With the recent declaration by House of Representatives member, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, to challenge incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State in next year’s governorship election, the stage appears set for a serious battle, writes Toba Suleiman
After much suspense, a member of the House of Representatives from Ekiti State and Chairman, House Committee on Legislative Budget and Research, Hon Opeyemi Bamidele, formally declared his governorship ambition and on the platform of the Labour Party (LP). Bamidele, who was elected on the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), before the party merged with other opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), represents Ado-Irepodun/Ifelodun federal constituency at the lower chamber of the National Assembly.
He took the latest step, after a long period of consultations, according to him, with critical stakeholders to seek their opinion before taking the bet.
The climax of his consultation, however, was his recent defection to LP, which he described as the Emure Declaration. This, he said, was to honour one Foluso Ogundare, a former member of the Bibiire Coalition, his political platform, who was killed on November 3, 2013, while attending a ward meeting at the community, alongside another woman, Beatrice Ige, who sustained gunshot injuries.
Before the latest development, Bamidele had kept his followers and supporters guessing on which party platform he would actualise his dream of becoming the governor of the politically vibrant and sophisticated Ekiti State.
It is no longer news that Bamidele’s travail began in 2011 when he sought ACN's ticket to represent Ekiti Central senatorial district but he was made to yield the ticket to incumbent Senator Babafemi Ojudu and was pacified with the ticket to the House.
That incident seemed to have made Bamidele to make up his mind about not having anything to do with the party leadership, based on its handling of the primary election. He was consistently absent at virtually all public functions organised by the party, even where other members of both the upper and lower chambers of the National Assembly were present.
Although Bamidele claimed to nurse a sense of indignation over the way he was being treated, some perceived his stand as a rigid position.
According to a strong member of the party, who spoke under the condition of anonymity, “before trouble started, there is no gainsaying the fact that Bamidele contributed immensely to the uplift of the party, until he decided to contest the 2014 governorship election against his bosom friend and comrade, Dr Kayode Fayemi, against the position of the party."
In the thick of the crisis, several attempts were made by the leadership of the APC, including its national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, the party’s National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande and a former governor of the old Ondo State, Chief Bamidele Olumilua, to broker peace among the warring members of the party, but to no avail.
Even at one of the peace meetings convened in Ado-Ekiti, where Bamidele was absent on the excuse that he got the invitation late, Tinubu was said to have warned of the implication of either forcing Bamidele out or creating the grounds for such.
To corroborate this, he was said to have described Bamidele as a baby elephant brought into the fold as a pet but which has grown into a mature elephant. Thus, whichever you want to get him out of the fold, it would not only break the small entrance, which no longer can accommodate him, but would also affect the structure of the whole house.
But he was also said to have appealed to the aggrieved lawmaker to wait for his time, and allow the incumbent governor complete a second term in office, a report the APC leader was said to have disclaimed amongst his friends, saying endorsement at a reconciliation meeting was antithetical to peace. None of the interventions could however break Bamidele who seemed to have made up his mind to quit the party.
When he finally made his Emure Declaration, he told his followers as well as two wives of the deceased who were in attendance during the brief ceremony held in front of the late Ogundare’s residence, that “in coming to this conclusion, we have to consult widely and in the process of our consultation, we have come to a realisation that many well-meaning stakeholders, both within and outside of the political class in Ekiti State, are genuinely desirous of sincere change.
“Within the political class, we’ve found allies in large numbers in virtually all the major political parties that exist in Ekiti just like in the defunct ACN, CPC and ANPP within the state.
“We equally found that the generality of Ekiti people and voters at this time are more concerned about the credibility, integrity and cognate experience of individual personalities seeking to lead them rather than the political parties parading or endorsing them as candidates.
“To this end, we have resolved to allow a major realignment of vision and personalities of good people drawn from among the various political parties within the political class in Ekiti State to form a new leadership platform that will work with other stakeholders outside of the political class at home and in the Diaspora to spearhead the much-needed sustainable changed that will herald in the new and united Ekiti State of our desire.
“Also, after due consultation among stakeholders, including many of our community leaders and founding fathers of our dear state, we have resolved to adopt, as our political platform, the party of the workers, the artisans , the women and the youth, which undisputedly, is the Labour Party. And as we lead Ekiti in this new direction, by God’s grace, our pledge is to work hard towards changing the socio-political and economic destiny of Ekiti people through good governance and strength of character in leadership, a massive job creation initiative, integrated agriculture and food security.
“Rural development, sustainable infrastructural development, human capital development, with emphasis on health and education, as well as law and order, and we are convinced that Labour Party is a credible progressive platform of convergence for our individual vision and commitment to internal democracy, which informed our individual decisions to form a new alliance and change coalition.”
According to Bamidele, the late Ogundare and other members of the Bibiire Coalition had aspired together and ‘together we had stood up for our right to participate in a free and fair primary election that would throw up a popular candidate that would be capable of winning a general election for our party in the 2014 gubernatorial race.”
He lamented that this has been a difficult task in view of opposition to their plans.
Bamidele pointed out that based on all these factors, in conjunction with many notable leaders and members of the defunct ACN in Ekiti State, he had resolved to seek for membership of another progressive party with immediate effect rather than proceeding to register as new members of the APC.
While commiserating with the family of the deceased, Bamidele said: “Our mission to Emure-Ekiti is to mourn the death of Foluso Ogundare, and to warn those who want to make peaceful change impossible that no one is above the law, and in solidarity with the good people of Emure-Ekiti, to stand on their soil to break the news that we are quitting the APC to embrace a new political order that will take Ekiti to a new height.”
Bamidele made this pronouncement in the midst of some political big wigs, who defected with him to their new party. They include a former chieftain of APC, Akin Olayisade; a former chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Odunayo Ategbero, former chairmanship aspirant of PDP, Chief Akin Omole, Gbenga Daramola, and Prof Joseph Oluwasanmi.
Reacting to the defection, the APC Director of Media and Publicity, Mr. Segun Dipe, said Bamidele’s declaration of his governorship ambition in Emure and on the platform of Labour Party was a welcome development.
“This is democracy and it is about free entry, free exit. We are not surprised because we knew his destination all along and we had called the attention of our party members to his impending declaration for the Labour Party," he said.
While wishing Bamidele good luck in his political endeavour, Dipe further advised that he stays courageous and empathic with his ambition. We are saying this because some months ago, he allegedly printed posters to this effect, which he denied.
Now that Bamidele has thrown his hat into the ring, it appears the die is cast, signalling a battle royale between brothers. With the declaration, the stage is set for two jolly friends and brothers, who at a particular time in the past jointly fought the war for freedom to entrench democracy in the country.
The two former political warriors, who doggedly fought the military junta, led several protests both home and abroad to institutionalise freedom of speech, freedom of association and also fought against human rights abuse, have now taken the same battle to the doorsteps of each other.
Political observers in the state, who viewed the trend with sense of regrets, expressed worry that now that the two human rights crusaders have set the stage to engage each other in a titanic war, for the purpose of actualising a governorship ambition, what becomes of the street fights that were jointly prosecuted in those days.
As the ding-dong continues, and with the pockets of violence here and there by supporters of all the major parties, stakeholders in the state have charged security operatives to redouble their efforts towards curbing excesses of politicians before, during and after the 2014 governorship poll. The call was said to have become imperative so that the state would not witness a needless breakdown of law and other that might be difficult to contain.