By Bayo Adeyinka
On October 26, 2010, Ayo Fayose led a team of ‘okada riders’ to Ekiti State Government House in jubilation the moment the Court of Appeal gave judgment in favour of Kayode Fayemi, leading to the ouster of the former Governor Segun Oni. It did not matter that both Fayose and Oni belonged to the same PDP then.
A few days ago, it was pay back time as Segun Oni dumped the PDP and cross-carpeted to the APC. He has also started campaigning openly for the re-election of Kayode Fayemi.
Almost at the same time, Taiwo Olatunbosun, former Speaker of Ekiti State House of Assembly and Ayo Fayose’s personal aide also dumped the PDP for APC. Do these two similar events signal a desperation on the part of the political players or is it a show of strength between the two major combatants (pardon the use of language but in Ekiti election is assumed to be a war), Ayo Fayose and incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi?
Can John Kayode Fayemi break the jinx and get re-elected next month? Can Ayodele Fayose defeat the incumbent like he boasted?
At a campaign rally in Ifaki Ekiti on May 8, 2014, he said, “Defeating Fayemi will be very simple. I defeated, conquered and subdued Adebayo, who was Fayemi’s godfather in 2003. Defeating Fayemi who is his godson will be simple. God has given me the power to defeat incumbent governors.”
How far can Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, the Labour Party candidate go? Is he the dark horse that may upturn the proverbial apple cart? Just a few months ago, it seemed almost certain that JFK would coast home for victory with Lilliputians like Dayo Adeyeye, Ayo Arise and Caleb Olubolade in the race. Only MOB who broke ranks rattled JFK a bit – at least until Fayose entered the race.
If performance in office were to be the sole determinant of winning elections in Ekiti State, one dare say that JFK seems to have acquitted himself well. The news about the revamped Ikogosi Warm Spring Tourist Centre is all over the place while it is no longer a matter of conjecture that Ekiti State has one of the best road networks in the country. The Social Security Scheme put in place for about 25,000 senior citizens by which they are paid N5,000 monthly is also commendable. This is among other notable achievements. But will the next election be based purely on performance? Will Ayo Fayose be an easy pushover? I do not think so.
Firstly, elections in this clime are not based purely on performance. You must get your politics right and the APC Government in Ekiti State could have done better. It is much better having Ayo Fayose on your side than having him stand as a candidate against you. Fayose’s initial support for Fayemi was very evident at the inception of Fayemi’s tenure. A major point of departure however was when Ayo Fayose alleged that there was a pact between him and Fayemi to which Fayemi denied. But then, with the benefit of hindsight, would it not have been better if the APC Government had managed the situation better by accommodating Fayose – even if it meant ceding a Senatorial position to him? Was there no way Opeyemi Bamidele’s grievances could have been accommodated – instead of allowing him to defect to LP?
Secondly, all is fair in battle especially the use of propaganda. Ayo Fayose is a grandmaster of propaganda. He is street smart while Kayode Fayemi is book smart. When he needed to get PDP’s attention, he printed posters saying “Fayose supports Fayemi”. He speaks the language of the people and connects with them. He is an entertainer and very spontaneous. His ability to throw jabs and fight dirty is legendary. He is already deploying his propaganda machinery to query the use of funds borrowed through the capital market in financing the State Pavilion. He is making a mole hill of the cracks at the Funmi Olayinka Cancer Diagnostic Centre. He is making a fuss about political godfatherism and is challenging people to revolt against APC because of Bola Tinubu’s influence. In one of his rallies, he promised not to bring any ‘foreign’ contractor to execute any contract in Ekiti- apparently referring to Hitech Engineering and CCECC. If Fayose could defeat Caleb Olubolade, a former Minister who supposedly had the backing of Aso Rock for the party’s ticket, then Fayemi has every cause to worry. If he defeated an incumbent (Niyi Adebayo) a few years ago, maybe he has the template for defeating another incumbent.
Thirdly, the influence of the current First Lady Erelu Bisi Fayemi and the would-be First Lady Feyisetan Fayose will be a major yet subtle determinant on the race to Ekiti State House. Majority opinion has it that the current First Lady is overbearing and there have been whispers that she usurps the Office of the Deputy Governor. In one of the op-ed recently written by Pius Adesanmi, he noted how he saw several buildings and institutions either named after the Governor or his wife. It was either ‘Erelu Bisi Fayemi’ this or that. Fayose’s wife is hardly seen, even when she was the First Lady. There is obviously poor communication as Erelu Bisi Fayemi’s well-intentioned programmes for women are often seen as elitist by the target audience who are usually not very literate.
Fourthly, there are certain unresolved issues which may turn the tide of the election. For example, the deployment of the well-resisted Teachers Development Needs Assessment, a form of test for teachers in the state still remain a contentious issue. Though set in abeyance for now, the mood is that once Fayemi gets his second term he will insist on the test. Another is the rumored plan to ban okada in the state. As at the time of this article, April salaries are yet to be paid to the civil servants in the State. The intention behind the move to establish an Institute of Medical Technology at Ifaki- Ekiti after scrapping the University of Science and Technology, Ifaki-Ekiti is also being queried.
For Fayose, though currently out-shining Fayemi in the use of propaganda, it seems he may have to do something extra to curry the favour of most of the monarchs in Ekiti State and the elite. The other side of the coin is that some of the elite, though opinion moulders in their own right, are usually nowhere to be found on Election Day. One would have also expected Fayemi to dwell on the corruption cases being faced by Ayo Fayose in order to query the character of his opponent. While Fayose is busy punching away at Fayemi with all manner of allegations (some so outlandish and unfounded), Fayemi keeps reacting by issuing press statements. I personally feel that for Fayemi to clearly win this election, he has to revisit his strategies and probably reinvigorate his campaign machinery. His campaign team is very active on social media while Fayose keeps mopping up the grassroots.
Opeyemi Bamidele’s case is like the proverbial leper who is unable to produce milk but can render milk useless by putting his leprous hand in it. It is expected that he will divide APC votes but the fact that he hails from the same Ekiti Central Senatorial District like Ayo Fayose makes it more interesting. However, I’m not certain he will make a very decent showing.
My verdict on the June 21 Guber Election: too close to call between Fayemi and Fayose.