Since the return to civil rule in 1999, after years of military interregnum, no political party has ever dominated governance in Ekiti State for two full terms in quick succession. Correspondent RASAQ IBRAHIM examines the chances of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) retaining power for another term in the Southwest state.
No political party has succeeded in governing Ekiti State for two full terms in quick succession in the political history of the state. Since the state was carved out of the old Ondo State in October 1996 by Gen. Sani Abacha five governorship polls have taken place with no political party ever succeeding in winning the election back to back. This has become a herculean task as attempts by ruling parties in the past to maintain a stranglehold on the state have always proved abortive, with the opposition parties truncating the dream. So, power has been oscillating between the parties, thus preventing an unbroken two terms of eight years.
Unlike other states in the federation, Ekiti is regarded as a complex, sophisticated, and politically conscious state where power has rotated between the two major political parties since 1999. Ekiti people are always interested in national and local politics as a result of their level of education and exposure. So, a preponderance of the electorates is not always associated with long-term love or affection for political parties, rather they vote for personalities and are guided by emerging realities.
The lack of continuity syndrome dates back to the 2003 governorship poll when the current Minister of Trade, and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo of the defunct Alliance for Democracy failed to win his re-election bid. He was humiliated at the poll by the maverick former Governor Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) who was backed by then President Olusegun Obasanjo. Aside from Ekiti, Obasanjo’s PDP swept the polls in five out of the six states in the Southwest geo-political zone.
Fayose did not achieve much during his stay in the hilltop Government House because of internal rife within the PDP, which resulted in his impeachment and that of his deputy, Senator Biodun Olujimi on October 16, 2006.
The political intrigues that culminated in the impeachment resulted in the removal of the then State Chief Judge, Justice Jide Aladejana (rtd) who was sidelined by the Ekiti State House of Assembly under the Speakership of Friday Aderemi to pave the way for the impeachments. The impeachment imbroglio led to a situation in which Fayose, Olujimi and the Speaker, Aderemi simultaneously laid claim to the governor’s seat.
The development propelled Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency there on October 19, 2006, and impose retired Gen. Tunji Olurin as a Sole Administrator for six months, during which period he presided over the 2007 governorship in the state.
The poll was keenly contested between Segun Oni of the PDP and the current Governor Kayode Fayemi of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). At the end of the poll, the Independent National Electoral Committee (INEC) declared Oni the winner. But, Fayemi went to the election tribunal to challenge the results of the poll over alleged irregularities.
In August 2008, the tribunal confirmed Oni, as the winner of the governorship poll to the chagrin of Fayemi. Dissatisfied with the judgment, the ACN candidate went to the Appeal Court which in February 2009, nullified Oni’s victory and ordered a re-run within 90 days in 10 out of the 16 local government areas.
INEC again declared that Oni won the re-run election conducted. Again, Fayemi approached the tribunal for the second time but, unfortunately, his petition was dismissed. He proceeded to the Court of Appeal, which nullified Oni’s victory and declared him the winner a few months before the expiration of the former’s tenure. The legal gymnastics made Ekiti join the league of states in the federation with a separate date for governorship poll; the outcome of the case ensured that the date of governorship elections in Ekiti is different from that of 28 other states where it takes place during the regular four-year election cycle known as the general election.
Dramatically, Fayose staged a comeback in 2014 and bestrode the state’s political firmament like a colossus. He got the PDP ticket with the support of his former deputy, Senator Biodun Olujimi who helped to persuade the then President Goodluck Jonathan and the national leadership of the party to consider Fayose‘s return to Ekiti as governor.
In the June 21 governorship poll, Fayose disgracefully dethroned Fayemi who was seeking renewal of his mandate through the instrumentality of the federal might with a record-breaking of 16-0, which implies that he won the polls in all the 16 council areas.
Similarly, Fayemi resurrected against all odds and secured the APC ticket for the July 14, 2018 governorship poll. Fayemi who was then the Minister of Mines and Steel Development joined the race a few weeks before the party’s primary and altered the political matrix to the consternation of many people who had tipped Oni for the ticket. At the poll, Fayemi defeated the PDP candidate and Fayose’s deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola by a narrow margin.
