A week after its conduct penultimate Saturday, the Ekiti State gubernatorial election has now lapsed into history as a past dispensation, even as ripples from it are yet to subside. The winner of the polls, Dr John Kayode Fayemi, of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), who resigned recently as the country’s minister of Steel and Solid Minerals has also been presented with the certificate of returns by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Abuja. Just as well, the losing candidates – of which was the flag bearer of the main party to beat – the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Professor Kolapo Olusola, are now left to revisit the drawing board in preparation for future polls. Yet in the midst of the sadness and joy trailing the exercise, lies a conspiracy of silence over the misfortune of the ultimate loser in the polls – the Nigerian nation.
The country’s loss is most accentuated in the context of another lost opportunity that would have changed the country’s narrative, by ushering in a culture of election management which would produce free, fair and credible electoral outcomes that are beyond reasonable doubt. And where else would have been more deserving than Ekiti State – romantically referred to as the “Fountain of Knowledge”? At least beyond the official claims of a successful exercise by the INEC and other institutional claimants, there are many grounds that indict the polls as not being actually free and fair. Yes, polls were conducted, votes were counted and a winner emerged, but at what expense to the country was the process procured, is a different matter. And if the situation similar to that in Ekiti prevails at the time of the general elections in 2019 in some other states, can the country afford the same scale of mobilisation of wherewithal in such locations simultaneously?
As reported the Ekiti polls required as many as 30,000 police officers, not to mention other security assets that were mobilized to facilitate its conduct. While it may be casually presumed that Ekiti happens to be a PDP controlled state that ‘needed to be seized’ by the ruling APC, would the same level of mobilization be required for all the remaining nine PDP controlled states – not to add the APC states that are presently on border-line status. By simple arithmetic, that will translate into a humongous logistic challenge that will overwhelm the Nigeria Police Force as well as the armed forces, along with other components of the country’s security architecture. This is where the Ekiti election model remains unsustainable and needs not only to be interrogated thoroughly, but revised by the INEC before the next electoral exercise takes place.
A post mortem on the Ekiti polls highlights a complement of circumstances which if handled differently by the various actors, would have produced a different outcome. And a logical starting point remains the political ambience in the state before the polls. Without equivocation, it needs to be stated that Mr Ayodele Fayose – the outgoing governor of the state left much to be desired in his style of administration, and spawned a situation that predisposed Ekiti State as a theatre of war. In a gubernatorial contest he was not even a contestant he virtually supplanted Olusola the PDP candidate with himself, and effectively rendered the latter as a puppet in the public perception. Inevitably, the candidate – an accomplished university professor at that, also allowed himself to be denied public acquaintance with his innate qualities he would have brought to the office of governor of the state, if elected.
Meanwhile not a few propagandists will easily see the opportunity Fayose and his team missed over the mismanagement of the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to the state, just before the polls. Instead of antagonizing the President as he did, Fayose, as governor and official host of Mr President, should have provided the former with a rousing and befitting welcome, including even luring Buhari to commission any project. Such would have generated pictures of a smiling Buhari and Fayose, which could have been mass produced in thousands and circulated widely across the state with the caption “Buhari Endorses Fayose”. The impact of such an emergency propaganda onslaught in the state, and such coming so close to the polls, could not have been benign. Such could have earned for Fayose and his team significant political mileage, and forced Fayemi team to play catch-up. After all, the quotation “all is fair in war…” which is credited to playwright William Shakespeare, also alludes to deploying wits to win battles.
On the other hand, is the APC candidate Kayode Fayemi – erstwhile lack-lustre Minister of Solid Minerals in the present administration, who was eventually elected at the polls. It is significant that he also spared no efforts in engaging in the sabre rattling build-up to the polls and apparently inspired the massive mobilization of the ‘blitzkrieg’ of an electoral campaign in Ekiti, thereby rendering his victory at the polls akin to spoils of war. From his conduct before, during and after the polls, it was clear that his primary mission in office will be how to neutralize the ‘Fayose factor’ in Ekiti politics. Goaded by such a mindset he had promised before the polls, to repeal the state’s’ Anti Grazing Law’ which enjoys wide popularity in the state, in the light of the ongoing nationwide killing spree by hoodlums branded as killer herdsmen. Soon after his election his first plan also to probe his predecessor.
For Fayemi, who had been governor of the state from October 15th 2010 to October 16th 2014, when he lost the second term polls in 2014 to Fayose, it is disappointing that not much has been heard from him about specific steps to transform the state. The foregoing conjures the second phase of the country’s loss with respect to Ekiti State polls, and that is the advent by an incumbent to an executive office bereft of any concrete, verifiable plan of action for his tenure. Beyond the series of bland pronouncements to the press by him, Fayemi is returning to the Ekiti Government House virtually empty handed, just like the typical potentate in the country’s political terrain. as far as any concrete developmental agenda for Ekiti State is concerned.
Yet he is not alone in this degenerate style of ascendancy into office by Nigerian leaders. It is a standard feature of the country’s political terrain that is yet to be exorcised. Nigerian governors operate in a system that thrives on the dynamics of the absurd, which is driven by a sense of liberty of impunity by whoever finds himself in the ranks of the ruling class. It is the system that produces all types of characters into leadership positions.
Meanwhile for Ekiti, the ghost of the polls is yet to rest as the likelihood of a protracted contest over it has commenced. How this new development will pan out in the course of time is anybody’s guess. Because in Nigeria, unfavorable election results are traditionally not easily accepted by losers, as they often see such concession as a sign of weakness in the face of war. If that is the case for Ekiti State it will have a long and hard road to travel on its journey of return from a political battleground to the status of the ‘Fountain of Knowledge’ conferred on it by people of goodwill.