Ekiti Election: Matters Arising

Ekiti Election: Matters Arising

Wednesday, July 9, 2014 3:39 pm

Femi Ayodele

The Ekiti gubernatorial election, conducted on 21 June, has heralded a new dimension to politicking in Nigeria. The defeat suffered by the incumbent governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi who was basking in his admirable score card, his sportsmanship afterwards, and the emergence of Ayodele Fayose, widely perceived as an enigma – Osokomole – has triggered series of commentaries as issues unfold in the homogenous state.

According to statistics released by Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, the total vote cast in the state was 360,455. Among other 15 contestants, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, Fayose recorded 203,090 votes as against Fayemi’s 120,433 of the All Progressives Congress, APC, while Bamidele Opeyemi of the Labour Party, LP, bagged 18,135 votes. The surprise that the election sprung now places the state, branded as the Land of Honour, on the world stage and has elicited the use of the terminology “grassroots politics”, to which many have attributed Fayose’s victory.

As put by Bayo Adeyinka of World Financial Group, “Politics is local and politics in the South-west still remain rudimentary and that is why any touch of populism will carry the day.” To many analysts, Fayemi’s defeat was due to his elitist lifestyle which eventually created a gap between him and the masses. Though he built roads and embarked on urban renewal, his downfall is attributed to his disconnection from the common people.

Tolu Osetoba, an indigene of the state, in a chat with this medium posits that Fayemi did his best to reposition the state and fulfil his mandate to its people. But he lost touch with the hoi polloi, especially the grassroots who, in terms of numbers, take the higher percentage and by this, determine who governs the state.

Osetoba added that the “special examination” imposed by Fayemi’s government on teachers waned his popularity among teachers, who also form a large percentage of civil servants in the state: “Ekiti is more like a civil-servant and homogenous state. Any government that fails to impress teachers/civil servants might have its fingers burnt, especially when they feel the government of the day is imposing a model imported from a metropolitan city like Lagos. Somehow, a model that works in a metropolitan city like Lagos might not rightly fit in for a homogenous state like Ekiti. Fayemi, though he meant well, did not imagine this internal problem with teachers who felt diminished by the policy could jeopardise his ambition to rule the state again.”

Another aspect played out was politics of stomach; that is, the politics of cash and food. In the case of Ekiti for instance, bags of rice were reportedly deployed to cajole the electorate. It appears the candidate with the biggest bag of rice was being regarded as the man of the people. While this development is seen by some analysts as a severe shortsightedness on the part of the electorate, the appalling state of poverty is believed to have blindfolded the people from differentiating between substance and sediments. Analysts thus question what should be the basis for voting for a political candidate – performance or cash/food?.

Unlike what obtained in the First Republic when the electorate deemed it fit to x-ray the cardinal programmes of candidates before voting, candidates that dole out the highest cash and rice now carries the day. Bamidele Ayeni, an elder stateman in the state, laments this development and posit the kind of politics practised now is without ideology. Making reference to Awolowo’s legacy during the First Republic, Ayeni said Awolowo used his four cardinal programmes to change the fortune of his people. Ayeni said politicians should take a cue from Awolowo’s four cardinal programmes.

In November, 1978, at the time of the flag-off of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, the party articulated and presented to the Nigerian voters its four Cardinal Programmes which included Free Education at all levels, Free Medical Services, Integrated Rural Development and Employment to better the lives of the people. During the electioneering campaign, UPN’s cardinal programmes were considered the greatest selling point for its candidate, Obafemi Awolowo, who today many politicians of south-western origin see as a political hero. The four cardinal programmes helped to empower Nigerians and remove the burden that would have bewildered them in paying for education and health services. Contrary to the practice then, the elder statesman lamented that most governors now concentrate more on infrastructural development rather than improving the welfare and standard of living of the citizens.

In the same vein, Ayeni frowned at contracting construction jobs to foreigners: “From the Ekiti example, there is this impression that most of the construction jobs were being contracted to foreigners or companies based in Lagos while the indigenes were left with nothing, not even gravel and sand supplies. This, apart from the fact that it affects the local economy of the state, leads to a situation where wealth is concentrated in the hands of few.”
To Fayose whom the Ekiti people have reposed so much confidence, pundits opine that eyes are on him to justify preferring him over his Ph.D-holder rival. Interestingly, no governor has ever ruled Ekiti that claims to have the highest number of professors for eight years. Joseph Oni, another indigene, said Fayose, who is fortunate to now fortunate to have the mandate for another four years, will have to see his return as an opportunity to correct his wrongs rather than embarking on a revenge mission.

“By Fayose’s antecedents, some Ekiti of the elite class believe he is a disaster waiting to happen. Fayose was accused of being disrespectful to elders and traditional rulers by his unguarded utterances. I feel Fayose is in position to now prove his critics wrong. He claims to have turned a new leaf but what will unfold in the first one year of his reign would either negate or affirm this claim,” he stated. Oni foresees a situation where Fayose would now be under severe pressure to deliver his promises to those who voted him in power. But, Oni, just like other Ekiti analysts, believes Fayose’s brand of grassroots politics will be his major source of breakthrough in the land of honour.

To Fayemi, who has been widely applauded for his maturity and sportsmanship, Ayeni stated that he has clearly shown that the interest of the state supersedes his personal ambition. This, according to him, makes Fayemi a rare breed among Nigerian politicians.

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