Ekiti State, in Nigeria’s South West geopolitical zone, has become the focal point for Nigerian politics. The state is due to hold gubernatorial elections on 14 July and will be a test for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC).
Solid Minerals Minister Kayode Fayemi — who was also the 2010-2014 governor of Ekiti State (2010-2014) — will hold the APC party ticket, after winning the APC’s controversial Ekiti State primaries on 12 May. The initial primaries one week earlier had to be cancelled after ending in violence when other candidates complained the process was fixed in favour of Fayemi.
Despite facing 32 contenders in the APC primaries race Fayemi’s win was highly likely because he was firmly backed by President Muhammadu Buhari — Fayemi’s main contender and political advisor to Buhari, Babafemi Ojudu, withdrew from the race, justifying his actions ‘for the sake of peace’. Unlike the first round, the losers of these primaries accepted defeat. To ensure a united front ahead of the 14 July elections in the state, Buhari hosted all the contenders at the Presidential Villa and, unsurprisingly, urged them to support Fayemi.
With Fayemi’s emergence, the stage is now set for the APC to contest between him and the incumbent PDP governor Ayo Fayose’s anointed successor and current deputy governor, Kola Olusola.
Fayose was quick to call a press conference during which he alleged that the APC has plans to engage students of the Federal University at Ado Ekiti as ad-hoc staff with the main purpose of using them to rig the election. He called on the international community to intervene to ensure that the election is not rigged. The APC responded, denying the allegation, claiming the governor had become jittery following the emergence of Fayemi as the party’s flag bearer.
While the public relations battle rages between both parties, the 14 July election is perhaps the greatest test for INEC. Nigeria and the international community will watch closely to assess the election against the backdrop of INEC’s preparation for the February-March national elections next year.
The Ekiti elections will be tense and the build-up even more so. Fayose has a very strong grip on the state which the APC is determined to break, backed by federal might. It will test Ekiti State’s PDP state chapter, the APC’s national resolve and, most importantly, act as a litmus test for INEC ahead of the 2019 elections.