2023: PDP crisis threatens Atiku’s chances in Ekiti
Residents of Ekiti State are waiting with bated breath for the Presidential and National Assembly elections slated for Saturday, with the polls forming the major talking points among the populace.
As the February 25 “judgement day” approaches, there is anxiety in the state because of its political volatility and the opportunity the polls offer for political gladiators to flex muscles for bragging rights after the 2022 governorship elections.
The major political parties expected to slug it out for the presidential vote in Ekiti are All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Labour Party (LP) with other parties just there to make up the numbers.
In the June 18, 2022, governorship election, the APC came first, with its flagbearer, Mr. Biodun Oyebanji winning the poll, surprisingly trailed in the second position by the SDP which had Engr. Segun Oni as its candidate. The PDP and its candidate, Chief Bisi Kolawole came third.
This made the trio the strongest parties on ground in the state. The LP is nowhere near the three in strength, population, spread and structures but the situation may change at the forthcoming presidential poll due to some dynamics recently introduced into the polity.
Apart from the presidential election, the federal legislative poll is also generating interests among politicians and eligible voters in the state, fondly referred to as the Land of Honour.
Ekiti has three senatorial seats for the North, Central and South and six federal constituency seats in Ekiti North 1 (Oye and Ikole), Ekiti North 2 (Ido/Osi, Moba and Ilejemeje), Ekiti Central 1 (Ado/Irepodun/Ifelodun), Ekiti Central 2 (Ekiti West, Ijero and Efon), Ekiti South 1 (Ekiti Southwest, Ikere, Ise/Orun) and Ekiti South 2 (Emure, Gbonyin and Ekiti East).
In 1999, while the PDP won the presidency, the then Alliance for Democracy (AD) secured majority seats in the National Assembly.
But in the subsequent general election cycles of 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019, it was the party that controlled the federal power that won the majority of the votes in the state and that of 2023 may not be different.
All the key parties in focus: APC, PDP and LP held their presidential campaign rallies in the state, while SDP is yet to hold its own as of the time of putting this piece together.
APC holds the Ace in Ekiti
The ruling party in the state is poised to win the presidential poll in the state and secure a majority of seats in the National Assembly. Apart from enjoying the power of incumbency at federal and state levels, the party appears to be the strongest, the most cohesive and the most united political party in today’s Ekiti.
Presently, the party has no factional problem as it has successfully managed its post-governorship primary issues, with many of its aggrieved members burying the hatchet and working for the party’s candidates. Besides, Oyebanji is seen to have performed well since succeeding Dr. Kayode Fayemi in October last year and enjoying massive goodwill in the state.
Owing to the fact that the APC has two out of the three Senators, all the six House of Representatives members, twenty five out of twenty six members of the House of Assembly, all local government and local council development areas chairmen, including state executive members, it is believed the party would carry the day. All these political office holders have the means to swing victory in favour of the broom party next Saturday. The fact that APC has representation in all polling units, wards and local governments is a key factor that will secure its victory on February 25. The party’s candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who has the Southwest as his home base is expected to coast home to victory in the state.
The major challenge to APC in Ekiti is the alleged lacklustre performance of its government at the federal level and its perceived anti-people stance like prolonged fuel scarcity, Naira redesign policy, closure of borders, high cost of goods and services, long closure of public universities occasioned by lecturers’ strike, among others.
PDP’s Self-Inflicted Crisis Puts Atiku’s Chances in Jeopardy
PDP appears to be the strongest opposition party in the state but it has continued to decline and lose its potency to give APC a run for its money. Since its fall from power in the 2018 governorship election in the state, the umbrella party has sunk deeper into an internal crisis which it has found difficult to resolve despite intervention by the zonal and national leaderships.
The party’s only face at the national level and the Senator representing Ekiti South Senatorial District, Mrs. Biodun Olujimi has been embroiled in sharp disagreement with the last PDP governor in the state, Mr. Ayodele Fayose for control of the party’s structure. This led the party to have an ignominious record of losing the governorship election two times consecutively with many of its members defecting to APC and SDP. The rift in the party came to the fore when its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, came to the state for his presidential campaign rally on January 18 with party chieftains, members and candidates loyal to Fayose boycotting the rally. The boycott led to the suspension of two senatorial candidates and five House of Reps candidates.
While the suspension of one of the senatorial candidates was later lifted, the other senatorial candidate and five House of Reps candidates, including son of former Governor, Joju Fayose, were expelled from the party. The division in the party has rendered it unattractive to the electorate who are disappointed that the ruling party is poised to have an easy run at the general elections. PDP is too weak to give a competitive resistance to APC, more so with Fayose’s alleged tacit support for Tinubu rather than Atiku.
SDP Still Distracted By Governorship Dispute Litigation
SDP surprisingly beat PDP to the second position in the last governorship election as many prominent PDP members followed its candidate, Engr Segun Oni into the party after the controversial PDP governorship primary. The party challenged its loss at the Election Petition Tribunal but lost when the three-member panel upheld Oyebanji’s victory.
The battle has since shifted to the Court of Appeal where the date of judgement was still being expected. Although the party has a presidential candidate, Prince Adewole Adebayo, whose billboards have not been seen in the state, Oni and his supporters are keeping their focus on the governorship appeal case despite the fact that the party is also fielding candidates for the National Assembly election. SDP’s membership strength has also diminished with many of its members returning to PDP after the governorship election loss.
LP Structure Weak, But Religious/Ethnic Factors May Give Obi Some Votes
Even though LP has a very weak structure and membership base in the state, the personality of its presidential candidate, Peter Obi, is gaining traction among the Igbo and a good number of Christian communities in the state. The state has a sizable Igbo population who are making waves in the business sector and they are sure to give their votes to LP and its candidate, Obi.
There are some Christian groups who are not Igbo-based but are throwing their weight behind him in protest against the decision of APC and PDP to give their presidential flags to Muslim candidates. There are no known big names in Ekiti politics in LP and since every politics is local, winning the presidential election in the state might be a tall ambition.
It may be too late for the party to upstage the formidable APC election winning machine, but it is a party for the future.