As over 749,000 voters in Ekiti state go to the polls today to elect a new governor, the race for who succeeds Governor Kayode Fayemi promises to be an epic battle among the contenders.
A former secretary to the out going government, Mr Abiodun Oyebanji, who is being backed by Governor Kayode Fayemi and the former Governor and current Minister of Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo is the flag bearer of the APC while an ally of former Governor Ayodele Fayose, Mr Bisi Kolawole is the candidate of the PDP.
Associates of Fayemi had said that ensuring support of APC leader for Ahmed Bola Tinubu in today’s governorship election largely influenced his withdrawal from the presidential race and asking his delegates to vote for Tinubu who eventually emerged APC flag bearer. Now Oyebanji has the full backing of Tinubu.
Prior to this election however, the struggle for the control of the political space in the state had always been between the All Progressives Congress, APC, and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Both parties had taken turns to govern the state in previous elections and no one could imagine there would come a time when another party would emerge in the state that is capable of shoving aside the APC or the PDP. And the party that is really giving both the APC and the PDP sleepless nights is the Social Democratic Party, SDP.
In fact the party if fondly called a ‘third force’ in Ekiti and the arrow head of that third force in this election is the former governor of the state, Chief Segun Oni, the governorship candidate of the SDP. Indeed, it could be said that the fear of Segun Oni is the beginning of political wisdom among the political parties who are participating in today’s election. Oni’s personality in SDP has been enigmatic.
Oni, who hails from Ifaki Ekiti in Ido/Osi Local Government Area in Ekiti North Senatorial District was the Ekiti governor between 2007 and 2010 before his election was annulled by the judiciary to pave way for Fayemi. He is experienced, brilliant and very popular among the masses. The fact that he paid pension and gratuity expeditiously during his first term had enhanced his popularity among pensioners and civil servants. He also enjoys a network of friends and is largely perceived as one politician that is not ready to compromise.
Oni is being backed by many traditional rulers including first class Obas because of the way he took care of their welfare during his tenure. Many influential politicians from both the APC and PDP have also defected to SDP because of his influence making the party very popular among Ekiti people. Oni’s candidacy enjoys a lot of acceptability and this has been giving the ruling APC some headache.
The big question that will therefore be answered today is, can Segun Oni, with his popularity and general acceptance, defeat Tinubu and Fayose’s men in today’s governorship election? Some pundits have predicted that he may end up reigniting what former Governor Olusegun Mimiko did with Labour Party in Ondo State after leaving the PDP. One weakness of the party though is that it seems to have lean financial resources to really go on the offensive as well as the fact that the party has no appointed and elected political office holders at any level.
749,000 voters decide Fayemi’s successor
A total of 749, 065 voters out of 988,923 registered voters, who have collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) in Ekiti State are expected to troop out today in the 2,445 polling units in the 177 wards of the state to elect their new governor who will pilot the affairs of the state for another four years.
16 political parties, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission will participate in this election. Among these parties are the pretenders, those described as election season political parties with little or no presence in the state as well as the serious and visible ones.
The most prominent among the parties that will be on the ballot today however are the All Progressives Congress (APC), Social Democratic Party (SDP), People’s Democratic Party(PDP), Young Progressive Party(YPP), African Democratic Congress(ADC), and Action Democratic Party(ADP). The gladiators in today’s epic battle are, Olusegun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Abiodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Others are Wole Oluyede of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Reuben Famuyibo of the Accord Party, Debo Ranti Ajayi of the Young People’s Party (YPP) and 10 others.
All Progressives Congress (APC)
The ruling party, APC, is a strong party in Ekiti State with tentacles across the 177 wards and 2,445 polling units. The party has Abiodun Oyebanji, from Ikogosi-Ekiti, Ekiti West Local Government Area in Ekiti Central Senatorial District as its standard bearer in this election. Oyebanji, a former Secretary to the present government, had also functioned in many capacities in previous governments in the state from 1999 to 2003 and 2010 to 2014.
Though, this is his first electoral experience, many people however argued that Oyebanji, has a big chance as he is standing on the shoulders of the incumbent, Governor Kayode Fayemi, former governor and current Minister of Trade and Investment, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and the Presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Oyebanji’s choice as the flag bearer of APC enjoys mass appeal across the state because he is seen as the first home grown politician to be given the opportunity to run for governorship seat of the state. Many believe that having grown, schooled and earned his first employment in the state, coupled with fact that he served as Secretary of the Committee for the creation of Ekiti State, he’s well armed with solutions to some of the problems confronting the state.
Fayemi’s deft political strategy within the APC in the state has also helped to boost the party’s chances. What Fayemi did was to return Opeyemi Bamidele unopposed as the Senator for Ekiti Central.
He also ensured fair contest in the party’s primary, which enabled Femi Bamisile to return as the flag bearer of the party for South Federal Constituency 2 as well an upset in Ekiti North that displaced the under performing Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi for Cyril Fasuyi, who is the popular choice of the people in Ekiti North.
