By Dayo Benson, Political Editor
WITH barely a year and half to the next general elections, controversy lingers in Ekiti State over the 2007 poll. The dust raised remains thick as a part of the state returns to polling centres tomorrow.
Ekiti North Senatorial District will engage national attention as voters will file out to elect a senator in a re- run poll ordered by the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin July 8. The final appellate court in governorship election petition had upheld the lower tribunal judgment nullifying Chief Ayo Ariseâ€™s election as a senator representing the area .
Delivering the ruling judgment in the appeal filed by the Peoples Democratic Party candidate, Justice Jumai Sankey had stated that â€œthe appeal is wholly lacking in merit, it is hereby dismissedâ€ She further ruled that a â€œbye election is hereby ordered to be conducted in Ekiti North senatorial district within ninety daysâ€
Her counterpart, Justice Igwe Agube agreed with the lead judgment and advised the two political parties to eschew violence, saying, â€œ let politics not tear the bastion of intellectuality in Nigeria apart, election should not be a do or die affair, it should never be a matter of life and deathâ€™.
And to INEC Justice Agube admonished, â€œ please let the people choose their leaderâ€
The vice chairman of PDP in Ekiti , Mr Adetifa Tunde, who was in the court accepted the â€œWe have accepted it, we are going back to the drawing board to re-sensitize our people on the need to have decorum and conduct themselves without any act of thuggery in the forthcoming election. By the grace of almighty God we will win that election again fair and squareâ€ he stressed.
AC state PRO, Mr Taiwo Omiyale who was also present in court said, â€œthe judgement is an indication that AC is fully on ground in Ekiti State. The people are ready to vote for us anytime any day, we are ever ready, we will win the bye electionâ€
AC state PRO, Mr Taiwo Omiyale in an interview exuded confidence that the party would win the bye election.
According to him, â€œthe judgement is an indication that AC is fully on ground in Ekiti. The people are ready to vote for us anytime any day, we are ever ready, we will win the bye electionâ€
In his reaction, Action Congress gubernatorial candidate, Dr Kayode Fayemi told Vanguard in a telephone interview that, â€œIt is along the same pattern. We know PDP did not win any part of Ekiti, so we are not surprised. It is a victory for doggedness and consistency.
We salute the courage of the AC candidate because he could have sold out. So we commend our party supporters who believe in us and who believe in justice. There is no way PDP can win in Ekiti. The candidate is from Oniâ€™s home town, so it is going to be difficult. But we still have a job to do because it is not like that of Senator Bode Ola. This is a rerun, but we believe we will win. â€œ
However, in his own reaction, Senator Ayo Arise who expressed confidence in returning to the Senate said:
â€œMy senatorial district is very different from Ekiti Central and unless people from Ekiti Central will come and vote for Ekiti North, I do not think there is any way they can influence election in my Senatorial district. And I want to tell you that I am the Senator to the governor, his local government is there, my own local government of Oye Ekiti is there, Ikole Ekiti is another local government that I am very hopeful, the same applies in Ileje- meje
Like the May 5 governorship re-run poll in 10 local government areas, tomorrowâ€™s election promises to be as interesting as it may be controversial . Three of the10 council areas involved in the governorship re-run are under Ekiti North Senatorial District namely Ikole ,Ido-Osi and Oye . The two that make up the five local government under the Senatorial District are Ileje- meje and Moba. In the 2007 governorship election in the state PDP won four out of the five local government . Moba which is the only one in control of AC is where the Deputy Speaker Hon. Saliu Adeoti , comes from .
Under this dispensation , since 1999 , the four council areas have been PDP strongholds . Governor Segun Oni, has said that much following the outcry that hailed the governorship re-run in the state. According to him â€œSince 1999 when this democratic dispensation started, all elections in Ido Osi local government Area have been won by the Peoples Democratic Party. People should stop lying and fabricating falsehood all in the name of politics.
â€œSimply, Ido-Osi has been completely home to the PDP and has consistently been growing in influence and stature ever since, even when no governorship candidate from the local government contested. In 2003, the trend did not change despite the peopleâ€™s very low enthusiasm for the person of Ayo Fayoseâ€ It is expected that this factor may play a strong role in deciding tomorrowâ€™s poll.
Another factor that may come to play is the home advantage .Gov Oni also emphasis this when he said, â€œThe â€œhome boyâ€ advantage for serious contenders of credence and credibility in their territorial base is a fact known to politics the world over. For example, in the 1990 United States of America Presidential election, Jimmy Carter won resoundingly in Georgia in what was a landslide election for Ronald Reagan. Again in the most recent 2008 presidential election, Barrack Obama won overwhelmingly in Illinois while McCain won in Arizona.
