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General News of Sunday, 19 June 2022

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ANALYSIS: Ekiti Governorship: Will history be repeated or jinx broken?

Ekiti state map Ekiti state map

Residents of Ekiti State will elect their next governor on Saturday after weeks of campaigns by the candidates. The contest will be keen with the contending parties exuding optimism that they would win the election and produce the successor to Governor Kayode Fayemi in the South-west state.

But the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is edgy, this time not over its regular rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but over the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which appears to have become the darling of residents of the state.

Does that mean the PDP is now the third force in the state? The frenzy is hovering around the SDP and the APC. Fights and clashes are occurring between the two parties. While these may not be the scientific test for their electoral performance, the observations on the streets point in that direction.

In a state where an incumbent governor has never been reelected, the ruling party surely has a reason to be uneasy.

Adeniyi Adebayo, who was elected in 1999 under the platform of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD), was defeated by Ayo Fayose of the PDP in 2003. But Mr Fayose’s first advent was cut short in 2006 when the state’s lawmakers impeached him in controversial circumstances over allegations of corruption.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared Segun Oni of the PDP the winner of the 2007 election, but his tenure was also cut short by the court after a prolonged battle with the ACN candidate, Kayode Fayemi, who was affirmed by the court as the validly elected governor. Mr Fayemi was sworn in in 2010 but his attempt to return for a second term was aborted by the return of Mr Fayose in 2014.

Mr Fayose’s attempt to enthrone his deputy, Olusola Kolapo, in 2018 was rejected when Mr Fayemi was elected again after admitting to the people that he made many mistakes in his administration and needed their forgiveness.

Mr Oni is drawing inspiration from those precedents set by Messrs Fayose and Fayemi in his determined effort to also return to the Government House in Ado-Ekiti.

A total of 16 political parties have presented candidates for Saturday’s poll. Two of the candidates are women: Christiana Olatawura of the Action Peoples Party (APP) and Kemi Elebute-Halle of the Action Democratic Party(ADP).

However, pundits regard Biodun Oyebanji of the APC, Bisi Kolawole of the PDP and Segun Oni of the SDP as the actual contenders. The APC and the PDP, which are the established parties, in the state, have been stunned by the attention that the SDP is drawing in the campaigns.

The campaigns have seen sparks of violence. In April, thugs disrupted a rally being held by Mr Oni in Efon Alaaye. Many people were wounded and cars burnt. In spite of warnings from security agencies, pockets of violence and intimidation continued until last week, when one person was killed and several others injured in a clash between rival groups of SDP and PDP supporters.

The police have been trying to bring the situation under control, with reports saying several persons believed to be political thugs were being detained ahead of the election.

In spite of that report, many residents remain apprehensive of violence marring the election.

The PDP campaign has been notably less rancourous. The party’s campaign spokesperson, Lere Olayinka, said the party was conducting its activities peacefully and was sure its candidate will emerge victorious on Saturday.

Segun Oni’s strides

Mr Oni is riding on the waves of his achievements during his stint as governor of the state. There is a general impression that he would replicate some of the policies that endeared him to workers and the general public if he becomes the next governor.

Mr Oni’s journey to recover the governorship seat had begun in the APC. He left the party for the PDP after losing its ticket to Mr Fayemi for the 2018 election. After changing parties between APC and PDP, he finally moved to the SDP.

Wilson Obasa, an Ado Ekiti-based motor driver, said Mr Oni’s popularity did not surprise him because many people believe the SDP candidate is a good person whose policies would benefit the masses.

Mr Obasa’s opinion is shared by many other respondents, who said disenchantment with the APC-led government especially at the centre, is sending people away from the ruling party to the SDP.

Mr Oni is from the northern senatorial district of the state with a total voting strength of 267,242, while Messrs Oyebanji and Kolawole are from the Central District with a higher voting strength of 397,850. But the presence of the two in the race will reduce their voters’ numerical advantage against Mr Oni.

However, the governor, Mr Fayemi, is from Isan in Oye Ekiti, which is also in the northern senatorial district. Oye Local Government Area (LGA) has 65,422 registered voters while Mr Oni’s Ikole LGA has 71,971 registered voters. Securing large votes from these areas will brighten Mr Oni’s chances in the election.

Jackson Adebayo, the spokesperson of the Segun Oni Campaign Organisation, said his candidate will win the election if it is free and fair.

However, he expressed fear over the vote-buying syndrome. He said Mr Oni does not have a deep pocket like his opponents and in any case would not engage in vote-buying. But Mr Adebayo praised INEC for changing the voting arrangement to prevent people from monitoring how the voters vote.

“The people will vote for us, and we will win although we don’t have money. We will be successful if we get a level playing field,” he said.

Oyebanji on tight rope

The APC candidate is a former commissioner and former Secretary to the State Government. He was the “anointed” candidate of Mr Fayemi. He is from Efon, in Ekiti Central Senatorial District, which has the highest number of registered voters.

Mr Oyebanji has the political and financial structures of the APC behind him. But SDP’s deputy governorship candidate, Ladi Owolabi, is also from this district. He is from Ado Ekiti, which has the strongest voting strength of all the local governments.

The spokesperson for the campaign, Taiwo Olatunbosun, said the voters are behind Mr Oyebanji and he expects him to record a landslide victory on Saturday. But his assertion has been contested by Mr Oni’s supporters. This is understandable, as the APC state government is owing workers and pensioners, leaving many people disenchanted.

“With what we are seeing, it will not be easy for the APC because wherever you turn, the people are looking in the direction of the SDP,” Samson Orilade, a blogger in Ekiti, said.

“You know the Nigerian politics. Unless the APC uses its state powers, it may just be on its way out.”

Softly and slowly win with Bisi Kolawole

He is largely seen as an Ayo Fayose-imposed candidate, who sent Mr Oni out of the party. He is a former state chairman of the PDP and a former member of the state House of Assembly.

Analysts believe that the party is yet to overcome the bad blood created by the outcome of the governorship primary. Fingers are pointing at Mr Fayose for the poor handling of the exercise which forced the party’s leading aspirants to the background.

Mr Fayose’s former deputy governor, Olusola Kolapo, who was the party’s governorship candidate in 2018, was “forced” to withdraw from the race for the ticket. He accused Mr Fayose of forcing his preferred candidate on the party. Mr Olusola’s voice has not been heard in favour of this campaign so far.

The worries of the PDP are even bigger with many of its supporters moving into the SDP.

Mr Fayose is the biggest campaigner for the PDP candidate, but he had spent much of his time and energy pursuing his presidential ambition. Since returning from Abuja empty-handed, there has not been much steam left in him to push the campaign train of his protege.

But Mr Olayinka, the campaign spokesperson, said it is not about the noise. On why his party did not hold a “mega rally” like the APC and the SDP to round off its campaign, Mr Olayinka said the campaign organisation instead chose to go from house to house to woo the real voters.

Ayodele Benson, a lawyer, has been following events in Ekiti. He said the people are sophisticated enough not to be taken for granted by their leaders.

“From Niyi Adebayo, no governor has been able to win the election back to back, and not to talk of imposing their candidates on the people,” he said.

“This is what is about playing out in the coming governorship election. There is no doubt that there would certainly be an upset if the election is not tainted.”

A Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Johnson Kokumo, who is leading the police coverage of the elections, enjoined registered voters to come out to cast their votes without fear of intimidation. He said the police will be neutral and ensure that the votes are protected.

The INEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubi, also said the Ekiti people alone would decide who becomes the next governor of their state. If these assurances are carried out, the majority of Ekiti voters will get their choice for the next governor of the state.

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