Come July 14, all political antenna across Nigeria – and maybe, around the world – would be tuned to the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State. On this date, 40 political parties would be on the touchline, expecting the people’s mandate to be handed to one of them.
Having had series of political mishaps in recent past, Ekiti is one of the few other Nigeria states that would have a gubernatorial election before the 2019 general elections.
The regular electioneering calendar of the state was altered after the 2007 election that ushered in Olusegun Oni, then in PDP, which result was fiercely challenged at the Election Petition Tribunal in Ekiti by his closest rival, Kayode Fayemi of the defunct ACN.
In 2009, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conducted a rerun election. Again, it was challenged by Dr. Kayode Fayemi at the Ekiti State re-Constituted Election Petition Tribunal. A BBC poll described the election as being “marked by violence and intimidation since the man elected back in 2007, Segun Oni, was thrown out of office after massive vote-rigging emerged.”
In May 2010, Fayemi’s petition was dismissed and “the Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, upheld the election of incumbent Governor Segun Oni” who won by a split decision of three Judges being in support of the majority ruling as against two in support of the minority ruling at the election petition tribunal.
Oni spent another five months in office when, on October 15, 2010, he was removed from Office following the Judgement of the Appeal Court which ruled against him in favour of his opponent Kayode Fayemi. This year’s election will, therefore, be the second of such after the state’s three years of political rigmarole.
Now, less than two weeks separate the electorate from renewing their political license. Campaigns have been in full fledge and covert and overt suspicions have been blown into the atmosphere of the Land of Honour. Promises have followed too. These have been done in the name of winning the much-coveted seat in Fajuyi, Ado-Ekiti.
While everyone does not want to lose, not everyone would win. And because elections are not won until after declaration, where the piece would crack is still a thing of conjecture and sky-bound hopes. However, certain gladiators within and outside the state have a stake in influencing to whom the mandate would be bestowed come July 14. In no premeditated order, to come are them – even though they are part of a whole.
NIGERIA INTERVENTION MOVEMENT (NIM)
Little may be known of the Movement but of the membership of the Nigeria Intervention Movement, speaks volume of the role they could play in the upcoming election.
The Movement’s over 100, 000 members as reportedly noted by the State’s Coordinator, Mr. Moses Jolayemi, would be a bright pointer for whoever the Movement finally settles to support. Jolayemi notes that, the “over 100,000 NIM members and supporters in the 16 Local Government Areas of Ekiti are waiting to know which candidate’s programmes and philosophies best encapsulate the desires and aspirations of the people of the state.”
In light of this, therefore, Professor Anthony Kila, NIM National Secretary, equally made it known that: “the process of identifying the right candidate to support after due process is in line with NIM’s objectives of identifying and promoting the right people for office in Nigeria. We cannot continue the way we are doing things in this country. We are looking for people with the real desire and ability to serve and not just to be served.
“Starting from Ekiti and then to the whole of Nigeria, NIM is going to help citizens employ the right office holders in all spheres of government, so it is safe to say we are going to employ the next governor for Ekiti and that we see such Governor as a CEO.”
That sounded more like a boast, but as it can be seen, the Movement will eventually settle to support a candidate. Who that candidate would be is not public knowledge though. And with the “over 100, 000” membership figure of the Movement, a huge percentage of the state’s electorate have their choice in the hands of the Movement. While addressing the public on the number of registered voters in the state, the State’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Professor Abdul-Ganiyu Raji, made it known that: “Over 513, 000 PVCs have been collected as at last month (March), while about 221, 000 PVCs were yet to be collected.”
As it is in every election, the role of party leaders cannot be downplayed. This upcoming one too won’t tell a different story. Recently, the duo of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande mediated upon a petition Segun Oni was reported to have levelled against Kayode Fayemi. The duo, together with other party chieftains in the state, released a statement titled, “We Stand Behind Kayode Fayemi”, to reaffirm their support for the party’s flag bearer and charge the sponsors of the case to “withdraw their case immediately if they are within our party and not agents of PDP.”
Though Oni has not come out to accept responsibility for the petition neither has he come out to deny his knowledge of the suit. It is clear that these are political stunts and electioneering propaganda by some, and how well they are dealt with will be a huge determinant of what to expect on July 14.
Therefore, the handling of these stunts rests on the shoulders of the party’s chieftains, being the leaders and the most experienced members. Not only that, how the amount of influence they exhibit is used could be a big boost or a fatal blow. Whichever of these it would be for the APC, its chieftains surely have that in their sail.
