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Fayemi and Ekiti values

Fayemi and Ekiti values

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Thinking with You Niyi Akinnaso [email protected]

“The victory of this election, I believe, is for reclaiming the land and restoring the values of our people. Our values in Ekiti are respect for our leaders, commitment to our people; not brigandage or  criminality and so on. This victory is a victory for all, it is not a victory for only Governor  Kayode  Fayemi, it is a victory for all the Ekiti people … This was just not an Ekiti election, I want people to understand that this election has a lot of significance for the future of democracy in Nigeria”.

-Dr. Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State Governor-elect, on his electoral victory.

Following my endorsement of Dr. Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress as the next Governor of Ekiti State after winning a contentious primary election in May (see, Why I endorse Fayemi as Ekiti governor, The PUNCH, May 22, 2018), I have two strong reasons now for congratulating him. One is for winning a hard-fought election and becoming the next Governor of Ekiti State. The second is for successfully playing the card that I tossed at him, namely (a) to link up with his political roots in the South-West and (b) to renegotiate his image with the voters.

The presence of the South-West APC political army behind his successful campaign was a welcome development. It was equally heartwarming to observe Fayemi’s rebranded image. The man who showed up in the campaign was not the pompous and self-conceited politician some critics had conjured of Fayemi. Rather, it was the true Fayemi, who came out as a lover of his people and who truly wanted to accomplish the development projects cruelly disrupted by a manipulated election in 2014. By distancing himself from Ayo Fayose’s antics, he presented himself as one who was ready to restore Ekiti values and ethical standards.

This preamble raises many questions about the Saturday Ekiti election. First, how did Fayemi win the election? The answer to this question depends on who you ask. If you ask his major political opponent, Prof. Olusola Eleka, and his principal, Governor Fayose, the answer would be that Fayemi either did not campaign at all or nobody listened to his campaign. They would tell you that Fayemi won only because federal might was deployed in his favour. For them, federal might is a code phrase for money from Abuja, heavy security, and electoral manipulation. They would accuse Fayemi of “vote buying” or “see and buy”, a term used to describe the practice of direct payment for votes on Election Day.

These accusations come readily to the losing party in any election, because that’s what Nigerian politicians have been engaging in for nearly two decades. Fayose only took the accusations to new heights, including crying wolf where there was not even a dog around. That’s why none of his brace-around-the-neck, the distribution of money and petrol to rally attendees, and the announcement of false election results on state radio and TV could pass for an effective campaign or prevent the Independent National Electoral Commission from declaring the authentic results. It is below the standard of an election campaign and the dignity of a governor for an incumbent governor to claim that he was attacked by the police at a rally many claimed he did not attend and for which, according to the police, his party had no permit. If, in fact, he was at the rally, it is unbelievable that the governor would be the only one attacked by the police! In any case, only the power-hungry leaders of the Peoples Democratic Party could believe or pretend to believe in Fayose’s antics.

It was the same Fayose, who often cried wolf and bath-mouthed political opponents, including the President, who staged a coup against the APC rally, knowing full well that the leadership of the party, including President Muhammadu Buhari, was going to attend. He mopped up all available means of commercial transport in Ado-Ekiti, even including the popular okada, in order to prevent people from attending the rally.

On the contrary, an objective observer would tell you that Fayemi ran an effective campaign in which he drew sharp contrasts between his achievements in the four preceding years and the situation in Ekiti since Fayose became governor. One significant aspect of Fayemi’s development projects during his tenure was their spread across the state, whereas those of Fayose were concentrated in the state capital and Ikere, Eleka’s hometown.

True, the problem with salary payment is nationwide, it became a strong campaign issue in the Ekiti election, because the state owes salary arrears for workers for up to six months. Fayemi was able to use it to advantage by promising to pay salaries promptly and to work on the payment of salary arrears within the first six months of his administration. Besides, how Fayose was able to fund the election at the expense of paying the workers’ salaries became a moral issue. This issue was accentuated by Fayose’s appropriation of his successor’s campaign to the point that it became unclear as to who his party’s candidate was.

Furthermore, no one could deny Fayemi of the decency of his campaign and and the high quality of self-comportment. True, he occasionally threw jabs at Fayose; but they were based on facts and the actions Fayose had taken in the past.

The above notwithstanding, more serious issues remain with the election. One is the issue of militarisation. According to the security agencies, over 50,000 security agents, drawn from various agencies, were said to have been deployed in Ekiti for the election, although various election observers indicated that only about 12,000 were actually deployed. Some have argued that militarisation prevented some voters from coming out, while others have argued that it did, in fact, encourage voters to come out, knowing that their safety was guaranteed.

Either way, it is difficult to argue that a particular political party was advantaged or otherwise by the arrangement. However, it is only natural for the opposition parties to feel intimidated. Nevertheless, the debate continues as to how much militarisation is needed to process an election. Given the brigandage that often accompanies Nigerian elections, chaos would result without militarisation. The question is about the number of security agents to be deployed, the specific assignments given to them, and how efficiently those assignments are carried out.

Another major problem that arose in the Ekiti election was vote-buying. It is bad enough to bribe voters during the campaign. It is even worse to bribe them for their votes right at the polling stations and in the presence of security agents. This phenomenon is on the rise as witnessed in the Anambra, Edo, Ondo, and now Ekiti elections. It is a major indictment on our politicians to openly pay for votes and on security agents for looking on and taking no action, knowing full well that it is against the electoral law. Besides, it sends a message to the world that Nigerian voters are so poor and hungry that they would sell their freedom of choice for a penny. Finally, by compromising the process of democratic renewal, vote-buying makes a mockery of our democracy.

It is against the above backgrounds that Fayemi’s post-election statement, quoted above, provides a refreshing epilogue to an otherwise tumultuous electoral process. In keeping with the values he espoused, he must pay attention to the criticisms of the election he just won.  He also must avoid trying Fayose in the press after assuming office. There are appropriate organs of the government to mop up Ekiti after Fayose’s exit.

Rather, Fayemi should focus on revamping education, healthcare, staff welfare, social security for the elderly, and the economy, including the creation of employment opportunities for Ekiti youths.

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