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Ekiti State is upbeat politically – and expectedly so! Everyone knew it was a time bomb bound to explode. Now it has happened, I am not in the least surprised. My surprise would have been if it did not happen. When elections are near, friends become enemies; old alliances crumble and new ones are formed. Promises are broken and new courses are charted. Early favourites and front-runners have their hopes dashed and end up losers. Most times, the unexpected happens and dark horses steal the show. Naturally, recriminations, accusations, and counter-accusations rent the air. That is what is happening in Ekiti right now. It promises to be a helluva of a battle between Gov. Peter Ayodele Fayose and his loyalists on the one hand and the coterie of political opponents dissatisfied with his choice of a successor on the other. Interesting times are here!
What had been the subject of subterranean political moves and animated topic of discussion in hushed tones for months blew into the open last week when Fayose’s political machine announced the deputy governor, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, as its candidate for next year’s governorship election. Before then, erstwhile political associates of Fayose who had seen the handwriting on the wall (that the governor was not favourably disposed to their candidature) had picked the gauntlet and fired broadsides; for example the senator representing Ekiti south, Abiodun Olujimi. Olujimi reportedly owed a lot of her political ascendancy, her present post inclusive, to Fayose’s support; watchers of the Ekiti political scene however posit that Fayose had always been wary of the senator; especially since “the role of Judas” she played in the impeachment saga that cut short Fayose’s first tenure in 2006. While she was not alone in the series of betrayals, Olujimi’s stab was likened by analysts to Brutus’ “the unkindest cut of all”. So, she was asking for too much or carrying her luck too far eyeing Fayose’s endorsement. Before Olusola was picked, the war of proxies between Fayose and Olujimi had commenced. Fayose revealing his hand has upped the ante to “yellow”; hovering dangerously near the “red” alert.
Prince Dayo Adeyeye is another PDP leader in Ekiti who has reacted speedily, sharply, and angrily to Olusola’s choice. Adeyeye not only rejected the choice, he also immediately resigned his appointment as Chairman of the Governing Council of the Ekiti State University. He was promptly replaced with Debo Adeshina (SAN). The battle, it would appear, is irrevocably joined. Will this be an encore of the war for the PDP governorship ticket in 2014, which Fayose and Adeyeye took to the wires? In the end, Fayose got the ticket while Adeyeye settled for Ekiti’s ministerial slot. Unfortunately, Adeyeye was Minister of State for Works for only a few months as PDP lost the 2015 presidential election. I am not in a position to measure Adeyeye’s popularity amongst the Ekiti electorate; nonetheless, one may imagine that the equation between him and Fayose might have changed significantly since 2014. Fayose today is governor with all the privileges and advantages of incumbency. Fayose is also an institution within the PDP itself. Uprooting or undermining him within the PDP of today will be a Herculean task for his opponents in Ekiti – except they are considering an alternative platform.
Fayose is the major factor attracting attention right now but I will counsel the political gladiators to also look in the direction of the anointed. Prof. Kolapo Olusola must not be treated as inconsequential or a nincompoop. Goliath disdained David and paid dearly for it. Olusola, I dare to say, may be Ekiti’s political David of our time ready to make a mince meat of the political Goliaths who may take him for granted. Factor him into your political permutations. Olusola, from Ikere in Ekiti south, which is clamouring that it is its turn to produce the governor, is a man of destiny. How he became deputy governor was a miracle; and if he succeeds Fayose, it would be another miracle. Fayose never tired to say openly: “I told my deputy quite unequivocally he will not succeed me; that we are going together.” Not that Fayose loathed his deputy; in fact, at every turn, he has praised him to high heavens for his unalloyed loyalty and dedication to duty. But he had also always explained that after his unpleasant experiences with deputies, he feared for the war of succession and wanted to insulate his deputy from it at all cost. It is ironic that it is the same deputy that is now two steps away from succeeding Fayose. Olusola, I repeat, is a child of destiny. Left to Fayose, he might not have picked Olusola – and he did not hide it. He had other preferred candidate(s) and never tired saying so openly – but always with a caveat: That he would seek the face of God to pick a successor. Olusola, I suspect, is that “face” of God. With the exception of Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), and now Fayose, no other governor has picked his deputy to succeed him. Godfather and godson relationships are often very tricky, especially where both are politicians; our political landscape is littered with the carcasses of such misadventures. Where the anointed godson is more of a bureaucrat/professional, as in the Lagos model and now Ekiti, the chances of success appear higher.
