The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State will on Tuesday pick its candidate for the July 14 governorship election in an exercise that would be closely watched.
It is expected to be a straight fight between the deputy governor, Kolapo Olusola, the “chosen one” of Governor Ayo Fayose, and a former Minister of Works, Dayo Adeyeye.
The Senate’s Deputy Minority Whip, Biodun Olujimi, is also in the race for the ticket. She has doggedly followed closely in pursuit of her aspirations, but may be slowed down by the hostility that is waiting to erupt between the supporters of Mr Adeyeye and those of the governor, who is his arch rival.
Both blocs are taking the election passionately; each has boasted of having the delegates behind it. There is no going back on all the threats made from both sides. It has been a campaign reaching the point of strain. It is a make or mar, but will the house remain standing after the storm?
If things go wrong at the Eagles Centre, venue of the PDP primaries on Tuesday, Mr Fayose would have himself to chastise for igniting a needless contention. His decision to endorse his deputy as the “sole candidate” at the very beginning drew the indelible fault lines. Although he changed the tag of “sole candidate” to “preferred aspirant,” the backtracking failed to assuage the roaring of his opponents.
Mr Adeyeye and his co-aspirants refused to be intimidated by the governors “area politics.” Instead, they stood their ground and pushed harder against the governor’s stand. The governor’s overbearing posture was almost going to destroy the party before the primaries, but for the timely intervention of the reconciliation committee led by former president of the Senate, David Mark.
It had been said that the governor had the right to support his candidate, but the aspirants did not trust him in ensuring a level playing field for all of them. Mr Adeyeye had accused the governor of double standards, because he had earlier promised that he would leave the government house along with his deputy, only to change in the end, seeking to “succeed himself” through his deputy.
The governor had said he had no apologies for supporting his deputy, and that his support did not preclude other aspirants from pursuing their dreams of becoming the governor of the state. The manner the governor went about it was viewed by his opponents as creating an opposition within the same party.
Several truce reached between Messrs Fayose and Adeyeye broke down almost immediately after the mediators, the David Mark-led reconciliation committee, was near Abuja. There are fears that the PDP would lose the election to the rampaging APC if the party fails to post a rancour free primary election. Even a greater fear is the doom of 2019 which looms over whichever party loses the governorship election on July 14.
The raging desperation to have an upper hand showed up at the ward congresses, with pockets of skirmishes recorded across the state.
The PDP has its destiny hanging on the precipice of Tuesday’s primaries. Given the benefit of APC’s black Saturday, the PDP would do well to tread softly as delegates file out behind their candidates.
The national leadership of the PDP has a peculiar interest in what happens during the primaries. Mr Adeyeye had told PREMIUM TIMES in one of his interviews that the outcome of the Ekiti and Osun primaries would determine the PDP’s fortunes in the 2019 general election. The desire to return to power at the centre, given its current predicament, may inform the compass that the party would use in handling the conduct of its aspirants in the exercise.
Mr Mark has persistently appealed to the governor and other players to calm down and ensure that peace reigns after the primaries for the party to retain a high ground for a resounding victory in July. He held several meetings with the stakeholders and got them to agree that a candidate must emerge in a free and transparent election.
Mr Adeyeye and Mrs Olujimi agreed that provided Mr Fayose allows a transparent process, the candidate who emerges on Tuesday would get their support. Mr Fayose, although confident that his “candidate” would win, also assured members of the party that should Mr Adeyeye get majority of the votes of the delegates, he would get his support for the July 14 election.
There is also the hope that the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa-led organising committee, would be fair enough to provide the modalities that would forestall or curtail an overwhelming advantage by the governor of Ekiti State, even though it is taken that the governor would, as a matter of certainty, wield so much influence to protect his own political interest.
“Adeyeye, Olujimi and others are free to contest. The PDP belongs to all of us . But let me say this , I stand with Prof Olusola, he is my candidate,” said Mr Fayose, in one of his interviews.
“Though I am a leader, but no law says I can’t have preference. The only thing that can’t happen is for me to manipulate the primary.”
Mr Adeyeye’s position seems clear. He believes he has the delegates and would win if Mr Fayose does not manipulate the process.
“Nobody can stop my aspiration. I am qualified by age, education and I have the mental capacity to hold any exalted office in Nigeria,” were his words of confidence.
However, the PDP’s state publicity secretary in Ekiti, Jackson Adebayo, assured that the election would be free and fair, as all arrangements had been made to ensure it was successful.
Ado Ekiti is still drizzling with the tension venting from the failed APC primaries. The PDP’s assurances of readiness will not take the place of real commitment to the unity of the party when the delegates file out at the Eagles Centre. It will take the Okowa-led committee genuine discipline and seriousness to enforce the rules and ensure no one is short-changed in the voting process.