Politics, intrigues, winning factors –

Politics, intrigues, winning factors – The Sun Nigeria

From Oluseye Ojo, Priscilla Ediare, and Lateef Dada, Ado-Ekiti

A fresh breath of newness, calmness, measured optimism, and perceived uncertainty are  pervading the atmosphere of Ekiti State, following the just-concluded governorship poll in the state, held on Saturday, June 18, 2022, which was won clearly by the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr. Biodun Oyebanji.

A drive round Ado-Ekiti on Sunday revealed that many people were delighted on the outcome of the election. As early as 8a.m., some young and middle-aged men were sighted in some beer parlours at Adebayo in Nova area and some other parts of Ado-Ekiti, celebrating the electoral victory of the APC candidate.

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But the victory did not go down well with a number of the people that supported the opposition party, describing the outcome of the poll as a bitter pill that they must swallow. According to them, they voted for opposition candidates because of the inflation rate that the ruling party at the federal and state levels could not arrest.

They lamented that prices of foodstuff have skyrocketed, and many of them could not afford to send their children beyond secondary schools based on financial constraints. They want the governor-elect to do something about bringing down prices of foodstuff when he eventually takes over the reins of power from Governor Kayode Fayemi in October, this year.

Factors that worked for oyebanji

But what are the factors that worked in the electoral victory of Oyebanji? Many noticeable factors have been identified as the things that worked in favour of the APC candidate, and against the candidates of the opposition parties, especially Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Oyebanji won the governorship election with 187,057 votes to defeat the SDP and PDP candidates that polled 82,211 and 67,457 votes, respectively.

One of the major factors that helped Oyebanji, according to political analysts, was the power of incumbency. The support of the siting governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, really helped him. Also, the strong structure of the APC, which cut across almost all the local in the state, contributed meaningfully to his emergence.

The structure was reportedly strengthened by the recognition given to Fayemi’s administration, apparently because of his people-oriented and social investment programmes to the traders and indigents. The support of political appointees and political office holders, including members of the National Assembly, also helped the APC to win the election.

Political observers have also remarked that the pre-election meeting between the leader and presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the SDP governorship candidate, Segun Oni, showed the interest of the APC in the Ekiti governorship election.

Apart from the interest of Governor Fayemi to have a reliable successor, the interest of the presidential candidate of the party, who is from the South West was also observed as a contributor to the victory of Oyebanji in the poll.

The election was a sort of litmus test for Tinubu, who wants to become president of Nigeria next year, on his popularity, recognition and acceptability in his geo-political zone, ahead of the 2023 presidential poll.

Another factor that gave APC the upper hand in the poll was the division within the PDP camp, shortly after the primary election that produced Bisi Kolawole as the party’s gubernatorial candidate.

Division in PDP

Findings showed both the SDP and PDP candidates that came second and third respectively at the end of the election, contested for the gubernatorial ticket of PDP.  But Oni dumped PDP for SDP when he lost at the primary. It was argued that Oni was more popular in PDP than Kolawole, who eventually got the party’s ticket with the support of a former governor of the state, Ayodele Fayose.

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Oni, however, became the governorship candidate of SDP after leaving PDP. As gathered, SDP did not really have structure in Ekiti State, but the popularity of Oni worked for the party to emerge first runner up during the keenly contested poll.

The results of the election as declared by the Chief Returning Officer of INEC for the election, Prof Kayode Adebowale, who is the Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, showed that the sum total of votes scored by both SDP and PDP – which is 149,668, is still short of 37,389 votes to catch up with the 187,057 votes of the APC candidate, Oyebanji that won the election.

Political analysts have also observed that if Oni had been given the ticket of PDP, it would have been a two-horse race between APC and PDP, which could have led to a very tight race. The difference of 104,846 votes between APC that scored 187,057 and SDP that polled 82,211, would not have been so wide. There was possibility that other smaller parties, would have queued behind either APC or PDP if Oni had secured the PDP gubernatorial ticket.

