Although conducting elections for a two-year tenure local council administration in Ekiti State is a product of the state’s legislature, it was largely ignored by the immediate past government of Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the current administration of Governor Ayodele Fayose, has been keeping faith with the law.
After his inauguration in September 2014, one of the major decisions of Fayose was that he was going to respect and protect the rights of the people at the third tier of government to exercise their franchise in the choice of their administrators instead of relying on hand-picked caretaker committees that was common with many states in the country.
By December 2015, council elections were held across the state’s 16 local councils and last Saturday, another round of the exercise was conducted to replace erstwhile administrators.
But the last exercise was marked by many novel innovations that stood it out in the way elections are conducted across the country. First, the primary election within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), were conducted within the confines of the Government House in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital with Fayose as the supervisor unlike before when such exercise were conducted simultaneously at the headquarters of each council.
During the primary election, which was devoid of the usual acrimony and tension and which also showed that Fayose was in complete control of the party apparatus, each aspirant mobilised people from his/her base on the allotted date for the council to cast their ballots.
Another high point of the election was the non-participation by opposition political parties which accused the ruling party of not providing a level playing ground for a free and fair contest.
Although initially, the major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) declared that it would participate in the poll, the state chapter of Afenifere, the Yoruba socio-political organization, gave an unusual advice to Ekiti APC asking the party to boycott the exercise.
The group based its advice against participation on the fact that the poll would turn out to be “a sham and consequently, a barren exercise.”
In a statement issued in Ado-Ekiti after its monthly meeting, Afenifere urged the party not to waste its resources by attaching any electoral fidelity to the exercise “because Fayose had planned to make it a one party affair.”
Signed by its Chairman, Elder Yemi Alade, and Publicity secretary, Chief Biodun Akin-Fasae, Afenifere was of the opinion that APC should concern itself with the task of 2018 gubernatorial elections instead of dissipating energy on a fruitless exercise. It was therefore not surprising that the APC pulled out of the election 24 hours to the exercise.
Speaking through its Publicity Secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun, the party said it was boycotting the poll, which he described as “a misnomer, undemocratic and compromised election from the beginning.”
According to him, “The compromised State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) is composed of members who are card-carrying members of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) with a mandate to endorse and implement the decisions and directives of Governor Ayodele Fayose and his party.
“No democratic institution or political party worth its salt will waste its resources and time to participate in a compromised election and under a lawless administration as exemplified by Fayose. We urge APC members to go about their legitimate businesses or stay at home on Saturday while Fayose conducts his illegal and compromised election.
“Above all, to the best of our knowledge, SIEC is not having any updated voters list and the contract for the printing of ballot materials was awarded to Fayose’s son’s company and delivered to the Government House earlier this week.
“If Fayose could manage to compromise an election conducted by INEC by obtaining the soft copies of INEC’s sensitive materials he printed to win his election, we don’t know the chance we stand to win a single seat in an election to be conducted with electoral materials printed by his son.”
Despite APC’s pulling out of the race, the elections were held in the local councils and 177 wards and five political parties, namely; PDP, Action Democratic Party (ADP), Peoples Party of Nigeria (PPN), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Peoples Democratic Action (PDA).
Although the turnout of voters across the council areas were affected by the fuel crisis, in some of the polling units visited at Okesa, Okeyinmi and Ajilosun areas of the state capital, election materials arrived at the polling units at about 9am instead of 8am. In some areas like Ilejemeje, Otun, Efon, Gbonyin and Ekiti East, the exercise witnessed impressive turnout of voters.
The APC however claimed that the poll was boycotted by the electorate including workers, pensioners, artisans, market women and the youths and praised the people for refusing to participate in “a compromised election organised by Governor Ayodele Fayose’s faction of PDP in cahoots with the State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC) composed of members of the PDP faction loyal to the governor.”
In a statement after the exercise, Olatunbosun said “the refusal of Ekiti people to participate in the election was a pointer to a total rejection of Fayose and his party and a confirmation of our assertion that Ekiti people are only waiting for 2018 governorship election to send Fayose and his PDP into the dustbin of Ekiti political history.
“Ekiti people are seriously angry and can’t wait to vote Fayose out in a free, fair and credible election organised by a credible independent body. What happened was a reaction of Ekiti people to their sufferings over non-payment of pensioners, workers’ salaries, misappropriation and diversion of public funds into personal account, greed and executive rascality through which Fayose has impoverished them.”
But the Chairman of EKSIEC, Justice Kayode Bamisile, who monitored the election, did not share the sentiment of APC that the poll was boycotted as he described its conduct as very peaceful and orderly.
Expectedly, members of the PDP and top government officials reiterated Bamisile’s position as they all eulogized the exercise.
The Deputy Governor, Kolapo Olusola, who voted at Ward 7 of Ikere Ekiti, said the elections witnessed massive turnout of voters in his town. After voting at Imiro polling unit at Odo Oro Ekiti in Ikole local council, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Ekiti North Federal constituency 1, Kehinde Agboola, described the exercise as very impressive and orderly.
He said, “I know that the PDP will sweep all the elections, we are on ground. This will serve as a test case for the 2018 governorship election and send a signal that the PDP is still the party to beat.”
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Dr. Modupe Alade, who voted at her unit in Ifaki Ekiti, commended Governor Fayose for reposing confidence in the local government system and working hard to strengthen it.
The Chief of Staff to the Governor, Chief Dipo Anisulowo, voted in his Are Ekiti country home and described the exercise as very impressive and orderly, praising the electorate for having belief in the third tier of government as the closest to the grassroots.
When the results of the poll were released, the PDP won in all the 16 councils for chairmanship and 177 councillorship positions.
While releasing the results to a gathering of journalists and other stakeholders shortly after all the Returning Officers (ROs) submitted computations from all parts of the state, Bamisile lauded the exercise. He said according to submissions by all the ROs, who were senior academic staff members of tertiary institutions in Ekiti and Ondo states, the PDP completely swept the poll.
To assuage the feeling of loss of power, Fayose, in what is seen as a political masterstroke, appointed all the immediate past chairmen as Special Advisers who are to function as such in their respective councils.
The action of the governor, it is believed, was to further tighten his grip on Ekiti council politics ahead of 2018 governorship election during which he had declared that the PDP would win all the councils as it did in 2014.
Last Saturday’s election is believed by many to be a pointer to what to expect in 2018 which is going to be mainly between the ruling PDP and the opposition APC. That may be the reason why many analysts are of the view that it was a political miscalculation for APC, which had not been involved in any local electoral contest since 2014, to boycott the exercise.
According to an analyst who didn’t want his name in print, “I think the APC ought to participate not because it wants to win any position but to test its readiness for 2018 governorship poll. What the party has done may further alienate them from the people, especially those at the grassroots. The election is about the people and since 2014 APC has not had any major engagement.”