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Gov. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State

Ekiti, Osun elections: Defining the politics of 2019 By Bolanle Bolawole


Gov. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State
Gov. Aregbesola
Senator Iyiola Omisore

The looming governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun states, whose party primaries are already in full swing in Ekiti but gathering momentum in Osun, promise to re-define not only South-West politics but the 2019 General Elections. So, the elections are dress rehearsals for 2019 and its outcome will foretell the shape of things to come. It is in this regard that political actors at State and national levels cannot afford to handle the elections with kid gloves. Already, old friendships are being put to the sword, as they say, and new alliances and dalliances are emerging by the day. Dusts raised in the frenzy of the moment will take some time to settle as the pervading state of flux may subsist well into election D-Day. So, what “is” today may eventually not be; what appears may disappear; what seems impracticable may soon be celebrated; and what is discarded as impossible may yet carry the day. Such is the unpredictable nature of politics not only here but universally; otherwise, how come Donald Trump became president of the United States? And who ever thought David Cameron could lose the Brexit vote in Britain?

It is in this light that the propositions and analyses of my brother, Lanre Adewole (“Gibbers”, Sunday Tribune of April 22, 2018 at page 29) make interesting as well as intriguing reading. Titled “For Omisore, Fayose, and Aregbesola”, the import of Lanre’s write-up is that old friends are turning new foes and politicians hitherto with “irreconcilable differences”, as it were, are warming up to one another. Politicians chasing office are shuffling cards and platforms are changing as carpets are being crossed. With many and for many, things are falling apart and the centre can no longer hold. Over the coming Ekiti and Osun elections, friends (not girls this time, apologies to Chinua Achebe) are at war. And the war is already getting as messy as wars can be. In no time, casualties will be strewn across the political landscape. My sympathy goes to associates of former friends now turned foes for they will be called upon to take sides. Tried as Lanre did to tip-toe around vexed issues, I doubt if he would still not get knocks from the politicians he mentioned in his write-up – or that I myself will escape with this effort! Like Lanre, I am familiar with the trio of Omisore, Aregbesola, and Fayose in that order and I know none of them goes by halves but are rigorous, intense, and engaging. Not even an angel can please all three at one and same time, especially now that they may be pulling in different directions.

In my very close relationship with politicians, I have noticed, like Lanre affirmed, that the very first casualty as they pursue their political goal is objectivity and rationality. A man who cannot win his ward boasts he will deliver the whole world. They do this probably to encourage their supporters; to test the waters, to drag issues to elasticity limit; and to get the required attention which, ultimately, ends at the negotiation table where “something” is eventually found to placate the stubborn. It has worked for both Fayose and Aregbesola; why not Omisore? Fayose once said it is the man who says “I will not agree” that arrests attention – like the biblical blind Bartimaeus! But for the stubbornness, obduracy, and never-say-die spirit of Aregbe and Fayose, how would they have become governors and how would Fayose have made a come-back in 2014? That, I suspect, is the thinking of Omisore as he doggedly pursues his governorship ambition in Osun. Is Fayose against Omisore’s ambition? Lanre appears to think so but, interestingly, I dare to say he is not! Fayose’s hands are, however, tied by a number of factors. One: It appears incongruous for him to support rotation in Ekiti where he wants power to shift from Ekiti Central to Ekiti South but fail to support same power rotation from Osun Central, where Aregbe and Omisore hail from, to Osun West, where there is the clamour for it to go to. Two: As chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum and the only PDP governor in the South-west, Fayose is obsessed with continuity in Ekiti and adding to PDP’s fortunes in the zone by winning Osun for PDP. With his truculent advocacy against the Muhammadu Buhari administration, Fayose will give anything to have Buhari offloaded in 2019 – and I believe he has the support of many in this regard, if only on account of the senseless killings by Fulani herdsmen that Buhari only tackles with crocodile tears and meaningless condolence messages. Fayose believes the process of terminating Buhari’s administration begins this year with the Ekiti and Osun elections – and in this he is damn right. Therefore, he wants whoever can win the Ekiti and Osun elections for PDP to come forward. If, in Ekiti, he perished his own personal wishes and desires (apologies, Obasanjo) to anoint his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, he will not only do no less in Osun to sacrifice his friend and associate, Omisore, in the larger interest of PDP and the nation at large but expects Omisore to also make no less a sacrifice. Of course, Omisore will have none of this. Did the same Fayose not work against zoning to return as governor? Did he not twice scale monumental hurdles to become governor? What gives Fayose the impression that Omisore can do no less? Unfortunately, Fayose seems not to believe Omisore can pull the nut out of the fire at this point in time. So, he would have preferred Omisore going to the Senate, nominating the deputy; anything, so that Osun West can have the governorship slot and brighten PDP’s chances of winning the September 22 governorship election in Osun. Good reasoning but Omisore’s buy-in has proved difficult to get. Fayose admitted he was lucky to have “escaped” zoning in Ekiti to return as governor in 2014; will Omisore be as lucky to escape the clamour for zoning by Osun west? And which is the easier mountain to climb: Losing Omisore and his supporters or rallying an unwilling Osun PDP leadership behind him? This, again, is in the nature of politics.

