FROM SUN NEWSPAPER
I was dazed by the flurry of reactions of the media and political analysts to the just-concluded governorship election in Ekiti, especially as it concerned the outcome. While some argued that the election was not free and fair, others shouted them down, claiming the whole exercise was the best ever conducted in Nigeria! Because of these discordant tunes and the need to do a thorough analysis of what really transpired I chose not to join the fray at the earlier time. I deemed it more auspicious to sit back and watch as events unfolded and do a wrap-up at a later date. And that is exactly what I have done with this piece.
From the investigations and analysis I carried out, I can state without any equivocation that, the Ekiti Governorship election was generally free and fair, having been conducted under tight security and less violence and in accordance with the law guiding elections in Nigeria. Even an average Ekiti person saw the election as free and fair. The wide margin between the votes won by the contestants also underscores this fact.
The promptitude with which Governor Fayemi accepted the result and congratulated his rival was exemplary. This is how it is done in other climes. There is nothing absolutely wrong in anybody having a contrary view or opinion about the election. After all, it is the constitutional right of every Nigerian to express him or herself freely on any matter he feels strongly about. It is also the constitutional right of APC to hold a contrary view or go to court to challenge any aspect of the election it disagrees strongly with. All of these are the latitudes democracy provides.
It will be morally wrong and antithetical to democratic norms for anybody to stop the opposition from challenging the outcome of the election, provided this is done with decorum and in conformity with the laws of the land.
The simple truth is that Ekiti people voted for Ayodele Fayose, because he struck the right chord with them. Apart from compensating him for his steadfastness and the injustice done him when he was wrongly impeached, the people voted for change. Their desire for change had nothing to do with the performance of the incumbent governor, Kayode Fayemi. Not at all! Rather Fayemi was a victim of an age-long ideological rivalry between the conformists and non-conformists. I expatiated below.
In terms of achievements nobody can fault Fayemi – he performed creditably and demonstrated in large doses his urbaneness and intellectuality. Probably, what he did not do was to connect properly with the grassroots who actually hold the mandate to determine who governs them. I have met and interacted with Fayemi closely; I find him a very gentle and honest man. However, the Nigerian political environment demands much more than gentleness and honesty. It demands a little of rugged mentality. You know what I mean.
So, I laugh when people fail to understand the peculiarities of Yoruba politics. I am sure not every political analyst would be able to see the striking difference, for example, between Ekiti politics and Ogun politics. Ogun politics is purely in deference to the laid down philosophy of Awoism, which is why it is usually difficult for the state to pander to the political whims of any other party that is ideologically in contrast with this philosophy.
There had always been some dilemma among the people of Ekiti whether or not to stick to the Awoist philosophy or design their own peculiar political direction. Remember that their neighbouring brothers – the Ondo – had already charted their own political direction by pitching their tent with an entirely new political party – the Labour party. Again, it is easy to see from the Ondo example that the Yoruba stock in Ondo and Ekiti states want to carve a niche for themselves, not deferring to the usual crowd-syndrome of obeisance to a monolithic political behemoth. While Ondo went Labour, Ekiti went PDP this time round.
What might have caused the revolt? This question becomes pertinent since the general belief had always been that Yoruba are politically and ideologically monolithic. Later events have since put a lie to this assumption. Since the death of Chief Obafemi Awolowo in 1987 cracks have continued to appear on the once-impregnable political walls erected by this great patriot and nationalist. Alive, he trod the Yoruba political firmament like a colossus, was loved and revered by his followers, almost to the point of worshipping and adoring him. As Premier of Western Nigeria he lifted the lives of his people by erecting infrastructure, and sending many of them to schools abroad. In all of his achievements he made one irreversible mistake – he did not groom a successor. This obvious flaw became manifest the moment he died. The big vacuum he left behind became a problem to fill. A pair of legs to fit into the oversize shoes he wore also could not be found. Even the man who managed to step into his shoes, Chief Abraham Adesanya, could not do much to reignite the popularity of the late Awo. Instead of unflinching support from the Yoruba political elite all he got was half-hearted endorsement. He grappled with all kinds of problems – ranging from open opposition to his leadership to balkanization of the amorphous political structure built by Awo.
The death of Adesanya opened a new fault-line in the leadership crisis in Yorubaland. The Afenifere and Yoruba Elders Council walked on parallel lines, with each group championing a peculiar political vision. As all this was going on the masses were being constantly estranged, and that paved the way for infiltration by other political parties and aligners. They flaunted all kinds of philosophies and ideologies, and before one could say Jack Robinson they had overrun the entire Yoruba political landscape.
It seems the problem has got worse when it is considered that Yoruba do not have a clear-cut and anointed leader. And without such a leader it will be difficult to hold the people together under one umbrella.
The cracks in Yoruba unity became visible in 1999 when the entire Yoruba land, excepting Lagos, was conquered by a conservative political party. Though it was widely bandied that the election was manipulated in favour of a particular political party, subsequent events proved the argument untenable. Okay, assuming the election was manipulated, what did Yoruba do to show their discontentment? Every discerning political observer can easily predict what Yoruba could do when politically shortchanged. It happened in 1983 when the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) tried to penetrate Yorubaland at all costs. They targeted two states – Oyo and Ondo – where Bola Ige and Michael Ajasin held the reins of power. We all saw what transpired – hell was let loose. Sanity prevailed only after justice had been done.
