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On Ekiti South Governorship Agenda By Otunba Ben Oguntuase

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The Ekiti governorship election comes up in 2018. There is a lot of agitation from the South Senatorial District that it is now their turn to produce the next governor. This reminds me of similar agitation in 2014. While crossing from PDP to APC then, following Fayose’s bullish emergence as PDP candidate for the 2014 election, I wrote as follows:

There was the clamour for a Southern Senatorial candidacy which I fully endorsed. To recall, following Fayose’s impeachment in 2006, there was a Pan-Ekiti conference in D’Rovans Hotel in Ibadan. The conference was co-chaired by the late Professor Aluko and the Chief Afe Babalola SAN. Professor Akin Oyebode and I were the Rapporteurs at the conference. Attendees would recall an incident involving Chief Mrs. Biodun Olujimi at the conference who I had to help out of the hotel through some underground path.

One of the decisions reached at the conference was that the Governorship candidate of all political parties should come from the North Senatorial District while the Deputy Governorship slot should come specifically from Ado Local Government Area.

For balance, it was agreed that the Speaker of the House of Assembly would then come from the South. After the North might have exhausted its tenure, the Governorship was to move to the South Senatorial District after which zoning as an idea would be jettisoned. It was for this reason that the PDP and the AC candidates both came from the North Senatorial District (Engr. Segun Oni and Dr. Kayode Fayemi) while the two Deputy Governorship candidates came from Ado-Ekiti, Dr. Sikiru Tae Lawal and Late Mrs. Funmilayo Olayinka.

The agitation has now been renewed more virulently. One of the options one could take this time around is to siddon look and allow the agitation in the South for the Ekiti State Governorship slot play itself out.

However, I consider it necessary to make some contributions to this campaign considering our historical, cultural and other factors of recent.

But let me first say that I am one of those who believe that we in Ekiti must learn to engage ourselves in serious debates in a way that is very rational, robust, intellectual, devoid of any presumptions and sanctimonious pretensions. Even though there are clear but unfortunate indications of a drift away from intellectualism in our engagement and discourse in Ekiti, we must never allow this drift to become the new normal of our existence. We must continue to endeavor to promote the values of good education, intellect and sound integrity within the framework of the homogeneity Ekiti is known for.

Having said this, I share some understanding with the Ekiti South Senatorial District on their agitation for the Governorship slot. I supported the campaign in 2014 as indicated in Part I above based on the D’Rovans 2006 agreement. However, the feeling and sentiment is not the same today as it was then in 2014 for reasons I shall now proceed to state as clearly as I can.

In the context of the two dominant parties in Ekiti, only PDP had the moral burden of a shift to the South in 2014. APC was on first term and could legitimately claim and indeed claimed the right to second term. Most progressives within the PDP enthusiastically endorsed South Senatorial candidacy.

However, given the Jonathan-Fayose abracadabra then and the hurried endorsement of that rigged Fayose outcome by the erstwhile candidates from the South, the South lost that claim and the moral argument. Many of us proclaimed then that we have seen the end of zoning of the top post in Ekiti.

Indeed, considering that a South Senatorial person took up the Deputy slot and many South Senatorial people actively collaborated and supported the stabilisation and subsequent emergence of the Fayose governorship, there is no longer any fundamental basis for continuing with this claim. I sincerely believe that privilege is forfeited. But PDP is free to decide its preferences.

As for APC, zoning is not recognized in the party constitution. The general position even at the national level is to throw the No.1 positions – President and Governors – open to all, while positions below them are then zoned to ensure balance in representation and governance. Competence is not held subordinate to any parochial or primordial considerations.

Interestingly, in all parties, aspirants for the top offices have always emerged from all areas without much consideration for zoning. In effect, what is emerging and becoming very clear is that zoning is more of a strategic tool for making a choice within and by the respective parties and not an imposition on all that requires uncritical acquiescence. In truth, the more advanced we become on the human evolution order, the less we will place emphasis on narrow parochial consideration. More emphasis will be on the broad interest and competence as is the case with the USA if we discount the Trumpian error that has just occurred.

