BY ODUNAYO OGUNMOLA
It was a phenomenal victory achieved by the progressives in Ekiti State on the electoral field. The All Progressives Congress (APC) defeated shrugged off the challenge posed by nineteen other political parties to coast home to victory.
The setting was the 2022 Ekiti State governorship election. It was a political tsunami that swept across the length and breadth of the state which handed the governorship crown to the APC flag bearer, Mr. Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji.
Voters in all the sixteen constitutionally recognized local government areas trooped out en masse to elect a new governor to succeed the incumbent helmsman, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi amidst an unprecedented security cordon woven around the state.
By the time the dust settled, it was a landslide victory for the broom party. The APC and its candidate won fifteen out of the sixteen local government areas thereby scoring the highest number of votes cast and achieving the mandatory constitutional spread.
At exactly 3.05 am on Sunday, June 19, 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) through its Chief Returning Officer, Prof. Kayode Adebowale, announced Mr. Oyebanji as the Governor-elect after collation of votes was concluded in the presence of party agents, journalists, election observers and security officers.
The APC standard bearer, Mr. Oyebanji, polled a total number of 187, 057 votes to beat the SDP candidate, Chief Oni who scored 82, 211 votes leaving the PDP flag bearer, Otunba Kolawole in the third place with 67, 457 votes.
June 18, 2022 would never be forgotten in a hurry in the state, it was a day the APC gave a bloodied nose to its major rivals, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), with its candidate, Chief Segun Oni holding its flag, while the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was represented by Otunba Bisi Kolawole.
Unlike in the 2018 governorship election, the APC and its candidate not only won in Ado and Ikere, they also won in thirteen local government areas except Efon, the local government of origin of the PDP candidate, Otunba Kolawole.
The local government areas won by Mr. Oyebanji include Ado, Ijero, Emure, Ekiti Southwest, Ise/Orun, Ikere, Ikole, Ilejemeje, Moba, Ekiti East, Ekiti West, Ayekire (Gbonyin), Irepodun/Ifelodun, Oye and Ido/Osi.
The SDP candidate, Chief Oni lost in his local government area, Ido/Osi; Mr. Fayose lost in his local government area, Irepodun/Ifelodun. The SDP deputy governorship candidate, Otunba Ladi Owolabi was defeated in his local government area, Ado while the only PDP senator in the state, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi, lost her local government area, Ekiti East.
It was a day the APC entered the history book as the first party to win governorship election back-to-back in the state. Dr. Fayemi also etched his name into the political annals of the state by becoming the first sitting governor that would be handing over power to the candidate of his own party.
Hurricane BAO swept to victory by a wide margin leaving other political parties and their candidates kissing the canvass thereby breaking a nineteen-year-old jinx of the ruling party not retaining power in the Land of Honour.
The total number of votes garnered by the SDP and PDP candidates when summed up together, 149, 668, is even less than 187, 057 secured by the victorious APC candidate.
While the ruling party and its members have been thrown into wild jubilation and revelry, the opposition parties’ faithful have been left to lick their wounds, take the stock of what went wrong and bid their time for another opportunity to square up with the APC either in the future election or at the governorship poll tribunal.
On October 16, 2022, an outgoing governor would be attending the swearing-in of his successor and handing over the reins of the state to the brand new governor elected four months earlier. The people of the state are already whetting their appetite to see how the spectacle would be.
The first elected Governor, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo who was elected in 1999 on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), the dominant party in the Southwest then, lost his re-election bid in 2003 to Mr. Ayodele Fayose of the PDP.
Mr. Fayose could not even finish a four year term as he was impeached from office by the House of Assembly for alleged gross misconduct on October 16, 2006 with seven months left on his tenure. The crisis that consumed his first tenure didn’t allow him to seek a second term before the expiry of the mandate.
The next democratically elected governor, Chief Oni, who came into office in 2007 had a turbulent three-and-half year tenure of office dogged by legitimacy crisis in which he was in the courts twice (from the Election Tribunal to the Appellate Court) defending himself against allegation of vote rigging before his government was upended from office by the Court of Appeal on October 15, 2010.