I was on Omisore’s side in the 2014 election against Aregbe and maintained my anti-Aregbe stance thereafter, principally on account of my friendship with Omisore as well as Aregbe’s dangerous hijab politics. Thank God we nipped the needless Osun religious controversy in the bud! Who knows, maybe the South-west would have been the Middle Belt of today! It was on account of this that Aregbe got across to me and we struck a friendship, which remains cat-and-dog to this day. In the same 2014 election I was on the side of Kayode Fayemi and remained so after the election, prompting Fayose to call me on the phone in late 2016 and we have struck a relationship that, today, gives me a better appreciation of the enfant terrible – his sterling qualities, warts, and all. Readers of this column would remember I counselled Fayemi to work to return as governor of Ekiti but with a proviso – that he should use his tenure as Minister to worm his way into the hearts of Ekiti people by identifying and developing mineral resources in the South-west in general and Ekiti in particular. Did  he do that? What did Ekiti benefit from Fayemi’s ministerial appointment? Another question Fayemi will also have to answer is that posed by my comrade, Femi Falana, SAN: What Fayemi did with the bond money he took. Where is the Oja-Oba or funds for the market he pledged to build? And why did he not appear before the commission of enquiry set up by Fayose when it was Fayemi himself that enacted the law? Fayemi is up against over 40 other aspirants for the APC ticket, chief of who are another ex-governor, Segun Oni; ex-Senator, now Presidential Adviser and hard-fighter, Babafemi Ojudu; and my comrade, Opeyemi Bamidele. According to reports, Fayemi has the backing of the presidency, the cabals, APC governors, Ministers, and very deep pockets while Segun Oni has much of the APC structure in Ekiti and the Tinubu faction behind him. While Fayemi’s tenure as governor leaves a sour taste in the mouth, especially with the revelations that came to the fore after his exit, Segun Oni is seen as uninspiring and clueless. I met him once when my friend, Segun Ilori, was his Commissioner for Special Duties (after having been Chief of Staff) and he was a nice fellow – one on one – but not cut out for governance. Easily tossed here and there, I heard.

I respectfully submit that the best choice for governor at this point in time is the one Fayose has made in his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka. I say this with all sense of humility and with due respect to my friends Dayo Adeyeye and Owoseni Ajayi, who could have been but were passed over. I dare to say that delay is not denial. I have said it before and it bears repeating here that Kolapo Olusola Eleka is a child of destiny. From the way he emerged as deputy governor to how Fayose picked him as successor, only God could have ordered it. Fayose left no one in doubt that he had someone else in mind but once he heard from God, he changed course. If you think he did not hear from God, ask God! I will find time to extol the qualities of Kolapo Olusola Eleka in another write-up. Those holding the short end of the stick may treat as scum what motivates Fayose in the choices he has made in Ekiti as well as in Osun. That is the way of politicians. When Biodun Olujimi suddenly emerged deputy governor during Fayose’s first term, torpedoing the favourite for the job, it was game for her but betrayal for the loser. But Fayose, from reports, had no choice. His hands, as it were and quoting Justice Sowemimo, were tied. I wish Adeyeye and Owoseni –even Olujimi – will accept the hand Fate has dealt them – cruel as it may seem today – and believe with me that the sunshine face of Fate will shine on them sooner than later. It is not too late, therefore, for all the sides to mend fences, with Fayose playing the role of the leader Fate entrusts him with at this point in time. Omisore and Fayose should also sit down and painstakingly sort things out. The tit-for-tat that Lanre hinted at must be seen for the ill-wind that it is and be avoided if both men are not to lick wounds after the coming elections. Indeed, the trio of Fayose, Omisore, and Aregbe will be needed on the same side of history in the 2019 titanic war to liberate this country from the stranglehold of killer-herdsmen and their sponsors, collaborators, defenders, and protectors.

To conclude, permit me to share some of my findings on Nigerian politics. It is said that in politics, there are no permanent friends but permanent interests. I dare to say that in Nigerian politics, there are no permanent interests as well; interests fluctuate with circumstances, times, and seasons. Agreements are difficult to keep in the topsy-turvy landscape of Nigerian politics; thus, what appears as betrayals and treacheries are commonplace. Decisions arrived at this moment are radically altered the next, ad infinitum. Doggedness, perseverance, and persistence have a place as well as their just reward in Nigerian politics. Strike the iron when it is hot as opportunity once lost may never be regained. Finally, God still rules in the affairs of men. He gives power to who He pleases.

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