June 18: Ekiti and jinx of incumbency power
Several governorship elections have been held in Ekiti State, but hardly had any broken the jinx of the now established tradition where the power of incumbency plays no significant role in who becomes the governor as incumbent governors are known to have been serially upstaged in every election year in the state.
Ekiti State, a core Yoruba speaking state was carved out of the Old Ondo State and became a full-fledged state in 1996 under a military administration headed by the late General Sani Abacha. Known as the ‘Fountain of Knowledge’, the state is unique in a number of ways. The oneness of the people is in their dialect and the suffix “Ekiti” in the name of all its towns. But on the political front, the state would have broken the Guinness Book of records in terms of its political complexity, since 1999 when the country returned to civilian democracy after many years of military interregnum.
Twenty years down the line, Ekiti remains the only state in the Southwest where no governor has been able to serve a maximum two unbroken terms in office; ditto for a governor to install a successor. The development has made continuity in governance impossible, and to some extent, slowed down the much needed progress for the young state.
For instance, with the outcome of the last governorship election in the state where Governor Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), defeated his closest rival, Professor Kolapo Olusola Eleka of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), to become the fifth elected governor of Ekiti State, not a few have expressed concerns that history had once again repeated itself.
Many watchers of political events in the ‘Fountain of Knowledge’ believe that it could only take an unseen hand of fate that played a fast one on the immediate past governor, Ayo Fayose for failure to install his anointed political godson, Professor Kolapo Olusola Eleka, in his ‘continuity’ agenda as he was roundly beaten by the incumbent Kayode Fayemi.
Prior to the governorship polls, Fayose swore with the name of God and everything that is holy that he is the kingmaker of Ekiti politics beginning with the installation of his former deputy. But this became a wishful thinking as the proverbial ‘banana peel’ swept him and his anointed candidate off the Ayoba Government House. The rest as they say, is now history!
At inception of civilian rule in 1999, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo became the first elected executive governor of Ekiti State on the platform of the defunct Alliance for Democracy (AD). It was the time when Afenifere held sway as the official mouth-piece of the Southwest politics.
However, his attempt to seek a second term ticket in 2003 was truncated by the rampaging onslaught of the PDP, which like the Tsunami consumed all the five south-western states except Lagos. The development ushered in Ayo Fayose, a relatively unknown personality before the election who emerged winner by beating Governor Niyi Adebayo to become the second elected governor of the state.
However, in a twist of fate, few moths to the 2007 general elections, Governor Ayo Fayose, who could have been the PDP undisputed sole candidate suddenly lost the bid as he was impeached by the state House of Assembly members on sundry allegations including graft connected with a phony poultry project which sealed his fate of serving his mandatory two terms.
Of course, the development led to a stalemate which really altered the political configuration of Ekiti till date! One of the fallouts of the intriguing scenario was the declaration of a state of emergency where a sole administrator was imposed on the state.
General Adetunji Olurin from the home-state of the then Nigeria president, Chief Aremu Olusegun Obasanjo of Ogun State took charge of the affairs in the state to fulfill all righteousness, but he had a limited tenure. The doctrine of necessity gave room to yet another drama of the absurd where Ekiti State became a state with a one-day, one-governor! Such was the level of the melodrama then. The election of 2007 sought to clean the Augean stable of the political stalemate in Ekiti with the emergence of Engr. Segun Adebayo Oni of the PDP as the third elected governor of the state.
Oni, a level headed and suave politician, had a turbulent tenure as he presided over an assembly with equal number of lawmakers drawn from the two major political parties widely nicknamed (13-13) amidst electoral tribunal petitions instituted by the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
At the end of the titanic legal battle, he narrowly lost power after a re-run election to Fayemi via a Court of Appeal ruling in Ilorin Kwara State delivered on October 15, 2010. He was barely three years in the saddle so, the idea of completing his four years term was dead on arrival!
Fayemi’s first tenure between, 2010-2014 was significant as he became the second elected governor to complete his four-year tenure after Otunba Adebayo, but his bid to renew the mandate in 2014 was again, truncated by Fayose of PDP in an election marred by huge controversies.
Like the proverbial ‘nice customers’, the duo of Fayose and Fayemi met again four-years after in 2018 but this time, in different capacities. Fayose, the incumbent had served his constitutional two-term but he threw his weight behind his deputy to succeed him against all odds.
At a point, the towering image of the former governor clearly overshadowed that of his anointed candidate during the campaigns that many were beginning to wonder who was standing for the election.
Unknown to many, Fayose who claimed to be street-wise, knew what was at stake because a jinx has to be broken in Ekiti State if he is to be politically relevant after leaving office. But this was not to be as Fayemi, who lost to power to Fayose in 2014 was declared winner and sworn-in on October 16, 2018.
As the race towards the June 18, gubernatorial election gather serious momentum and attention across the globe with political pundits predicting a tough electoral battle in the state, some political analysts are of the opinion that the contest remains largely a three-horse race between the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP). The question on the lips of political analysts has been: Would the jinx be broken this time around?
- Atobaba, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Okemesi-Ekiti.