Will the emergence of the Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, as chairman of PDP governors forum, change much in the party? CHIBUZO UKAIBE, writes
The emergence of the Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose, as chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) Governors Forum, didn’t come to many watchers of the party as a surprise.
The governor, who is serving his second tenure, emerged chairman of the forum after a meeting of party stakeholders which held in Abuja, which from stretched from late Thursday into the early hours of Friday.
By far, Fayose is the most ranking of the current set of PDP governors, following the end of the immediate past chairman’s reign, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, the outgoing Ondo State governor.
Fayose had his first tenure cut short in 2006, a year before the end of his first four year tenure, which started in 2003.
And so upon his second coming in 2014 as governor, although Fayose was senior to Mimiko having became governor, before the out going Ondo State, Mimiko, however had more accumulated experience having serviced over fours years as governor at the time.
When the pioneer PDP Govs Forum chairman former Akwa Ibom State governor, now senate leader, Sen Godswill Akpabio, left the position, Fayose and Mimiko had sought the position, a situation which almost set them at cross purposes, however reason prevailed and Mimiko was selected as chairman.
So Fayose’s patience paid off just as there were no circumstances that thwarted his ambition to lead the other governors.
Why governors settled for him
Addressing newsmen after their meeting, Governor of Bayelsa State, Seriake Dickson, said Fayose emerged after the PDP chieftains had a very fruitful deliberation on the state of the nation and the party.
“As an integral part of the discussion, the governors of our party, among ourselves, as well as those who were unavoidably absent, unanimously appointed a new PDP Governors’ Forum Chairman.
“In line with the tradition of our party, we agreed to appoint our colleague, the most senior governor in PDP, Ayodele Fayose, the governor of Ekiti as new Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum.
“You are all aware that he is a committed party man, doing a wonderful job in his state. He is well experienced and committed to the ideals of our party.
“We have all unanimously appointed him as the new Chairman of the PDP Governors’ Forum to coordinate the affairs and activities of our forum and to work and collaborate with other structures of our party,” he said.
Dickson however said the sacrifices and contributions of the outgoing chairman of the forum, Gov. Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo state, to the forum and the party were appreciated, adding that the forum wished Mimiko well as he continues to work as a leader to move PDP and the nation forward.
He said about Mimiko “He did a very wonderful job while he served as our chairman, leading and coordinating our activities.
“He is now rounding off his meritorious eight years’ service to his state and to Nigeria.”
Chairman of National Caretaker Committee of the party, Sen. Ahmed Makarfi, expressed confidence in the leadership ability of Fayose adding that they will give him the needed support.
Chairman of the Board of Trustees (BoT), Sen. Walid Jubril, also pledged the board support to Fayose, adding “This is the beginning of success and the continuation of the party to be one.
He added “So, all speculations by any other person about the disintegration of the party are gone. We are one and we will continue to be one.”
Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, pledged that members of the party at the National Assembly would support the new leadership of the party’s Governors’ Forum.
The man Fayose and the task before him
Fayose has always courted controversy. For many analysts, the life blood of his politics is controversy. He prides himself as a maverick and political giant slayer.
Right from his distant first tenure, he has been locked in political battles with more powerful actors, in the mould of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Although he was impeached on grounds of alleged corruption, he was cleared by the courts.
He also boasts of being the only Nigerian to have defeated an incumbent governor two times historically returned to office 8 years after his impeachment, on the same date.
Upon his second return as governor in 2014, PDP, his party barely a year after, was defeated at the presidential election. While the PDP now wallows in a leadership crisis, Fayose has remained the most vocal critic of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, at times evoking cringing reactions from party members and non partisans alike over some of his comments.
Still, many corruption allegations await him, ranging from his alleged involvement in use of soldiers to rig him into office for a second tenure, to his alleged role in the Dasukigatte saga.
Hours after he emerged chairman of the forum, a group of women staged a protest in Abuja, calling for the EFCC to prosecute Fayose over the arms probe which they claimed he was involved in.
Nevertheless, now that he has assumed the mantle of leadership over the governors, many wonder whether what impact he would have on his party.
Evidently, PDP craves rebirth. Indeed it would seem that the party has set out to reengineer itself ahead of 2019. But how instrumental with Fayose’s governors forum be in this new effort, considering that the Ekiti State governor has been somewhat a double edged sword – inflicting pains both on APC and PDP.
While he has been hailed for being a fiery one-man opposition to APC government, he however was an integral part of the current turbulence rocking the PDP. He was instrumental to the emergence and sacking of Sen Ali Modu Sheriff as Chairman of PDP, a situation which has caused the party many setbacks.
He was also alleged to be opposed to moves to reconcile with Sheriff as he had last year declared he was not in gube know if plans by Makarfi and Sheriff to have a joint committee to address the issues.
Unlike, his immediate predecessor, Mimiko, many pundits also wonder whether Fayose would have the temperament for the job, considering that he has to serve as a father of all.
The perception index of the PDP governors has never been appreciable in the face of their emperor-like grip on the party.
They substantially control the party delegate system, determine party candidates at state levels, largely because they control the financial and security apparatus in their states.
Over time, the clamor for more inclusiveness has never been more loud now especially after the impositions that led to the loss of guber elections in 2015 and incidents that trailed the emergence of the Sheriff which has culminated in the current leadership crisis.
One thing is almost certain going by his personality, the position of PDP governors towards the Buhari administration will become much more pungent and caustic, unlike the calm disposition of Mimiko’s leadership.
Still, how much of this would change under Fayose’s tenure remains hazy.
But for the Ekiti State governor, he took up the responsibility at a time the party needs somebody to stand up for it.
In his response upon his emergence as chairman of PDP governors, Fayose Speaking with newsmen who accepted the responsibility, pledged to work with stakeholders, including the National Assembly, to restore the glory of the PDP.
“I take this responsibility at a time the party needs somebody to stand up. I am sure you all know that we will do it to represent Nigerians well.
“It is a call to pull the walls of Jericho down; it is a call to make a difference.
“I want to assure you that within the next few months, the mobilisation, the consultation will be so effective and there will be a new beginning for our party – different and enriching,” Fayose said.
He also commended his predecessor, Mimiko, for his contributions to PDP, saying time would not permit him to continue.
“I will take over from where he stopped. Come 2019, we will take over again, we are going to come back again,” he said.
Fayose added that some people in their imaginations believed that PDP was divided but that in a short while, the party would be stronger than ever.