to the Governor , Office of Transformation and Delivery , Prof Mobolaji Aluko, former Commissioner for Lands, Mr. Remi Olorunleke, Commissioner in the Public Complaints Commission, Mr. Kayode Bamisile, a PDP governorship aspirant, Mr. Kayode Adaramodu and monarchs.

Addressing the mammoth crowd of party members that thronged the venue of the political event, a member of the House of Representatives and APC governorship aspirant, Hon Femi Bamisile, boasted that the South will produce the next governor of the state.

“We are beginning to feel that the elites from the North and the Central are conspiring to sideline us. How can the South with six local governments higher than any other zone be treated as the minority? This is unfair and unacceptable.

“We are not here to fight anybody. It is our time to produce the governor. Even our dialects in Ekiti are not the same, it will be deceptive to say we speak the same dialect. Let us tell the government that it must do what is right, O to ge (enough is enough).

“We have so many good and competent people in the present cabinet of Governor Fayemi and if they need people, we have too many competent people in the south. We are not going to fight, because Governor Fayemi is a reasonable person. The presence of appointees of government here today shows we are not fighting the government , we only want to correct this anomaly. On Ekiti south agenda we stand.”

In her submission, a PDP chieftain, Senator Biodun Olujimi, maintained that there is no doubting the fact that Ekiti South has the highest number of local governments, regretting that the district remains the one that has not produced the governor, adding that the neglect must stop, if truly Ekiti is one.

“What we are asking is that all parties’ candidates must emerge from the South. That is when we will know that you have us in mind . What we want is equity, justice and fairness and this is the time justice must be done to the South in the eyes of God and man.

” Why should they be insulting us? The reason for the insults was that we are not united. This is not about political parties, but about being responsible. We have the majority and we can work together”.

In his message to the agitators, a serving Special Adviser to Governor Fayemi, Prof. Bolaji Aluko, advised that affirmative action must be taken to address the injustice being meted to the South, saying the state was created on the pillars of justice, fair- play and equity.

“We are capable, able, willing and ready to rule this state. Some people might want to entice you with deputy governorship slot, don’t accept that . They had even spoken to me about this, but I rejected. Let us be united. Many of those from the North and South are supporting us, let us reach out to them.”

The former Works Minister and National Chairman of Southwest West Agenda for Tinubu 2023 presidency, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, said it was sad that Ekiti South indigenes are now having a psychology of a second class citizens, saying this is the time for the trend to change.

“How can a state that was formed on the basis of justice and equity now become a centre of injustice? We must work together and resist this oppression in the interest of our today and our future.”

A former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Oyetunde Ojo and a PDP governorship aspirant, Mr. Kayode Adaramodu, said the people of Ekiti must encourage the leadership of the parties to hearken to the voice of reasoning and pick their candidates from the South.

Ojo said: “The likes of Senator Babafemi Ojudu, Hon Bimbo Daramola and myself are with the Southern agenda that was why we picked Senator Adeyeye from the South as the candidate of our group in APC.

“If the Southern Nigeria is saying that Presidency should come to the South in 2023, what has Ekiti South done to deserve marginalisation? It is your time to produce the governor. Some of us from the Central and North of Ekiti are in support of a southern governor in 2022.”

Speaking on the way out of the zoning conundrum, a Professor at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Dr. Philips Adetiloye, said it is a democratic right for the South to produce the governor, adding that this is part of the ways to further unite the state.

Prof Adetiloye expressed regret that Ekiti that was being respected for their integrity and honour are fast degenerating in the handling of political issues in the state. He warned that sidelining the South may have a dire consequences on the unity and peace being enjoyed by the populace.

As plausible and sympathetic the zoning mantra seems to be, people were of a contrast view that political delineation shouldn’t be allowed to divide Ekiti that was widely adjudged to be one in terms of culture, dialect and way of life.

Former Governor Oni was the first to counter zoning while declaring his governorship intention by saying that the PDP can’t embrace this political calculation now being an opposition party. He stated that doing so may produce a weak and unreliable candidate that would be defeated by the ruling party.

Bearing in mind that former governor Fayose had endorsed the candidacy of Hon. Kolawole, Oni averred that the party members know the right man that can win the election and would not want to gamble with the choice of candidate.

Despite the fear over zoning, the unfazed Oni expressed confidence that he would triumph in the poll if given the party’s ticket, while also assuring that the national leadership of the party would be fair to all aspirants in the conduct of the primary.

“PDP doesn’t want to lose and the people who will vote at the primary know who can win for us. Though I am contesting with the aim to get the ticket, but I won’t be a desperate person to achieve this. If you gauge the mood in town now, Ekiti is friendly with PDP and we shouldn’t miss that opportunity.”

Governor Fayemi himself had at various times punctured the zoning being relied on by some politicians. He had always harped on commitment and competence as the two most pivotal qualities to look out for in any candidate and not where he comes from.

But in sharp contrast to the anti-zoning views, the current Commissioner for Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Hon Bamidele Faparusi, had objected, describing such as delusive and self-serving. He warned Fayemi against endorsing any aspirant outside the zone, saying it would be tantamount to fatal error and disrespect to the Southern citizens, for the governor to abandon zoning being agitated for by some APC members.

“My thought is not different from what Ekiti people are saying on the streets that there is power inbalance in our state. The central had served for 11 years, while the North had served 11 years, leaving the South in the lurch .

“This issue is a matter of equity, fairness and justice . The political parties must ensure that they embrace zoning. The electorate and average voters on the streets said they prefer a candidate from the South in 2022, the noise was becoming deafening for those who care to listen.

“It is going to be in the best interest that the candidates from parties are picked from that zone. It would be a costly mistake if my party, APC should do otherwise. I am still very confident that the stakeholders will look towards the South and get a viable candidate from that zone that can deliver for our party”.

The convener of the pro-zoning summit, Mr. Femi Babalola, said they won’t backdown on the agitation until the right thing is done across parties. The battleline seems to have been drawn with this determined comment and only God knows how the frightening and intriguing games will end.

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