Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ekiti election: the best rice sharer won!

The June 21 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State is adjudged by accredited observers and political watchers as being very successful, peaceful, credible and reflective of the wishes of the electorates. The election created an upset as the incumbent governor, John Kayode Fayemi lost totally in all of the 16 local government areas of the state despite his acclaimed splendid performance in government.  Many tongues have been wagging on why he lost. One of the allegations leveled against the outgoing governor is his failure to provide ‘stomach infrastructure’ for the citizens of the state. By this, they mean he did not provide welfare packages, or to put it more crudely, he was not sharing money to the people. But is that true?

It is on record that the Fayemi government in Ekiti State embarked on social security scheme for the elderly people in Ekiti State. Under the system about 25,000 senior citizens who are 60 years and above were being paid a stipend of N5,000 monthly allowance.  Another prognosis of why the incumbent governor lost may be found in the quantum of largesse dished out to the people. A week to the poll, the governor’s main challenger, Ayodele Fayose of the People’s Democratic Party who is now the governor-elect shared 30,000 bags of 5kg of rice to electorates in the state. According to a report by Thisday newspaper of June 14, 2014 written by Toba Suleiman, “The governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose, ..distributed over 30, 000 bags of rice to students, market women and workers in the 16 council areas of the state.  Over 6,000 students of the Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti (EKSU) … scrambled to benefit from free food items and N2, 000 cash, distributed to them by Fayose.”

While the governor-elect was busy sharing bags of rice and topping it with some cash, the incumbent governor decided to cook jollof rice which is then parceled to his supporters. As it turned out, the better of the two rice sharer won. On Election Day, the PDP candidate, Ayo Fayose in a press interview accused opposing parties at the poll of sharing money to voters to induce them. He added that voters are using their camera phones to snap picture of their ballot papers in order to convince those distributing money that they voted for their party. Funny enough, the candidates who were sharing rice and money to induce voters did not believe it is tantamount to vote buying. According to a report done on the incidence by The Punch newspaper titled “Ekiti and the politics of food sharing” published on June 19, 2014 “None of the three leading political parties in the state saw anything bad in the trend. The parties included the All Progressives Congress, the People’s Democratic Party and the Labour Party.” 

Section 124 of the Nigeria’s Electoral Act 2010, as amended expressly classified such act as vote buying with a punishment of fine of N500,000 or 12 months imprisonment for both giver and taker. However, as rightly observed by Abimbola Adunni Adelakun,  a columnist with The Punch newspaper in her piece titled “Ekiti: May the best rice-sharer win!” (June 19, 2014) “There is zero use invoking the law on rice-sharers since there is a slim probability any action will be taken against them or their campaign team for the illegality of inducing voters. The culture of inducing voters’ favour by distributing various items is by no means new and no major party in Nigeria can feign sainthood when it comes to that route to voter inducement.”

She stated further: “In the 2011 elections, all manner of materials branded with the names of candidates contesting elections –from noodles to recharge cards – were freely and openly shared. Some of those items were of course, given out as campaign materials, meant to promote a party or candidate whose face and party logo were embossed on the items…. No one could have been left in doubt the true intent of the distributors of these items: they are desperate for the votes of the poverty-stricken masses.”

In an article titled “Lessons from APC’s defeat in Ekiti” written by Uche Igwe and published in June 25, 2014 edition of The Punch, “Successful politicians in Nigeria have learnt how to give handouts to the people. These people do not care whether the handouts are procured at the expense of public resources, what they want is to get a share. That is why Nigerian politics has become transactional.” Ekiti gubernatorial election is indeed the triumph of pork-barrel politics. The best rice-sharer won!