By Ariwodola Idowu
No fewer than 63 people are jostling for the Ekiti governorship seat just about 30 days to the conduct of party primaries in preparation for the July 14 gubernatorial election in the state.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the number rose from the initial 47 aspirants to the present 63 among whom are three clergymen.
The clergymen are Rev. Tunde Afe of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Pastor Taiwo Oladeji of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the current Deputy Governor of the state, Prof. Kolapo Olusola-Eleka, a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church also of PDP.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) has the highest number of 41 persons, while the state ruling PDP has 11 persons.
The Social Democratic Party (SDP), Accord Party, Alliance for Democracy (AD), Independent Democrats (ID), Young Party of Nigeria and ANRP present the remaining number of persons.
Political observers in the state, however, believe that the figure is expected to deplete by the time all the parties conclude their primaries because of the huge cost involved.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed between April 15 and May 14 within which to conduct primaries in the state.
However, only PDP and APC have fixed dates for their primaries; while the APC has fixed May 5, the PDP fixed its primary for May 8.
As of the time of filing these reports, only 17 persons out of the 41 of the aspirants in APC have obtained nomination forms from the party’s national secretariat, while only six of the PDP’s 11 persons obtained the form.
Though sources at the state office of INEC told NAN that no fewer than 22 political parties would be participating in the governorship election, as the contest seems to be a straight fight between PDP and APC.
High-profile contenders like former governors Segun Oni and Kayode Fayemi and current Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Matters, Sen. Babafemi Ojudu, are to watch as political events unfold in the state, observers note.
Others are former Ekiti Assembly Speaker, Mr Femi Bamisile, Sen. Ayo Arise, son of former governor of old Ondo State, Muyiwa Olumilua, as well Mr Opeyemi Bamidele, Mr Bimbo Daramola and Mr Bamidele Faparusi who had served in the House of Representatives.
In PDP, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, is said to enjoy the support and sponsorship of the incumbent Gov. Ayo Fayose.
Others in PDP are Sen. Abiodun Olujimi, former Minister of State for Works, Mr Dayo Adeyeye and Amb. Dare Bejide, among others.
APC Publicity Secretary Taiwo Olatunbisun, however, said that there was nothing wrong with the large number of persons seeking to be the state governor in his party, saying it was a sign of absolute confidence the members reposed in the party.
He explained that it was a pointer to the “belief that APC parades more qualified and credible persons in its ranks than any party in the state.’’
He said that such a scenario also showed that the party was a platform where men and women of substance could pursue their ambition without hindrance.
He promised that all the interested persons would be given a level playing ground during primaries, adding that none of the aspirants would be short-changed during the process.
Also commenting, the PDP Chairman in the state, Chief Gboyega Oguntuase, told NAN that neither the party nor the governor ever stopped any intending aspirants from pursuing their ambition.
He said that this had been further demonstrated by statements of assurances already given by both the governor and the national secretariat of the party that all aspirants would be given a level-playing ground during the party primaries.