ANALYSIS: Fayose’s declaration for 2019 presidency and matters arising

ANALYSIS: Fayose’s declaration for 2019 presidency and matters arising

By Yemi Esho, Abuja

Ekiti State governor, Peter Ayodele Fayose, has trodden the path where the angels refused to cross and if you call him the ‘original’ mouthpiece of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), one is not far from the truth. He has made powerful pronouncements against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and has dared the President to defend some of his alleged unpopular policies. It has got to a stage that Nigerians do not attach much weight to the criticisms from the PDP except the ones from Fayose.

Fayose is a grassroots man to the core and he boasts about it to whoever cares to listen. Unarguably, he is the only governorship candidate in Nigeria politics to have defeated two seating governors during election. First, was in 2003 when as a candidate of the PDP, he defeated the then governor, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, of the defunct Alliance for Democracy during the governorship election of that year. On the platform of the PDP again, he humbled former Governor Kayode Fayemi of the APC in the November 2014 elections winning in all the 16 local governments in Ekiti State.

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He has never hidden his desire to rule Nigeria one day. In February, while hosting the media in Ado Ekiti, the state’s capital, Fayose told Nigerians that God has revealed to him that he will become Nigerian President. It is according to God’s will that I will one day become the president of Nigeria. “It was the same prophesy that said I would return as governor of Ekiti when I was in the trenches that predicted that I will govern the whole country. Many did not believe the first one but it happened just as we are waiting for the manifestation of the second one. Do not bother to ask me questions as to how this will materialise, I also do not know how it will happen but all I know is that I shall one day occupy the presidential villa, not as a visitor but as president,” Fayose said.

 

The declaration

On September 28 in Abuja, Fayose declared his intention to contest the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the PDP. He thus became the first PDP member to make his intention known while others are still busy consulting with their constituency and Nigeria. According to him, Nigeria needs a younger and vibrant President who will take Nigeria out of its “present state of hopelessness”. In his address at the Golden Hall, Chelsea Hotel, Abuja, he said although the PDP has zoned the presidential ticket to the North, he has come to give those coming from the North a run for their money and present himself to serve Nigerians.

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He said, “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? 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.”

 

PDP Kicks

The PDP has kicked against the presidential ambition of Fayose saying it has zoned the presidency to the North. Apparently, the PDP did not want to repeat the mistake of 2015 which made them lose the presidency to the ruling APC. AljazirahNigeria recall that the Jonathan candidacy was a subject of controversy among the party leaders. While the leaders from the North insisted that the former president signed an agreement to serve only one term in office, leaders from the South, especially from the South-South and the South East backed Jonathan’s presidency. PDP through its National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, stated that every member is expected to respect the National Convention of the party which zoned the Presidency to the North.

Adeyeye said, “A decision was taken at the National Convention of the party, which is the supreme organ of the party. Any decision taken cannot be changed or queried. It is binding on every party member. No matter your position in the party, it is expected of you to comply with the decision of the National Convention and that is our position.”

But a former Minister of Sports under former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Plateau State PDP chairman, Hon Damishi Tonson Sango has defended Fayose saying his declaration for the nation’s topmost job has not breached any law. Sango described Fayose’s boldness as a wake- up call to northerners with presidential aspirations to wake up from their slumber.

He said, “The governor wants political activities to kick off; winning the presidency requires long time planning and the governor appears disappointed with the silence in the PDP camp. That is why he has offered himself for the job. Yes, the party has zoned its presidential ticket to the north, but it does not preclude others from indicating interest. If politicians in the north are silent and appear not interested, other party members from other parts of the country are free to show their interest and fight for acceptance.”

 

Scanty Support

The indications that Fayose’s declaration did not have national widespread was glaring. Party members seem to have keyed into what the National Convention of the party has rubber-stamped concerning the 2019 election. Safe for members of Fayose’s cabinet members and leaders like Chiefs Iyiola Omisore and Femi Fani-Kayode and a national PDP chairmanship aspirant who was also a former governor of Ogun State, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, party members from the South-south, South East and the three geo-political zones from the North did not attend the event. More so, the Southeast PDP has endorsed the zoning of the presidency to the North.

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Rising from its Zonal Executive Committee meeting in Enugu on October 2, the Southeast PDP also reiterated its commitment to national unity, reaffirming the party’s earlier agreement on the zoning of party positions allotted to the Southeast in respect of the forthcoming elective National Convention. Among those who attended the meeting were the former Vice President and founding member of the PDP, Chief Alex Ekwueme; the State Governors of Enugu (Rt Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi), Abia (Dr Okezie Ikpeazu) and Ebonyi (Engr David Umahi represented by his deputy), the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu. Others were members of the National Assembly from the zone; the Party’s Caretaker Committee National Secretary, Senator Ben Obi, Speakers of the State Houses of Assembly, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu. Expectedly, the PDP states ‘executives from the 19 Northern states have not said anything a confirmation that it will support its own for the presidency.

 

Antecedents

When in 1998 the PDP zoned its presidential ticket to the South West to appease the death of Chief M.K.O Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, the late Alhaji Abubakar Rimi challenged Chief Olusegun Obasanjo for the presidential ticket. In 2003, Chief Barnabas Gemade also contested against Obasanjo at the presidential primaries. In 2007, despite ceding the presidential ticket to the North, the likes of Chief Victor Attah, Dr. Peter Odili, Dr. Sam Egwu, Dr. Donald Duke, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani, Owelle Rochas Okorocha all slugged it out with eventual winner, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. In 2015, those who signified to run for the presidency are; former Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, former Governor now Senator, Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso but were prevented from contesting due to former President Jonathan’s second term ambition. The decision by the party to bar the former governors from contesting led to the implosion of the PDP as seven governors decamped to APC. The defection of the governors led to the electoral defeat of the party in 2015.

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Apparently learning from their electoral defeat in 2015, former President Jonathan has advised the PDP to boost its electoral fortune in 2019 by electing right candidates for the positions of the national chairman and the national publicity secretary, which he described as “very delicate positions”.

Jonathan said, “This time around we need a very courageous and vocal person to be the chairman. There are two positions that we must not make mistake on, the positions of the national chairman and that of the national publicity secretary because I have worn the shoes before and I know where it pinches. If we make a mistake as a party and elect a wrong chairman and publicity secretary, we are finished”. The former president said the PDP needs a chairman who must be: a team player, courageous, vocal, competent and who will who will not negotiate to get money from the aspirants to make them candidates.

 

Fayose’s Strategy  

Although he may just be flying the kite for relevance before the election, Fayose as the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum must be seen galvanizing his party to get ready for the 2019 general election. The zoning arrangement of the party may have schemed out of the presidency and even becoming the vice president as the PDP is set to hand the vice presidency to the Southeast, there are clear indications that Fayose is already preparing for 2019 to get a juicy post if the PDP wins the general election.

An unconfirmed report has it that the younger generation of leaders in the PDP are not comfortable with the old school determines who becomes what in the party especially the national chairman and other key positions. As the chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum, Fayose wields a lot of power and can rally the support of his counterpart governors to back a preferably younger candidate for the national chairmanship job. They believe that the era of Chiefs Tony Anenih and Bode George is over. It is not a coincidence that former Governor Gbenga Daniel (who has declared his intention to run for PDP national chairmanship office on Wednesday) and other younger elements like Chief Iyiola Omisore and Chief Femi Fani Kayode attended the Fayose’s declaration in Abuja. The national convention of the party which holds in December this year will determine how long Fayose can go in remaining relevant in the party after his tenure as governor expires in 2018.  

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