Candidates across 35 political parties registered in Ekiti State by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will, tomorrow, slug it out in a governorship electoral contest that pundits tout as a make-or-mar-battle. Sulaiman Salawudeen examines factors that may sway voters in favour of an eventual winner
Ekiti people across entire 16 councils of the state will tomorrow file out to elect their governor for the next four years. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has announced that 35 parties were duly registered and presented contestants for the election in which a total of 667,064 are expected to vote. However, working on evidences supported by empirical assessment and hindsight of contemporary history, the battle will be straight fight between Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Prof Kolapo Olusola of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Evidences derive not only from jingles and adverts on conventional and new media platforms, but contestants themselves offer feelings that, as far as the election is concerned, only APC and PDP are in the show!
Three other parties, including Labour Party (LP), Mega Party of Nigeria (MPN) and Accord Party, are often classified as ‘parties of the future’, while their candidates – Dr. Sikiru Lawal, Mr. Bisi Omoyeni, Surveyor Biodun Aluko – are equally commonly credited as ‘governors of tomorrow.’ Why this should be so may be blamed on factors including length of existence of the older parties, which directly bear on their structures and reach across the nooks of the state, and financial strengths.
For the first time in the history of 22-year-old Ekiti, two former governors belonging to two rival camps are billed to face each the other in a consecutive electoral contest, just within a space of four years! Fayemi faced and lost to Mr. Ayodele Fayose in 2014. Same Fayemi will tomorrow face Prof Olusola, a well known ‘anointed’ candidate of Governor Fayose.
To say Fayemi is seeking a pound of flesh for his electoral loss of 2014 may be stating the obvious. Events and happenings so far valorioses the position that tomorrow’s election will be between him and Fayose. Can this be queried? Hardly. While Fayemi, after sloughing off initial lethargies regarding campaigns, soon rose stoutly to the task, stumping alongside whole hierarchy of APC, entire 133 towns and communities, spread across 16 local governments and three senatorial districts of the state, a task he completed about two or three times, Fayose literarily took charge of whole task of campaigns, as initiator and executor of his ‘godson’s campaigns, Olusola.
Not just one day, for the past one year or two, did he fail to mount the podium to wax plaudits in honour of PDP’s representative, a role he performed so exceedingly well and vociferously that critics started seeing him as seeking a ‘third term’. Not a particularly boisterous state in terms of economic activities, Ekiti rises familiarly each time election is abroad.
An average Ekiti person is politically savvy and becomes agitated whenever the issue borders on who becomes or gets what politically. The current journey has therefore not been and exception, as everybody, lettered and unlettered, old or young, coalesces into one massive band, drumming supports for or ‘destroying’ this or that candidate in comments, at city centres, newspaper distribution or sales points, inside commercial/ private vehicles, anywhere, everywhere spaces and opportunities exist for such. However, outcomes of tomorrow’s election, unlike those of earlier ones, especially that of 2014, has been a bit difficult to predict, given factors and dynamics which have changed. In 2014, Fayose was clearly the more popular and equally had federal might.
The federal might has shifted to Fayemi, but Fayemi seems to command less popularity today. Will the balance tilt in his favour still, as he will be contending against a weaker political personality? Again, the issue of zoning, especially among the two major parties, promoted by people of the south has since petered away, upon the conclusion of primaries and emergence of candidates. Fayose has continuously leveraged on his populist ideology to attract followers, especially those at the grassroots, who swarm still about him like bees around the honeycomb, although the sheer number of completed and ongoing projects in the state today does not compere in number with what obtained during Fayemi’s first term during which his (Fayemi’s) elitist conduct then did much to puncture his plans to succeed himself. Worries and wonders have continuously trail Fayose’s current venture of having his deputy take over from him, despite and given the defections’ galore that became the lot of the PDP, owing to allegations of his inconsiderate highhandedness and winner-takes-all attitude.
