It is often said that in politics there is no permanent friend or enemy, but permanent interests. This aptly described the case of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) leader and former governor of Ekiti State, Segun Oni, who recently, with his supporters, joined forces with the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC ).
The ex- governor hails from Ifaki-Ekiti in the notorious Ido/Osi Local Government area of the state, considered to be strong hold of the PDP. Political observers believe the place remains a ‘no go area ‘ to other political parties since the PDP had never last election there.
But, with this development, it seems the APC had made a major breakthrough which would ensure a bulk votes from Ekiti North Senatorial District, where governor Fayemi also hails from.
Other PDP chieftains who followed Oni to APC were, former Commissioner for Information, Taiwo Olatunbosun; ex-Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Abiodun Bamiteko; former Commissioner for Lands, Kayode Babade; a serving member of House of Assembly, Bunmi Oriniowo; former Majority leader, Lai Oke; ex-Special Adviser on Strategy, Ben Oguntuase.
As it is, Ekiti North may have been successfully secured by the APC since the PDP did not have any elective office holders or political appointees compared to APC, which produced the governor, Senator, two members of House of Representatives, as well local government appointees. But, the PDP is faulting this arithmetic, saying that many of Oni’s foot soldiers did not follow him to APC, including his personal and media aides.
Although, conflicting reasons have been adduced to the decision taken by Oni. Even before the ex- governor, who had running battle with his new found political ally, the state governor, Fayemi, for three and half years over electoral litigations, which later went in favour of the incumbent, took the decision to dump the PDP, there were speculations that a high level discussion were being held by the two gladiators on the possible realignment.
Oni ‘s defection, however, took some of his associates in PDP by surprise as many had thought that this could be a time to take his pound of flesh since those who caused his abrupt exit from the seat of power are in the race.
It would be recalled that both Fayemi and former governor Ayo Fayose, now PDP flag bearer in the June 21 governorship election, formed alliance, which eventually truncated Oni’s government and Fayose later reunion after the collapse of the PDP regime in 2010. The relationship was short lived when the latter hijacked the party apparatus from Oni after the State Congress of PDP. This development prompted mutual suspicion and generated bad blood among supporters of the two leaders.
The clandestine decimation of his influence and lack of patronage by President Goodluck Jonathan may have quickened Oni’s action to dump the PDP. Aside this, there is also the belief that he may have been influenced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to leave the party and work with Fayemi.
Besides, the Ekiti APC had commenced mass recruitment of key figures in PDP, many of who were associates and former aides of Oni. For instance, many chairmen of Local Government, who served during Oni and Fayose, were convinced to come on board in the exercise. They included, ex chairmen of Moba Alwbiosun, Ekiti East, Lateef Kongo, and former Chairman of Association of Local Government of Nigeria (ALGON) during Fayose’s regime, Toba Daramola, among others. Lanre Ijakoko, a closed ally of Oni, also fell into the dragnet of the progressives in Ekiti.
In his speech, Oni, who was flanked by his teeming party supporters, said, “Today, we are erecting a new platform to build the future for Ekiti. To us, the future is paramount in our hearts and what our children would say about us.
“Though, we might have a past that was rough, but we have to let the past be past. We must think of who can take the right decisions for us to build a prosperous future for Ekiti.
“I am not talking of perfection here, but something that is better and who can give us a better future. Ekiti must ask themselves what type of legacy they want to bequeath to the generations yet unborn. We have to think of how we can make our tomorrow better than our past and today”, Oni said.
Oni expressed fear that Ekiti could be plunged into trouble should it make the mistake of choice in the forthcoming election, urging the people to be passionate about the progress of the state, rather than to think of selfish material gains.
Fayemi, who could not hide his excitement, described Oni’s intention to join the party as a lesson to the country that leadership is about the people and should not be seen from a narrow perspective.
The governor declared that what actually fascinated him to Oni was the fact that he could not be accused of lacking in integrity, character and respect for the people.
He said: “My brother has demonstrated that he is a true leader, because the step he has taken is the least materially benefiting one. He may choose to stay put and make demands, because the PDP is still the ruling party at the centre. But, he decided to follow his conscience, his conviction and demonstrated courage for the common good of Ekiti people”, Fayemi said.
The governor, however, advised members of APC to be tolerant and refrain from seeing anybody as joiners, saying, “We are all members of the same family. We are all contributing to Ekiti progress. Besides, Segun Oni and I are not foreigners in Ekiti despite our past political divides.
“The platform we have created today cannot be called APC or New PDP; but it can only be called Ekiti. The decision my brother, former Governor Segun Oni, has taken is not about perfection, because only God is perfect, but it is about character and performance, which is obvious now around us.
“The choice before Ekiti in the next election is about wrong and right, is about character and brigandage”.
Reacting, Fayose, who spoke through his Campaign Organisation (AFCO), said he had no regrets whatsoever over the defection of Oni.
According to a press statement issued by the organisation’s Deputy Director General, Owoseni Ajayi, in Ado Ekiti, AFCO said Oni’s defection was long overdue. Ajayi said that the Ekiti State PDP will not miss him and that he was free to take along with him other directionless followers of him.
AFCO added: “We have no regrets over Segun Oni’s departure. He is of ACN, just returning to where he was before he was imposed as PDP candidate in 2007. If he wants to come back to PDP, he will not be granted a waiver. Oni felt uncomfortable to remain in Ekiti PDP because of the rising profile of Ayo Fayose.
“If Oni is spiritual enough, he would know that it is the table that is turning back to its original take-off point of 2006.
“We wish to remind him that the likes of Dayo Adeyeye, Bisi Kolawole, Dipo Anisulowo, Ojuawo, Aborisade, Tunde Adeniran, Biodun Olujimi, Ayo Arise, who he can call his foot soldiers, are with us in Ekiti PDP.
“We wish him well in the bossom of Fayemi, who stole his mandate.”
Also reacting, ex-PDP chairman, Bola Olu-Ojo, was of the view that the decision of Oni to join APC would have a far reaching effect on the party. Although, he was quick to add that the party would still secure victory in the June 21 election, he however, said that the ex-governor’s exit might rob the party of certain added electoral advantages.
“I would not join the bandwagon of those who will describe the former governor as inconsequential. For me, every politician is important because of his or her vote. What I would rather say is that if PDP is to win with about 80 per cent in the forthcoming election, then the chances would have been reduced to 70”, he said.
Olu-Ojo, who served as the PDP boss during the three and half years tenure of the former governor, also described the turn of event as unexpected. According to him, Oni’s decision to dump the PDP was more of a group’s decision than personal.
His words: “I saw it coming. To some of us who had been following the political events in the state, I know that this event would actually come to pass and I tried my possible best to halt it, but it was difficult for me to do so. I can say authoritatively that there are other forces playing out in this matter, both within and outside Ekiti.”
The PDP leader hinted that attempts to woo Oni into APC fold started over a year ago when certain aggrieved elements within PDP in Ekiti and beyond saw the decision as their best option.
“As you are aware that Oni himself said it in the open that he is wearing two caps, that is, taken the decision for himself and some of his allies in the South West PDP. Unfortunately, we thought we could stem the tide, but, it was not possible”, he said.
With this defection, the die is cast and the pace of the governorship campaign that has been in full swing is expected to be heightened. Oni and his supporters are expected to add their contributions to a race, which dynamics keep on changing by the day. In whatever way the current scenario is looked at, not a few observers are of the view that Oni’s defection may well be the game changer for the June election.
By Yaqoub Popoola
This article was first published in the Sunday Independent on May 18, 2014.
Last modified: May 18, 2014