- As 35 candidates battle for 667, 064 votes
- Buhari, Fayose test strength
- Security lockdown worries residents
Ismail Omipidan, Willy Eya, Wole Balogun
Ahead of today’s governorship election in Ekiti State, key political actors from the two leading political parties, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have intensified campaigns in a last minute effort to win voters to their side.
Though today’s poll is taking place in one of the smallest states of the country with only 16 local governments, it is one exercise that will literally shake the nation and redefine her politics ahead of 2019. And if the build up to the election is anything to go by, then Nigerians are surely going to be treated to one of the most classical and intriguing game of politics. Expectedly, all the political actors involved must be on top of their game.
Many believe that the election will not just be a test of credibility for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by Professor Mahmud Yakubu, it will also reveal the level of preparedness of the Commission.
It will be unlike in the past when the race for Ekiti was usually narrowed to just two popular political parties. This time, other parties have made efforts to ensure they have remarkable presence in the electoral battle even though the poll will yet be a fierce contest between the traditional rivals, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
There are 35 political parties listed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as participating in the election. But of the lot, political pundits are of the view that the contest in a straight fight between the two leading political parties: the ruling PDP in the state and the ruling APC at the centre.
Although the outgoing governor, Ayodele Fayose, who has the history of beating two incumbents at two different occasions (2003 and 2014) is not on the ballot, he appears no doubt faced with what could be regarded as the “battle of his life” in the contest, the outcome of which may make or mar him politically as he prepares to leave the stage.
This understandably may be responsible for why he appears to be staking everything to ensure that the PDP secures victory today. Chief among the strategies he had deployed before today to ensure victory for his party and candidate, Eleka, was one; ensuring that the party’s candidate comes from the Ekiti South Senatorial district, the only area that is yet to produce governor of the state since its creation in 1996.
Two, he not only ensured that the running mate to the candidate was a young man, 39 years to be precise, he deferred to the Muslim community in Ado-Ekiti on the choice of a running mate. Saturday Sun’s investigations revealed that the leader of the Muslim community in the state submitted the name of the PDP’s running mate in today’s election to the governor. The community it was gathered had demanded for the deputy governorship slot.
Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, Saturday Sun gathered, has the largest voting population in the state. Interestingly, like Eleka, Fayemi’s running mate, 74-year-old Adebisi Egbeyemi is also from Ado-Ekiti. And like Eleka’s running mate, Mr. Kazeem Ayodeji Ogunsakin, Egbeyemi is also a former Chairman of Ado- Ekiti Local Government Area. But while Ogunsakin is the immediate past chairman of the area, Egbeyemi was chairman from 1991 to 1993.
Payback time for Fayose
Not a few believe that today’s election probably offers President Muhammadu Buhari the best opportunity to pay the Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose back in his own coin for perhaps being the most vocal critic of his administration. The governorship poll is therefore viewed by some people as a ‘proxy war’ between the President and the Ekiti State governor.
The calculation is that Buhari will do everything possible to clip the political wings of Fayose who has never hidden his hatred for the APC-led administration.
Buhari and Fayose’s political differences started during the electioneering that preceded the 2015 presidential poll as the Ekiti governor threw his weight behind his party’s candidate, former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Fayose had described Buhari then as unfit to be Nigeria’s president and gone to the extent of publishing controversial advertisements in some national dailies, questioning the health status of President Buhari. Even after Buhari won the 2015 presidential election, Fayose did not stop being one of the most unrepentant critics of the President’s administration.
Buhari charges Tinubu to deliver Ekiti
Saturday Sun gathered that President Buhari has already charged former Lagos State governor and national leader of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to ensure that Ekiti was delivered to the APC today. It was learnt that Buhari personally called Tinubu and handed him the mandate.
In response to the presidential marching order, Tinubu was said to have relocated to Ekiti State since Sunday this week, and only left the state last Wednesday, after interacting with “critical stakeholders” all of whom he was said to have “mobilised” ahead of today’s contest.