Also, a significant impact was Fayemi’s decision to step down for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu during the last presidential primary which has really unsettled the SDP. It has been described by many political watchers within and outside the state as a master stroke and could be the deciding factor for the party.
However, the APC is going into this election factionalized. One had hoped that with the emergence of Tinubu as the party’s presidential candidate, members of Southwest Agenda for Tinubu 2023 presidency (SWAGA), led by Senator Dayo Adeyeye would naturally return to the party. But their absence at the grand finale rally organized for the gubernatorial candidate of the party, on Tuesday said a lot about the deep gulf between the group and the party in Ekiti. Another albatross is the discontent of some of the civil servants with the ruling party. The inability of the ruling party to zone the ticket to the South senatorial district will also be a big factor in this election.
People’s Democratic Party(PDP)
The party has Hon Bisi Kolawole, former assembly member and ex-Commissioner and a very close ally of the former Governor Ayodele Fayose, as its flag bearer. He hails from Efon in Efon Local Government Area, in Ekiti Central. The people of Efon are known to always vote in one direction and Kolawole may get a block vote in the council that boasts of over 30,000 registered voters in this poll.
Riding on the popularity of a popular political juggernaut like Fayose will no doubt boost his chances. The party also has a Senator in Ekiti South, Biodun Olujimi representing the district at the National Assembly.
Olujimi is a very influential and rich politician with huge financial firepower that can help the PDP in this battle. The PDP has never been this weak since 1999 and the weakness could be hinged on the fact that many party members had defected with Segun Oni to SDP while some went to APC due to irreconcilable differences with Fayose.
Some of its bigwigs like former Governor Segun Oni, former Speaker Kola Oluwawole, Jackson Adebayo, Lanre Ogunsuyi, Hon Sina Animasaun, former Commissioner for Works, Kayode Oso, and others had defected to SDP and this had depleted the party’s ranks greatly. The party is also being unilaterally funded by Fayose and in this context, the party may not be able to match the superior financial power of the APC.
African Democratic Congress (ADC)
The party fields an Australian based medical Doctor, Wole Oluyede as its flag bearer. He is a native of Ikere Ekiti, and was a member of APC before he defected to the new platform. Oluyede is largely perceived to be brilliant and fairly popular.
He has a deep purse to prosecute his election and the people of Ikere Ekiti were also resolute to vote for him. With this, he has an edge in one local government already if this manifests in this election. He seems to possess one of the best manifestoes and this had endeared him to some elites.
But his campaign seems restricted due to the fact that he is the only financier. The party has no solid political structures that can match the dominant parties, so he might not fly beyond Ikere in this election. He also lacks the backing of strong politicians that can sway voters to his side.
Young Progressives Party(YPP)
This party has Mr. Debo Ranti Ajayi, a former Commissioner for Budget and later Trade and Investment under Fayemi’s first term as its candidate. He hails from Emure Ekiti in Ekiti South Senatorial district. He is a strong candidate contesting from Ekiti South that has not produced a governor since 1999.
It is expected that the people of that district will vote for him. Ajayi read Actuarial Science at the University of Lagos and made First Class. He is a very cerebral individual with captivating manifesto that can change the face of Ekiti. But the party lacks political structures and strong financial war chest to compete with major parties.
In actual fact, the SDP, APC and PDP may even do better than the party in Ekiti South despite the fact that the candidate is from the district that has felt alienated. People didn’t expect any surprise from this party in this election despite Ajayi’s towering personality.
Action Democratic Party(ADP)
This party is fielding a renowned female Engineer, Erelu Kemi Elebute-Halle as its candidate.
The candidate is seen as very energetic and has campaigned doggedly. Halle is also very wealthy and people have accorded her a lot of attention being the only woman among the candidates. She has crisscrossed every part of the state and the people expect her to make a remarkable showing in this election.
The party seems to have been thrown into disarray with the defection of its Deputy Governorship candidate, Mr Idowu Afuye to APC. Many influential politicians in ADP have also defected with Afuye. Though, women have been showing sympathies to the candidate, this may not be enough to do the magic for her.
Parties’ political spread
Among the major political parties that are seen as front runners, only the APC, SDP and PDP have the political spread to garner 25 percent in 12 out of 16 local governments of the state to emerge winner. In this regard, the APC and SDP seem to have the upper hand, because of the fact that APC enjoys both the state and federal might.
This election represents a major battle among political warlords and godfathers in the state and it’s going to be a game of ego and vengeance. In actual fact, the APC and SDP are the two parties to watch out for in this poll.
There is this belief among political watchers that the electoral battle will be between the All Progressive Congress (APC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP). The People’s Democratic Party appears not to be in this race at all.
The upsurge of violence in the build up to this election where three persons had been reportedly killed may cause voter apathy. And if this happens, the odds may favour APC being the ruling party. But if the turnout is massive, SDP is one party that will give the APC a run for its money.
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