Ekiti elections and other matters
Last week gubernatorial election was held in Ekiti State, with the two main parties in the country slugging it out brawn for brawn, cash for cash, and propaganda for propaganda. It was reminiscent of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) versus other parties’ days before the 2015 major political upset. In the weeks preceding the election fear of an outbreak of violence was palpable and scary. Indeed, there were gun shots and a former federal legislator received a bullet wound allegedly from a police officer. There were advertorials from prominent Ekiti sons and daughters urging everyone to shun violence and to vote according to their conscience. As it turned out, after the winner was announced, there was no ‘operation we tie’ nor was there ‘owambe’ form of mass jubilation. What does this portend?
Well, the winner of the election has been announced. It is Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the cerebral politician who once lost the ballot of the Ekiti people to the amala-eating, populist and drama king, Governor Ayo Fayose. In a very déjà vu manner, the notorious/or famed (depends on your lenses) federal might stood solidly behind Fayemi to wrestle Fayose to the ground and gave him a bloody nose, both, as it were, metaphorically and physically. Pictures of the giant Fayose sitting helplessly on the floor, supposedly a victim of tear gas and hot slaps made headlines on social media. His neck brace was circulated for added measure. The dramatic pictures elicited sympathy from some and derision from others. As we know Fayose is capable of drawing extreme emotions from all sides of the divide. Those who love him do so with a passion. We can also say the same for those who cannot stand his guts – particularly the Ekiti elite! How did we produce this monster? They seem to ask no one in particular. Now the days of Ekiti wilderness are over!
The prelude to the election and its aftermath threw up about what we worry about politics in Nigeria. First was the onslaught, the informal declaration of war in Ekiti. All actors fired shots from all cylinders. The APC took its full arsenal of cash, men and security apparatus (PDP style) into the election territory. It marshaled forces human and material to ensure that they won the election. A friend, Fred Obi reported that 30,000 police officers were deployed to Ekiti State for the election where less than one million people were registered as voters. The Federal Government did not stand apart neutral as they did in Anambra for which the Buhari administration was commended. This time they stakes were too high for the APC-led Federal Government to allow things to take their normal course. The Ekiti election is a foreshadowing of things to come in 2019. To be sure, they were not in a normal situation. Fayose is not a normal politician.
Ayo Fayose as we now know left nothing to chance. He commandeered all public transportation vehicles and locked them somewhere (some say inside Government House premises) to prevent the All Progressives Congress (APC) from hiring them to welcome the President, with a promise to pay them for the day’s labour. Whether they have been paid or not is a matter for conjecture. He used the state-owned radio and television to his advantage. As we write, the station has been shut down by the Federal Government because he announced election results before a formal announcement. He also accused the Federal Government of rigging the election and made loud noises to the media about a grand plot to impose APC on the people. Fayose owes a backlog of salaries to civil servants but he often has money to dole out to the hoi polloi of society in a Robin Hood manner, thereby personalizing government and making them believe that he feels their pains. Fayose governed by show more than by substance. His famed stomach infrastructure captured the minds of the poor. In a land where there is absolute poverty, the first thing that comes to the mind of the majority is food, not investments or roads or agriculture or education. In Fayose remained a gadfly on the political turf, bearding the President in a manner no other elected official could ever do. In a sense that is the kind of politician that the world is pleased with currently- populist leaders who have nothing concrete to offer except whipping up sentiments.
Reports indicate that both parties bought votes by giving money to potential voters. Both parties also employed thugs to intimidate opponents. By using force provided by the apparatus of the Federal government through taxpayers, both APC and PDP were on the same pedestal. This therefore is the tragedy of the Nigerian democratic experience- abusing or even subverting the democratic process by those who claim to be on the moral high ground of fighting corruption. If what the political parties did in Ekiti is a dress rehearsal for 2019 then we are in for a long haul of mediocrity. If I read things right, PDP will not allow this to happen in 2019 where their fate would be sealed if they sit back to complain after the fact. How for example, would PDP stalwarts in Delta State allow APC to uproot it from the ground? It will be a battle royal. Governor Ortom of Benue State will also have learnt one or two lessons. The PDP must have learnt that PMB is not going to be like GEJ who allowed the election results to stand even though they had serious doubts about the figures which came out of Kano and some other states.
Ekiti State has been won and lost. It is no prophecy to say that some people will head for the law courts. As I congratulate my big friend Dr. Fayemi on winning the battle of July 14 I urge him to start work immediately after swearing in on how to work with the legislative arm which as we know is not APC-controlled. The people of Ekiti have been on a long bumpy train-ride with Fayose. Let Fayemi smoothen the oath and make Ekiti soar into great heights through education and agriculture! Welcome back to State House!