“He (Tinubu) moved in on Sunday and he just left today (Wednesday, July 11), he spent three days. He met with party leaders, state coordinators and was asking them of their challenges, all of which he provided answers to before leaving. And he mobilised them adequately.
“Mind you, before then, he was instrumental to the defection of Prince Dayo Adeyeye to the APC. He was the brain behind the coming together of all the APC governorship aspirants after the primary to support Fayemi.
“He went to Ekiti on Sunday with Baba Akande, Osoba and the immediate past national vice chairman of the party for South West, Pius Akinyelure. If you observe during our rally on Tuesday in Ekiti, Tinubu personally moved from stand to stand to show that he is solidly involved in the project and all the stakeholders appreciated his gesture.
“Now, Ado-Ekiti, the state capital is key in this election. Before leaving Ekiti, Tinubu went to Ado to meet with Baba, the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, to plead that whatever Fayemi must have done, he should be forgiven because Ado, being the state capital will benefit more when the state is controlled by the party at the centre,” one of the sources told Saturday Sun.
The two leading candidates at a glance:
Olusola Kolapo Eleka, 50, is the candidate of the PDP. He is the current deputy governor of the state. He hails from Ikere-Ekiti, a sprawling town that has the second largest number of voters after Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.
Eleka is a Professor of Building Technology from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He was teaching in the university before Governor Ayodele Fayose found him worthy as running mate for the June 21, 2014 governorship contest, which they won landslide.
He replaced his father, simply called Pa Eleka, a popular politician in Ekiti who is well respected in his town and across the state. Fayose had actually nominated the father to be his running mate. But the father in turn nominated the son, a decision Fayose accepted.
Eleka appears to represent what many see as satisfying the yearnings of the Ekiti South senatorial district, which has been longing to have one its own as governor of the state. Saturday Sun gathered that, that part of Ekiti State hasn’t produced the number one citizen of the state since it was created in 1996.
It was further gathered that Eleka got his principal’s blessing to run for the governorship because, according to Fayose, the professor is cerebral, honest, loyal, and sound public servant who has actively been part of his administration’s policy formulation and implementation for almost four years now.
He was said to have been responsible for ensuring that Ekiti came tops for two consecutive years, 2016 and 2017 in the National Examination Council (NECO) and other successes recorded in the education sector of the state.
Explaining why he thinks he is good for the job, Eleka said “those who underrate my cognate experience as an academic, and a politician in the corporate world do not know me. I have held national positions as member of the Nigeria Professional Builders Association and we have campaigned throughout the length and breadth of the country. During this encounter, I have gained rich experience as a politician. I have been a pastor for many years and related with the old, the young, the poor and the highly placed of the society.
“Besides, I have been thoroughly tutored in the school of a professor of grassroots politics, by Governor Fayose and I have become very knowledgeable. I have represented him in various capacities even at the National Economic Council meetings in Abuja. Also, such people forget that people like ex-governor Babatunde Raji Fashola, now Minister for Power, Housing and Works, Adams Oshiomhole and present Lagos State governor
Akinwunmi Ambode were never deputy governors before they became governors and they performed well. So, I am even more experienced in that regard than them and would do better. I am the best man for the job,” he said.
Dr. Kayode Fayemi, 53, is the candidate of the APC. The party is the ruling party at the centre, but remains the major opposition party in Ekiti State. Fayemi holds a Doctorate degree in War Studies. He is the immediate past governor of the state. He is also the immediate past Minister of Steel Development and Solid Minerals.
When he governed Ekiti State from 2010 to 2014, his administration recorded huge infrastructure development across the state. This is evident in many rural and urban development projects he put up.
Findings also show that Fayemi constructed at least 1.5 kilometres of road in each of all the 16 councils of the state. He built town halls, renovated health centres and some schools. He also built new markets, hospitals for the councils and gave them boreholes.
