ON Friday, June 13, 2014, a grand reception was held for the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Bank Plc, Dr Alex Otti, by the umbrella body of traditional rulers in his native Ngwa land, Abia State. Alex is widely believed to be warming up to contest the Abia governorship election on the platform of the PDP come 2015. Top among the dignitaries expected at the event was the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Adamu Muazu, Otti’s long-time friend. Muazu had reportedly lined up a jet to bring him and many of his colleagues in the national body of the PDP but had to cancel his trip to Abia at the last minute. He changed direction to Ekiti State, where the governorship election was only eight days away. The PDP reportedly fancied its chances of victory in Ekiti, and decided to leave no stone unturned.
Top members of the ruling party from all parts of the country had a free ride into Ekiti to assist their party’s candidate, Mr Peter Ayo Fayose, to reclaim a seat from which he and his Deputy, Mr Biodun Olujimi, were impeached on October 16, 2006. The same could not be said for their counterparts from the All Progressives Congress, APC, whose guber candidate, Dr John Kayode Fayemi, the incumbent governor of the state, was making a bid for re-election. They were stopped by the security agencies and soldiers from joining forces with their party man. To this extent, you can say the playing field was not levelled for fair play.
To be frank, the result of the Ekiti gubernatorial election surprised me for many reasons. I have not been to Ekiti State since 2007, but colleagues in the media who had the privilege of witnessing Dr Fayemi’s work in the state came back with glowing reports of above average performance, which inclined my expectation towards his re-election. But when the results came out, it was not even a slim victory in Fayose’s favour. It was a landslide victory – Fayose polled 203,090 compared to Fayemi’s 120,433. Another surprise: I expected Fayemi to latch onto the security restriction of his party leaders from other parts of the country to discredit the poll and go to the tribunal. I expected the APC to send its National Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to make his usual windy denunciation of the poll and its winner, while flagellating the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. I also expected sections of the Ekiti populace to protest, if not riot.
None of these took place. Fayemi lived up to his image as a genuine intellectual and gentleman. Though it hurt, he summoned courage and conceded defeat, congratulating the winner. The APC also gamely submitted to the wishes of the electorate. Rather than riots, there were jubilations in Ekiti State. All is well that ends well. So, congratulations to the electorate, the leaders and people of Ekiti State for giving democracy a good image in their state. It has become the first state since 2011 where there was a peaceful transfer of power from one party to another, unlike Ondo, Edo and Anambra where the peaceful elections merely saw the retention of power by the ruling parties. I hope Osun will emulate Ekiti, and others before it such as Ondo, Edo and Anambra. It is essential we stay on this course of credible and rancour-free polls as we look forward to the big event of 2015.
Politicians must learn from Ekiti, not only in terms of the peaceful conduct of the poll and its excellently managed aftermath. Fayemi ran a successful administration but he did not seem to understand the psycho-kinetics of the Ekiti people. Democracy is a game of the people. It was not the rice that decided it as some misguided analysts have insinuated. Everybody gives rice; some even add “meat” to it. Fayose won the election, despite the question marks of alleged murder, money laundering (he still has a pending case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC) and certificate forgery hanging over him. Some even say he behaves like a motor-park tout. Fayose is a democrat, in the sense that he has successfully sold himself into the tender spots of the people’s hearts. He is a crowd puller. Such people don’t need to give rice to the people to win their love. It is those who have no genuine links with the people that need rice to bribe their way through. The rice is mere tradition in our peculiar polis-sphere.
The Ekiti election presents a serious homework for the APC. It appears to me as though the people of South West are through with their brief romance with Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s political leadership. The political high tide could be on its way out. Osun State might be next in line. Governor Rauf Aregbesola is reported to have done one or two things there, but his religious misadventures, which have set the state on the brink of religious conflict, could be his undoing.
I can understand the jubilation in the PDP camp. They have re-established a foothold in the South West, the absence of which, in the past four years, questioned their claim of being the most evenly spread national party. The Yorubas in the party can heave a sigh of relief as they are no longer total outsiders. PDP has increased its number of states from 18 to 19 with two allied states: Ondo (Labour) and Anambra (APGA), while APC has dropped from 16 to 15 states. Even if the APC is able to retain its hold in Osun, Ogun, Oyo and Lagos, it is likely to come down further if, as widely expected, it loses Imo and Rivers in 2015.
The party must therefore intensify efforts to endear itself to the electorate by closing ranks and offering more quality opposition, as the Obafemi Awolowo political parties did in the First and Second Republics. It must market itself to the people as a credible alternative to the PDP, rather than maintaining its current emphasis on grabbing power from PDP by all possible means.