The people of Ekiti State went to the polls on Saturday, 18 June 2022, to elect a new governor as the term of the incumbent governor, Kayode Fayemi comes to an end. The following day, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the election, ahead of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to Professor Kayode Adebowale, the Returning Officer for the election and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, the APC’s Biodun Oyebanji polled 187,057 votes, while Bisi Kolawole – the PDP candidate – finished a distant third with 67,457 votes behind Segun Oni, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), who garnered 82,211 votes.
With the election done and dusted, we highlight six reasons why the PDP lost to the APC in Ekiti State.
Imposition of a governorship candidate/fielding an unpopular candidate
Kolawole was virtually imposed on the party members and stakeholders as the PDP candidate. Yes, a governorship primary was publicly conducted and monitored by INEC and other relevant stakeholders, but the political intrigues in the background could have been said to have been heavily schemed in favour of Kolawole. The most influential PDP stakeholder in the state, Ayodele Fayose, a former Ekiti State governor, effectively nudged the party delegates to vote for Kolawole before the primary.
Therefore, the fielding of an unpopular candidate in Kolawole against other party bigwigs like Oni, a former governor of the state; Kolapo Olusola Eleka, a former deputy governor of the state; Wale Aribisala and Olujimi Abiodun, a serving senator, was a major albatross of the PDP for the election.
Failed to reconcile disgruntled members
The failure of the main opposition party to pacify its disgruntled members in the state after they were schemed out of the primary, as earlier mentioned, was a contributing factor to its catastrophic outing in the 2022 Ekiti guber election. The majority of the aspirants and some stakeholders felt that they were unduly sidelined and prevented from actively participating in the process to choose its flagbearer, while others opined that the process that led to the emergence of Kolawole was heavily compromised.
For example, Oni defected from the PDP and joined the SDP, while the likes of Eleka, Aribisala and Abiodun consistently berated the party, even during the campaign period. The PDP was not a united house after the primary and the effect was palpable in the main election result.
The inability of Fayose (and the absence of Atiku) to energise the PDP campaign
Having had his preferred aspirant emerge as the candidate of the party, Fayose was expected as the de facto leader of the party in the state to aggressively market and campaign for Kolawole. However, while he was on the campaign trail, Fayose’s visibility was severely limited both on the ground and on social media. For someone who is still revered in the state, Fayose’s clout and vibrant presence in the campaign would have hugely benefitted the PDP. However, it seems that the political influence, network and structure that the former governor boasts of is gradually declining in the state.
There is also the small matter of Atiku Abubakar, the PDP candidate for the 2023 presidential election, not being present at any rally, especially the party’s mega rally, to galvanise the party supporters and, in general, the entire electorate to vote for Kolawole. It was gathered that Atiku was reportedly out of the country for a planned trip during the last week of the campaign. Just as his main rival for the presidential election, the APC’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was present in Ekiti, Atiku’s presence and speech at the party’s mega rally could have motivated the party base a little further and influenced voters who were undecided just before the close of campaigns.
Unspectacular performance of Kolawole at the governorship debate
A debate was organised for the candidates of the six leading political parties, including Kolawole, in the election on 12 June. Although he was coherent and made some points, Kolawole was unexceptional as he did not seem persuasive enough while canvassing his points. He also appeared to have stuttered while responding to some tough questions that he was asked such as the issue of farming, security and education, while Oyebanji was assertive when articulating his points on the same subject matters.
A more assured and eloquent Kolawole would have been able to convince undecided voters or even sway voters who had planned on voting for different parties.
Lack of political structure that the APC has
The PDP is the opposition party at both the federal and state level, so, understandably, it lacks the arrangement and sophisticated organisation that is at the beck and call of the ruling APC.
The APC is quite popular in the state, with the popularity of the ruling party at a record high. Therefore, it was hard for the PDP to automatically dislodge its rival without working hard and remaining united to win the mind of voters, feats it failed to achieve.
Also, unlike the PDP, the APC remained a close-knitted family despite the fallout of its primary by reconciling all aggrieved members and then reinforcing the organisation of the party set-up in the state. Through this, the APC, blessed with federal might and huge resources, developed the capacity to campaign widely across the state before the election and mobilise voters and reportedly utilise its monetary resources on election day – a situation political analysts, civil society organisations and election observers have described as vote-buying.
Inability to convince voters to come out to vote on election day
According to INEC, Ekiti State has a total of 988,923 registered voters. However, of this figure, only 360,753 voters in 2,445 polling units across 177 registration areas in 16 the local government areas of the state came out to exercise their franchise on election day. It is even more sobering when you consider that only 351,865 of the total voters were deemed valid, meaning 8,888 votes were voided because the said voters did not follow the voting rules by spoiling their ballots with poor thumbprinting.
When considered, 628,170 voters not turning up to perform their civic duty on election day is big deal. The failure of the electorate in not coming out to vote on election day largely squares with the political parties and politicians, as they are the major beneficiaries of poll results. The PDP, therefore, failed in this regard as they were unable to energise and mobilise voters to come out on election day (please, this is quite different from vote-buying and should be alluded to as such).
The PDP should imagine if it had been able to convince more Ekiti voters and garnered a large chunk of that 628,170 votes that were not cast on election day.