Many of those who should remain and support him in the task have left. First was Senator Ayo Arise, followed by former Minister of Works, Dayo Adeyeye. While others, including ranking members of the current assembly, like Gboyega Aribisogan and Hon. Sunday Akinniyi, former Speaker, Hon. Dele Olugbemi; former Commissioners, Owoseeni Ajayi and Deji Adesua respectively, have dialogued with their legs and crossed to the APC. So also were former Special Adviser on Tourism, Demola Bello; former Senior Special Assistant on Finance, Mr. Cyril Fasuyi and others rumoured to plan a show down with Fayose soon after the election.
Fayose’s losses through the defections have been the gains of his rival, Fayemi, whose political rating apparently won cubits owing to factors which included federal might, well-connected running mate, massive treasury, and strong and well-decentralised campaign logistics. Fayose also now has the albatross of unpaid salaries and allowances, and the number of months owed workers vary according to the tier of their service.
For those working in the councils, he is owing ten months, while those in the state public service have received on January salary this year. Since assumption, Fayose has not increased salaries and allowances for once, while his rival, Fayemi did not go with any unpaid salary arrears and even increased same three times.
Further, Fayose’s urban renewal came at a price of massive demolition of buildings, especially in Ado-Ekiti, town with the highest number of votes. Those he may have offended in the demolition may likely seek to exact revenge for what they often describe as costly and needless urban beautification which rendered them homeless and imposed other needless strictures. Fayemi on the other hand did not upset individuals and communities as much during his time, and achieved much in this regard.
Calls for the governorship ticket to be zoned to Ekiti South has been on and counting since the emergence of Fayose as governor for a second term. His acceding to this request with the selection of Olusola (Ikere-Ekiti) may be scoring a big political point, and may count in his favour tomorrow, as Ikere comes next to Ado in terms of registered voters and voting strength. Of the three senatorial zones in Ekiti – North, Central, South, only South has not produced the governor. Both North and Central have produced two governors apiece. But Fayose’s 2014 success has increased Central’s tally to three. While zoning as a political formula comes in for considerations of fairness, equity and balance regarding the sharing of offices and positions, pre and post elections, it is often opposed and at times jettisoned when it does not favour the influential blocks in a political contest.
Fayemi is from the North (Isan-Ekiti), a sleepy town tucked in the recesses of Oye local government. However, so far in elections, for both APC and PDP in Ekiti, zoning has not been an important issue, as it has not always affected how people vote. It has always been a case of which candidate the electorate consider more acceptable. Otunba Niyi Adebayo from Irepodun/ Ifelodun Local Government Area (Ekiti Central), who contested on the ticket of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in 1999, defeated Prof. Tunde Adeniran from Ido/Osi council (Ekiti North). In the 2003, Fayose (PDP) from Afao Ekiti, defeated Adebayo (AD). Both are from Ekiti Central.
In the 2007 contest in which Oni carried the day in controversial circumstances, the candidates were from Ekiti North. Oni (PDP) is from Ifaki Ekiti, while Fayemi (Action Congress, AC) is from Isan Ekiti. Fayemi later emerged governor on October 15, 2010 after winning an appeal against Oni, but lost to Fayose in the June 2014 poll. It can be said that PDP remains the only party, which has entrenched zoning in its stitution, although individuals within the party oppose same whenever such counters their interests. The fact remains that most electorate in the state consider the individual value of a candidate, where he or she hails from is a non-issue. Against this backdrop, it is most unlikely that the choice of Olusola as PDP candidate may upset outcomes of tomorrow’s election significantly.
Will religion shape how voters will vote? This remains only a possibility, as the choice by Fayose of Deji Ogunsakin, former chairman, Ado local government, as running mate to Prof Olusola was meant to and may indeed sway the Muslims tomorrow. Ogunsakin’s unveiling at the Campaign Centre of Prof Olusola, attended by Islamic clerics and notable Muslims, especially those from Ado-Ekiti, may be a pointer to possibilities. Running mate to Fayemi, Chief Bisi Egbeymi, is a Christian, but one with needful grassroots links within Ado, where he is a community chief. How religion will affect tomorrow’s election remains to be seen.
