…Why Ekiti governor joined race
By Onyedika Agbedo (Lagos) and Wole Balogun (Ado-Ekiti)
EKITI State Governor, Ayo Fayose, is formally in the race for the 2019 presidential election. When he announced to the world in February this year that God had revealed to him that he would be the president of Nigeria, not many Nigerians took him serious because he neither provided further information about the revelation in terms of how he would get there nor when it would happen. “How I will get there, don’t ask me,” he simply noted.
But it’s now official that he is after President Muhammadu Buhari’s job. He had declared way back in June this year that he would wrestle power from Buhari during a meeting with some political office holders at the Government House, Ado Ekiti.
“I have penchant for taking powers; that one in Buhari’s hand, I will take it. I’m going straight to that villa. I’m the next president,” he said.
Nevertheless, it was not until Thursday, September 28, 2017, that Nigerians knew that Fayose had become somewhat serious with the project, as he formally declared his intention to contest the election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While addressing his supporters at the event, the governor described himself as a rock and insisted that God had destined him to lead the country.
“My party leaders, standing before you is Peter (The Rock) Ayodele Fayose, the man already destined by God to take Nigeria out of the present political and economic stagnation,” he said.
He further explained that his experience in governance and political pedigree had prepared him for the job.
“Our party must not lose sight that Nigerians at this period are desirous of a President with demonstrated capacity to change their fortunes. Furthermore, we must be mindful of the fact that our party needs a candidate like me, with a penchant for defeating incumbents.
“Twice, I defeated incumbents to become the governor of Ekiti State and I am confident that with your support as my party leaders and supporters, I will defeat the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari, in a free and fair election.
“I do not stand before Nigerians today to present myself as one with the answers to all our national questions. Rather, I present myself as one with the required knowledge, understanding, competence and, above all, the political will to coordinate the human and material resources that we have in abundance to achieve national greatness.
“Having served successfully as governor twice in a state with very meagre resources, I have by this garnered enough experience over time to prepare me well enough for the task of leading our country.
“Therefore, I can say expressly that I am well equipped in terms of knowledge, experience as well as physical and mental capacities to hit the ground running as soon as I assume office as president of Nigeria in 2019,” Fayose declared.
Under the PDP’s new zoning arrangement, however, the presidency is reserved for the North while the South is allotted the position of National Chairman of the party. So, Fayose’s first hurdle would be in convincing PDP faithful to hand him the party’s presidential ticket.
Former governor of Oyo State, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, however, believes that the Governor has what it takes to navigate through the bar.
Ladoja, who spoke while on a visit to Fayose at the Governor’s Office in Ado-Ekiti, penultimate weekend, said: “Govenor Fayose is my own brother and he is a go-getter. Whatever he sets his mind to achieve, he goes for it and he gets it. He is eminently qualified and possesses all the leadership capabilities to rule Nigeria and take us out of the woods.
“Some people in the PDP have said that they have zoned the presidency to the North, but it is left for Fayose to convince members of the PDP to support his presidential ambition. He is fit for it judging from his antecedents as a quintessential leader in the country. I also want to advise the party leadership to use zoning of the presidency in a way that would guarantee the PDP winning the election in 2019 and not as a way of favouring some individuals who may not be ready for the job and to give the great party victory at the election.”
Already, tension has started brewing within the party over Fayose’s ambition as a result of the zoning arrangement. And in attempt to reassure members that the arrangement still stays, the chairman of the PDP National Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, has dissociated the party from Fayose’s 2019 presidential ambition.
Speaking with newsmen recently in Kaduna, Makarfi stated that Fayose is on his own, stressing that his action is contrary to the decision of the party’s convention which zoned presidency to the North.
“He (Fayose) is on his own. What he is doing is not in compliance with the position of the party. The party’s position has not changed. The convention has zoned the presidency to the North and the chairmanship of the party to the South,” he said.
Also, northern leaders of the PDP insist that the region must produce the presidential candidate of the party in 2019. The leaders spoke at a meeting in Abuja, recently, which they convened to harmonise the position of the zone ahead of the party’s national convention slated for December 9, 2017.
