At the end of Saturday’s governorship election in Ekiti State, the State Returning Officer and Vice Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof Kayode Adebowale, declared Biodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress (APC) winner of the election with 187,057 votes, while Chief Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), came distant second, polling 82,209 votes and Bisi Kolawole, the governorship candidate of the PDP coming third with 67,457 votes.
While Oyebanji trounced his co-contestants in 15 out of 16 councils, Kolawole led only in his Efon local government area. In fact, Oni was humbled in his Ido/Osi council, where APC got 10,321 and SDP 9,321.
Although many people in the state have described the resounding victory as a referendum on Governor Kayode Fayemi’s achievements in managing the resources of the state and integrating Ekiti into national politics, some observers attributed the outcome to the unresolved crisis in the PDP after its governorship primary that forced Oni and his supporters to quit the party and join SDP, a relatively unknown party in Ekiti.
Besides, some analysts said monetary inducement of voters played significant roles in determining the result of the election. Though, they acknowledged that all the major political parties engaged in vote buying but ‘the highest bidder’ laughed last. Indeed, they dismissed the whole process as a “caricature of democracy.”
Unknown to many, the Ekiti election had been won and lost on the day Oni left PDP and the choice of Fayemi to support the aspiration of his former Secretary to the State Government, Oyebanji in his quest to succeed him.
Investigation by journalists revealed that APC leaders played more than a passive role in ensuring that Oni did not get PDP ticket, because they saw him as the only stumbling block on their way to retaining power in the state.
Oni is not a stranger to Ekiti politics. He contested against Fayemi in 2007 under the platform of PDP and ‘won’ but the protracted legal tussle lasted till October 15, 2010 when the Appeal Court, sitting in Akure, gave the verdict and declared Fayemi actual winner of that election.
He left the party to join APC when Fayose won the primary ahead of 2014 election, citing incompatibility with Fayose’s style of politics and rose to the position of APC Deputy National Chairman (South). Oni contested APC governorship primary with Fayemi in 2018 and lost but he challenged the internal election in court, against party decision. By the time the court gave judgment against him, he was dismissed by the state chapter of the party.
To realise his political ambition, he returned to the PDP where former governor Ayodele Fayose worked with Senator Biodun Olujimi to not give him any breathing space. All entreaties by the national leadership of the party to get Oni integrated into the party system were frustrated by Fayose and Olujimi.
However, unknown to Olujimi, Fayose’s game plan was more than what was visible to her. Despite her ambition to fly PDP governorship ticket, Fayose foisted Kolawole on the party, while Oni defected to SDP.
But what many observers see as Fayose’s folly did not immediately translate into APC’s victory, until the choice of Oyebanji by Fayemi. It was gathered that when the race for Fayemi’s successor began, no fewer than 10 aspirants gave the idea a shot, including Senator Opeyemi Bamidele, Hon. Femi Bamishile, three of Fayemi’s close aides, current Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General of the state, Wale Fapounda SAN, Fayemi’s former Chief of Staff, Biodun Omoleye and Oyebanji.
It was gathered that at the point of taking decision, the powers that be, especially members of the committee that fought for the creation Ekiti, where Oyebanji served as the Secretary, preferred him to succeed Fayemi. They saw Oyebanji as one of their own, who has the grasp and knowledge of the Ekiti project.
It was also said that many traditional rulers and elders in the state saw Oyebanji as a homegrown politician, who speaks their language and will tailor development according to their needs. In fact, an elder of the state was quoted to have said that “if Oyebanji had not worked for the success of the creation of Ekiti, what would his co-contestants have been fighting for.
It was also an open secret that wife of the governor, Erelu Bisi Fayemi, did not hide her preference for Oyebanji’s aspiration and led women in the party to campaign for his victory.
The governor-elect, who was the Chief of Staff to the first civilian governor of the state and current Minister of Trade and Commerce, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, also served as Commissioner for Integration and Inter-Governmental Affairs and Head of Ekiti State Office of Transformation Strategy and Delivery (OSTD) during Fayemi’s first term in office.
The Ikogosi-born graduate of Political Science was born in 1957 and had a stint at Ekiti State University (EKSU), before going into private business and politics.
