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Further thoughts on Ekiti polls by: Segun Ayobolu
The primary vocation of the intellectual is the pursuit and advocacy of truth no matter how distasteful or bitter. Paul Baran, the late American political economist, insisted that the intellectual must ruthlessly criticise everything under the sun with the determination and courage to pursue rational inquiry to wherever it may lead irrespective of the consequences. In a famous lecture at the University of Jos, the late Professor Aaron Gana, the eminent political scientist, linked this to the famous admonition by Jesus Christ that “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free”. The journalist is no intellectual. The nature of the profession gives little time for the kind of detailed and rigorous research undertaken by the intellectual. Journalists are said to write history in a hurry. Yet, we are no less bound by a commitment to truth as the intellectual. That is why it is said in the profession that while comments are free, facts are sacred.
Last week, I joined in the effort to make sense out of the June 21 governorship elections in Ekiti State, which saw an incumbent, Dr Kayode Fayemi, perceived to be high-performing losing comprehensively to a populist, theatrical and controversial Ayodele Fayose with a tainted record as an impeached former governor of the state. Like most other commentators, including the famous Professor Niyi Osundare, whose satirical poem, ‘A rice O compatriots, thy stomach’s call obey’ has gone viral on-line, I interpreted the outcome of the election as a vote by the Ekiti electorate for instant and transient material gratification rather than enduring development; an endorsement of crude distribution of food and cash to the people rather than initiating and pursuing projects and programmes to uplift them out of poverty.In his thoughtful public ruminations on the Ekiti polls, Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) has raised pertinent questions, which have been misinterpreted as insulting the Ekiti people. Like the Governor, I also wondered if governance should be about distributing money to the poor or empowering them to be self-reliant through development projects.
I wondered how an incumbent governor could have lost in his own home town and ward in a credible election. Well, given the overwhelming responses to my column – phone calls, text messages, and emails – mostly from Ekiti indigenes, I am afraid I was dreadfully wrong. I reacted cognitively and logically to the Ekiti polls without a proper appraisal of the empirical realities.Yes, the excessive and intimidating militarisation of Ekiti before and during the election was unwarranted. The partisan use of security agents by the Minister of Defence, Musliu Obanikoro and Minister of Police Affairs, Jelili Adesiyan is contemptible and condemnable. The intimidation of APC political leaders, abridgement of the freedom of movement of APC governors and teargasing by mobile police of the Governor Fayemi’s convoy negated the creation of a level paying ground necessary for free and fair elections.
Yet, from the feedback I have received, the truth is that Mr Ayodele Fayose would still have won without all of these abuses. Indeed, it appears to me that violence would have broken out if, for any reason, Fayemi had been declared winner. It was that bad.Is it possible that Dr Fayemi could credibly have lost in his own home town, Isan-Ekiti? A reader from the town sent me a text message that he voted against the governor because he always insisted he was the governor of the whole of Ekiti State and not of Isan. Thus, they did not enjoy any special privilege from the fact of their son being governor. This may have been ethically right on the part of Fayemi but it was politically suicidal for him at home. Another response to my article was that Fayemi had built an imposing country home in Isan within his first year in office while most of the people remained immersed in poverty. The Fayemi government never successfully refuted the widespread rumour that the First Lady, Bisi Fayemi, allegedly built a higher institution in Ghana during his tenure. Thus, it is not that the people did not see and appreciate the massive infrastructure projects of the Fayemi administration. However, the construction of these projects were perceived as financially empowering a few in Fayemi’s inner circle many of whom were of no significant economic status before his emergence as governor. Thus, the quite natural and understandable insistence of the people that what is now popularly called ‘stomach infrastructure’ must be democratised and not restricted to the governor and his friends.
A lecturer at the Ado-Ekiti University told me that most of the staff and students of the institution voted against Fayemi. If a Phd holder could not connect with his own academic colleagues, what are we talking about? And at the same time Fayemi was completely disconnected from the grassroots lumpen elements that were swept off their feet by Fayose’s populist antics despite the latter’s well- known flaws. Similarly, a national legislator of the APC from Ekiti State told me of how Fayemi had become inaccessible and alienated from the legislators at both the state and national levels and even many members of his cabinet. I am told that while many of Fayemi’s commissioners and special advisers could hardly boast of one million naira in their bank accounts, those in his inner circle had reportedly become stupendously wealthy. The Chief of Staff, Yemi Adaramodu, reportedly rude, arrogant and snobbish was a key factor in Fayemi’s loss.
An APC chieftain in Ado-Ekiti recalled how Fayose and Opeyemi Bamidele reached out to him morally and financially when he lost his mother while his own governor did not even give him a phone call. This illustrates how alienated the Fayemi government was even from his own party that was consequently demotivated from working for his re-election with passion and commitment.Otunba Niyi Adebayo reportedly had two commissioners in Fayemi’s government including the commissioner for works; his 22 year old son was Special Adviser on Diaspora Matters (whatever that means) to the governor and Adebayo had five cousins appointed at various levels of the administration. This was in addition to unrefuted reports of the former governor handling several contracts. Yet, many of those who fervently supported Fayemi intellectually, morally, financially and logistically during his three and a half year struggle to reclaim his mandate, including Asiwaju Bola Tinubu were kept at arms –length by Fayemi. The same Tinubu has stood valiantly by him following his June 21 defeat. Otunba Adebayo who could not even deliver his polling unit to Fayemi has remained thunderously silent while another of Fayemi’s cherished ‘godfathers’, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), who publicly supported Fayemi before the election has come out after the polls to say that Ekiti cannot afford to be in opposition! It is stunning that a highly respected SAN cannot appreciate the critical, indispensable necessity of opposition for healthy democracy and good governance. That, however, is a matter for another day.
I hate to write these bitter truths but have no choice but to honestly put out the feed- back generated by last week’s column. Dr. Fayemi is my friend but I deliberately refused to visit Ekiti throughout his tenure. I never requested for, nor was ever offered even a bottle of coke by his government. All I have written in support of his government and re-election have thus been based on principle and the facts as I saw it. But what I can now surmise is that an ordinarily brilliant, humble and unassuming Kayode Fayemi became transformed by power into a haughty, hubristic governor almost contemptuous of his party and people. It is ironical that a student of power like Fayemi turned out to be so inept in its usage and management. There is no way, for instance, that an astute politician would have allowed Opeyemi Bamidele, who played such a key role in his emergence as governor, to become such a bitter opponent.
The outcome of the June 21 election in Ekiti was a massive rejection of Fayemi’s style of governance and not necessarily of the APC. But the APC is suffering the consequences of condoning and ignoring the excesses of the governor. If Fayemi had got his politics right, a million bags of rice or a battalion of soldiers could not have delivered Ekiti to the PDP. Luckily for the APC, in Osun, Ogbeni Aregbesola is a solid grassroots politician; his lifestyle and attitude have not been perverted by power; he is a fervent and passionate party man; his massive development projects are integrated into the local economy and where he has inevitably had conflicts with interest groups, he has bent over backwards to explain his motives and resolve the issues. The loopholes that facilitated PDP’s victory in Ekiti do not exist in Osun. If the Ekiti elections reflected the will of the people, then it is very good for Nigeria’s democracy. This means that given his appalling non-performance, President Goodluck Jonathan is a very vulnerable incumbent in a credible 2015 election.