The meeting was attended by Makarfi, Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Walid Jibril; former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana; Ibrahim Shekarau, Boni Haruna, Babangida Aliyu, former governors of Kano, Adamawa and Niger states, respectively, as well as former members of the National Assembly, among others.
“Whatever the Fayoses of this world may be doing, the party has resolved that the presidential candidate will come from one of the three zones in the North,” said Gana, while presenting his welcome address at the meeting.
But Fayose, who is the chairman of PDP Governors Forum, is not oblivious of the position of the party on the issue. In fact, he acknowledged that he was aware of the party’s zoning arrangement in his declaration speech. It appears, however, that he either wants to simply test his popularity within the ranks and file of the party like some others who had defied the position of the party in the past; use his contest for the presidency to bargain for another position within the party; or force those who are interested in contesting for the position from the North to make their intentions known early enough.
“I am a supporter of competence and capacity, especially now that this country needs young and able leaders that can take our country out of this present state of hopelessness. Most importantly, despite that the party has zoned the presidency to the North, it may interest you that no one has come out in this manner to show interest and our party should not wait or beg anyone to fly its flag. Do we now say that if no one comes out from the North, the party won’t have a candidate?
“Going down memory lane, in 1999 and 2003, despite that our party zoned the presidency to the South, the likes of Alhaji Abubakar Rimi of blessed memory and Chief Banabas Gemade contested the ticket.
“Also in 2007, some party members from the South did not only declare their intention to contest, they also showed interest and obtained nomination forms. Those from the South were Chief Victor Attah, Dr. Peter Odili, Dr. Sam Egwu, Dr. Donald Duke, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, among others. This, in itself, assisted in deepening democracy,” Fayose said.
Nonetheless, it is not surprising that none of those he mentioned actually went beyond picking the party’s presidential nomination forms and being remembered as having done so in the past. Their ambitions were defeated at the party level not because they were not qualified but because the political calculations of the time did not favour them. The questions, therefore, remain: What difference can Fayose make or he just wants to ruffle his party and go to rest? Would he trade his ambition for another position when the real politicking begins if approached?
In an interview with a national newspaper about two months ago, the governor talked about residing in Aso Rock as either president or vice president in 2019. His words: “I have a right to contest and I said I will contest and I will win. When I predicted that I would come back as governor of Ekiti State, many people doubted (my prediction). But because man has no capacity to see tomorrow, they can write you off. Those who wrote me off then see me in the position of authority today. When I was down the valley, they thought I would never rise. But the Lord said in Psalm 23: ‘I will set a table before you in the presence of your enemies.’ In this country, I’m going to the presidential villa. I’m saying that, by the special grace of God, those who doubted me today will visit me in Aso Rock as the president or the vice president – as the case may be.”
Also speaking in the same vein, Ekiti State chairman of the PDP, Gboyega Oguntuase, a lawyer, said the Nigerian constitution supercedes the internal arrangement of any political party, but noted that Fayose is not desperate to be president and might stoop in the interest of the party.
He said: “Those who are against Fayose’s presidential ambition, are they saying he is not qualified to be elected? Are they saying he doesn’t have the capacity? Are they saying it is not his constitutional right to vie for the presidency? In as much as they are not saying so, then Fayose is eminently qualified to be president.
“It is true that the PDP has a gentleman agreement that the chairmanship should be zoned to the South and presidency to the North. This does not subdue the constitution of Nigeria that gives Fayose the right to contest for presidency. The constitution of Nigeria is the ground norm and is superior to any agreement by any party or association.
“However, becoming the president of Nigeria is not a do-or-die ambition for Fayose. He is coming out because he feels there is a dire need to right many wrongs in the system and he knows he is capable of effecting this turnaround for good. He is disturbed because we are having a critical socio-economic challenge. He wants to be president because he has the mental, intellectual and physical capability to be there. It is not because he is desperate.
“Many of those who are qualified to be president in the North would even prefer a Fayose as their vice president if they have the party’s ticket. And if such a development occurs, we are sure Fayose would accept the offer with a view to serve and make a difference and also in the spirit of a good party man. Unfortunately, we haven’t had any eminent person coming out from the North and we are expecting such people so as to signal strongly to Buhari to start parking his loads ahead of 2019.”