Despite being governor, Fayemi lost the 2014 election to Fayose, who earlier had lost Ekiti Central senatorial ticket to Babafemi Ojudu. But Fayose’s victory did not rub positively on former President Goodluck Jonathan lost not only in Ekiti but entire presidential contest. Again in Ekiti, Adebayo, despite being governor lost to Fayose in 2003. What has always mattered is the political value and community relevance of contestants, as estimated by the electorate. If incumbency did not favour Fayemi in 2014, it may likely not also favour Fayose’s Olusola tomorrow.
Stomach Infrastructure, a key component of Governor Fayose’s 6 Point governance programme, was a selling point during his campaigns in 2014. His attitude of regularly emerging upon the streets and roadsides, buying booli (roasted plantain) and akara (bean cake), and occasionally riding Okada (commercial motorcycle) has been for him, a lifelong trademark which yet remain a point for admirable discussion and comments among those who adulate him. But critics, upon the governor’s failure to settle almost 12 months arrears of salaries, have dragged him to the cleaners, rubbishing his stomach infrastructure as mere political gimmick meant only to deceive the unsuspecting public and drive Ekiti down the abyss of poverty. Fayose has been serially lampooned not only for owing various categories of workers in the state at least eight months salary arrears, but stopping poverty alleviate and economic empowerment programmes of his immediate predecessor in office, Dr. Fayemi. Just weeks into his term, Fayose announced stoppage of all of his predecessor’s programmes through which the public, old and young, numbering a minimum of forty thousand individuals, had accessed some economic comfort, including N5,000 monthly stipend to elderly individuals, popularly called Ówo Arugbo, the Youth in Commercial Agriculture (YCAD), Ekiti State Traffic Management Agency (EKSTMA), Peace Corps, a move which effectively worsened poverty condition of a large section of the populace. Fayose is seen as not being genuinely desirous of pushing poverty backwards, with such a move. The governor equally reduced the monthly stipend and actual number of sweepers employed by Fayemi. How such a move will affect outcomes of tomorrow’s election remains to be seen.
Fayose seems to have a pact with teachers. They were largely responsible for his success in 2014. They seem poised to repeat same feat even tomorrow, given their attitude to dance to tunes, anywhere, any day, as rendered by Fayose. How this comes to be seems a bit difficult to fathom. The governor has been owing them several arrears of yet to be paid salaries, and reportedly did not commit in any significant measure to their personal (economic) or professional progress. Fayose’s gain seems Fayemi’s loss however. The latter’s decision to subject teachers to what was called Teachers’ Needs Assessment Test, through which teachers were routinely subjected to tests and through which some ranking teachers were demoted in ranks, actually sounded the death knell upon his re-election ambition. But his campaigns have involved promises of better life for teachers and correcting the impression he wants to sack teachers as a way of exacting punishment for what he suffered earlier. How much swayed they are by this remains to be seen tomorrow.
In terms of marshalling programmes and executing policies, Fayemi was seen as having towered very convincingly above Fayose, a factor which did not play out in the former’s favour during the elections four years ago. It is commonly said that the loss of Fayemi to Fayose, despite his astounding performance would remain one of the inscrutable manifestations of politics and unpredictable nature of human beings. Was Fayemi sacked from office for doing too well? Many had then queried! Fayose today, nearly four years after tzking up the charge of governance, casn still not be seen as having done as well as his predecessor, given the fact that Fayemi completed and commissioned a minimum of three projects in all 133 commumities and towns in the state, while Fasyose has concentrated attention mostly in Ado-Ekti, to the detriment of other town. Will Olusola benefit or lose votes, despite this tomorrow? Only results of tomorrow’s election can tell.
The issue of internally generated revenue is a horrible sore upon the credibility of the Fayose government. Critics have consistently raised the alarm regarding how much the state is earning monthly since Fayose assumed office, and how much of it has so far been spent, either on salaries or projects. It is often said that monthly earnings of Ekiti during Fayemi’s administration were routinely declared and ,made public on the state’s website throughout the period. But, despite what many regarded as his openness and transparency, Fayemi lost to Fayose. Will tomorrow’s election favour Fayemi, will it go the way of Fayose, in spite of Factors here identified remain to be known, so as the electorate approach the polls to exercise their franshice.
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