Although most political gladiators in the country are yet to make any open declaration, underground preparations towards the 2023 presidential elections are already in top gear.
In the first two parts of this series, we examined the chances and prospect of two top contenders from the South-West geopolitical zone: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. Another serious contender from the South-West, speculated with serious ambition for the country’s top seat, is the current Ekiti State governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi.
The dominance of contenders from the South is really not coincidental. Although it is not codified, with the zoning understanding reached at the foundation of the All Progressive Congress (APC), power is expected to return to the southern part of the country in 2023.
Fayemi is seen as one of the closest allies of President Buhari in the southern part of the country, especially in the South-West. Many analysts believe that if the Northern groups, including the Buharists eventually agree to support a southern candidate, the most likely personality they are going to reach out to would be Kayode Fayemi.
Some months ago, Fayemi was invited to speak at the Arewa House. Political influencers and opinion movers from the North were all gathered together. Before the whole world, one of the intellectuals from the North, Mallam el-Rufai, said “we invited Fayemi here today to come and be our guest speaker, it is not by accident but the reason we invited him to be with us will be unfolded as things unfold because Kayode Fayemi is our adopted son”. It was a statement pregnant and coded with meaning.
Gov Fayemi has really been on the move in the last one year. From the North to the East, down to the South, even outside the shores of the country, the governor has been putting up appearances at different events and engagements. Many maintain that these renewed social activities are part of the strategies deployed by Fayemi to be more visible and not to be seen as an apostle of ethnic politics.
Fayemi who won his second term mandate after serving as the Minister of Mines and Steels Development, will complete his tenure as governor in 2022, few months away from the next general election. His emergence as the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), was unprecedentedly without any challenge as his colleagues from across political divides unanimously endorsed him to lead them. This also shows he is a man of remarkable impact, and an influential leader.
Obviously, the chairmanship of the NGF carries some political weight. Anyone who oversees the affairs of such an influential body and interacts regularly with the governors of the 36 states of the federation should command a remarkable level of influence. It was in this wise that many observers feel that Fayemi’s influence as the chairman of the NGF will put him in good stead in the quest by the APC to pick a successor for President Buhari in 2023.
One big chunk of support Dr Fayemi can bank on whenever he chooses to announce his entry into the presidential race is that of the people of Ekiti, his home state
The Ekiti state House of Assembly recently endorsed the 2023 presidential ambition of Kayode Fayemi, although he is yet to openly declare his intention for the top seat. Funminiyi Afuye, speaker of the House who spoke on behalf of the 26-member Assembly, gave the endorsement verdict while receiving a group under the auspices ‘Our Belief Project’. Expectedly, the resolutions by the lawmakers coupled with similar positions in the past have elicited a lot of reactions.
Apart from the assembly, Dr Fayemi, has equally been endorsed to contest for president in 2023 by the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) in Ekiti State. His endorsement was announced during a programme organised by Olusegun Osinkolu, a chieftain of the APC, for 1,000 elders and members of the party in Ekiti North senatorial district.
Speaking at the programme, Paul Omotoso, the Ekiti State APC caretaker committee chairman, said Mr Fayemi is competent enough to be the flag bearer of the ruling party following his commitment to good governance.
He said Ekiti “would no longer play second fiddle in the south-west’s politics. On the 2023 presidency, the time has come for the president to come from Ekiti. That is why we are pleading with you to support governor Fayemi.”
Political observers opined that the open declaration by the elders from the state might be quite instructive. The speech made at the event on behalf of the elders by Karounwi Okadapo was earth shaking and quite revealing. His words:
“Our national leader, highly respected Senator Ahmed Tinubu, is loved by all of us because he has paid his due but the fact remains that by 2023 he will be above 70 years of age. I cannot, in all good conscience, support even my father or my mother to contest as President if they are above 70 by 2023. I will not support them. Dr Kayode Fayemi that I am advocating for is 55 years of age, a senior youth and very vibrant. That is number one.
“Number two, When you look at the presidential arrangement of Nigeria, whether by design or default or coincidence, if you look at it from 1999, you will see that we had Obasanjo, a Christian President by religion from the South. After Obasanjo, power shifted to Yar’Adua, a Muslim from the North and power again shifted to a Christian Jonathan from the South before power again moved to Buhari, a northern Muslim. By reasoning, one would naturally want to deduce that the next President should be a Christian southerner.
“Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a Muslim and that is a “No -No” for our system. Muslims have not succeeded themselves by that analysis I made on Nigeria’s history. Fayemi is a Christian from the South and the crown fits him. You cannot market a 70 year old and above in Nigeria for the presidency and expect it to sell. Fayemi on account of age is qualified and it is the turn of Christians.
“Thirdly, I am an Ekiti person. When you look at the prominent positions occupied by South-West states at the national level over the years, it is only Ekiti that history has nothing to record for. Ogun has produced Presidents, Vice Presidents, presidential candidates and vice presidential candidates. Oyo has produced leader of Senate. Lagos has the current Speaker of the House of Representatives. Osun produced the National Chairman of AD, AC, ACN and APC while Ondo produced the presidential candidate of AD/APP; it is only Ekiti State that is left behind and I must say that our state is not an appendage of any other state. This time we are ready to make a mark. Let anybody who is supporting Bola Ahmed Tinubu come and engage me in a national debate, and let Nigerians listen. I am ready for debate anytime on this matter.
A more logical edge Dr Kayode can equally flaunt in this contest is the area of integrity and strength of character. For almost 15 years that he has been in public eye as governor, minister and now as governor for the second time, he has never been invited or investigated by any anti-graft agency in the country even when the opposition party succeeded him as governor. He has never been indicted in any part of the world. Same cannot be said about most other contenders.
For those who may be hoping and praying that the Dr Fayemi gets serious with positioning himself for the plum job, they have their work cut out for them. However one thing is certain — when the actual race begins, no one can rule out unpredictability and surprises that have always characterised the game of politics in Nigeria.