Political observers noted that the division within PDP pushed some leaders of the party away, as some went to SDP, while others later worked for APC. Findings showed that some PDP chieftains eventually played a hide-and-seek game during the election by fraternizing with the ruling APC in apparent anger with the emergence of Kolawole.

Stakeholders in the political game observed that some chieftains of the PDP lost the local , which are believed to be their strongholds to the ruling party. Political watchers concluded that some PDP leaders did not participate in the election as a result of the sharp division within the party.

In the declared results, APC candidate, who hails from Ekiti West Local Government, won in 15 local , while the PDP governorship candidate, Bisi Kolawole, who hails from Efon-Alaye Local Government, won in his local The candidate of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Segun Oni, did not win in any of the local , including his Ido-Osi Local Government.

The ‘Home grown’ factor

Then, fresh facts have also emerged on why APC won in Ado-Ekiti, which was the stronghold of PDP in 2018. The wife of the governor-elect, as gathered, hails from the state capital and she is regarded as a daughter of the palace of Ewi of Ado.

The governor-elect himself is also regarded as ‘Home Grown’, which also worked for him. He was said to have served as the secretary of the committee that midwifed the creation of Ekiti State from the old Ondo State 26 years ago, and that his father was a teacher.

Oyebanji, who hails from Ikogosi-Ekiti, is a son of a teacher, and he attended many schools in the days of his primary and secondary education. He was said to have followed his father to every school that he was transferred to as a teacher. He was also said to have had his tertiary education in Ekiti State, which is why he is being referred to as ‘Home Grown.’

Tinubu and Atiku factors during campaign

The APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was in Ekiti and he campaigned for the party, especially during the grand finale of the electioneering. But the story was not the same for PDP, as its presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, did not visit Ekiti to campaign for Bisi Kolawole. Political observers, have also said that this might have also worked in favour of APC during the poll.

SDP candidate goes to court

But the SDP candidate, Oni, who spoke through his state collation agent and former Attorney-General of the state, Owoseni Ajayi, rejected the results of the poll as declared by INEC, saying: “We are rejecting the results because the election was characterised by violence and intimidation of voters. As a result, we will definitely challenge the outcome of these results in the court of law for posterity and for generation coming to know that when conducting elections, you must follow the rules and procedures.”

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Oyebanji, Fayemi, Kolawole speak

The governor-elect, Biodun Oyebanji, in his acceptance speech, showed profuse gratitude to God, political leaders, organisations, prominent individuals and family members that stood with him and the deputy governor-elect, Mrs. Monisade Afuye. He read the acceptance speech on Sunday in his house at Ikogosi-Ekiti country home. He stated that a new dawn has come for the state.

According to him, “In the coming days and weeks, our great party and the incumbent Kayode Fayemi-administration would be working towards finishing well and strong, and completing key legacy projects. We are immensely proud of the legacy our mentor and leader would be leaving behind and thank him for his labour of love and sacrifice for the homeland. In the course of time, we would set-up a transition committee and ensure a seamless transition, and demonstrate our preparedness and clarity of vision with the effectiveness and efficiency with which we would hit the ground running on assumption of office.

“In the meantime, we would continue our consultations to seek more inputs into our blueprint for the state, and would in the coming days open formal channels through which you can send suggestions to us. We want to continue to listen to you and engage with you, so that as we have promised, together with you, we will keep Ekiti working.”

The governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and his Kebbi State counterpart, Atiku Bagudu, who paid congratulatory visit to Oyebanji in Ikogosi, few hours after he was returned winner of the poll by electoral umpire, presented the election result and declaration sheets to him. The Jigawa State governor, Abubakar Badaru, the  campaign Manager for the Ekiti election, was also in the team.

They hailed Ekiti electorate for electing the APC candidate. They said the election was important to APC because it would serve as a precursor to the July 16, 2022 governorship poll in Osun State, and the 2023 general elections.

