Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose has finally declared his ambition to contest for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ahead of 2019. His declaration is, however, stirring up the hornet’s nest in the party. CHIBUZO UKAIBE and EMAMEH GABRIEL explore the matters arising

With his declaration last Thursday, the Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, became the first aspirant to formally launch his 2019 presidential ambition.

But Fayose’s declaration, despite being in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was always going to cause some rumblings as he is perceived to be going against the zoning formula already adopted by his party. Smarting from their loss in 2015 and in a bid to woo the region, the party had long zoned its presidential ticket for 2019 to the North.

But Fayose, who hails from the South-west, had hinted at taking a shot at the presidency under the PDP banner, much to the amazement of party faithful and general public. This was more so because he is the chairman of the party’s governors forum which is the most influential group of the party.

The governor however made good his boast last Thursday, sending a clear signal to many who thought he was only trying to play to the gallery in his usual comic manner.

Supported by former Aviation Minister Femi Fani- Kayode and a former Osun State Governor Iyiola Omisore and former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniels, Fayose maintained that he his presidential aspiration is real and not some political fiction.

Fayose believes that  Buhari’s intention to run for a second tenure was his biggest chance not only to challenge the status quo but also defeat him as his popularity continue to decline following the current woes the country has been thrown into under the watch of the ruling All Progressives Congress, (APC).

He believes his penchant for unseating incumbents is divine, having done so that in his state; as such he is banking on replicating the feat at the federal level.

Fayose has remained one of Buhari’s biggest and most outspoken critics even before the latter became president in 2015.

In his words, “Nobody like me can take out the President from his office, twice I defeated the incumbents to become governor of Ekiti State.

“I am confident with your support as my party leaders and supporters, I will defeat the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari in a free and fair election”.

“I am the man already destined by God to take Nigeria out of its present political and economic stagnation”.

“I have a penchant for taking powers; that one in President Muhammadu Buhari’s hand, I will take it”, Fayose boasted.

Interestingly however on the same day his declaration, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Finance, Chief Toyin Ojo and the State Accountant General, Mrs Yemi Owolabi were arrested by the Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, (EFCC), in Abuja.

They were picked by the anti-graft agency over their alleged roles in the diversion of N7bn. The money was alleged to have been part of the bailout which was paid to the Ekiti State Government by the Federal Government.

Fayose have since described the their arrest as being politically motivated.

He wondered why the agency waited for so long before arresting the officials until after he declared his intention to contest for the presidential race come 2019.

But before he takes on the President in an inter-party contest, he has a huge intra-party tussle to deal with.

To be clear of his position, Fayose had earlier written to the leaders of his party, saying  his ambition to be president was without prejudice to the party’s position, but in the overall interest of the party and the country.

In the letter, he said,  “It is with a deep sense of responsibility that I write to inform you of my intention to seek the ticket/mandate of our party to contest the 2019 presidential election.

“Considering your support and commitment towards our great party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it becomes imperative to keep you informed and seek your support.

“This ambition, however, is without prejudice to our party’s position but in the overall interest of the party and our country.

“I urge that all hands should be on deck to ensure victory at the 2019 presidential election.

“Accept the assurances of my highest regards as a determined presidential hopeful.”

However Fayose decision to go against the zoning Formula already adopted by his party may not go down well with him and leaders of the PDP, particularly from a party just recovering from a crisis that almost sent it to the grave.

Shortly after the 2015 general election, a post election committee of the party led by Sen Ike Ekweremadu, had in its report zoned the presidency of the party to the North.

The committee report has since been adopted by the national convention on the party.

As barely 24 hours to the Fayose’s declaration, the party’s national leadership  admonished Fayose to stop wasting his time  over his ambition to be the party’s presidential candidate in 2019.

Reacting to Fayose’s letter, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, who warned Fayose against wasting his resources, urged all members of the party to respect the zoning formula which was adopted for both its presidential ticket and the position of the national chairman.

Adeyeye said, “The highest organ of the party, which is the national convention, zoned the presidential ticket of the PDP to the North. That has not changed. The same national convention zoned the position of the national chairman to the South. The convention has yet to change any of these two.

