By Emeka Ejere
Politicking ahead of the forthcoming governorship elections in Ekiti State took a dramatic turn Wednesday as security operatives who blocked the entrance to Government House in Ado-Ekiti, were said to have also fired teargas at the governor and his supporters.
The development which has triggered mixed reactions has, however, been described by Deputy Inspector General of Police, Habila Joshak, as an abortion of a PDP rally that did not seek and receive police permit. .
On Saturday July 14, the people of Ekiti State will file out in their numbers to elect a new governor who will replace Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose, whose tenure is about to elapse.
Expectedly, the political atmosphere of the agrarian state is highly charged with desperation already assuming a peace-threatening proportion.
Although a number of logos will appear on the ballot paper, observers are looking forward to a fierce battle between the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
On one hand, the PDP is determined to retain Ekiti as the continuity agenda that has become the campaign slogan of the party is being vigorously pursued with a view to gaining traction and acceptability among the electorates.
On the other hand, the APC is determined to truncate the ruling party’s continuity agenda as it is fielding former governor Kayode Fayemi, with a determination to reclaim the seat it lost to the incumbent four years ago.
The PDP is fielding Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka, a 50-year old academic and current deputy governor of the state, as its candidate. His choice had triggered a gale of defections, but his principal, Fayose , defied all odds to install him.
Eleka graduated from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife in 1990 with Bachelor’s Degree in Building Technology. He was retained in the university where he served until his appointment as the state’s number two man. He is a Professor of Building Technology.
The university don never held any political office until his current position as deputy governor. Though he may have little knowledge of the dynamism of Ekiti politics, being backed by Fayose, a two-term governor and experienced Nigerian politician, may be an impetus for the realisation of his governorship ambition.
APC candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, attended the prestigious Christ’s School, Ado Ekiti before proceeding to the University of Lagos, Akoka where he bagged Bachelor’s Degree in History in 1984.
The former minister of Mines and Steel Development got his PhD in War Studies from the Kings College, University of London in 1994. He was the governor of the State between October16, 2010 and October 16, 2014. He sought reelection and lost to Governor Fayose and was later appointed a minister in 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Tension is high in the state. For the past couple of months, the main political actors have been beating the drums of war, with violence marring campaigning, while brickbats and allegations bordering on intentions to rig have inundated the public space.
Fayemi’s inaugural campaign in Ado-Ekiti on June 1, was marred by a major security breach that saw an APC chieftain, Opeyemi Bamidele, and five other party members shot by hoodlums. It is a vivid reminder of the usual acrimony that accompanies such contests for power in Ekiti.
Only last week, State Security Service operatives stormed a secondary school where they disrupted operations and arrested staff on allegations of collecting Permanent Voter Cards from their colleagues.
There are allegations that PVCs are being cloned, and INEC Smart Card Readers being preloaded. On Monday, the Lagos State Police Command in a statement signed by the Commissioner of Police, Mr Edgal Imohimi, said it had discovered a company that allegedly prints fake ballot papers for the upcoming Ekiti State governorship election.
According to the CP, the police made the discovery following intelligence reports which also revealed that some of the printed ballot papers had already been moved to Ekiti in three Hilux vans on Friday (July 6, 2018).
Given the desperation of Nigerian politicians, these allegations should be carefully investigated before Saturday and measures put in place for a peaceful election.
Ekiti has a history of violent electioneering. In 2007 governorship election in the state was marred by rigging. It took three years for Fayemi to claim his mandate at the court, a development that may have separated the Ekiti, like Anambra and Osun, from the date of general elections in the country forever.
Similarly, a rerun in the Ekiti North senatorial district in 2009 was greeted by farce and violence that consumed prominent politicians in the state, including a former World Bank technocrat, Ayo Daramola, Tunde Omojola and Taye Fasuba, who was the then Ado-Ekiti Local Government chairman.
However, the fact that this election involves only one state leaves no excuse to fail by the INEC and the security agencies. Interestingly, the two major stakeholders have assured of adequate preparation for optimal performance.
“Ekiti is a flashpoint when it comes to politicking. You can remember what happened in the second republic, we don’t want a repeat of that. When the election is free and fair and election result is being announced, you still see people that want to disrupt the peace of other Nigerians.”
Those were the words of the police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, while justifying the deployment of 30,000 officers, two helicopters and 250 patrol vehicles, including five Armoured Personnel Carriers, to the state, which will also be locked down for about two days from movement in and out.
But beyond the INEC and the security agencies, politicians and the people have even more critical role to play if the desired peaceful exercise must be achieved. Political parties should not only ensure proper conduct of their member, they should also desist from vote buying, ballot box snatching, rewriting of results and other acts capable of igniting crisis before, during and after elections.
The electorate on the other hand should vote according to their conscience, bearing in mind that no amount of monetary inducement can cover for the terrible mistake of casting your vote for a governor you will regret for the next four years.
Remember, this is only one election. Elections have come and gone. Elections will come and go. But Ekiti, the Fountain of Knowledge, will remain. I wish the good people of Ekiti a hitch-free poll come Saturday.
Ejere, a journalist and public affairs analyst, lives in Lagos.