Fayemi, who described the victory as exciting, applauded President Muhammadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the Progressives Governors’ Forum for their immense support during the electoral  battle .

“We work hard, we planned and pulled all the strings because Ekiti is the precursor for our coming victories in  2023 and Osun States and this is because we have a sellable product. His trajectory has always been to make Ekiti better and this victory will be to the benefit of Ekiti people.

Bagudu, the Chairman, APC National Campaign Committee, said: “Victory is sweet. But we still have to be humble in it. In 2018, Governor Fayemi won the candidate of the PDP with less than 20,000 votes. But this time, the governor-elect beat his nearest rival with over 100,000 votes. Four years ago, the major opposition won in four local , but that has been narrowed to only a local That shows that from 12 local we won in 2018, now APC won 15.

“This could not have happened if not for the good works done by Governor Fayemi and for the sellable candidate we paraded. We thank the people of Ekiti State for recognising our contributions and for rewarding us with this victory.”

In less than 12 hours after Oyebanji was announced as winner of the election, the PDP candidate, Bisi Kolawole, congratulated him, saying: “I believe that power belongs to God and He bestows upon whoever he chooses. I also believe in popular choice, that is the unfettered expression of the people’s mandate as one of the crucial hallmarks of democratic principle and practice.

“Democracy must therefore deliver to the people dividends of security or protection and enhance their social welfare and well-being basically and among other deliverables. These were the motivation for my own ambition in the governorship of Ekiti State, which I feel strongly to reiterate here in view of the precarious situations of our people at the moment. Please take urgent actions aimed at redressing the plights of our people when you fully assume the mantle shortly.”

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Observations by stakeholders

Acting Deputy Commandant-General in charge of operations of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Haruna Mohammed, who led 9,749 personnel of the security agency to Ekiti, said the process went smoothly and the turnout of voters was very impressive.

Commenting on the alleged vote-buying, he said people should have called the attention of security agents at each polling unit to the alleged financial inducement, and they would have acted promptly on the information. He admitted that the 2022 governorship poll in Ekiti State was an improvement on the previous polls, especially being the first to be conducted under the new Electoral Act.

An observer with YIAGA Africa, Ezenwa Nwagwu, said it was observed that vote-buying was witnessed in a number of polling units that his team visited. He added that financial inducement of electorate has gone scientific, saying the country needs to do more on vote-buying because one would not notice any sign of such, going to the polling units. He said it would take more than ordinary interest to discover it.

But there was heavy security presence across the state. Two helicopters of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) were also sighted. They moved round the state on Saturday to Monday. The security personnel that monitored the election, included the military and paramilitary organisations.

The exercise was seamless in many of the polling units, while a number of them experienced partial hitches due to the malfunctioning of Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) machines, deployed by the INEC for authentication of voters. But the issues were promptly resolved by the technical personnel of INEC.

The vote-buying was observed in many places. In some places, some politicians purportedly distributed N10,000, while it was N4,000 or N5,000 or N3,000 in other places. But it was reported that some voters outrightly rejected financial inducement from politicians, which led to a minor rumpus, which was promptly brought under control by security agents.

Meanwhile, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, Dr. Idowu Johnson, told this reporter that the turnout of voters during the poll in Ekiti was low. He based his argument on the number of accredited voters in comparison with the total number of registered voters.

According to INEC, the total number of registered voters in the state was 989,224, while total number of voters accredited for the poll was 363,438. The number of accredited voters, according to him, probably represents about 35.9 per cent of the registered voters. The valid votes were 351,865 and rejected votes were 8,888, while total votes cast were 360,753.

Johnson said: “First, the election was free, fair and no violence recorded. However, there was low turnout if you compare the number of accredited voters to the registered voters. People can say there was a large turnout if they compared the figure with that of four years ago in the state. More people might not have come out because they might not trust our and the entire system.

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“More importantly, the election was monetised because of the level of poverty among the indigenes. In short, vote-buying was an order of the day.”

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