Ekiti State has a peculiar political history. Since 2003, when the rampaging President Olusegun Obasanjo and the then scary PDP rigging machine routed the Alliance for Democracy and ‘captured’ the South West, sacking Otunba Niyi Adebayo as governor of Ekiti, the governorship of state has remained in the vice grip of a trio.
How do I mean? So many people (prominent and eminently qualified) turn up at the outset of every governorship election in Ekiti but, at the end of the day, the stool continues to rotate between three people: Engineer Segun Oni, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and Mr. Ayodele Fayose – who is also called Peter, The Rock!
Curiously, each of them has had a taste of the seat, one term at a time – with Fayose coming back for a second bite of the cherry eight years after he was dubiously impeached.
Disregarding the interregnum of the emergency rule of Gen. Tunji Olurin (retd.), Oni basically took over after Fayose was criminally impeached by Obasanjo and his cronies. Fayemi sacked Oni in the very next election and, in 2014, four years later, Fayose returned to annihilate Fayemi, 16-0, to reclaim the governorship and abort Fayemi’s second term ambition.
Now, as Fayose performs his swan song, Fayemi is warming up to return. Funnily enough, he had to first beat Oni to the APC ticket.
It was a case of two former governors seeking to succeed a sitting governor, whose first coming was partially truncated by them.
And as we move towards the July 14 gubernatorial poll, the field is gradually thinning down to the usual suspects. Now, the conversation is about which of these three men is running and, if they are not running, which of the candidates are they supporting?
It is all about Fayose, Fayemi and Oni, so much so that only a few people still remember that, barely three weeks ago, we had as many as 33 people jostling for the APC ticket alone. The forceful and impactful campaign of Sen. Babafemi Ojudu has petered out. The promise of an Opeyemi Bamidele governorship is again a dream aborted.
We have quickly forgotten that even the PDP had Prince Dayo Adeyeye, Sen. Biodun Olujimi and Prof. Kolapo Olusola, among others, in the final lap of the struggle.
But now that Adeyeye has been edged out, after inheriting Olujimi’s supporters, everyone is trying to find out which of the ex-governors he would throw his weight behind. There is also the thinking that former Governor Oni could still turn out to be the decisive kingmaker. And it is back to the triumvirate again!
Although Fayose’s name is not on the ballot, nobody is in doubt that this election is about Fayose. Yes, his current deputy governor, Prof. Olusola (popularly known as Eleka) is the PDP flag-bearer, but opponents seem to direct all the flak at the outgoing governor. They accuse him of running for third term by proxy. Both friends and foes, therefore, see the July 14 election as a confidence vote on Fayose and his administration. And the governor is not leaving anyone in doubt that this is the battle of his life.
In fact, opponents are digging up all the ‘dead bodies’ buried by Fayose, in the hope that the repercussions would hit Eleka adversely. And the mudslinging has not been in short supply.
Fayose accuses Fayemi of plotting to use staff and students of the federal university in the state to rig the election. According to the narrative, in the event that bona fide students and lecturers refuse to play ball, there is said to be a Plan B: identity cards of the university would be procured for thugs, touts and trusted APC supporters, who would then be used as INEC officers, returning officers, collation officers, etc. However, all of them would be working towards the same goal: to ensure that APC wins by every means necessary.
In fact, the story is that the full weight of the infamous Federal Might would be unleashed on Fayose and the PDP so that, before they realise what hit them, Fayemi would have been sworn in.
The joke is that time has come for the PDP to have a taste of its own medicine. Put differently, it means: whatever Federal Might the PDP central government deployed to Ekiti to record that unbelievable 16:0 victory against a sitting APC governor would be returned to that same Ekiti by the current APC central government. The only difference now is that the tables have turned, and those federal forces of occupation would be working on the side of the APC. I am told Fayose fully understands the potency of that federal power, and he is, understandably, apprehensive.
Fayemi’s camp, on the other hand, is also accusing Fayose of a few electoral pranks. Only last week, it alleged that the governor planned to sew Fayemi campaign uniforms for thugs who were allegedly being recruited to attack the campaign offices of Oni.
The idea is to create the impression that Fayemi’s supporters were behind the attack, hoping that it would further drive a wedge between Oni and Fayemi, and compel Oni, who lost the APC ticket to Fayemi in a bitterly contested primary, to fight back. That would mean the APC could go into the election with a more divided house than it already has.
As we approach the election, the threat of violence is so real that it has already begun to manifest in open fracas and showdowns.
For me, however, this coming election in Ekiti is what would confirm whether the Buhari government actually possesses the democratic credentials (and temperament) it has been waving in our faces all this while.
It would confirm if the administration can ignore its desperation to win, take the back seat and allow free and fair elections. Whether we can, when the chips are really down, allow the people’s votes to count.
The international community has particularly been on our matter over this Ekiti election; we must not disgrace ourselves.
The complaint the opposition and even independent observers had about the last governorship election in Ekiti was the over-militarisation, intimidation and manipulation of the process. Having lost that election, it is safe to assume that the APC got the short end of the stick in 2014. However, the way to redress those shortcomings in this 2018 election is not to turn the tables in APC’s favour. The way to redress it is to address the problem. To make sure it never happens again. To ensure that whoever wins, come July 14, wins fair and square.
I know not a few people in APC want to cut Fayose to size. I know Fayose is eager to prove that he is indeed the Osoko-mole. I know that APC has probably selected its best candidate. I know I also have a soft spot for Fayemi. I know that a few people at the APC headquarters might want to score a point over Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who they should actually be eternally indebted to (it does not matter that the Jagaban Borgu has given them no reason to doubt his commitment to the party). But above all, however, I want us, PMB, INEC and the eventual winners and losers of the July poll, to beat our chest at the end of it all and say that our votes, not our blood, counted!