A former Governor of the state and Vice-Chairman, Southern Nigeria, of All Progressives Congress (APC), Oni joined the party in 2014 after defecting from the PDP.
Oni, 64, was among the over 33 APC candidates who lost to Kayode Fayemi in the party’s primary election, and he is one of the aggrieved party members of the APC.
His recent alleged suit filed against the emergence of Kayode Fayemi as the party’s flag bearer is the hot buns burning the lips of APC members in the state. Oni alleged that Fayemi, a “Federal Executive and Federal Minister of Solid Minerals, Mines and Steel Development having not resigned his appointment as a member of Federal Executive and Minister of Solid Mineral, Mines and Steel Development, at all or at least 30 days to the said primaries election of 12th May, 2018” is not “qualified to contest and participate in the said All Progressive Congress Governorship primaries of 12th May, 2018 as an aspirant in that election.”
Even though some of the party’s chieftains have lashed out on the sponsors of the suit, and claimed the suit was not “instituted by Chief Segun Oni”. However, they added, “from our investigations is being sponsored by some unknown person”. With the controversies shrouded around his name, Oni has shown the power he wields in determining where the pendulum will swing.
Whether or not “he” will withdraw the case as advised by the party’s chieftains is yet to be ascertained. What can be seen, however, is the subtle effect the suit would have on the votes of the APC. This effect, however little, would certainly be felt.
GOVERNOR AYODELE FAYOSE
Currently, Fayose is the only PDP Governor in southwest. And like every incumbent almost controls the tides of every electioneering process in his state, Fayose’s stake in this one cannot be downplayed.
Being a strong bite of criticism on the APC – both at state and federal levels – his stance as to who emerges is fierce. So, the choice of the Peoples Democratic Party’s flag bearer, Professor Kolapo Olusola-Eleka, was a quick political maneuver the party had to throw in the fray. Kolapo was chosen by his party, unopposed. And to drum the beat of the role he played in making this come to live, Fayose made it known that his choice of Olusola is not only the best for Ekiti but a divine choice.
“In the first instance, the emergence of Olusola-Eleka as my deputy was divine. He never lobbied to be one. He was just a lecturer at the university enjoying what he was doing. I proposed to have his father that I knew to be a politician as my deputy, but he emerged in a divine manner.”
“We all say we are God’s people,” he said, adding that “and I have earlier said I was relying on God to choose a successor for me and He has done that. I know it is a divine project and those who doubt should wait as see in the end what it is going to be. Power comes from God and He gives willingly.
“Some say I am promoting my deputy – I am not, but I am only doing the Will of God. When we do His Will there is no need to fear. We are going to that Promised Land. This is God’s project and it won’t fail,” he said.
As it stands, wherever the upcoming state election would crack, Fayose has a big stake in influencing who carries the day – and maybe, who the day carries. Remove the weight he would pull behind his most preferred revered successor and all that is left would be a featherweight.
The United States is not a new name when it comes political influence on African countries, and Nigeria has never been an exception. While it is unclear how much of influence or what sort of influence they would have on the election, it is clear that they certainly are key players in how the election pans out.
The Consul General in Nigeria, Mr. John Bray, dropped this hint during a meeting with the Ekiti State Council of Traditional Rulers held at the palace of Ewi of Ado-Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe. The hint was dropped when the Chairman of the Council and Oloye of Oye-Ekiti, Oba Oluwole Ademolaju, asked the U.S to prevent vote-buying during the July 14 governorship poll in the state.
Bray had responded, saying there won’t be compromise on the need to conduct a free, fair and credible election in a peaceful atmosphere that would conform with global best practices. So, he promised, the U.S was committed to peace before, during and after the election.
“We are on the side of the people. We are here to support free, fair, credible and peaceful election,” he informed the league of Traditional Rulers. “The eyes of the world will be on Ekiti on July 14. We would be here and we won’t let you down,” he said.
Bookmakers whose permutations and combinations have won the race for a party long before the race was raced are definitely trapped in a horrendous cycle. The APC might be the driver of the federal wheel of power, their victory in the coming election is not cast in the stone. In fact, federal power amounted to nothing in the election in Anambra. PDP might be the ruling party in the state, returning to power is in the thumbs of the electorate. So where the nut would crack is left to be seen. It would be seen, surely, on the date we have booked with fate. Let’s wait till then!
Akinpelu Yusuf writes from the University of Ibadan. He is a Campus Journalist and less than a year distances him from clinching his first degree in Statistics.