“That (national convention) is the supreme organ of the party. Those decisions are binding on all members of the party. Nobody can alter these decisions.

“The governor is a member of the party and was at the convention where these decisions were taken. As a leader of the party, one expected the governor to respect the party and its decisions.

“If someone in such an office is breaking the decisions of the party, what do you expect from the rank and file?”

So far, any array of northern PDP members have been said to have an eye for the party’s ticket. Besides former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, who has spoken about his ambition, other northerns like, governor Ibrahim Dankwambo of Gombe State; former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa; former governor of Kano State, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau; and the national chairman of the PDP caretaker committee, Sen Ahmed Makarfi have been linked with a contest for the position.

But Fayose has since dared the party and gone ahead to declare his ambition. However in his defense he stated that while he has the constitutional right to contest the election.

He however challenged PDP aspirants from the North to declare their intention, saying the party cannot continue to wait for them.

He said “What are my brothers from the north waiting for. I challenge them that if truly they deserve this zoning they should come out.

“To most of them in the current party executive, I want to challenge all of them to the field. Most of you are governors at different times. You want us to work for you and you come and chop it, no way.”

He added “Nobody should be intimidated or afraid. Why should you be afraid to come out and declare your ambition. The party primaries is only one year away yet you don’t want to come out. We want to carry president to go and meet somebody in the farm that is not possible again.”

He added that in the past, the concept of zoning was never fully adhered to as the likes of Late Abubakar Rimi had sought to contest the presidency when when the party zoned the ticket to the South-west.

However former Aviation Minister and one of Fayose’s stunch supporters, Femi Fani-Kayode, does not see any wrong in Fayose’s ambition. Mr. Fani-Kayode, had insisted that the geographical “zone” the candidate came from should not be an excuse for the party to field its best.

In his words, “If nobody has come out from the north… are we meant to wait?”, asked Fani Kayode.

“I believe he (Fayose) has done the right and appropriate thing to begin the process and he will make an excellent president.”

But some party members have since countered Fayose’s position on different grounds. A member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) member of PDP and former governor of Enugu State, Okwesilieze Nwodo, insists that Fayose must play by the rules of zoning.

He noted that despite Fayose declaration of interest, the Ekiti State governor cannot contest in the party’s primary poll for 2019 presidential election in whatsoever disguise he claimed may have prompted him. He warned that the party’s constitution must be respected.

Speaking with newsmen in Abuja on Thursday shortly after Mr. Fayose’s formal declaration of his intention to contest for the position of president of Nigeria in 2019 on the party’s’s platform.

According to Nwodo, “Fayose cannot run and I will tell you my reason.

“When we formed PDP, the first battle we fought and won as a party was to zone the presidency to the South.

“Those of us from the south made a case because in the first republic, prime minister was from the North; in the second republic, the president was from the North, and in the third republic, a southerner won and the election was annulled.

“There was no way we could go back to the south and say let’s elect a northerner again without giving the south a slot.

“A decision was taken that the presidency should come from the south and the chairman of the party to come from the north.

“That was how Solomon Lar became the chairman of PDP and secretary was zoned to the south; that was how I became the first secretary of the party.”

Nwodo further warned Fayose to await the same circumstances former Kanu State Governor Rimi Abubakar faced when he defiled the party’s position to contest but failed at the end of the day.

According to the former Enugu State governor,  “For example, late Abubakar Rimi, former Governor of Kano State paid for a form and wanted to run.

“Then I was the national secretary, I returned his cheque and informed him that the party had taken a decision that the presidential candidate could only come from southern Nigeria.

“When we went to the Convention in Jos, he went to the venue and started to campaign without having a form because we didn’t give him.

“We had to get some party leaders around to go and counsel him; we didn’t want security agencies to manhandle or embarrass him and good counsel prevailed and he stepped down.

“That was what PDP did and now we did not only zone the presidency to the north, we have re-emphasised at every opportunity we had that the zoning will take place.

“So, the party will not collect expression of interest money from anybody else who is not from the North and will not issue him a nomination form to contest; no, we will not do that”, Nwodo insisted.

