Following the June date set by the Independent National Electoral Commission, political activities have begun to pick up ahead of the Ekiti State governorship election. Toba Suleiman reports
The announcement, some weeks ago, by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that the governorship election in Ekiti State would hold this June has already renewed political activities in the state. Hitherto, political activities within the camps of most parties in the state have been at the lowest ebb, until INEC pronounced that the election would hold in June, a development that had since changed the tempo in the state.
Parties likely to participate in the election include the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Labour Party (LP), Accord Party (AP), Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and African Political System (APS) among others. Although there is still a lot of internal drama gripping most of the parties, as many are still struggling with the tension preparatory to their primaries, they have been identified as likely to field candidates for the election.
At the moment, among parties that have produced candidates are the APC, which has adopted the incumbent governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi as its candidate; the LP that has also adopted Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele, who has just defected to the party as its candidate and the AP which parades Mr. Kole Ajayi, as its candidate. Parties yet to field candidates include the PDP, SDP, PDM and APS.
This notwithstanding, stakeholders in the election including the Police, the State Security Service (SSS), the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), the INEC and all the political parties in the state have started to mobilise for the exercise.
Speaking on the preparations of the police to ensure a free and fair election in the state, the Ekiti State police command said there was no time it was not prepared for any election more so that everybody is aware that a particular election would hold in Ekiti this year.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), ASP Victor Babayemi, said men of the state command have been fully ready for the election, and warned all the stakeholders to conform to the rules of the game.
On its part, INEC also indicated its readiness to ensure free and fair election that would be a benchmark for the country. According to a senior officer in the commission, the commission has been holding series of meetings with all the stakeholders in the state, preparatory to the election.
The state chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Jide Awe, said the party’s preparations for the election had begun over a year ago, when the leadership of the party adopted the incumbent governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi as the governorship candidate, adding that since then, the party has been working day in day out.
He said, before the INEC announcement, the party has constantly engaged its members and other residents of the state preparing them ready for the election, which he said everybody was aware would come up anytime this year.
State chairman of the Labour Party, Akin Omole, said his party was fully prepared for the election, even before INEC pronounced the date. He charged all political parties to prepare in accordance with the electoral law and not to a make it a do-or-die affair.
He said nobody should be allowed to do anything other than what the law permits, adding that in the preparation, each party should focus on how it is going to win, what it has for the electorate, rather than engage in frivolities.
Public Relations Officer of the PDP, Pastor Kola Oluwawole said, the party was preparing for the election, more so that they were all aware that the election was taking place this year. He said every machinery has been put in place by the party to ensure that it came out victorious, adding that sufficient mobilisation has been carried out among members.
Meanwhile, among the three prominent parties in the contest- the APC, LP and PDP- only the PDP is yet to come up with a candidate.
While APC has settled for Fayemi and the LP for Bamidele, there are a number of aspirants still jostling to fly the PDP flag. The list includes a former Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Ambassador Dare Bejide, former chieftain of Afenifere, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, a former governor of the state, Mr. Ayo Fayose, Minister of Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade (rtd), former Wema Bank MD, Bisi Omoyeni, former deputy governor, Chief Biodun Aluko and Senator Gbenga Aluko among others.
Although, all the parties have indicated their readiness for the election, but for those that are yet to field a candidate, the race might yet be a difficult one.
Analysts believed that apart from the calibre of the APC candidate in the person of Fayemi, his achievements in the last few years will also come handy in the election. But such advantages over others do not mean that the party could have a smooth sail in the election, which means the election would transcend the pedestal of achievements to include leadership disposition and style of politics.
In the case of the LP, although the party is still grappling with some internal crises, its candidate, Bamidele is equally very exposed, cerebral and educated and has a track record of achievements from his days in activism to his time in the Lagos State government. He looks good to give a good fight in the June election.
But the PDP is still scouting for a candidate. Sources close to the leadership of the party hinted that the battle for the party ticket is among Bejide, Adeyeye, Omoyeni and Fayose.
Bejide, a former Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada, is also an ex-SSG in the state. He is a lawyer, who has held several political posts in the country.
Adeyeye, a lawyer, is strong politically and sophisticated. He is a party man to the core. He has equally traversed the entire state, mobilising and soliciting supports of the electorate for his ambition.
Fayose has ruled the state for over three years, more than seven years, after his removal from office. But he still maintains his political structures, with his popularity among the grassroots people waxing stronger.
Omoyeni, an accomplished banker with track record of professional success is though quiet but has also quietly built intimidating structures in the state and had spent the last few months moving around the state, consolidating. He is a force to watch out for.
Whilst there is a growing perception amongst political watchers in the state that for any of the parties to defeat the incumbent, it would do more than the ordinary to achieve victory, it does not mean the victory for the ruling party is a walkover.
Clearly, the race for Oke Bareke, which would begin with the election in June and ends in October with the swearing-in, is not for any of the parties to lose yet.