by Dare Lawal
The reason why Ekiti state will have its governorship election on June 21, three years later than the rest of the nation and almost one full year before most other states will do, is because a man called Segun Oni, a former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governor of the state, rigged the elections in 2007 and did everything possible to ensure he remains in office.
Oni’s rigging led to one of the most protracted election petition fights in our democratic history, and ultimately one of the most stunning victories in the court for the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi, who successfully proved that he was the rightful winner of the contentious poll.
While they and their supporters fought in the courts, the media and on the streets, the two men, Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi, were sworn enemies. One name which could never have been associated with Oni at the time was “progressive”. The APC and Kayode Fayemi tendered thousands of documents, photos, forensics and even special witnesses like a man who lost his leg during the poll and came to court with the rotten amputated legs, just to show that Oni was anti-progress.
However, all that is set to be history now, as Oni and Fayemi have now joined the same camp, following the defection of Oni to the APC and his endorsement of Fayemi for a second term yesterday.
Oni, who was a deputy national chairman of the PDP before his ouster last year was full of praise for Fayemi when the governor visited him in his Ifaki Ekiti residence on Monday before the campaign rally held in the town.
The Ekiti election comes up next month, and in a speech before supporters of the two men, Oni said: “We must ask ourselves who is in a better position to give Ekiti a better future, the kind of future that we want. This is why we are doing this. If you are an Ekiti person, ask yourself who is in a better position to bequeath to your children a better future.
“Tomorrow is greater than today and yesterday. Let us look at our future. I am not talking perfection. I know God is the only one who is perfect. We must not focus on personal interests. Let us think about the future of our children. Tomorrow has started today.
“The Almighty God will grant you honour beyond your projection. This venture will succeed. Your tenure will be a huge success.”
In response, Gov. Fayemi, who has never lacked choice words to describe Oni was suddenly describing his predecessor in superlatives. “My egbon,” he said, “has demonstrated today is that he is a true leader. The ruling party is still in government. He could make demands, but for him, he has demonstrated that he is a man of honour from the Land of Honour, and I know that God will always bless his ways. He has followed his conscience. He has followed his conviction. He has demonstrated that character is important to our values system. We have done everything to follow in those footsteps as Ekiti sons and daughters.
“His Excellency, Segun Oni has led the way. He has lit the candle. The rest of us who are his followers owe it a duty to start lighting the candle in all the 16 local governments in the state.”
The governor urged APC members not to regard the hitherto PDP members who defected alongside Segun Oni as new members, but as equal members of a big family.
“This family is not APC or the new PDP. This party is called Ekiti Progress,” said Fayemi.
Governor Fayemi was accompanied by his deputy, Professor Dupe Adelabu, and his wife, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, among several supporters.
Some of those who joined Oni to receive Governor Fayemi at the former governor’s residence in Ifaki-Ekiti were a former Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Taiwo Olatunbosun, Former Commissioner Kayode Babade, former members of Ekiti House of Assembly, Lai Oke, Femi Adeleye, commissioners in the Oni administration, Abiodun Bamiteko, Mrs. Iyabo Babatunde, former Special Adviser,Policy and Strategy, Mr. Ben Oguntuase, Mrs. Motunde Dayo-Fajuyi, amongst others.