It was during Fayemi’s tenure that rural allowances for teachers, which is 25 percent increment of their basic salaries, was paid. He also supported core subject teachers with 25 percent increment of their basic salaries as incentives for teachers who taught core subjects like English Language, Mathematics and other Science subjects.
Fayemi also increased minimum wage of workers three times while in office. He paid handsome stipends of N5, 000 to each of the many elderly in Ekiti and paid N10, 000 to youths as part of his social security scheme for youths, elderly, unemployed and women among others.
Speaking on what would make Ekiti people vote him in, today, Fayemi said: “my records of excellent performance in all areas of development and in all communities are there. I cannot sack any teacher or worker as being peddled as rumours all about but will continue to give them more incentives.
“There are many benefits from the federal and other donor agencies that our government will bring. We also have many opportunities through my being (a former) minister in Abuja; we can benefit a lot from the federal through my connections with the presidency and also many ministers in the country. I have come so we may reclaim our land, our honour and pride and give our people the best of governance,” he said.
Factors, Issues that will determine today’s outcome
Historically speaking, competence and previous performance in office of a candidate in an election in Nigeria are not enough to win election. There are usually other factors and issues that determine how voters cast their ballot on election day.
For instance, in Zamfara, in the North West, at the beginning of 2007, the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the dominant party in the state since1999, retained the state. Later that year, it fell through the defection of the then governor, Alhaji Mahmuda Shinkafi to the PDP.
Ironically, Shinkafi’s tenure, which ran from 2007 to 2011, was adjudged by many, as remarkable. He had assumed office with a passionate resolve to build infrastructure in the state, a thing that was allegedly neglected by his predecessor.
And he performed well within his first year in office so much so that his administration earned the sobriquet of “A Gani A Kasa”, meaning “project of reality, which we can see on ground.” But by 2011, when he sought the mandate of the people for another term, he was thrown out by the same electorate who had praised him previously for his feat. Interestingly, it was the same treatment that
given to Fayemi in Ekiti, in 2014, when he sought to renew his mandate. Will the electorate that refused to renew his mandate at the time when all the things he did in Ekiti were still fresh in their minds, give him another opportunity today? Will the electorate, for the sake of Fayose who has elevated stomach infrastructure in the country’s political arena, vote his anointed candidate?
The electorate will no doubt provide the answers to these questions by the end of today. However, Saturday Sun investigations reveal that money, zoning, religion and the alleged herdsmen killings in the country are some of the major factors that would influence the decision of an average voter in Ekiti today.
Money is a factor in the country’s politics. Both at parties’ primaries and during general elections, the candidate or party that spends the more often run away with victory. Although there have been very few exceptions, the high poverty level in Ekiti would no doubt make it a strong factor in determining the outcome of today’s election. And usually, the vote buying is done in the full glare of security agents.
“I tell you, N1, 000 is huge in the eyes of our rural populace. The party that offers the highest amount may carry the day,” a retired civil servant, who however said the educated ones among them are moving round to tell the electorate the dangers of collecting money to vote, told Saturday Sun on Wednesday.
Like in every state of the country, Ekiti too is politically divided into three senatorial districts: North, South and Central. Its first civilian governor, Niyi Adebayo, who spent four years in office, is from Ekiti Central. Next was Fayose, also from Central. By the end of his tenure, cumulatively, Ekiti Central would have had 12 years.
Ekiti North first had Segun Oni, who spent three years, 2007 to 2010 and later Fayemi, who spent four years. Cumulatively too, the north senatorial district has spent seven years. Out of the three senatorial districts therefore, only Ekiti South has not produced an elected governor.
This perhaps accounts for the thunderous clamour for the governorship slot to be ceded to the area. The area also has the highest number of councils in the state, covering Ikere, Ekiti East, Emure, Ise-Orun, Ido-Osi, Ekiti South West, and Gbonyin. This shows that the zone has a huge voting strength.