Dr. Fayemi who was declared winner by the Appellate Court and sworn in the next day (October 16, 2010 when his fresh four-year mandate began) lost his re-election bid in controversial circumstances to Mr. Fayose on June 21, 2014 leaving office on October 15 of the same year.
Mr. Fayose’s dream to hand over power to his former Deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olusola-Eleka, was shattered by a resurgent Dr. Fayemi who staged a comeback in the governorship election conducted on July 14, 2018 after a three-year ministerial hiatus at the federal level.
But 2022 became historic and remarkable for Dr. Fayemi when he succeeded where all his predecessors had failed in achieving victory for his preferred successor and a member of his party. It was a victory that APC leaders and members in the state are still savouring because the party would still form the next government.
The progressives bloc in Ekiti has been preaching a continuity agenda since Mr. Oyebanji emerged as the flag bearer during a direct primary election conducted on January 27, 2022 because of the belief that the famed template of governance set by Dr. Fayemi shortly on assumption of office in 2018 must be sustained.
The desire to ensure the evolution of a government of continuity was the reason why Otunba Adebayo and Dr. Fayemi were made co-chairmen of the Ekiti APC Governorship Campaign Council because of the seriousness attached to the subject matter.
The two statesmen rallied the troops behind them to ensure victory for Mr. Oyebanji and see to the fulfillment of the continuity agenda. They headed for the battle with the APC gladiators firing on all cylinders until the governorship battle is won with the declaration of the party’s candidate as the governor-elect in the early hours of today.
It has been discovered that one of the reasons why the development of Ekiti State is retarded is the frequent change of parties that rule the state with different manifestos and ideologies. Changing parties in power after every four years in Ekiti has robbed the state of stability and longevity of policies, programmes and engendered the culture of politically-motivated abandonment of projects executed with the resources of the people.
Unlike states like Lagos, Rivers, Delta, Borno, Yobe and Ebonyi (created the same year with Ekiti) which had not changed parties in power since return to democracy in 1999, instability has been a major feature of governance in Ekiti and it has not boded well for the state.
It is on record that Dr. Fayemi completed many abandoned projects he inherited from Chief Oni during his two tenures of office while Mr. Fayose abandoned the ones he inherited from him (Dr. Fayose) leading to a rot and waste of scarce resources.
This fired the resolve of Dr. Fayemi, leaders and members of the ruling party to ensure that an APC man succeeds the governor in 2022. Mr. Oyebanji, one of the founding fathers of Ekiti State who fought for the creation of the state in 1996 now has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to implement the master plan he envisioned with other eminent citizens of the state during the struggle for its creation.
The APC victory was a collective effort by various organs and stakeholders in the party. Unlike its two major rivals (SDP and PDP) which looked like orphans and abandoned by their national leaderships, APC leaders at national level threw their full weight behind the local chapter in Ekiti.
Party members canvassed for votes from neighbours, family members, friends and acquaintances. APC utilized door-to-door and neighbourhood campaign, visited communities, farmsteads, artisans, pensioners, civil servants, labour unions, professional associations and youth bodies.
The First Lady, Erelu Bisi Fayemi and wife of the governorship candidate, Dr. Olayemi Oyebanji and the Women Campaign Council took their campaigns to major markets in the sixteen local government areas, hosted women-based organisations and also staged colourful roadshows
The APC showed its strength with its mega rally held on June 14 with had its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, governors and National Working Committee members in attendance. The SDP had its mega rally on June 16 while PDP did not hold any mega rally at all.
Dr. Fayemi is expected to finish his tenure a fulfilled man and he will not be subjected to the horror of having an opposition Governor-elect giving counter orders to key institutions and the possibility of reversing policies.
With the governorship victory in his pocket, Mr. Oyebanji in consonance with Dr. Fayemi and party leaders, is expected to come up with a transition team which is expected to signal the beginning of transfer of power.
In less than four months from now, the Ikogosi Ekiti-born politician will begin his tenancy in the hilltop Ayoba Villa, the Ekiti Government House to commence a four-year mandate just given to him at the polls.