While it could be agreed with Mr. Fayose that no politician from the North where the party had earlier settled for to project its presidential candidate, Fayose move could again potent a grave danger for the The PDP as it could as well amounts to breaching of the party’s position made by the convention.

Earlier, the national publicity secretary of the PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, had expressed shock over Fayose’s, ambition urging the governor to respect the decisions taken by the party on the zoning Formula.

“The highest organ of the party, which is the national convention, zoned the presidential ticket of the PDP to the north. That has not changed.

“The same national convention zoned the position of the national chairman to the south. The convention has yet to change any of these two.

“That (national convention) is the supreme organ of the party. Those decisions are binding on all members of the party. Nobody can alter these decisions, he said.

Similarly, Senator representing Ogun East Senatorial District, Buruji Kashamu, called for the sanctioning of the Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayo Fayose, for declaring his intention to contest the Presidency in 2019 against the zoning arrangement of the party.

The senator who urged the National leadership of the party, comprising of the National Caretaker Committee (NCC) and the National Executive Committee (NEC) to sanction the governor, said it was the height of anti-party activities for Fayose to have gone against the party’s decision to zone the Presidency to the North.

In a statement he issued in Abuja on Thursday, Kashamu said, “Although his so-called declaration is of no political consequence whatsoever, it is antithetical to the mood of the party and nation that someone who claims to be a party man could go against the decision of the party to zone the Presidency to the North.

“By 2019, the South would have had the Presidency for 14 of Nigeria’s 20 years democratic rule since 1999, with a Southerner ruling for two terms back to back. It smacks of insensitivity and greed for anyone from the South to declare for the Presidency so soon.

“With Fayose’s latest action, it is now glaring that all his grandstanding was meant to further his own selfish interest. He never had the interest of the party, the people and the nation at heart.

“This man is simply desperate for power. It is like since his anti-depressant drugs can no longer contain him, he is looking for every available means to perpetuate himself in office. Otherwise, how do we explain the fact that the Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum would go against the decision of the party? Little wonder none of his governor-colleagues attended the event. No member of the party in the National Assembly attended the ceremony.

“At first, he said he wanted to seek re-election to continue his first term which was truncated by impeachment in 2006. Thereafter, he began to work towards becoming the Vice-President and now hesays he wants to be the President!

“I am however glad that Nigerians are no fools. They know those who really have their interest at heart. They know the leaders with the demonstrable capacity to take Nigeria to the proverbial Promised Land; not the charlatans and looters who pretend to be leaders.

“On seeing his so-called Presidential declaration on television, I wondered if he was declaring to be a regional president because most of those who attended were from a region of the country. Indeed, by his action, Fayose seeks to further widen the ethnic divide in our country, cause resentment against our great party and tragically bring the party into disrepute. He is guilty of anti-party activities.

“In the light of the above, I wish to urge the Senator Ahmed Makarfi-led NCC to issue a query to Fayose and subsequently refer him to the National Disciplinary Committee for going against the party’s zoning arrangement and stoking resentment against our party in the minds of the electorate.”

While none of the speculated northern aspirants have yet to comment on Fayose’s declaration, former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, has said Fayose’s has a constitution right to contest the position.

What’s more, there are brewing concerns that the ambition of Fayose might jeopardize the chances of the South-west to get the chairmanship position which most party stakeholders believe should be given to the zone. The permutation is that since the zone has not occupied the position since the history of the party, this was an ample opportunity for the zone to be fully integrated in the party ahead of 2019.

Still, there are speculations that Fayose might be troubling the political waters such that he can be considered for running mate position to whoever ends up getting the presidential ticket of the party.

But some believe that one thing would work against Fayose. It is believed in some quarters that Mr. Fayose move against the party’s decision is a sign of desperation. They said it could be the same reason he suddenly became a strong critics of President Muhammadu Buhari in the last two years.

However, now that he has opened the gates for further declarations, it is expected that political fireworks in the party and perhaps in the polity will enter a new phase ahead of 2019.

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Posted on Sep 30, 2017 - Last updated on Sep 30, 2017
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