The case for Ekiti is even more unique. We are a homogeneous people. Homogeneity is a very important virtue that binds Ekiti people together. It is our unique characteristics and heritage. It should help us move in the direction of broad common interest away from the narrower sectional interest. Even within the Southwest, we do not have the kind of ethnic cleavages prevalent in some states. Ekiti does not have the Ondo/Owo/Akoko type cleavage; nothing like Ibadan/Oyo/Ogbomosho relational nuances; no Egba/Ijebu dichotomy, and so on. This unique attribute of ours must always be allowed to supersede senatorial interest and not be watered down. Ekiti does not need any form of fragmentation into narrow interest that can undermine or erode the benefits of our homogeneity.

As alluded to earlier, there have always been governorship aspirants from the South Senatorial District, from all parties, in all elections. This should continue to be so being in the greater interest of Ekiti as a homogeneous entity that places a lot of premium on competence and intellect.

There is a small observation to be made though. No former governor has had the privilege of second term in Ekiti State. May be that jinx is designed by God to be broken by a governor from Ekiti South Senatorial District when one eventually emerges! Several black folks ran for President of the United States in the past but Barack Obama was the one destined by God to be the first and he successfully served eight years! That jinx breaker from the South Senatorial District will eventually emerge. But we should note that it is God that elevates (wo)men to positions. No matter the opposition, if God says yes, so shall it be. In the same vein, no matter the support, if God says no, so shall it be also!

For me personally, there is another very important reason I am supporting the return of Engr. Segun Oni as Ekiti State governor apart from his very outstanding performance and personal integrity in governance first time around. The reason would likely appear to many as sentimental, but it contains some cold reality. We could wait till judgement day when the truth can finally be revealed. But as human beings, we have been sufficiently endowed to be capable of rational decisions.

There was an unfortunate self-inflicted crisis and a consequent split within the ranks of the elites in Ekiti State. The period of April 2007 to February 2014 was very agonizing and heartbreaking for the elites and progressives in Ekiti State. When Oni switched camp and declared for APC in 2014 following the emergence of Fayose as the PDP flagbearer, a major burden was lifted off the head of the progressives and the elites. Much of the elites were visibly relieved. Oni’s total and very active support for Fayemi’s re-election bid wiped out the doubt in some quarters that Oni might be insincere. Ever since, Oni and Fayemi with the active embracement of the Omoluabi par excellence of Ekiti, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, have been collaborating with each other to collectively stabilize the party in Ekiti and rescue the state from the impetuous, highly value corrosive governance of Fayose. Indeed, Ekiti people deserve good governance.

Now in the eyes of the law, as a direct consequence of the self-inflicted injury of the elites, Oni’s claim to governorship is technically invalid before the law. Of course he served as a governor and his achievements during his tenure are tangible and there for all to see. However, no thanks to Salami, that tenure within the legal circle is said to be ultra vires.

If that remains the status quo, there may never be real closure to that dark period in Ekiti history. Yet we need to bring closure, one that finally puts to rest the fratricidal feud among the progressives and elites in the state; one that also rekindle the trust the progressives and the elites have in each other. Segun Oni deserves to have his legitimacy restored in the interest of all. This is one more reason why the South Senatorial District needs to show understanding and just present their candidates without the pressure of group advocacy for a south senatorial governorship.

All told and irrespective of how things play out, we all need to eschew violence, threats and coercion as we position ourselves for the 2018 race. Ekiti politics and politicians can set the pace in constructive, rational, intellectual political engagement devoid of violence and intimidation. Above all, we must give our people a chance to make their rational, free decision as to who can and should govern them. The ascendancy of Fayose to the governorship in Ekiti was fraught with so much deceit, brigandage and a host of anti-democratic conducts. This should not be allowed to continue in Ekiti.

We really need a reset.

Otunba Ben Oguntuase
24 February, 2017

A Learner

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