2022: Understanding complexities of power rotation in Ekiti election
The last few weeks have been intriguing in Ekiti – the agrarian state filled with men, women of valour and knowledge.
Since the whistle for the gubernatorial election rehearsal was blown, the stubborn debate, like a floating cork, has refused to go under the water. Some people in what has now come to be known as ‘South’ of Ekiti are insisting that the ‘zone’ should produce the next Governor of Ekiti State.
For those who may not know, Ekiti has three Senatorial Districts: North, South and Central, each qualified to produce a Senator into the National Assembly and House of Representative members.
In the recent history of Ekiti politics, the North has produced two governors: Chief Olusegun Oni and Dr Kayode Fayemi. The election of Oni was null and void, according to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, then, it means the North has produced the Governor of the State only once, legally speaking, but politically, two people from the North were governors.
The Center, which chief town is Ado-Ekiti has produced two state governors, being Mr Niyi Adebayo and Mr Ayodele Fayose. On this basis, some people in the South, which chief town is Ikere, insist it is the turn of Ekiti South to produce the next Governor come 2022. Each season, the debate rages but soon to be subsumed in the dust on the heels trailing the aspirants.
To be certain, Ekiti South is yet to produce the Governor of Ekiti since 1999. The zone has equal rights with other districts. It is the right of the South to aspire to lead the state. For the avoidance of any doubt, Ekiti South is a repository to thousands of eminent men and women who are qualified to lead Ekiti State and even Nigeria. They have the credentials, the feat and the gut. They have the brain. They have the wits, the artery, the vein and even the brawl.
However, it is a wrong assumption to argue that Ekiti South has not had any lion share compared with other districts at a point in time. In reality, Ekiti South had produced Chief Bamidele Olumilua, who was the state governor of the old Ondo State, comprising the entire Ekiti State. It is never too late for the South to produce the next governor of Ekiti State. I wish to appeal to such candidates to reflect and study very carefully, with the patience of a surgeon the psychology of politics in Ekiti State. It will help any candidate from any of the three districts to know the right strategy and tactics for victory.
One may argue that if the South is to produce the next governor of Ekiti State or any zone for that matter, it cannot be on the basis of coming from a particular Senatorial District. It has never been. It is not likely to be. It is wise for any candidate to understand the rudiments of elections in Ekiti in the context of the key determinant factors.
I also do not think there is any conspiracy against any district in producing the governor of the state.
During the 2018 gubernatorial election, someone from Ekiti South, Kolapo Olusola-Eleka lost by a narrow margin of fewer than 20,000 votes to Dr Kayode Fayemi. Eleka’s votes were not from the South alone, but a rainbow combination of votes sourced from across the state and the 16 local government areas.
This suggests that precedence justifies the fact that Ekiti people had at one time or the other voted in solidarity for someone from the South. It then nullifies any possible assumption of any intrigue on the part of the masses, of the political elite or of the principalities and powers. It then also confirms that Ekiti people can vote for another candidate from the South now or in the future. Nevertheless, on the issue of Ekiti South, North or Central producing the governor of Ekiti, there are subjective and objective realities. Let us walk together on the subjective lane:
It is difficult for me to understand the concept of Regional solidarity as far as Ekiti is concerned. It appears to me that each town is fiercely independent and stubbornly so. Alliances of each town with others are not often necessarily on the pattern of the common demographic. Each town tends to define and pursue its own agenda, seeking alliances and counter alliances in the process. The voting patterns in Ekiti these past years, have not in any way indicated strong regional ties, where such existed, it has been on the strength of party politics rather than any sense of senatorial brotherhood. It, therefore, seems to me, that any gubernatorial candidate must understand this pre-historic sociology of Ekiti politics.
In the objective context, past elections have indicated that winning the gubernatorial election is most dependent on building a state-wide network based on economic, cultural and social programmes that stir the consciousness of the people. There is no certainty that campaigns driven by regional advocacy will lead to automatic victory for any candidate. It does not appear to me that the victory of Adebayo, Fayose, Oni and Fayemi was motivated by the regions they came from. Fayose did not win on the grace of coming from Ekiti Central, neither was Adebayo’s emergence. It appears ironic that all the governors that have emerged in Ekiti have come from medium towns and villages, not from the big towns. This is a strong indication that winning an election in Ekiti will not be determined by regional alliances, the size of a town or a region. In fact, there are counter consequences if any candidate rests the oars of campaign strategy on a senatorial bloc, it may reduce the votes of such a candidate into a cocoon and force other blocs into a counter alliance.
I write here to help candidates understand the terrain and to help brothers and sisters from the South further deepen the content of their strategy in the quest for the trophy.
At least, I was the Director of the Campaign in one instance. We realised that each town and city had its own agenda. Within some towns and communities, the agenda could be dual or triple-wedged. Ikole agenda is not necessarily the same as Ekiti North Agenda. Ikere Agenda is not necessarily the same as Ode, Ise or South Agenda. Our strategy then was based on mass mobilisation of the people across the 131 (now some 145) towns and villages in what appeared to be the most difficult era when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) roared across Nigeria like an incubus that only very few could dare. I believe it was the superior and revolutionary strategy of the movement that gave victory to Dr Kayode Fayemi, not on any illusion that he was from the North, at least that he came from Isan.
Since 1999, the pattern of registered voters remains the same. The highest is Ado. The next big four in order of strength are Irepodun-Ifelodun, Ijero, Ikole, Ekiti East and then Oye. In terms of senatorial strength, Ekiti Central, which is Ado and other towns and villages, has the highest votes followed by South and the North. It shows that no single Senatorial District can, on its own, swing the tide. An analysis of the voting pattern does not indicate regional alliances. People tend to vote for candidates transcending Senatorial considerations. To be fair, the governours elected since 1999 in Ekiti have not proved that socio-economic developments of the state were driven by an undue preference for their own Senatorial District.
The truth must be told. Politicians often seek to substitute their parochial consciousness for the thinking of the masses.
For locals, regional politics in a plural, multi-ethnic Nigeria may be attractive; the situation in some states of the Federation may be similar but entirely different in some territories. The situation in Ekiti is completely different. Was it not written in the chronicle of Ekiti history, that Chief Rueben Famuyibo from Ado Ekiti did lose the gubernatorial primary in 1998, most profoundly in Ado where he comes from, while Adebayo from a smaller community won. Fayose from a smaller community won the primary against those from bigger towns, the same for Dr Fayemi. While rotation of power is good, in Ekiti, it is complex. The Senatorial Districts do not necessarily share ancestral lineages, neither are they held by unbroken umbilical cords of unfettered solidarity. The public perspective of rotation in Ekiti is not the same with the other Nigerian States. It has its own unique character of uniformity of language, culture and values, which makes division among Senatorial lines difficult. While it cannot be denied that there are deep feelings of exclusion, this is not restricted to Senatorial districts, it is rather a feeling that exists in each town, which does not automatically translate to any Senatorial platform, for that would mean all aggrieved towns have come together to present a candidate on a bloc table which at present does not appear to exist.
Ekiti is young. The last chapter of Ekiti history is yet to be written. The South has the right to produce the Governor of the State. In the future, we may even have Ekiti South producing the state governor for 16 years. I add that any candidate from any of the Senatorial Districts is better placed when the campaign is driven on a Pan-Ekiti agenda. I believe this is a more practical and realistic approach, even if not by choice, or wish, but given the experiences of politicking in the homeland, broad-based advocacy is certain to win more votes than the one driven by sectional methodology.
Adeoye, journalist, rights activist lives in Lagos.