The foregoing shows how political power has been oscillating between the APC and PDP. Will the ruling APC break the age-long continuity jinx in this week’s election? Will Governor Fayemi bequeath on Ekiti State a successor from the progressive fold? Will power rotation continue? These are the questions in the minds of the people of Ekiti, as the state goes to poll this Saturday.
No fewer than 16 political parties would be participating in the election. The candidates and parties are Biodun Oyebanji (APC); Segun Oni, Social Democratic Party (SDP); Bisi Kolawole, (PDP); Wole Oluyede, the African Democratic Congress (ADC); and Olufemi Obidoyin, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Others are Reuben Famuyibo, the Accord Party; Debo Ajayi, the Young Progressives Party (YPP); Kemi Elebute-Halle, the Action Democratic Party (ADP); Moses Olajide, the African Action Congress (AAC), Peter Adegbenro, the Allied Peoples Movement (APM); Modupe Olatawura, the All People’s Party (APP); Daramola Roland, the Labour Party (LP) and Tope Iyaniwura, the National Rescue Movement (NRM).
Also in the race are Oladosu Fatomilola, the New Nigeria People’s Party, Olaniyi Agboola, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and Kolade Akinyemi, the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
Before now, the election was believed to be a straight fight between the candidate of the APC and that of the PDP. But, the emergence of Oni on the platform of the SDP, following his exit from the PDP, has changed the political calculation in the state. Now, the consensus is that the election would be a three-horse race involving the APC, the PDP and the SDP.
The candidates of the three parties, Oyebanji, Kolawole and Oni, have dominated the political space in the last three months and the parties have the highest number of supporters when compared to the other 13 parties. The sequence of political events suggests that the trio are not leaving anything to chance in their quest to form the next government after the expiration of Governor Fayemi’s tenure on October 16 this year.
Currently, the three political parties are back in the trenches once again with the APC struggling to maintain a stranglehold on the wheels of governance, while both the PDP and the SDP are battle-ready to take over the rein of governance.
So, going into the governorship election, Oyebanji would be attempting to break a long-standing jinx if he wins the election, just as Oni would be attempting to break another jinx by winning the election as a third force; a feat never achieved in Ekiti’s checkered political history. The PDP too would be attempting to upstage the APC and sustain the power rotation syndrome in its favour.
While the ruling APC is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring it cracks the hard nut of continuity by ensuring the party’s flag bearer succeeds Fayemi, the opposition PDP is highly confident about producing the next governor to maintain the status quo of power rotation. The SDP, which prides itself as the third force with large followers is giving the impression that it will alter the status quo by winning the election.
Although many believe that the SDP will spring a surprise in the Ekiti, the APC and the PDP are quick to say that the third force in elections in elections in the country has always been jokers and that the forthcoming governorship would not be an exception.
While many believe Governor Fayemi’s performance on the saddle is not enough to earn APC victory, some feel the PDP has not done enough in the last three and half years when power slipped off its hand to convince the people of its readiness to offer them better governance. Others argue that the state is too sophisticated to be allowed to be governed by Oni, who will clock 68 years by September this year.
Given this, the questions on the lips of many are how prepared are the three leading political parties for the election and what is their political health?
As far as the APC is concerned, there is no vacancy in the government house. Its Publicity Secretary, Segun Dipe exuded confidence that the ruling party would win the election with a wide margin based on the achievements of the Governor Fayemi-led APC administration.
He said the ruling party and its standard-bearer were unbeatable since the Ekiti people have tested the APC and are ready to entrust it with another four years mandate. The APC spokesman dismissed insinuations in some quarters that the poll would be keenly contested by the APC, the PDP and the SDP.
Dipe said: “It is not a keen contest. The APC will win with a reasonable margin. It is not going to be keen at all. The PDP is fake, and Ekiti people have realised that and rejected it already. We know the fake projects that the PDP did during its administration, roads that were worn out within six months. The SDP is about noise, blackmail and propaganda. No structure and no backbone. There is a difference between ‘we have done this, we are doing this and we are going to do this’.
