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Showdown in Ekiti

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Showdown in Ekiti

Tomorrow’s governorship election in Ekiti State promises to be an interesting, but fierce battle as political gladiators go neck-and-neck into a poll that has been characterised by intrigues and a tensed build-up, FELIX NWANERI reports

 

It is a deciding weekend for the people of Ekiti as over 630,000 voters in the state will go to the poll tomorrow to elect a new governor, who will pilot their affairs in the next four years. An unprecedented number of 35 candidates are contesting the election on the platforms of various political parties. Despite the huge number of candidates, bookmakers say it is a two-horse race between the ruling political party in the state – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is at the helm of affairs at the centre.

Head to head, the two parties have what it takes to carry the day. Both have have held sway in the south western state that prides itself as “The Fountain of Knowledge” at various times in the present democratic dispensation. The build-up to the election had not been a tea party. So far, the campaigns have been tensed, with the various parties and their candidates exchanging all manner of brickbats as they inundate the people with their respective programmes, but as the clock ticked towards the D-Day, the signs are that the poll would not be a departure from the past. Governorship polls in Ekiti have always been keenly contested. This is not unconnected to the vast majority of political gladiators, who have always shown interest in leading the state.

It is against this backdrop that tomorrow’s election in 177 electoral wards across 2,195 polling units in the 16 local government areas of Ekiti State has been described as a mother of all battles. The state has 913,334 registered voters, but the number of collected Permanent Voters Cards PVCs is 667,064 with about 280,000 uncollected. Indeed, the stakes are high as the outcome of the poll will transcend beyond the state. To pundits, the ‘epic battle’ is a prelude to the 2019 general elections. For the APC, the outcome of the Ekiti governorship poll will determine its future and continued dominance in South-West politics.

The party at the moment controls five out of the six states of the zone – Lagos,Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ondo except Ekiti. So, a win means a big plus, but a loss will diminish the party’s electoral value in Yorubaland in a way. For the PDP, winning the election will revive its bid to regain power at the centre after the 2015 defeat in the hands of the APC.

A loss, however, will negate its electoral fortune ahead of the 2019 polls. Ultimately, the election will put an end to t h e supremacy and acceptabil- i t y struggle between the outgoing governor, Ayodele Fayose and his predecessor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi. While Fayose is not seeking for reelection, having served out the constitutionally allowed two terms, it is a proxy war between him and Fayemi, who would be squaring against the former’s deputy and anointed, Prof Kolapo Isola. Ironically, Fayose once worked for the success of Fayemi at the poll. The Ekiti governor despite being a member of the PDP, teamed up with Fayemi during the 2009 rerun election to ensure that candidate of his party, Engr. Segun Oni, was sent packing. While they didn’t succeed through the ballot box, the Court of Appeal restored Fayemi’s mandate. But the duo soon fell apart. Their individual ambition was ultimate.

The climax of their political difference was the 2014 governorship election that saw them facing each other. In what could be described as a battle like no other, Fayose polled 203,090 votes to defeat 18 other candidates including Fayemi (the incumbent), who scored 120,433 votes. Remarkably, Fayose won in all the 16 local government areas of the state in a contest, which many had ear- l i e r thought would be a close one between him and Fayemi. Pundits have at the eve of the poll predicted that it is one to be closely watched, given the personality of the leading contenders – Fayemi, Fayose and Opeyemi Bamidele. But surprisingly, the highly anticipated three-horse race turned out one sided, with the PDP candidate polling over 60 per cent of total votes cast. The turnout of events prompted many to wonder where Fayemi got it wrong that he could not even win in his local government area – Oye.

Many had then believed that he would win a large chunk of votes in Oye (45, 918) and Ado- Ekiti, the state capital, which has the highest number of voters (134, 141). The belief was premised on the fact that if performance was to be a deciding factor, Fayemi did enough in the transformation of the agrarian state to have a smooth sail, as it was indisputable that he did better than his predecessors, including Fayose, who had earlier served as governor between 2003 and 2006.

But in politics, a lot of factors come into play. Performance is not the only yardstick. Though incumbency has always been a factor, it is only potent when there is alliance with the federal power. In the case of the 2014 Ekiti election, incumbency was in Fayemi’s favour while the federal might was on Fayose’s side.

But, like a statesman and unlike in 2007, when Fayemi contested the result of the governorship poll in which INEC declared Oni, then of the PDP winner, he accepted defeat and went ahead to congratulate Fayose. Fayemi’s acceptance of defeat was however without a caveat. He decried what he described as “brazen harassment, intimidation and allied infractions on fundamental human rights,” which his supporters suffered in the hands of agents of the state, saying it would be documented for the records.

While events of 2014 is now history, there is enthusiasm among the electorate in Ekiti as they wait for tomorrow, either to give the Fayose’s anointed – Olusola – the nod to continue from where his principal will stop on October 16 or bid both them of farewell by electing Fayemi for a second term or another person as any one of the candidates of the lesser parties could pull a surprise given that politics is a game of the possible. To some people in the state, Fayose has done well, especially with his stomach infrastructure initiative, so victory for Olusola will ensure sustenance of his programmes. Those who hold this view say the governor’s achievements in infrastructural development and security are enough to guarantee his anointed and party victory.

But, there is another political school in the state that believes that Fayose and his party are beatable despite his achievements and the incumbency factor. Members of this political school believe that Fayose has made a mockery of governance and that victory for his anointed would be a third term for him in disguise.

The contending positions, notwithstanding, most political analysts and observers within and outside Ekiti State are of the consensus that that governorship election is an open contest as the 35 candidates contesting the poll would be banking on their personal strength irrespective of the extraneous factors that may come to play.

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