Explaining the rationale for zoning as a factor in today’s election, an Australian based medical doctor, Dr. Wole Oluyede, who incidentally is a chieftain of the APC and a governorship aspirant, had shortly before the APC’s primary appealed to his party to be fair in its consideration of zoning.
He described the agitation as a “child of necessity” that would not only inject equity and fair play in the distribution of elective positions in the state but would make it easier for APC to win the poll. Incidentally, Oluyede, is an indigene of Ikere-Ekiti, in Ekiti South, where the PDP’s candidate, Eleka hails from. To show how strong the zoning sentiment is, it played out in APC’s primary, where Kayode Ojo surprisingly came third after Fayemi and Oni, both of whom are from Ekiti North Senatorial district. Of the 38 governorship aspirants in the APC at the time, 20 were from Ekiti South senatorial district.
Ekiti is predominantly a Christian society. But the Muslim community too has a sizeable population. And since one vote counts much in any election, it follows that any of the parties that get bloc votes from the Muslim community will have an edge over the other. Until recently, religion has never been an issue in the politics of Ekiti. Oni raised the consciousness when he picked a Muslim as his running mate. When Fayemi became governor in 2010, he appointed a Muslim as Secretary to the State Government (SSG) and appointed two Muslims as commissioners. But Fayose has no single Muslim in his cabinet. And the two previous elections he ran and won, it was with a Christian as running mate.
Killings allegedly perpetrated by herdsmen across the country will be playing a major role in today’s election. Saturday Sun’s investigation reveals that words have gone round most of the rural communities that a vote for a particular political party in today’s election would make the rural populace allegedly lose their farm lands to the Fulani herdsmen who will ultimately occupy their ancestral home after sending them away. This was corroborated by Ogun State-based senior Journalist, Mr. Wale Adedayo on a Live television programme in Lagos, last Tuesday. Whether or not the rural populace will fall for the narrative is however a different matter.
Arguably, the level of security presence in today’s election is unprecedented. The Nigeria Police Force has deployed 30,000 personnel for the election.
The personnel comprised of Police Mobile Force (PMF) Units, Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), the Special Protection Unit (SPU), the Anti Bomb Squad (EOD), Conventional Policemen, the Armament Unit, personnel of FCIID and the Sniffer dogs section.
Other deployments include: two Patrol Surveillance Helicopters, five additional Armoured Personnel Carriers ( APC), 10 Armoured Personnel Vehicles and 250 patrol vehicles. Other security and safety agencies who are members of Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES) in the state were also deployed to com- plement the force during the election.
A statement by the Force Spokesman, Jimoh Moshood in Abuja, said the Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG) in charge of Operations has been deployed to the state. Mr Moshood said he would be assisted by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, four Commissioners of Police, eight Deputy Commissioners of Police and 18 Assistant Commissioners of Police. He said that each Senatorial district would be manned by a commissioner of police while the DIG will implement and coordinate the security operations.
He would also supervise the deployment of security personnel for the elections throughout the 2,451 polling units/voting points, 177 Wards and the 16 Local Government Areas of the State.
He said that four police officers and two others from other security agencies would be on duty at each polling unit throughout the state and that the PMF is to be headed by a very senior officer to provide security at collation centres.
According to him, commissioners of police and their personnel in states contiguous and close to Ekiti, such as Ondo, Osun, Kwara, Kogi, Ogun, Edo and Oyo States have been directed to be on red-alert with their personnel. He said that restriction of vehicular movement in and out of Ekiti would commence from 12-midnight of July 13 Friday, till the end of the election even as he advised travellers and other road users to make use of alternative routes.
From all indications, the die appears cast and another battle line drawn between Fayose and Fayemi. Today’s election Saturday Sun can reveal is a contest for pride and ego between Fayose and Fayemi. And if either of the parties tries to employ extra legal means to win the contest, it may result in a bloody violence.