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...As Ekiti Returns To The Poll Today
Political parties fielding candidates in today’s rerun in Ekiti Central Federal Constituency claim to have done their homeworks to win the election, Sam Nwaoko examines what the parties have done in the build-up to the election.
Today, the order of the Election Petitions Tribunal in Ado Ekiti that another election be conducted in the Ekiti Central Federal Constituency II will be carried out. The tribunal, headed by Justice Patrick Uhuo, in a unanimous judgment on September 21, held that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) contravened the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) by omitting the name and logo of the National Transformation Party (NTP) in the ballot paper used for the National Assembly election of April 26, 2011. The petition was filed by the candidate of the NTP, Mr Bamigbade Peter.
The winner of the election and candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mr Oyetunji Ojo, contested the tribunal’s decision at the Court of Appeal and on November 17, the court, in a split decision, upheld the judgment. It ordered the INEC to conduct another election within 90 days as the lower tribunal had held. The presiding judge at the appellate court, Justice Sotonye Denton-West, gave the minority judgment, while Justice Tom Yakubu and Justice Obande Ogbuniya upheld the verdict of the lower tribunal.
This, therefore, set the stage for today’s rerun.
In order to carry out the decision of the court, INEC, through, its Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state, Alhaji Hussaini Halilu Pai, announced today as the day in Ekiti Central II comprising Ekiti West, Ijero and Efon local government areas. The commission also announced that it had learnt its lessons and was better prepared this time round.
The police too have announced their readiness to maintain peace, law and order in the three local government areas during the election. The Commissioner of Police, Mr Olayinka Balogun, told newsmen on Wednesday that the command would do everything to ensure the peaceful conduct of the rerun. Balogun, who is also the chairman of the state inter-agency committee, listed certain rules, including “no group movement” and “no monitoring of election by VIPs” as some of the decisions of the committee to ensure orderliness and fairness in the election.
While the various agencies are reeling out their plans, the seven parties that fielded candidates also boasted that they are “well prepared” for today’s outing. Some of them have even said that they were better prepared than their first outing in April. The party with this contention is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party in the state.
The PDP lost the election in April and blamed it on numerous factors, chief among which was lack of unity. Members of the PDP in the state admitted that they knew that some of them worked at cross purposes in the build-up to the general election and also did not do enough that time, having been weakened by the loss of the governorship seat at the courts.
Part of the earliest measures the PDP took was the re-admittance of former governor of the state, Mr Ayo Fayose, into the party after what many of the stakeholders referred to as “wide consultations.” The consultations included a youth summit where the younger members of the party brainstormed on the way forward after the electoral woes. There were also series of meetings in which the major power brokers in the party, who had always been at loggerheads, tried to bury their differences and chart a new winning course for the party.
The last of such gatherings was a PDP Stakeholders Summit that attracted numerous stakeholders in the party on December 1. The gathering, which was at the behest of PDP Solidarity Front (PSF) under the leadership of Tope Orimobayaku, was motivated by its concern for the “declined fortune of PDP in Ekiti State and the desire to join hands with other party stakeholders in the process of repositioning the party for future challenges.”
Orimobayaku, at the PSF summit, said opinions had identified “unfavourable tribunal verdict, costly primaries and congresses, winners-take-all syndrome, over-reliance on the power from above without strategic planning, lack of discipline and commitment among party members, lack of trust occasioned by disconnect between the leaders and the followership, the habit of placing money as priority and target in discharging our obligation to the party and lack of ideological tutelage from the super-ordinates to the subordinates among others” as the cog in the wheels of the party in the state.
PSF also proffered suggestions on how to solve these problems with a view to making the party a winner again. Orimobayoku at the summit, attended by the immediate past Speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Tunji Odeyemi, and Dr. Adekunle Folayan, who delivered a paper, to which the Minister of Police Affairs, retired Navy Captain Caleb Olubolade and Chief (Mrs.) Abiodun Olujimi sent representatives, said the “party leaders should agree that unity of purpose will determine the success of the party.” He observed that the “present system has created room for disaffection, genuine anger, unending conflicts and instability and charged that all hands must be on deck to reverse this.
But how well have the leaders of the party taken steps to achieve success in the build-up to the rerun, which has been seen by many as a test of the various theories of the respective stakeholders? The heavyweights in PDP in Ekiti Central, who have direct roles to play in today’s outing include the Chairman of the party in the state, Chief Bola Olu-Ojo and Navy Captain Olubolade, who are both from the Central Constituency II where the election will hold. Another heavyweight from the area, although he is from the Constituency I, is Fayose.
These PDP stalwarts are capable of swinging votes in the area, and that factor alone attracts Fayose to the area. How well their clout will work for their candidate in the election, Mr. Kehinde Odebunmi, will be seen after today.
In the ruling ACN, Chief Jide Awe, who is the Chairman of the party in the state, is also from the constituency and the rerun looks like a battle of two chairmen, on the face value.
But way beyond that, the ACN has made it clear that the election was not occasioned by its failure in the April election but owing to the mistake of INEC.
Thus, the ACN has reiterated its desire not to let go of the mandate the people of the constituency gave it, pointing out that it would sweep the polls again, given its acceptability among the people. Apart from the campaigns and the advertisement of the achievements of Governor Kayode Fayemi, little has been seen or heard of the ACN candidate, Mr. Oyetunji Ojo. Same thing goes for the candidate of the PDP, Odebunmi. But the election must hold and a winner will emerge. The candidate who will carry the day remains to be seen.