Ekiti State residents are expected to go to the polls on December 23 to elect 16 local government chairmen and 177 councillors to run the third tier of government. The Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission (EKSIEC), which is chaired by Justice Kayode Bamisile (retd.), released the timetable for the election in August–to allow political parties nominate their candidates.
The current chairmen and councillors are expected to conclude their two-year term of office next month; as the last election was held on December 19, 2015.
In the 2015 poll, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had the upper hand, winning all the 16 chairmanship seats and the 177 councillorship seats.
The main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), boycotted the 2015 election, alleging that ESIEC members impanelled by Governor Ayodele Fayose were card-carrying members of the PDP and could not be trusted to conduct a credible election.
It appears history is about to repeat itself as the PDP is set to re-enact the 2015 feet. From the preparations so far, it is the only party that would contest against itself.
The primary election of the party created acrimony among leaders and members, as it was dominated by Fayose, who supervised a shadow election that is unprecedented in the history of the state.
Rather than allowing his party to supervise the primary in the various wards and local government areas to elect chairmanship and councillorship candidates, Fayose brought the primary to the Government House, Ado-Ekiti, where the candidates were handpicked.
Former Military President Ibrahim Babangida’s Option A4 balloting system was used during the election. Party delegates queued behind their prospective candidates. In the process, many candidates and voters who are believed not to be in the good book of Fayose were “disqualified”.
The exercise, which took place for about two weeks, turned many party members to “refugees” in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, as they slept inside vehicles, lawns and other open places.
The PDP primary witnessed a lot of drama. Some aspirants had their hopes dashed, while others who had not aspired for any elective post were turned into “emergency candidates” overnight. A good example was the case of a female councillorship aspirant from Ekiti East Local Government who had mobilised delegates from her community to the venue hoping to secure the ticket.
As they queued for accreditation and voting, Fayose spotted another lady who followed the female aspirant, moved closer to the supporter and asked in Yoruba: “Se or ti e naa ko lee je kanselo ni. Lati eni lo, o ti di kanselo niyen” (Are you not also fit to become a councilor? From today, you have become a councillor).
The aspirant was speechless, as her supporter who never campaigned to be councillor was handed the ticket in her presence without any vote to determine her fate. This was one of the examples of horse-trading and drama that characterised the primary for the council poll, which is struggling for a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Some PDP leaders kicked against the primary at the Ado-Ekiti Government House, saying it is a violation of the State Electoral Law passed by the House of Assembly. A party leader from Ekiti East Local Government Area wondered why the governor did not allow the delegates to elect their candidates in their respective localities.
He said: “I have not heard of a situation where a primary to elect councillorship and chairmanship candidates are conducted inside the Government House. We never thought that we would sleep in places not conducive to us, all in the name of local government election primary election. We are not happy with what is going on in our party because we have become a laughing stock by holding this primary inside Government House.”
Two governorship aspirants, Prince Dayo Adeyeye from Ise-Ekiti and Ambassador Dare Bejide from Ilawe-Ekiti, described it as an example of civilian dictatorship because delegates were denied the opportunity to freely choose their candidates.
Adeyeye condemned the governor for allegedly hijacking the primary and “turning himself into an electoral officer” and exercising powers not vested in him by the constitution.
In a statement by the Director of Media and Publicity of the Adedayo Adeyeye Movement (PAAM), Mr. Niyi Ojo, the aspirant urged the national leaders of the party to save Ekiti chapter from total collapse.
He criticised Fayose for fixing the maximum age for chairmanship candidates at 50 years and maximum age for councillorship candidates at 30 years, contrary to the provisions of the constitution. He said: “There is nowhere in the constitution that stipulates maximum age for any elective position.”
Adeyeye added: “Thousands of our teeming party people were subjected to untold hardships by sleeping on grasses, inside buses and car and concrete platform. The governor adopted Option A4 balloting system that attracted a lot of people without any arrangement for the accommodation of the delegates.
“Surprisingly, this morning, the PDP Publicity Secretary issued a statement that the governor had disqualified all chairmanship aspirants from Ado Local Government. Also, some chairmanship aspirants from Ido/
“We believe that only the court of law can disqualify a candidate for an election, not by executive fiat by the governor. We hereby call on the national leadership of the PDP to quickly wade into the situation before it degenerates further into another round of crisis.
“Fayose is not the owner of the PDP, but only privileged to be a sitting governor at this time.
We appeal to our party people that have been subjected to all forms of dehumanising treatments and conditions to remain calm and be loyal to the party.”
Bejide said: “This is not the PDP we came together to form in 1998 and faithfully and carefully nurtured to become an election-winnin
“It is very unfortunate that one man is playing God, because of the transient power he wields. I want to assure our aggrieved leaders and members not to leave the party in frustration because we are taking the party and we are giving back to them very soon.”
But, Fayose justified the primary inside the Government House and the adoption of the Option A4, saying the move was to ensure that popular candidates emerge to fly the PDP flag at the polls. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Idowu Adelusi, Fayose said Option A4 was adopted “because of the need to allow transparency in the process.”
He said Option A4, which involves bringing eligible delegates to the Government House, “would also help reduce acrimony as whoever loses would know he lost in a free and fair process.”
Fayose added: “We want a transparent process to select our candidates and we don’t want to have serious issues as a fallout of the exercise. If a person loses and sees that there was a level playing field, his complaints and grievances would be minimal.
“To ensure fairness in accreditation of those to vote, you have to come with your party membership card and voter’s card. Apart from that, party executives in each ward, as well as aspirants are at the gate to identify voters before they come in.
“Any situation those people cannot identify a voter as being a member of their wards, such a person would not be allowed in.”
The governor maintained that the primary had to hold in a secured place such as the Government House where: “no miscreants would disrupt the process and no fake party member would show his face. We have been hearing threats that some people would disrupt the process, hence this has to hold here.”
Some aspirants cried foul over their disqualificatio
Contrary to the expectations of the people, the main opposition party, the APC, promised to participate in the local government poll. A statement by its Publicity Secretary, Mr. Taiwo Olatunbosun, said the decision to participate was taken at the State Executive Committee (Exco) meeting held on September 25 at the Party Secretariat in Ajilosun, Ado-Ekiti.
The statement reads: “We call all members of our party, particularly those interested in the chairmanship or councillorship positions in local governments and wards to indicate their interest. We advise the Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission (EKSIEC) to be fair and transparent in dealing with all registered political parties who will be participating in the election.
“The PDP-led government has failed Ekiti people and therefore our party will not sit back, while the people suffer.”
Although some APC aspirants pasted posters announcing their bid to contest, no concrete action towards conducting the party primary had been taken. This is fuelling the suspicion that the party might not participate in the
election, because the deadline for the conduct of primary and nomination of candidates had lapsed at the time of writing this report.
Also, nothing has been heard from the smaller parties in terms of conducting primaries, but it is likely that those interested in taking part at the polls would have forwarded the list of their candidates to EKSIEC.
Such parties will participate ostensibly to make up the numbers, as it used to be in the past.