Air of uncertainty pervades the Ekiti state chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP), as the rumour mill is agog about moves by President Goodluck Jonathan to subtly endorse one of the candidates for the forthcoming gubernatorial election. The alleged plan has thrown the camps of some of the aspirants into confusion as they envisaged they may not have an open field to contest the party's ticket. Party faithful in the state are in doubt of what to expect from Jonathan as the election draws close. Ayodele Samuel writes.
These are not best of times for the embattled members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State. The party is faced with political squabbles capable of denying it victory at the governorship electing coming up in less than four months. Ability to put the already divided house of the party in order will go a long way to smoothening electoral success. But, that much may be a tall dream considering the level of attrition within the fold.
Barely four months to the governorship election, the party is bedeviled with various grandstanding aspirants leading different factions and it is doubtful that whoever gets the party's ticket would enjoy the support of others.
With many factions supporting its preferred aspirants, PDP in the state still remains un-united in choosing a credible candidate to challenge the incumbent governor, Kayode Fayemi, of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
However the state Executive Council of the party had allegedly commenced move to act on President Goodluck Jonathan's order on consensus arrangement.
Already, the seeming lull in the political activities in the PDP has changed with aspirants planning strategies to curry the party's favour. Though President Jonathan recently at a meeting with some governorship aspirants on the PDP platform announced that he does not have a preferred candidate, as he assured the aspirants of a level playing field, aspirants are still in delusion of who emerged the candidate of the party.
It was learnt that the meeting with the President was brokered by a chieftain of the party from the South-West, following reports that Jonathan had secretly met some aspirants from the state.
Aspirants at the meeting included Prince Dayo Adeyeye, Mr Ayo Fayose, Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade (rtd), Chief Bisi Omoyeni, Architect Abiodun Aluko, Femi Bamisile, Bimbo Owolabi, Senator Gbenga Aluko, Yinka Akerele and Senator Bode Olowoporoku alongside notable party elders from the state.
Olubolade, who confirmed the meeting said "what the President said was that he has not endorsed anybody, and that means every aspirant can become the governor. That is good for democracy. What we need to do is to take it in good faith and learn the lesson he has offered and use it not to address the mistake of the past so that the election will be free and fair under a peaceful atmosphere."
He noted that Jonathan's decision to be neutral in the gubernatorial race was a good omen for democracy.
In spite of the fact that President Jonathan had laid to rest speculation about his much-touted anointment of candidate, many aspirants still go about telling those who care to listen that their ambitions had received the blessing of Aso Villa.
There has been mutual suspicion among supporters of various aspirants as some alleged that the leadership of the party was out for mischief in the process. While members of the party believed presidency might be rooting for former governor, Ayo Fayose, Afenifere Chieftain , Dayo Adeyeye or Senator Gbenga Aluko to fly the PDP ticket, Jonathan was said to have advised Olubolade not to contest the primary.
The crisis of who emerges the party's candidate has continued to spread discord among stakeholders in the party who are calling for a transparent primary election. Analysts believed that what played out during 2012 Ondo guber election, where Jonathan secretly supported and worked for Labour Party's candidate might replay itself.
A source within the state PDP said " the Obasanjo letter exposed that our candidate in Ondo state was not well supported by President Jonathan in 2012, same might happen here again because PDP in Ekiti is not organized. Everybody wants to become the candidate without winning primary election.
"We are also at a disadvantage position because the Presidency does not believe we can deliver the South West by 2015 and he is seeing Labour party of Mimiko as a better alternative. Many of our leaders in the region are doing LP, Former Ogun state governor is now in LP and this would affect our chances of reclaiming the region from APC in the next general election."
Political watchers in the state believe that neighboring Ondo State governor, Olusegun Mimiko, has perfected Presidency supports for Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele (MOB), a member of the House of Representatives and close ally of APC National Leader, former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Mimiko is said to be backing Bamidele on the instruction of Jonathan who is not comfortable with the rising profile of All Progressives Congress (APC) and believed clinching Ekiti would reduced its influence ahead of 2015 general poll .
The President was said to have ordered Mimiko to ensure Bamidele emerges the candidate of the LP for the poll to cause an anticipated acrimony among members and supporters of the APC .
A source informed our correspondent that Mimiko and Bamidele had secretly met President Jonathan several times last year to strategize on how to send Governor Fayemi packing by October.
Also, Bamidele is said to have the support of Chief Segun Oni, a former Governor and former National Deputy Chairman, South West, of the PDP. Oni, according to sources had earlier persuaded Bamidele to join the PDP fold to realize his ambition before joining the LP.
Oni has also concluded plans to release his political machinery for Bamidele to oust Kayode Feyemi. The former Ekiti governor, who is caught in the web of crisis rocking the party at the national level which took away his seat as Deputy national chairman in the south west might not support any PDP candidate if his interest is not protected.
Bamidele's chance of giving the APC a tough run at the poll remains high, having built a political structure at the grassroot from his days as political office holder in Lagos and as a leader of the Ekiti state caucus because joining the LP.
However National Patron of the PDP National Youth Vanguard and Chieftain of the party in the state, Ambassador Gbenga Olofin, believed there were no such plans insisting that the candidate of his party would only emerge from a transparent primary election and would be well supported.
Olofin assured party members that no plan of imposition on the party from any quarters.
"The president is neutral. He is a democrat to the core and I can assure you that he won't impose anyone on Ekiti people as the PDP candidate.
"The candidate will emerge through a transparent primary election. It won't be by imposition or by somebody just coming in to tell people lies that he has been adopted as the candidate of Mr President. I can say it categorically that claim that one particular aspirant has been adopted by the President is a blatant lie.
"I can also tell you boldly that Mr President wants to work with us and make sure that the PDP wins in Ekiti State because he knows that Ekiti is for PDP and PDP is the party to beat in the coming governorship election."
"The kind of candidate that the PDP will present will be someone with integrity. The PDP won't field anyone with dented image. Our candidate won't be somebody that is facing EFCC corruption case. And let me also say it with all modesty that the President is looking for a PDP candidate that is not stained in terms of name, integrity, antecedents and character."
Contrary to these, PDP State Secretary, Dr Tope Aluko, in statement alleged that the party's chairman, Makanjuola Ogundipe, had commenced moves capable of throwing the party into another round of needless crises in the state.
Specifically, Aluko alleged that the PDP Chairman had secretly compiled an unauthorised 15-man Consensus Template Drafting Committee without the knowledge of members of the State Working Committee. Also, a chieftain of the PDP, Mr Gboyega Akinola, warned that anything short of transparent process in picking candidates would spell doom for the party.
Akinola, a former state chairman of the PDP, urged the party not to waste its chance in the 2014. "The problems in Ekiti arose from political insincerity, because right from 1999, there was an unwritten constitution among Ekiti leaders on zoning. It is obvious that the existing parties like All Progressive Congress (APC) and Labour Party (LP) would pick their candidates from North and Central respectively. The PDP ought to have known that if it wants to win the next 2014 governorship election, it must pick somebody from the South," he said.
But the PDP Chairman , Ogundipe, denied the allegation, saying; "The issue of governorship does not fall within the purview of the State Working Committee (SWC) and only the National Working Committee (NWC) can act on it. I want to confirm to you that I have not compiled any list or sent any to Abuja." He hinted that the state officials would meet with all aspirants after meeting this week with a view to commencing the process of choosing a candidate.