â€œBack home here in Nigeria, Chief Adekunle Ajasin from Owo as UPN candidate in 1979 had 51, 372 votes(97.95% of total votes in Owo LGA. In 1983 he had 88.259 votes(98.40%)
In 1991, Evangelist Bamidele Olumilua from Ikere- Ekiti, as SDP governorship candidate had 21,697 votes(94.5% of total votes in Ikere LGA)
â€œAgain in 2003, Mr Femi Falana, NCP governorship candidate whose candidature was perceived by majority of the electorate as practically a non issue had 11,409 votes in Ekiti South West LGA(his home base) ahead of the AD and PDP candidates who were the strong contenders.
“In 2007, Dr Kayode Fayemi AC governorship candidate in his ward which comprises Isan(his home town), Ilafon and Ilemeso, scored 3,002 votes while I had 34 votes in a ward of three towns.â€ That is why Ido -Osi, Ikole and Oye are very crucial to whomever will emerge winner of the election . Both Governor Oni and AC candidate Adetunbi are from Ido-Osi .
So, the likely calculation , according to analysts is that having produced the votes that gave Oni victory in the re-run, it will not be out of place to repeat the feat in favour of another indigene. However , Oni is expected to pull his weight as the governor to ensure block votes for Arise . Whatever votes PDP may lose in Ido-Osi may be made up of in Ikole where his wife hails from.
In Oye , Ariseâ€™s home town, PDP recorded a slim margin over AC. Perhaps the votes were that close because AC governorship candidate Dr. Kayode Fayemi is also from Oye.. This time around , the pendulum may swing in any side . Also it is expected that PDP may retain its hold on Ileje-meje while AC may also not let go off Moba. In fact, with recent travail of the deputy Speaker, AC is likely to win more sympathy votes.
Earlier, the PDP had set up an eight man committee led by speaker Dimeji Bankole to ensure victory for the party in tomorrowâ€™s poll.
Inaugurating the Committee at the partyâ€™s National Secretariat, Ogbulafor Ogbulafor urged Dimeji to emulate what happened in Anambra State where the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu returned the PDP candidates to the Senate and that of the House of Representatives.
The National Chairman who noted that the task was challenging, urged the Speaker and his team not to disappoint the party, adding, â€œYour assignment is to return Senator Ayo Arise back to the Senate.
â€œSo the development in Ekiti, we took it in good faith. As a matter of fact we had this type of exercise in Anambra sometimes ago and we had to put up a very strong committee headed and chaired by the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu. I want to announce to the chairman of this Committee, Mr. Speaker that the exercise was a success, he returned the Senate seat to us and that of the House of Representatives too, all from Anambra State.
â€œI am praying and mandating that you will emulate him to return good news back to the party. This has begun, the place is here and the time is now. You must find how best you can return the candidate back to the Senate.
â€œThe occasion is very dear and challenging to this NWC. We are very proud that you realized the importance and accepted to serve this party in this capacity irrespective of your tight schedules and where you are coming from. Sometimes we lost Senate seat in Ekiti State , Senator Kila and we know that he had worked very hard for the gubernatorial rerun election in Ekiti and we felt very sad that we lost that seat after he had laboured on behalf of the party.
â€œThis time again we found that Senator Ayo Arise was also by the rule of law asked to step aside and ordered a rerun election which I think is also challenging to this party. The party believes seriously in the principles of justice and equity and we believe strongly in the rule of law. When the news broke out, we felt very sad and the NWC quickly met and set up this very high tension and powerful committee to handle the rerun election and make sure that Senator Ayo Arise is returned back to the PDP through free and fair rerun election in Ekiti.â€
Responding, Bankole acepted the challenge.
According to him, â€œWe would deliver in such a way that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will return Senator Arise from that particular district. I pray that we will be able to do this without violence, rancour, and peacefully so that the people of Ekiti North Senatorial district will continue to benefit from the dividends of democracy. No doubt we are well aware of the state we are talking about, giving the fact that we were engaged in electoral process there not too long ago. We hope that this will be better conducted by those in_charge. We shall deliver.â€
Other members of the Committee are the Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin as the Vice Chairman, Mrs. Olujimi Abiodun as Secretary, Dr. S.T. Lawal Deputy Governor Ekiti State, PDP National Vice Chairman South West Alhaji Oladipo Tajudeen, Chief Olusola Oke, Otunba Muyiwa Collins and Senator Sola Akinyede as members
Against this background, the senatorial re-run is yet another battle royale between PDP candidate who is eager to return to his vacant seat in the Senate and the AC candidate who is optimistic to join Senator Bode Ola as the AC senator from Ekiti. Who carries the day? The answer resides in the day(s) after the poll.