Also for the first time, APC had a landslide victory in Ado Ekiti and Ikere, the two major towns that control over 30 per cent of votes in the state. It was a surprise to many that in Ado Ekiti, the party polled 23,831 votes while PDP got 7,575 and SDP won 15,214 votes. In Ikere, where PDP had been a party to beat, APC trounced it by polling 12,086 votes, SDP 1,943 and PDP 3,789.
Party sources said while the choice of Oyebanji had given them assurance of wining Ado Ekiti, the strategy to penetrate Ikere was a tough decision. Ikere was traditionally polarised between Ogoga, Oba Adejimi Alagbado and Olukere, Oba Obasonyin Ayodele Ganiyu, who Fayemi recently recognised as a monarch.
It was said that since Fayemi took the step to crown Olukere and stop the age long agitation in the ancient town, there was no love lost between Ogoga and Fayemi, but the choice of Chief (Mrs) Monisade Afuye, the head of princesses from Ogoga, as deputy to Oyebanji doused the tension and ended the war of attrition between the monarch and the governor.
The deputy governor-elect, who was the APC Women Leader until her nomination as Oyebanji’s running mate was also used to strike gender balancing because women constitute 51 per cent of registered voters and also to assuage the feelings of Ekiti Southern Senatorial district that has been clamouring to govern the state since its creation.
It was also to the advantage of the APC that few weeks to the election, the two major competitors had become weak and lacked both the financial strength and capacity to give APC a run for its money.
That Oni’s structure in SDP was not more that a “horse in paper”, was obvious. The calculation of most of its members that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was likely to lose APC presidential ticket and defect to SDP turned mirage and deflated Oni’s chances.
Though Tinubu was in Ekiti, he joined the train to campaign for APC and Oyebanji without making reference to Oni or SDP. Indeed, Tinubu’s visit to Ekiti was seen as the final endorsement that gave APC massive victory during the election.
For many who thought the election would be a three-horse race, they were disappointed as Fayose suddenly developed cold feet with some in PDP asking him to explain the dismal performance of the party at the election. It was strange that PDP was not visible in the state before the election.
Despite the fact that the party did not hold a rally to galvanise support from the electorate, its candidate was also off the radar. And few days to the election, what was expected to be a stiff contest among three parties had become a two-horse race between APC and SDP.
Speaking to The Guardian on how APC got its landslide victory, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Funminiyi Afuye, said: “Ekiti people wanted continuity of the government of Fayemi. Since Fayemi took oath of office, he has done creditably well and kept faith with its five-pillar development agenda – good governance, agriculture and rural development; social investments, knowledge economy, infrastructure and industrial development.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Director of Media and Publicity, BAO Campaign Organisation, Taiwo Olatunbosun said APC won the election because Oyebanji built his campaign on Fayemi’s record of performance, having been part of the first and second term of administrations.
He said: “The continuity of projects and regular payment of salaries and pensions was a major attraction to workers who could not trust PDP or SDP to be able to do it.
“The elderly and Ekiti youths identify with him, he is a quiet philanthropist who reaches out to the youth. The elderly also believe that the monthly stipends for elderly citizens and Onje Arugbo, which provided food items for indigent old people, will continue under his administration.
“Another was homeboy factor. Oyebamji had his primary, secondary and university education in Ekiti, he started work as a young lecturer at the state university before joining politics. The locals identified with him for this. The alumni association of the state university launched a massive campaign for him in the hope to realise the emergence of an alumnus as governor of the state. To them, the 40-year-old EKSU was ripe enough to produce the governor of the state.
“Lastly, the emergence of Tinubu as presidential flag bearer of APC and the role played by Fayemi in stepping down for Asiwaju also helped to unite the various tendencies within the party.”
While congratulating the governor-elect on his victory as well deserved, Fayemi said it was a befitting honour for a man who, in the last three decades, had committed his time, energy, talent and resources to the development of the state.
He said: “Ekiti people have spoken loud and clear. The outcome of the election has shown that Ekiti people are honourable people, who always support and reward leaders, who have served them diligently and faithfully.”
Written By: Muyiwa Adeyemi (Politics Editor, GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER)
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