By Richard Elesho
The day that everyone expects is already here. It is the day that a new helmsman who will, for the next four years, decide who gets what, when and how in Ekiti will be thrown up. After being overtly overshadowed by preparations for next year’s general elections, the Ekiti State gubernatorial poll has finally regained steam. People of the state will file out this Saturday, 18th June 2022, to elect a replacement for Dr Kayode Fayemi, a war scholar, whose tenure as Governor winds to a close. The election is the seventh since the state was created in 1996 by late Gen. Sani Abacha.
Activities towards the election have pushed the small and otherwise serene state to the edge. At campaign rallies, the famed Ekiti Parapo (Ekiti come together) slogan, randomly gave way to divisions. It became common for verbal vituperation to degenerate into full-blown skirmishes where punches, knives and other weapons of war were freely deployed.
Less than a week to the polls, one person was killed, while no less than three others sustained injuries when a fight broke out between supporters of rival political parties at Itaji Ekiti. As expected, each group blamed the other for the violence.
To tame the propensity to anarchy and other electoral violations, the National Peace Committee, NPC, headed by former Head of State, Gen. Abduldalam Abubakar, organised a peace accord in the state two days before D-Day. Represented by a respected nationalist and Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Dr Mathew Hassan Kukah, the Chairman urged the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC and participants in the poll to ensure a free, fair and credible exercise.
Sixteen out of the eighteen political parties in the country will feature in the election. Two of the candidates are women including Kemi Elebute-Halle of the Action Democratic Party, ADP. There are also seven female running mates in the contest.
The candidates have traversed all 16 Local Government Areas, LGAs, of the state in search of votes. But, out of the lot, only three candidates count for sturdy. They are Abiodun Oyebanji of APC, Olabisi Kolawole of People’s Democratic Party, PDP and Segun Oni of Social Democratic Party, SDP.
The following is an excerpt from a recent story on the tripodal contest and how the candidates stand as the people go to the poll.
It is instructive that since its creation about three decades ago, no political party has won the governorship race back-to-back. That is a jinx the ruling APC is trying to break with its candidates.
In more ways, however, the election will be a clash of the titans, certain to reopen old wounds among tested political gladiators.
Indeed, it will be a contest highly tarred with the influence of godfathers. For instance, Oyebanji, the APC candidate is a former Secretary to the State Government, SSG and Fayemi’s anointed candidate, while PDP’s Kolawole, a former state Chairman of the party, enjoys the support of immediate past Governor and PDP Presidential aspirant, Peter Ayodele Fayose. Both Fayemi and Fayose are old war horses with scores to settle.
If Kolawole wins, Fayose will take the credit. It will be the first time a former Governor will successfully install another, in the state.
The third force in the fight, Oni, is equally part of the primordial issues. He was also Governor under PDP before he was chased out by Fayemi. He later joined the APC, becoming its Deputy Chairman, South, before returning to the PDP. He lost out in the PDP primary and promptly went to his new party to pick the ticket. Certainly, Oni has axes to grind with both Fayemi and Fayose.
Bookmakers believe Oni’s defection to the SDP will have a relative influence on the two dominant parties. It was gathered that his die-hard followers in the parties followed him to his new party. If he wins, he will break the record as the first third force to do so, in the state.
Even at that, another fresh force, who though not part of the triumvirate, may be impactful is Wole Oluyede of Action Democratic Party, ADP. He is an Australia-based medical doctor. He was also part of APC. He left the party following his inability to secure its nomination.
There are about one million registered voters out of which a little above 700 collected Permanent Voters Cards, PVC. Today as they are eagerly visiting the poll, INEC has deployed over 10,000 personnel for the exercise, promising to make it credible. Adeniran Pella, Resident Electoral Commissioner, assured us that INEC is substantially prepared for the election.
Who will win the race? That is the multi-million Naira question that only time will answer.