“The SDP thinks that by de-marketing the APC, they can market themselves. They (SDP) are not focused on any strategy to win the election, but on a strategy to bring down the winner. The PDP is the one that the SDP is contending with; they are struggling for the structure of the PDP and not to win.”
The APC spokesman, who said the PDP and the SDP were not preparing for the election per se, added: “The APC is conscious of the fact that some people are working towards petitions and litigations, not towards winning. They are just looking for landmines to capitalise on. Over 2,000 projects have been done and inaugurated; Oni never inaugurated any project. The PDP did fake projects. Despite the paucity of funds, we endeavoured to ensure that people’s needs are met and salaries are paid regularly.”
The PDP believes that the governorship poll would be a walkover. It expressed confidence that its candidate, Kolawole, will win the poll due to its acceptability by people, large membership and the fact the governing APC has failed. The spokesman for the Bisi Kolawole Campaign Organisation, Lere Olayinka said: “The SDP is not in this race. We (PDP) are going to win. All the indices are there. You can see the failure of the party in government, the APC, everywhere.
“You can see insecurity; you can see decaying infrastructure, non-payment of salaries through not paying deductions. The government owes about eight months’ deductions. The indicators are there that the people have rejected the APC at the state and the federal level.
“The people are with us; they want to go back to a government that they can feel; they want a situation whereby they can see their governor and they can discuss with their governor. Unlike a governor who in a month spends only two days in Ekiti and the remaining in Abuja. People are tired of that kind of situation. The PDP has remained the predominant party in Ekiti State.
“The strength of the PDP as a party is in the people. The strength of the PDP is in what we have done in the past; the strength is in the record of our achievements. Our party has the record of employing people, but the APC government has the record of sacking workers. You cannot drive on the roads in many areas in Ekiti State without being kidnapped for ransom. That never happened when the PDP was there.”
Describing the SDP as a joker, Olayinka said: “The contest is between the PDP and APC. I don’t see the SDP making any appreciable impact in this election. From experience, a third force has never worked in Ekiti. The SDP members know they cannot make any impact; they are even saying that they are out to spoil the chances of the PDP. The APC is the party we are contesting with.”
But, the SDP has dismissed the position espoused by the APC and PDP with a wave of the hand, saying its candidate, Oni towers above the candidates of the two parties. It believes that nothing can stop it from dislodging the APC from the government house during this week’s election.
The Director-General of the Oni Campaign Organisation, Ambassador Dare Bejide said the forthcoming governorship poll in Ekiti “is not about the party this time, but it is about the individual involved”. He added: “The SDP will win the election with a very clear margin if it is fair and credible. The people have tested the PDP, the APC and Segun Oni as a person. They know Segun Oni is credible. They will vote for Segun Oni.
“The contest is between the SDP and the APC; the PDP is out completely in this race. As far as we are concerned, the PDP will be a distant third; we are going to win and the APC will come second. The PDP is not doing well; most of its members have crossed to our side. They are trooping in every day and we are happy about that.”
Bejide, who described the SDP as the new bride in Ekiti State, said: “We are moving very fast; people are embracing us; they see us as the most credible alternative to the present administration. Even though the SDP is a new party, we have gone round and the massive support has jolted the two other parties.”
While speaking on the strength of the SDP, the director-general said: “Segun Oni is an institution; he was governor and did so well in terms of infrastructural development, salary payment, the welfare of the civil servants and all spheres; he paid arrears of pensions and gratuities.
“All these are the things that are still operating in the mind of the people. It is difficult for the people to forget what Segun Oni did when he was in government. If you compare his tenure with that of the APC, you will see that the difference is very clear. We are not only going to win, but we will also win very well. What they are saying is that Segun Oni may not have money. Who told them Segun Oni will not have money?
“They are banking on rigging, saying they will rig us out; I don’t know how they will do that because you can only rig when you are popular. But they are unpopular. The people of Ekiti are our strength. We believe the election is about people, we have already taken the message to the people. We have gone round the state; we have gone to court because many people are friends of the party. We have friends from the APC and we have friends from the PDP, who are now members of the party.”
Source:- The Nation
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