Two-party competition in Ekiti State
From the perspective of definition, a two-party competition exists “when the electorate gives its votes largely to only two major parties and in which one or the other party can win a majority in the legislature.” We currently have a two-party system in Nigeria, not least because the political space is dominated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the detriment of mushroom political parties. For the sake of being a bit porch, I have christened followers of these two parties as “Progressives” and “Democrats.”
Of the 36 states making up the Nigerian federation, Ekiti State provides one example of a political environment where two-party competition has continuously played out. Since the inception of the current Republic in 1999, there has been an alternation of political power between two major political parties. The governorship election has been won and leadership provided by the following political parties-Alliance for Democracy (1999-2003), the PDP (2003-2007), the PDP (2007-2010), Action Congress of Nigeria (2010-2014), the PDP (2014-to date). The competition has been largely between those who assume themselves to be progressives, even though the names of their political party might have changed a few times, and those who are assumed to be conservatives. As it is the case in the larger Nigerian society, there is hardly any serious ideological content to the political party competition in Ekiti State, more of the convergence of local disagreements or discontents in the various towns and villages making up the state. Political leaders have their followers who move into whichever direction they moved.
Talking of local disagreements, Ikere town provides a historical example of a situation where such disagreements could easily play out in competitive politics. The dethronement of the traditional ruler of the town in 1949 once resulted in a fierce party competition in which one political party provided the umbrella for those who supported the deposition of the traditional ruler while loyalists sought his reinstatement in another political party. Similarly, in most other towns and villages, disputations over issues such as land ownership or succession to the throne could mean that those who had fought over such issues would hardly be members of the same political party. Any scholar wanting to research into the two-party competition in the defunct Western Region is advised to take a very keen interest in the divisions that polarised communities during that era.
Be that as it may, the Ekiti 2018 gubernatorial election is our focus here. There are said to be about 21 political parties registered for the election, but the open secret is that the contest will be between the candidates of the ruling PDP, Kolapo Olusola and Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress. Professor Olusola is the current deputy governor of the state, while Fayemi, federal minister of Mines and Solid Minerals at the time of writing, was governor of the state between 15th October 2010 and 16th October 2014. Barring a major political upset, one of the duo will succeed charismatic Ayodele Fayose of the Adegoke Adelabu school of politics as governor of the state.
Ekiti State was created on October 1, 1996 alongside five other new states by the military regime of General Sani Abacha. Ekiti is one of the most distinctly homogeneous states of the Nigerian federation. However, Ekiti State, acknowledged as boasting quite a number of educated men and women, is also one geographical environment where diversity of opinions thrive. The 2018 election promises to be an exciting and closely contested affair between two accomplished intellectuals in Fayemi and Olusola. It can only be a gambler that will, at the moment, be rushing to the bookmakers to place a bet on who would win the contest. Of course, gambling is about taking a risk.
Seeking re-election in 2014, Fayemi was reportedly defeated in all the 16 local government constituencies making up the state. Were the election to have been free and fair, the evidence of that outcome would suggest that he was adjudged to have failed woefully as governor of the state and staging a comeback, under normal circumstances, would be a suicidal mission or gamble. However, Fayemi strongly believes the election was rigged against him for his then opponent, incumbent Governor Fayose, courtesy of the then PDP-controlled Federal Government. This time around, his own party, the APC, controls the central government and it should be interesting if the veracity of his claim or assumption to have been cheated in an election he won can be asserted in a free and fair election. Or, is it going to be about the so-called federal might working for him this time around-being some kind of payback time for the PDP?
However, decent Nigerians expect that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would approach its umpiring responsibility with unquestionable professionalism. Ekiti people could be violent if their mandate were seen to have been glaringly manipulated by another. We also do not require a town crier to remind all and sundry that every election conducted under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari would be viewed as a test of his integrity and acknowledged determination to fight corruption. Those who want to fight corruption must know that corruption manifests itself in many facets of human life. We cannot be fighting corruption and at the same time be encouraging the distribution of money in order to influence the outcome of elections, and neither would we want an electoral body to do the job of electoral corruption on our behalf. While one wishes the competing candidates the good luck they wish themselves in the Ekiti 2018 election, the warning hardly needs to be amplified that the democratic world is watching with great interest.
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