Prof. Kolapo Olusola is not ordinary. I make bold to say also that his becoming a full professor a couple of weeks ago in an institution of repute like the Obafemi Awolowo University was not happenstance; it was also a miracle. Scripturally speaking, Olusola is having all the lines falling in pleasant places for him. This is a man to watch out for. Those eyeing what Providence appears to have dropped on his lap on a platter should take heart. Those knocking heads with him should take heed. Nevertheless, the coast is not clear yet since there will still be primaries. Olusola at the moment is just an aspirant; other aspirants will be at liberty to slug it out with him when the time comes. My only demand: Let the primaries be transparent; let it be free and fair; and let there be level playing ground for all contenders. Then, let all the political gladiators eschew do-or-die and fight-to-finish. Let them all see and appreciate the larger picture, which is the interest of the party – retaining Ekiti in the PDP fold and winning at the Centre in 2019. Ekiti is too small to adequately accommodate all the office-seekers; the Centre, if PDP wins the presidential election in 2019, offers a vista of opportunities. They should all work assiduously towards this goal. Should they not; should they fight to scatter, they should be reminded of what happened in 1992 to Agbalajobi and Sarumi (both of SDP), who fought and scattered in Lagos, thereby allowing Michael Otedola (NRC) to stealthily steal in and cart away the coveted prize.
…And they left Ladoja in tatters!
Penultimate Sunday when I wrote on the fight between Gov. Isiaka Ajimobi of Oyo State and the Olubadan of Ibadan over what I described as the former’s controversial restructuring of the traditional setting in Ibadan, leading to the elevation and coronation of “warrant’ Obas, I predicted that going by the way the battle was joined, not only would hostages be taken but that there also would be casualties. True to prediction, the first casualty has emerged – and he is no less a person than the Osi Olubadan and former governor of the state, Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja. Ladoja is one of the staunchest supporters of the Olubadan in his rejection of Ajimobi’s restructuring. The Olubadan has repeatedly, in caustic tongue, derided the restructuring as an attempt to ridicule the Ibadan traditional institution. Niyi Akintola (SAN) however disagrees. The legal luminary, who prides himself as the sixth generation of the famous Ibadan leader of yore, Ibikunle, is one of the avid readers of this column. It has always been a delight rubbing minds with him. A moving encyclopaedia on Ibadan, nay, Oyo history, Akintola not only posits that Ajimobi’s tinkering with the Ibadan traditional institution elevates it, he also regrets that the Olubadan threw away a golden opportunity to crown the lesser Ibadan Obas when he boycotted the ceremony. I have promised to visit Ibadan one of these days and sit down with him to discuss.
The contention over Ajimobi’s restructuring of the Olubadan chieftaincy has become “rofo-rofo” between governor and former governor. Ajimobi, who appears to stylishly avoid a head-on collision with the Olubadan, has frontally taken the fight to Ladoja. If Ladoja felt he could eat his cake and have it, he was mistaken. If he thought he alone could talk tough or fight dirty, he missed the mark. Ajimobi hit Ladoja where, possibly, the ex-governor least expected. Truly, I couldn’t see the connection between a free land given to Ladoja by Ajimobi and the disagreement over Ajimobi’s action on the Ibadan chieftaincy but, as they say, in war, all is fair. And those who live in glass houses must not throw stones. In legal terms, he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. There is nothing wrong per se in Ladoja asking to have the plot of land that has now become an albatross around his neck. His reasons for wanting to take over the land were perfect. It can also be inferred he would have paid for the land were he asked to. Ajimobi did what was noble when he acceded to Ladoja’s request to have the land in question. He also did nothing illegal by asking that the land be given to Ladoja ex gratis, even though it would have been more appropriate to let government earn money on it since the former governor can afford to pay. This could be symptomatic of how government largesse is dispensed in favour of the privileged few. Ladoja could and should have insisted on paying for that land; otherwise, he should have refused to have it. “Awoof”, as they say, “get bone” Ladoja should read the Bible and learn how Abraham, when he was offered a piece of land for free to bury his wife Sarah, insisted on buying the land and did buy it. But having got the land free of charge, as the documents published by the Oyo State Government unequivocally show, Ladoja should not have given a different impression. Owning up that he got the land free took nothing away from him; neither did it abridge his right to disagree with or fight Ajimobi on principle.