Definitely, what the Yoruba demonstrated by their measured silence in 1999 and 2003 was clear discontentment with their leadership. They chose to go the way that suited their idiosyncrasies, if for no other reason, at least to hold their destiny in their hands. In 2007, they chose to go back to their ‘root’. They voted majorly for Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), but their votes could not count until the courts stepped in to actualize their mandate. The upturning of the early victories of PDP in Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and Edo by the courts has therefore signposted a new vision. Buoyed by these victories ACN became ambitious. It opted to reach out to other political parties (strange bedfellows, one may say) to form an amalgamation to uproot their common enemy – PDP. Surely, it was a deft political move. Nevertheless, one thing was missing – a definite ideology. Yes, a new party, APC, has been formed. What is new that the party is bringing to the fore? The crises it has faced since it was formed underscored the absence of a strong ideological direction. Change is always driven by solid and definable ideology, not sheer emotionalism or sanctimony.
The alliance between AC and other political parties signaled the advent of a new fault-line. Do not forget that each of the parties in the alliance had its unresolved crises that dogged it long before the alliance. And so they carried these multifarious problems into the new party. Naturally, like a keg of gunpowder, they are bound to explode someday. Lack of adequate time to consolidate, enlighten and enunciate its programmes also became a problem. And this was one of the factors that affected its fortunes in Ekiti.
Again, the decision of the leadership of AC to vote for PDP in some elections and AC in another in 2011 elections also posed its own problem. It never happened during the days of Awo. It was Awo’s party 100 per cent or nothing else. There was nothing like compromise. If you found something good to vote for PDP in a presidential election, what is wrong to vote for the same party in a governorship election? You see what I mean!
Leadership of a political party is not a tea party. It demands steadfastness, openness and strong will. Any mistake will mark the end of one’s political journey. And that is what is dogging APC in Yoruba land today. May be they found these qualities in Fayose, which was why they voted for him.
Another factor that caused the upset in Ekiti was security. I never knew Nigeria could ever be able to provide such water-tight security for an election. The security was, like the Caribbean would say, ‘something else’. This raises an important question: why can’t our security agencies work with equal commitment to fight the ills in our society? The election in Ekiti witnessed unprecedented air, water and land security. And this accounted for the relative peace that prevailed throughout the duration of the election. I have one fear though: what will happen when elections are held in about 29 states at the same time? Will we be able to muster enough security men to monitor the elections? This brings us to the contentious issue of staggered elections. So, will it be possible to conduct staggered elections in Nigeria?
The answer is ‘yes’. What else could one call the elections in Edo, Ondo, and now Ekiti States? They were simply staggered elections. All we need to do is put in place the machinery, and every other thing will fall in place. The United States, from where we borrowed our presidential system of government, practices staggered elections, though the cost is enormous. I do not know why the National Conference did not address the matter.
Now we need to consider the impact of what has happened in Ekiti on subsequent elections in Yoruba land. First, I wish to state that Ekiti and Ondo present isolated cases. They do not hold the ace as to what happens in other Yoruba states. I had already explained this line of thought in the early part of this piece. Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Osun will always be difficult to penetrate. These are hardcore Yoruba states that still believe strongly in the Awoist philosophy. Osun, for instance, has two contrasting personalities for the governorship tussle next month. One calls himself a street-boy and the other sees himself as neither a street-boy nor a gentleman. Where that leaves us is anybody’s guess. What I see in Osun state is a straight fight between ideology and elitism. Put in another perspective, it is going to be a battle between the traditional adherents of Awoism and the new power block that revolves around the elite. Naturally, the Awoists are expected to win – all things being equal. Nevertheless, there is always the surprise aspect of Nigeria politics that makes situations not work out really as predicted.
Can Rauf Arigbesola stand up to be counted when the hour comes? I see some of his programmes as people-oriented, but I am not comfortable with some of his policies as they concern education and the civil service. And it is from these sectors that we have the largest number of voters. Maybe that also worked against the man in Ekiti as he had had a number of disagreements with teachers and civil servants in his state prior to the governorship election.
It is important to remind the governors about the need not to be estranged from their workers. Workers are a solid factor to consider when planning for a re-election. A new governor may be able to escape their fury at first, but may not be that lucky when seeking a re-election. Aware of this pitfall the Ogun governor, Ibikunle Amosun, has taken steps to reconcile with warring civil servants in his states. What a wise thing to do!
Now what are the takeaways from the Ekiti election? There are a few of them. The first is not to take anything for granted. Belonging to a popular political party is no longer enough to win elections in Nigeria. Nigerian voters have shown by what happened in Ekiti that they would vote for personality rather than political party in subsequent elections. This places a huge challenge on political parties to put forward credible and trustworthy candidates for elections. The era of mediocrities dancing like kings on the stage is gone. The second takeaway is that no political party can win elections in Nigeria any longer it failed to convince Nigerians of its ideology. Nigerians may no longer vote for a political party purely on regional loyalty. Such a party must show some clout and conviction. The third is that INEC has demonstrated the capacity to conduct free and fair election once it is determined to do so. I am happy with what happened in Ekiti. At least, in the interim, it has made INEC acquire some credibility, which places some smile in the faces of its leadership and serves as motivation for them to do better. The Ekiti election also tasks our security agencies to be more committed to their responsibility in order for our nation to achieve its long-expected goal of sustainable democracy.
While the winners in the Ekiti election are savouring their victory I wish to remind them that their victory is a call to duty, not a jamboree. It has placed a big burden on them to deliver or incur the wrath of the people. It is not a vote of no-confidence in Fayemi or anybody for that matter; it is the beginning of the sanitisation of the polity.