Ekiti Governorship Elections: How Marketable Are The Leading Brands?

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Clockwise: Chief Segun Oni, Mr. Bisi Kolawole and Mr. Biodun Oyebanji

In less than two weeks, nearly three million residents of Ekiti State, in the South-West region of Nigeria, will troop out in their numbers to exercise their franchise by voting for a candidate that will oversee the affairs of the state for another four years.

The electoral umpire in the country, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had in March, released the full list of Gubernatorial candidates of different political parties in the election scheduled for Saturday, June 18, 2022.

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The list signed by the National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, contained the names of 16 candidates vying for the Governorship position.

Okoye said the list was released in compliance with the Electoral Act 2022 and following the close of nominations by political parties.

The certified candidates by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, are; Reuben Famuyibo of Accord Party, Moses Olajide Ajagunigbala of the African Action Congress, AAC, Oluwole Oluyede of the African Democratic Congress, ADC, Kemi Josephine Elebute-Halle of the Action Democratic Party, ADP, Abiodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Benjamin Olufemi Obidoyin of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Peter Adegbenro Fagbemi of the Allied People’s Movement, APM, Christiana Modupe Olatawura of the Action Peoples Party, APP, Olugbenga Daramola of Labour Party, Oladosu Abiodun Fatomilola of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Ifedayo Iyaniwura of the National Rescue Movement, NRM.

Others are Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Olaniyi Ben Agboola of the People’s Redemption Party, PRP, Olusegun Oni of the Social Democratic Party of Nigeria, SDP, Adebowale Oluranti Ajayi of the Young Progressives Party, YPP, and Kolade Akinyemi Adeolu of the Zenith Labour Party, ZLP.

However, all eyes are currently on three personality brands who are the major contenders in the election from the most popular parties, and they have served the state in various capacities and have all remained very active in the state’s political market in the last four years or more. The top three candidates in the election are Abiodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who was the erstwhile Secretary to the State Government, Bisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a former lawmaker representing Efon constituency in the state House of Assembly and the erstwhile Chairman of the party, while Olusegun Oni of the Social Democratic Party of Nigeria, SDP, was a former governor of the state.

Ekiti Governors Since Inception

Clockwise: Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Ayodele Fayose, Chief Segun Oni and Incumbent Governor, Kayode Fayemi

Since the inception of the state and 24 years of democratic rule, five gubernatorial elections have been conducted, with Ekiti South being the only geopolitical district that has not produced a governor.

In 1999, Otunba Niyi Adebayo of the Action for Democracy (AD) was elected as the governor. In 2003, Peter Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) defeated the incumbent. Fayose was governor of Ekiti from 2003 up until 2006 when he was impeached on corruption grounds.

In 2007, Engineer Segun Oni of the PDP was sworn in as the elected governor of Ekiti. In 2010, Oni’s election was nullified by the court citing electoral irregularities. The nullification of Oni’s 2007 victory paved the way for Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) to emerge as the winner of the gubernatorial election in the state.

In 2014, Ayodele Fayose who re-contested under the platform of PDP defeated the seating governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi in all the 16 Local Government Areas of Ekiti state.

Four years after, Dr. Fayemi secured 197,459 votes to defeat his closest challenger, Olusola Eleka of the Peoples Democratic Party who scored 178,121 votes. Mr. Olusola was the incumbent deputy governor of the state and was hoping to succeed his boss, Ayodele Fayose, who had campaigned vigorously for him.

The Top Three

Biodun Oyebanji

Biodun Oyebanji, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, hails from Ikogosi Ekiti in Ekiti Central Senatorial district. Oyebanji, who resigned from his post as the Secretary to the State Government last December to join the race, polled 101,703 out of the total number of votes cast in the party’s primaries in January 2022.

He was the youngest member of the Movement for the Creation of Ekiti State in 1996 where he served as the Secretary of the august group that lobbied the late General Sani Abacha for the creation of the state.

Oyebanji, a former university don, banker, private businessman, astute administrator, is equally a consummate politician.

He had served in various capacities during Fayemi’s first term in office which include D.G, Office of Transformation, Strategy and Delivery, Commissioner for Integration, Commissioner for Budget and Economic Planning, served the government as the liaison man between it and the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria, DAWN, among other various briefs.

Before then, he served as Special Assistant on Legislative Matters to the first civilian Governor of the state, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, before ending up as his Chief of Staff.

Bisi Kolawole

Chief Bisi Kolawole, the erstwhile Ekiti State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was Ex-Governor Fayose’s anointed candidate as the flag bearer of the party. The Efon Alaye Ekiti-born politician emerged winner of the party’s primary election held in January 2022, in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital.

