Voters in Ekiti State would on Saturday, July 14 throng to polling centres to elect a new governor that would lead them for the next four years. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is to conduct election in 2,195 constituencies in the 177 wards located in the 16 local government areas of the state.
Thirty-five political parties have fielded candidates to participate in the election. This Ekiti election is particularly important because it would show how various stakeholders including INEC, political parties and politicians among others are getting ready for the 2019 general elections which is seven months from now. It is also a litmus test for Nigeria’s democracy and a testing ground for the two main contending political parties, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti and the ruling party at the centre, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
PDP has fielded outgoing Governor Ayo Fayose’s deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola as its candidate while APC has fielded a former governor of the state, Dr. Kayode Fayemi who recently resigned as Minister of Mines and Steel Development as its candidate. Both men are accomplished in their chosen fields, which is just as well for a state that is reputed to have one of the highest educational levels in the country. Yet, Ekiti has also had serious problems with its politics and its leadership since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
Its first governor in this Republic, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, was ousted at the polls after only one term in office. Fayose, who defeated him, was impeached three years later, an event that caused a revolving-door of acting governorships over several months. Segun Oni, who took over in 2007 was ousted by the election tribunal after nearly three years and Kayode Fayemi, who got the mandate after that, was defeated at the polls after one term. Fayose, who made an incredible return in 2014, has ruled Ekiti State with a political style best described as irascible.
This is therefore Ekiti’s chance to make a fresh start but sadly, the conduct of the candidates and their supporters clearly indicates that the contest is going to be a do-or-die affair, what with the way the two leading parties in the contest, PDP and APC, are trading allegations over planned rigging, manipulation and violence among other infractions. To them, whichever party wins the election would show how strong it is in the South West, including what it would be able to bring to the table in subsequent elections.
For instance, so desperate is Governor Fayose that he has completely overshadowed PDP’s official candidate. Many Ekiti voters may actually think that Fayose is a candidate in the election. Only recently, Governor Fayose accused the Police and Department of State Services (DSS) of repositioning themselves to coordinate the rigging of the election. In a state-wide broadcast in Ado Ekiti last week, the governor restated his allegations that a National Commissioner with INEC, Mrs. Amina Zakari and three other officials are working with Fayemi.
But dispelling the allegations, Zakari at a workshop in Ado Ekiti said it was difficult for an individual to rig an election. She said, “They should prove that beyond reasonable doubt. I doubt it if an individual can rig an election when there are over 20,000 personnel to conduct the election. They should back their allegation with fact and figures. We (INEC) have nothing to hide. I see no reason why INEC would want to go back to the bad old days. We are moving forward and we remain focused to ensure a credible election for Nigeria.” INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu had described Fayose’s allegation as “malicious.”
We urge the electoral umpire to ignore the baseless charges and concentrate on its job. We also urge the candidates to concentrate on the job of selling their programs to the electorate instead of this shadow boxing. We must have a free, fair and violence free election in Ekiti on Saturday.