Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ekiti electoral tsunami

The June 21, 2014, governorship election in Ekiti State offers some useful lessons for students of politics. A lot has been said about why the incumbent governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, lost signally in the contest in spite of his sterling performance in office. His ‘sins’ are legion. According to reports, he lacks good human relations by not socialising with the populace; he allegedly surrounded himself with eggheads or technocrats who have little or no electoral value and who are equally not in touch with their constituents. They call them Ekiti in the ‘Diaspora’. He is accused of not empowering local contractors as most of the contracts were said to have been awarded to vendors from outside of the state.
Also, the insistence of his administration to make teachers write competency test which is wrongly perceived as a ploy to downsize or right-size the work force; the increase of the tuition of Ekiti State University and the enforcement of no payment, no examination as well as the palpable fear of the likelihood of his administration banning commercial motorcycles from the main roads as was done by another All Progressives Congress government in Lagos State formed part of the reasons for the crushing defeat of Fayemi at the poll. Also mentioned was that the governor had earlier promised to do only one term in office which he now reneged on by re-contesting; so also was the non-conduct of elections into the 16 local government areas of the state. The perceived use of federal might against the leaders of the APC in the state and at the federal level in order to cow them was also seen as a contributory factor.
Of all the tales that have come out of Ekiti on why Fayemi lost, the most weighty and damaging to me is the act of betrayal by his party members. First and foremost, the governor did not manage his second-term ambition well. Long before official call for nomination by the Independent National Electoral Commission on January 24, 2014, the APC leaders in Ekiti State met late last year and endorsed the incumbent for second term. This did not go down well with other aspirants within the party. One of such is Michael Opeyemi Bamidele, a serving member of the House of Representatives, who resisted all attempts to thwart his ambition within the party and when the governor’s supporters started ceaseless attacks on his supporters, he left the APC to realise his goal on the platform of Labour Party. Rather than embark on fence-mending, the crack engendered by the second term ambition of Fayemi was left to widen by the party’s leadership both in Ekiti and at the national level and that contributed in no small measure to the routing of the party at the poll.
The disenchantment of the APC members with the leaders of the party in the state is also not in doubt. It was gathered that there are over 240,000 registered members of the party in Ekiti State. The party also has 25 members out of the 26 in the state House of Assembly. It occupies all the six seats allocated to the state at the House of Representatives as well as the three senatorial seats. Shouldn’t that give the party easy victory at the poll? Yet, the party in power was roundly defeated in the entire 16 local governments of the state and managed to garner a paltry 120,433 out of a total valid votes of 350,366. If only the over 240,000 members of the APC in the state had voted for their party, the story should have been different.
What happened on June 21 is simply a protest vote by the electorate of Ekiti State. They decided to use their power to dethrone a ‘king’ they fought tooth and nail to enthrone on October 15, 2010 after three years of fierce legal battle. They decided to vote against imposition. They chose to vote against a selfish political leadership who rather than empower them decided to indulge in self-aggrandisement. They decided to align forces with a man who sympathised and empathised with them. A man who cared more for their ‘stomach infrastructure’ than their physical infrastructure. The Ekiti electorate have consciously made their choice and this must be respected.
For the APC, if it does not mend its way, the Ekiti episode will mark the beginning of the end of the party. The ‘Baba sope’ (elders have decided) politics of the past 15 years that has worked for the party since the days of the Alliance for Democracy and the Action Congress of Nigeria is now being rejected and resisted. It was partly what cost the ACN victory in the October 2012 governorship election in Ondo State. Would it not have been tidier and more honourable if Fayemi had been made to go through party primaries like other aspirants rather than a conclave of elders imposing him on the party? For the other elected and appointed party members who refused to support the governor’s re-election bid, they too should start packing their bag and baggage to leave their positions in 2015 as the electoral tsunami of June 21 will most likely consume them as well at the next general elections.
The only redeeming option left for the APC is to imbibe internal party democracy and foster unity among its rank and file.
It was reported on Tuesday that the party was gathering evidence to go and challenge the outcome of the poll at the election petitions tribunal. They are alleging that INEC scientifically rigged them out through the use of photochromic technology used in printing the ballot paper and the quality of the indelible ink. My candid unsolicited advice to the party, however, is to perish the thought and concentrate on rebuilding itself and reconciling its aggrieved members. The 2015 elections are around the corner and the resources to be spent hiring legal counsels and prosecuting the petitions should be used to grow the party and boost its electoral fortunes.
I laud INEC for overcoming the perennial challenge of logistics in the Ekiti election. The transparency and accountability demonstrated by the commission during the election is unprecedented. Its communication strategy was very robust. Its voter education plan was effective leading to 50.32 per cent voter turnout; 2.8 per cent invalid ballot and a largely peaceful poll. The political parties and candidates, security agents, media and observer groups also deserve commendation. I do hope all election stakeholders will consolidate on the success of the Ekiti election and perform better at the August 9 governorship poll in Osun State.
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