Since the return of democracy in 1999, elections in Ekiti State have become one of the most predictable across the country.
Unlike some states, the party in power wins election into the state legislature and National assembly. For instance, in 1999 it was the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD) that won the governorship and all the six House of Representatives seats. The exception was the Ekiti South Senatorial seat, which was won by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), by the late Senator Gbenga Aluko, who was the only senator on the platform of the party in the entire southwest states at the time.
In 2023, it was the turn of PDP to dominate the political landscape of the state. The party won the governorship election when Ayodele Fayose defeated the incumbent governor, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo. The party later won all the three seats in the Senate and six House of Representatives seats as well.
In 2007, Chief Segun Oni as governor ensured that PDP won the six House of Representatives and three senatorial slots available. However, the candidate of the defunct Action Congress (AC), Bode Ola, took a legal action against PDP and the matter ended at the Appeal Court, Ilorin on June 2009 in Kwara State and Femi Kila lost the seat to Ola.
The unprecedented legal tussle between Oni and the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Dr Kayode Fayemi, that lasted for over three years led the state to off-season governorship election. The outcome of the 2011 national assembly election became predictable as the candidates of the ruling party swept the poll.
In 2014, PDP candidate and former governor, Fayose defeated Fayemi. As expected in 2015, all the candidates fielded by his party won the six House of Representatives seats and the three senatorial seats.
In 2018, All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Fayemi defeated the protégé of Fayose, Professor Kolapo Olusola, who was the candidate of PDP in the governorship election. Just as it was in the past, APC defeated PDP in all the six federal constituencies and the three senatorial districts. However, the candidate of PDP in the Southern Senatorial District, Senator Biodun Olujimi, went to court and retrieved the victory from Senator Dayo Adeyeye.
In the current political scenario, APC won the governorship election held last year, thereby making observers of political events in the state to predict that the outcome of the state and National Assembly elections will not be different from what has been happening since 1999.
However, political analysts have said that voting pattern in the past may no longer necessarily be enough to conclude that a ruling party will clinch all seats in the state legislature and National assembly in this year’s election.
For instance, they cited the case of Oni, who decamped from PDP to Social Democratic Party (SDP), a relatively known party, and surprised many by coming second behind APC candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, who was the eventual winner of the election. PDP came third in that election.
What further gives credence to the assertion that history might repeat itself, is the manner in which Fayose, who is in control of PDP allegedly handpicked candidates for both the House of Representatives and the Senate, including his son, Joju Fayose. The only exception is the Senator representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Chief Biodun Olujimi, who has what it takes to square up with Fayose to retrieve her ticket. She also has capacity to battle the APC candidate and current House of Representatives member, Yemi Adaramodu come February 25.
Some are of the opinion that most of the PDP candidates, if not all, are inexperienced, without political antecedents, as well as, war resources to confront those being paraded by APC, who are returning back to the National Assembly. Therefore, contesting against a ruling party with avalanche of intractable crisis in PDP could make the contest predictable.
Although both APC and PDP are crisis ridden, while APC has leaders who have been managing their challenges to keep the party afloat, PDP leaders have not been able to put the party on a winning path. Fayose, who is the leader and unifier, has been playing politics of ambivalence. He is romancing with G5, led by River State Governor, Nyelsom Wike. On the other hand, at home he is calling on members of the party to unite behind Atiku. However, the national leadership of the party recently called his bluff by going ahead to inaugurate the state chapter of the Presidential Campaign Council, without including Fayose loyalists. As of today, there are different tendencies in the party. However, what appears to be the uniting factor and denominator is Atiku/Okowa presidential project.
SDP that ought to make the outcome of the election unpredictable following its performance in June 18, 2022 governorship election has become a shadow of itself. Majority of its members have returned to PDP. The bulk of PDP Presidential Campaign Council members are drawn from SDP. This has fueled speculation that the party’s governorship candidate, Oni, was not supporting his party’s presidential candidate but rather throwing his weight behind Atiku. Some are of the opinion that for his legal tussle, currently at the apex court, he may have gone back to PDP.
Another reason the predictable voting pattern may not be enough to draw a conclusion on the coming elections is the enactment of the new Electoral Act, which has just been tested in Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, and showed an improvement in the electoral process and outcome.
Professor Gbenga Jegede, a lecturer at Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado Ekiti, is of the opinion that in the two elections, unlike in the past, the security agencies maintained professionalism, thus guaranteeing peace and sanctity of the polls.
Another novel idea, according to him, was introduction of men of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to arrest mercenaries deployed by political parties to induce voters. Though this has not sufficiently curtailed the menace of vote buying.
He noted that the sequence of the 2023 elections that placed presidential and National Assembly elections on the same day might make the poll interesting and unpredictable.
“As of today, it is difficult to predict which of the three presidential candidate of the frontline political parties has an edge in terms of acceptability. Although APC presidential candidate in 2019, won in Ekiti, President Muhamadu Buhari would no longer be on the ballot, having done two terms permitted by the Constitution. On the other hand, Atiku would still be on the ballot.”
In APC, the situation is similar to the PDP in the sense that the crisis generated by the primary remains largely unresolved. Kayode Ojo, one of the aggrieved aspirants of the party is pursuing his suit against APC and the governor at the Supreme Court resolutely. Also, members of the group that have been at the vanguard of Bola Tinubu presidential project, the South for Tinubu President (SWAGA), in Ekiti APC remained disillusioned. The party is yet to integrate them into its fold despite winning the primary and the governorship election.
As things are, Fayemi, who joined Tinubu’s presidential project after stepping down for him at the primary, is now heading Tinubu’s campaign in the state. The big question is whether SWAGA, led by Prince Dayo Adeyeye and Fayemi can work together for a common goal. Besides, there are others who are sitting on the fence. For example, the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Senator Babafemi Ojudu, who vowed not to support Tinubu’s ambition, is a leader of the party who commands sizable following in the party.
Labour Party (LP) is relatively unknown in Ekiti State and its presidential candidate; Peter Obi is also not popular. Analysts say state and National Assembly seats will be contested by candidates of PDP and APC but the edge that the ruling party may enjoy is the power of incumbency and by implication, the amount of resources available to it.