Ahead of the governorship elections in Ekiti and Osun States, Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan, examines the issues and forces that will determine the outcome of the gubernatorial contest in the two states.

The last few weeks have been intriguing in Ekiti and Osun States as the process leading to the gubernatorial elections in the two states started oficially.  Last June, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announced dates for the off-cycle elections. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Saturday, June 18, 2022 has been slated for Ekiti, while the Osun State contest will be held on Saturday, July 16, 2022.

The commission also announced that it has fixed January 4 to 29, 2022 for political parties in Ekiti to conduct gubernatorial primary elections and resolve disputes that arise from them, while those in Osun have between February 16 to March 12, 2022 to do the same.

Consequently, the stage is set for another round of epic battles between the dominant parties in the two states, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is ruling in both states, and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which has vowed to take them back in 2022.

There are a dozen other parties preparing to join the contest but their chances are nor rated highly.

Come June 18, 2022, the electorate in Ekiti will go to the polls to elect a governor to pilot the affairs of the state for the next four years. Given the current look of things, pundits say they will either elect the candidate of the ruling APC to succeed Governor Kayode Fayemi, who is rounding off his second term in office, or opt for whoever the PDP throws into the race.

In Osun, the scenario is a bit different as incumbent Governor Gboyega Oyetola of the APC, is running on his record in the last almost four years. “With or without Oyetola, the guber race in Osun is between the APC and the PDP. It will be fierce, almost a repeat of the 2018 election that saw APC running away with victory after a second ballot,” an analyst predicted.

For the two rival political parties, the elections are not just about the governorship seats at stake. There is the 2023 general election to consider as politicians in the Southwest prepare for the guber polls in the two states and this will impact greatly on the exercise.

Currently, the APC, with governors in five out of the six states in the zone is favoured. To remain in pole position ahead of the 2023 elections, the party must retain the two states. But the opposition PDP is desirous of taking over in the zone and winning the two states will put it in an advantageous position as 2023 beckons. This scenario explains why it is a fight to finish in both states for APC and PDP.

Also, the widely speculated presidential ambition of Fayemi is causing ripples within the ranks and files of the APC in the state. The party under the leadership of Paul Omotosho recently endorsed the governor for the presidential race, but many chieftains of the party across the state dismissed the endorsement, insisting that the APC chairman spoke for only himself.

Similarly, PDP leaders in the state are currently divided in their support for different presidential aspirants and interest groups ahead of the 2023 election. It is also being alleged that the desire of a prominent leader of the party in the state to seek the Vice Presidential slot on the party’s ticket is at the root of the current crisis within the party.

Internal wranglings

Not surprisingly, the two leading political parties are battling internal upheavals in both states where elections are slated to hold next year. And analysts are strongly of the opinions that the ability and speed with which the APC and the PDP resolve the crises currently tearing their ranks apart in Ekiti and Osun ahead of the gubernatorial elections, will determine who carries the day in both states.

In Ekiti, both the APC and the PDP are at present plagued by factions and internal wrangling in a bid to take over the soul of the two parties. In the ruling party, an aggrieved group which feel its members are being marginalised, continue to accuse Fayemi of hijacking the party ahead of the governorship election. Many pundits claim the feud is a lingering fall-out of the governorship primaries in 2018.

The situation is such that the APC is divided down the line into groups loyal, one to the governor and the other to some party leaders led by former minister Dayo Adeyeye. The anti-Fayemi group has, apart from holding parallel ward and local government congresses, challenged the congresses that produced the current party executive committees at all levels.

The situation led to the suspension of some APC bigwigs in the state, among them Political Adviser to the President, Babafemi Ojudu, and counter suspension of Fayemi and the APC state executive headed by Paul Omotoso. Though the national leadership of the party waded into the matter, the crisis has refused to go away.

With the election fast approaching and the groups refusing to sheath their swords, fears abound that parallel primary elections may be held, leading to legal issues that may affect the chances of the ruling party.

“What we are seeing today in Ekiti APC portrays a very bad omen for our party, but we will salvage the situation so that we can rescue whatever that remains for the benefit of all of us. There are divisions everywhere. I have decided not to contest this election, so that I can assume a leadership position mediating among aspirants,” Ojudu told The Nation.

For the PDP, the fierce rivalry between former governor Ayodele Fayose and his erstwhile deputy, Senator Biodun Olujimi, has split the party in two. This led to the conduct of parallel congresses at the ward, council and state levels, and the emergence of parallel executive committees at all levels with loyalty to the two camps.

In spite of moves by the national leadership to douse the tension by promptly recognizing the executive of the faction loyal to Fayose as authentic, Olujimi’s supporters are still carrying on as a parallel group and vowing to clinch the PDP gubernatorial ticket.

Observers of the politics of the state fear that with the exit of Prince Uche Secondus as national chairman, the Ekiti PDP primary election may end up in litigation as the Fayose faction will resist any attempt to outwit it.

Already, the Olujimi faction has approached a Federal High Court to seek among others, an interim order of the court restraining the national party from recognising the list from the ‘purported’ congresses of the Fayose faction.

In spite of the recognition of the Fayose group’s congresses during the pendency of the suit, the case is now at the Appeal Court. This is fuelling fears that the two groups may, by their actions or inaction, cost the PDP victory in the election.

Former governor and chieftain of the PDP, Chief Segun Oni, recently called on members and leaders to resolve all grievances for the party to stand a chance of defeating the APC at the election.

The situation in Osun state is similar for the two leading political parties. But while there is no peace in Osun APC at the moment, analysts say Governor Oyetola looks good to clinch the ticket of his party on Saturday, January 22.

“This is because there appear to be no visible challengers within the party. His opponents appear comfortable with ensuring he loses the general election,” Fola Jinadu of Osun Coalition for Democracy (OCFD), said on Thursday.

However, the tussle between the camp of the former governor and Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola and that of the governor is a source of concern for party members across the state.

The Osun Progressives (TOP), a group of Aregbesola’s loyalists, has vowed to stop Oyetola’s reelection at all cost. Efforts by party leaders to stem the crisis have failed woefully with the gladiators expanding the coast of the political war by the day.

Both factions elected new party executives at different locations in the state during the APC nationwide congresses. Gboyega Famodun was re-elected as the state chairman of the party as the Ilerioluwa Group held its congress at the Osogbo City Stadium, while Alao Olabisi was elected as the secretary. The Osun Progressives, on the other hand, held its parallel congress at the Onward area of Osogbo. Rasaq Salinsile was elected as the chairman of the faction with Adelani Baderinwa as secretary.

Determined to make things difficult for Oyetola, loyalists of Aregbesola dragged the leadership of the party to the Federal High Court sitting in Osogbo. The faction claimed it sought court intervention owing to the manner the congresses in the state were held. They challenged the legality of the congress presided over by the committee.

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