By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor
Yesterday’s governorship election in Ekiti State was unarguably the most coordinated security operation in recent times. It was not for nothing. The deployment of 30,000 policemen and women was reflective of the high-stake political prize that was on offer.
Whereas Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Prof. Kolapo Eleka of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were seen as the main candidates involved in the election, there were, however, other principal considerations involved.
The outgoing governor of the state, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, was generally seen as the principal opponent to Fayemi, having been the antagonist of the former minister and former governor four years ago. Though not loudly pronounced, it was also seen as a grudge match by President Muhammadu Buhari and his close allies as a fitting opportunity to serve retribution to Fayose for his pronounced animosity to Buhari and his government.
The antagonism from the 2014 election was, undoubtedly, reflected in the run-up to the poll that was generally seen as a contest between Fay and Fay.
In the 2014 election, Fayose defeated Fayemi who was then the incumbent in all 16 local government areas of Ekiti. Remarkably, it was the first governorship election that the APC, which came into existence just a year earlier, would contest.
Just as it was yesterday, the party in control of the Federal Government was the opposition at home. And just as then, the party in control of the state government has accused the Federal Government of using federal forces to coerce the incumbent.
It would be recalled that in the run up to 2014 poll, then – APC governors, including Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo) Rabiu Kwankwanso (Kano), were harassed as they tried to enter Ekiti. They were stopped at the Ondo – Ekiti boundary by soldiers. In this case, only last Wednesday, Fayose alleged that he was brutalised by security men who tried to stop him as he led a solidarity walk in support of his anointed successor, Eleka.
Indeed, ahead of yesterday’s election, there was heightened tension but, remarkably, casualties were not as in previous elections.
For the PDP, the emergence of Eleka as the party’s candidate was clouded in much tension as he faced stiff competition from two notable contenders, Senator Biodun Olujunmi, a former deputy governor of the state, and Prince Dayo Adeyeye, the immediate past national spokesman of the party.
The two rivals of Eleka were themselves past collaborators with Fayose and political stakeholders would not have been shocked if Fayose had adopted anyone of them on the strength of their past political activities.
However, Fayose stuck to Eleka perhaps out of the fact that he was the one that would be more controllable as governor with Fayose operating from the background.
In the hotly contested primary that raised further tension after Olujumi stepped down for Adeyeye, Eleka emerged victor with 1,190 votes to the 771 votes polled by Adeyeye.
Meanwhile, despite praising the contest as free and fair, and praising the Chairman of the panel that oversaw it, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, for becoming an expert in conducting rancour – free party elections, Adeyeye shocked many when he defected to the APC.
The APC contest was no less contentious. More than 30 aspirants obtained the form for the primary election with Senator Babafemi Ojudu; former Governor Segun Oni; former members of the House of Representatives, Opeyemi Bamidele and Bimbo Daramola, as the most favoured aspirants. The late entry of Fayemi, however, changed the dynamics.
Fayemi entered the contest on the position of strength, having been the governor under whose tenure the delegates for the primary emerged.
However, that did not mean that the structure he built four years earlier had remained intact. Indeed, Daramola, famously known as Congressman Daramola and who was Fayemi’s campaign manager in the 2014 contest, had, after four years, gotten better perspectives on the governance of Ekiti with the assertion that he, Daramola, would make a better governor than Fayemi and as such contended with Fayemi for the 2018 ticket.
Unlike the PDP, the struggle for the APC ticket was vicious and turned the party into a mockery of savages in battle.
The primary election, held on May 5, turned bloody after a few local government areas had voted as thugs or aggrieved party members, as claimed by others, disrupted the process. It was a national embarrassment that was captured live on television.
The disruption, despite the presence of members of the Governor Tanko Almakura led Congress Committee, forced a postponement to May 12 at which Fayemi emerged.
Besides the violence, the primary election was trailed by reports of inducement of delegates. Vexed by the turn of events, Ojudu, who had initially claimed a major momentum for himself, stepped down from the May 12 contest.
Fayemi won the ticket with 941 votes, beating Segun Oni (481), Kayode Ojo (281), Olufemi Richard Bamisile (179), Oluyede Oluwole (121) and Aluko Daniel Olugbenga (86). Ojudu, who withdrew, still managed to secure ten votes while a number of other wannabes got one vote each.
Nevertheless, as voters went to the polls yesterday, the issue of the APC ticket remained unresolved following the controversy thrown up by supporters of Oni who went to court to contest Fayemi’s eligibility. The issue is still in court despite high-level interventions by party elders, including Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande, to stop the judicial case.
Even more, Fayose, it is alleged, had believed that Fayemi would be the most serious threat to his succession agenda and had allegedly gotten Ekiti State House of Assembly and a judicial panel to indict the former governor on allegations of corruption during his term. The indictment was thrown out by an Abuja Court just a week to the election. That paved the way to the epic battle of yesterday.