He polled 671 votes to defeat his closet aspirant and former governor, Segun Oni, who garnered 330 votes.

Kolawole is a grassroots politician and has been in the game for quite a while. He was a former member of the Ekiti State Assembly from 2007 to 2011 and Commissioner for Environment under former Governor Fayose from 2015 and 2018.

Segun Oni

Chief Segun Oni, an ex-Governor of Ekiti state has remained constant in the political landscape of the state.

Oni decamped to the Social Democratic Party of Nigeria, SDP, in March 2022, two months after losing to Bisi Kolawole, in the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, primaries.

His administration as the Governor of the state was cut short by judicial pronouncements which invalidated his victory at the 2007 gubernatorial election in the state and thus pronounced Fayemi, the then-candidate of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) as the winner of the election.

At a point, Oni left the PDP for the APC where he became the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the party. However, he found his way back to the PDP again until March 2022, when he extended his tents to the SDP.

Factors That Will Influence voting tend?

Voters during an election

Vote-buying

Over the years, due to the juicy nature of Nigerian elective positions, elections are very competitive, and politicians thus deploy various extra-legal measures to win. Electoral activities are often characterized by tension, electoral violence, vote-buying, and the gross abuse of state power against perceived political opponents.

It is common knowledge that vote-buying is a key component of Nigeria’s monetized political system, no thanks to the high level of poverty in the country. During the previous election in Ekiti state, APC and PDP were caught in the web of distributing money to win the sympathy of voters.

For instance, in the last gubernatorial election, vote-buying might not have significantly influenced voters’ turnout, but it changed voters’ choices as the two major political parties, APC and PDP, in the election resorted to massive monetary inducement for electoral support at the poll.

This was rampant even when it is a criminal offense as stated in Section 22 of the Electoral Act, 2022.

An investigation by the Sun Newspaper during the last governorship election noted that “An average Ekiti voter became richer during the election. Depending on who the voter must have cast his/her ballot for, the least an average voter got was N2, 500 and this happened in Isan-Ekiti. If those who got the N2,500 had benefited from the initial N4,000 from the other party, the voter would have smiled home with N6,500. But in Oye, where one of the parties began with N7,000 per voter, before raising it to N10,000, which was only delivered to the voter after casting his/her ballot, such a voter would go home with between N14,000 and N11,000 if the voter had benefited from the other party’s N4, 000 which was distributed a day to the election (Omipidan, 2018, Sunday Sun, 15 July 2018).

Candidate’s Popularity & Goodwill

Another factor that has continued to influence voting in Ekiti State is the candidate’s popularity and the expectations of followers. The state has not had a party succeed itself since its creation. Electorates vote for candidates based on popularity and personal interest.

Ekiti is more of who gets appointments and contracts which most incumbents have failed to achieve. The loss of each successive government has been strongly linked to dissatisfied politicians who prefer another party in Government where their bread could be buttered.

The race in Ekiti State is increasingly becoming a three-horse race. with the goodwill of the candidate playing a major role in voters’ choice.

Political Party

Political Party plays a bigger role in the voters’ choice of candidate. The party provides a platform for the candidate to campaign and represent. In the present Ekiti, the All Progressives Congress, APC, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and the Social Democratic Party, SDP, are the political parties with the highest number of followers.

In previous elections in Ekiti state, the popularity of the political party has helped in bringing the flag-bearer to victory.

Communication

The media has over time served as a tool for the contestants to reach a large number of people and communicate their agendas.

In the wake of the election, many political communications are not presented directly by the candidates but are filtered to the public through the newspapers, billboards, handbills, magazines, and electronics in the form of news, documentary, and analysis.

The widespread communication by each aspirant on their campaign promises, strategy and agenda when elected arouses the public consciousness intensely and this has always influenced the voters’ choice of voting.

In the case of the forthcoming Ekiti State election, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Biodun Oyebanji, has actively been in the news since he declared his intention to run for the gubernatorial race and he is also considered to be the candidate with the strongest social media presence.

Previous Records and Positions

Another factor that may influence voting in Ekiti State is the candidate’s performance based on previous positions held.

Although the state has not had an incumbent candidate return to power, performance in previous positions is known to have influenced voters’ decisions in past elections.

The three major contestants in the forthcoming election had served the state in various capacities. Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress was the Secretary to the State Government until last December; Bisi Kolawole was the immediate past Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Ekiti State, while Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party, SDP, once served as the Governor of the state.

The three contenders served in critical positions and this will affect voters’ choices remarkably.

The question of who becomes the Next Governor of Ekiti State is now a matter of days. Until the results of the election scheduled for June 18, 2022, are announced, Ekiti State citizens will continue to keep their fingers crossed.

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