The Battle for Ekiti: Meet the Gladiators
The race for the Ekiti gubernatorial election is heating up. Ekiti is the only state in the South West that has defied the ruling APC. In 2014, Ayodele Fayose of the PDP swept all the Local Governments in the state except one, to defeat the former Governor, Kayode Fayemi of the APC. Fayemi was compensated by President Buhari and appointed as the Minister for Solid Minerals. Fayose has since, consolidated his power in Ekiti as his image loomed larger than life. Fayose is also an unapologetic critic of President Buhari and the entire APC.
It’s another four years now and the state is gearing up for another gubernatorial election, scheduled for July 14. Fayose, who had been a governor for four years earlier during the regime of Olusegun Obasanjo is unable to contest again. He has handpicked his godson and Deputy Governor, Prof Kolapo Olusola to be his successor under the umbrella of the PDP. Fayemi is also back; he has resigned his position as the Minister of Solid Minerals and snatched the APC gubernatorial ticket with the backing of the president. It is a tough race as the APC is bent on taking back the state at all cost.
Today’s Echo examines the two candidates, where they stand, what works for them, and what can work against them.
The immediate former Minister of Solid Minerals and former governor is intent on winning the election and snatching the state from the hands of the PDP.
- Experience: Fayemi is no more the green politician he was eight years ago when the people saw him more as an academist/technocrat. He has gained considerable experience since then and has become a shrewd politician, as seen in the role he played in the emergence of Rotimi Akeredolu as Ondo State Governor in 2016. As a former minister, he is expected to have also amassed more resources than he had eight years ago.
- Federal Backing: Fayemi has heavy support coming from the president and other machineries of the APC. This alone in itself is a very great advantage. It offers a lot of resources at his disposal and also gives him a lot of protection. It is also possible that supporters of his opponent may feel intimidated with the federal might behind him
- South-West integration ideology: The South-West of Nigeria has often voted in a block and usually toe the same line ideologically, except for a few changes. In Obafemi Awolowo’s era they voted mostly for the Action Group(AG) and the UPN in the second republic. In 1999, all 6 South-western states voted for the Alliance for Democracy(AD). This time around, Ekiti peThe ople may just be willing to align with their Yoruba brothers.
- Loss of support for the APC government: The APC government at the centre rode into power chanting the mantra of change. Three years after, people have not experienced the significant positive change they hoped for. This considerable loss of support for the government in the centre may affect Fayemi’s fortunes. Also, the governance in neighbouring Ondo State, where the APC has recently been enthroned, has been lacklustre. Ekiti people may just decide to pitch their tent with the party they already know.
- Change in perception: Fayemi’s experience in politics may just eventually work against him. People don’t see him as the innocent newbie to politics anymore. Ekiti people now see him as any other politician who has been tainted with wealth and power.
- Tinubu factor: The role played by Fayemi in Ondo State where he worked against the candidate of the de facto godfather of South-Western politics, Bola Tinubu cannot be forgotten in a hurry. This may lead to lack of support from the godfather, who influences a large section of the Yoruba APC leadership.
- Process of emergence: Fayemi’s emergence as the APC candidate was fraught with controversies as other candidates protested bitterly that Fayemi has been unduly influenced by the higher powers in the party. Many of the disgruntled elements may be reluctant to support his campaign or even work secretly to scuttle his ambition.
Prof Kolapo Olushola
Ekiti State Deputy Governor, Prof Kolapo Olusola is fairly new in the game compared to Fayemi or Fayose. Until his election as Deputy Governor of Ekiti State, Olusola was a lecturer in the Department of Building, Obafemi Awolowo University for twenty-four (24) years.
- Godfather factor: Kolapo Olusola has the backing of the most powerful politician in Ekiti State presently, Ayo Fayose. In fact, many see the race as being really between Fayemi and Fayose, who is only being represented by the professor. Ayodele Fayose has emerged one of the most vocal critics of the APC and one of the most powerful PDP politicians in the country.
- Incumbency: Kolapo Olusola represents the reigning party in the state. The PDP is at the peak of its power in Ekiti State, sweeping all the local governments and having an overwhelming majority in the state’s House of Assembly. Kolapo Olusola’s opponent will be working to unseat an already established party in the state, which is difficult.
- Perception as an intellectual: Ekiti people have always been fascinated by professors. One of the reasons they voted for Fayemi in 2007 was because he was an intellectual. With his background in the academia, Olusola seems to be different from the main crop of politicians.
- Home base: Kolapo Olusola is from Ikere, the second largest city and local government in Ekiti State. With Olusola grabbing the large numbers in his base, Ikere, Fayemi will need to win Ado, the largest city or make up for it with more local governments.
- Lack of experience: Although backed by an astute, populist godfather, Kolapo Olusola is still largely inexperienced in running for elections. It appears that his first public office is his position as the deputy governor.
- Hostile neighbouring states: Ekiti State is surrounded by states ruled by the APC. All the other South-Western states are with the APC and the governors in those states will likely marshal resources to support Olusola’s opponent so that APC can grab the state afterall.
- Fayose’s utterances: Although largely considered a smart politician, Olusola’s godfather, Ayodele Fayose has the tendency to make volatile statements. Fayose may make some statements that will spark violence, leading to a high-handed Federal Government response. It has happened before, during Fayose’s first term and Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure as president when a state of emergency was declared on Ekiti and Fayose was stripped of his powers.
The race is a close one, but in the end, it will all come down to geography and clan affiliations. Fayose is from Afao Ekiti in the Central Senatorial district while Fayemi is from Oye Ekiti in the Northern Senatorial district. Both Fayemi and Olusola are expected to win their Senatorial districts. Meanwhile, Kolapo is expected to garner large votes from his stronghold; Ikere Ekiti. The Central Senatorial district will determine the result. With Fayose firmly entrenched in the Capital, Ado Ekiti as Governor, it will be difficult to defeat PDP there, plus Fayose’s village is not far from the capital city. It is more likely to go to PDP, except for some unexpected events.