By Festus Enegide
AS the governorship election beckons in Ekiti State, the season of betrayal has set in again! In June next year, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, will conduct governorship election in the state and Governor Peter Ayodele Fayose will be getting ready to pack his bag. Little wonder, then, there is rumbling already in the state. Friends are becoming foes; associates are going their different ways; and alliances are falling apart. Seasons of election are seasons of anomie. They are also the seasons of serial betrayals. Member of the Ekiti House of Assembly, Hon. Olugboyega Aribisogan, a die-hard supporter and stalwart of Fayose, has not only fallen apart with Fayose, the lawmaker has been up in arms against the governor. The vituperations spewing out of Aribisogan’s mouth against Fayose beggars belief. Whatever went wrong? The culprit is political ambition.
Godsons may think it is time to climb higher on the political ladder but godfather may think time is not yet ripe or he is unwilling to accede to the kind of meteoric rise envisaged by a particular godson. Politics is not a straightforward game but a labyrinth of sorts; and a game of crosswords and puzzles. While there is usually one godfather, there are always many godsons, each important to the godfather in his or her own specific and special way. Aggregating these various talents account for the success of the political enterprise but it is at the hurdle of rewarding each and everyone adequately and satisfactorily that the godfather often strips or the godson gets disenchanted.
Political and economic theorists posit that wants are unlimited but the resources to satisfy them at one and same time is limited. The opportunity cost of who to satisfy and who to displease; what to give and what to withhold; who should move forward now and who should tarry – is where disagreements and fallouts rear their ugly head, causing yesterday’s bosom friends to become today’s bitterest foes; like Fayose and the senator representing Ekiti South, Mrs. Biodun Ogunjimi.
Politics is the blood that flows in the veins of politicians. They sleep and wake up thinking politics. They eat and drink politics. They see and feel politics in all and everything. To parrot William Shakespeare, politics, not music, is the very essence of life to the average Nigerian politician. When elections still seem far away and everything looks calm on the surface, politicians are already feverishly playing politics. This is not so for the average citizen for whom politics is once-in-a-season affair. The D-Day, when they queue to vote for the candidate of their choice – however, that choice had been influenced – is the only day they participate in the political process; until another election circle comes around again, usually in another four years. In-between the average politician and the average citizen, we have different levels of participation from different categories of players.
There are those who take active interest in politics and are party members and stalwarts. They canvass votes; stick with their political leaders; and seek the success of their party. They may or may not seek elective political offices but may accept political appointments. There are those who are satisfied with peddling influence or using their political connections to leverage on or attract contracts and patronage. There also are those who are politically conscious but loathe or are not attracted to political office. They discuss politics; follow political processes; mould or shape public opinion; and are usually active in the public domain. The advent of the internet and social media has made this type of citizens more noticeable and influential these days than in times past. Usually, they are critics and partisans and have become the scourge of political leaders. In the wake of the “Arab Spring”, it is now often said that the fear of social media is the beginning of wisdom for political office holders.
Political differences and disagreements these days are also accentuated and blown out of proportions by access to social media. It is more difficult these days to silence dissent and once an issue gets on social media, it assumes a life of its own. Political players must, therefore, be careful how they handle differences; once the genie escapes into the public domain, it is difficult to predict its outcome.
In Ekiti, where election is due next June, the ruling party especially must be careful how it handles competition for the party’s flag in the coming governorship election. Olujimi’s apparent grouse with Fayose might have had something to do with this. In an interview she granted Saturday Tribune of 19th August after her spat with the governor became public knowledge, she was quoted as saying: “But if they think they can stop me because I have an ambition, they have another thing coming”. Politics and politicians! So, it is all about who will fly PDP’s flag next year? For someone who had been deputy governor to Fayose and who fought tooth-and-nail for the governorship during the Fayose impeachment saga of 2006, it is reasonable to expect that Olujimi would be bewitched by the governorship – but is it an ambition she can accomplish without Fayose’s support?
Last June 21st during the third year anniversary of Fayose/PDP’s landslide victory over incumbent Gov. Kayode Fayemi/APC in Ado-Ekiti, Fayose and Olujimi shared the same podium, grinning from ear to ear. She had admitted it in the past but may not want to admit it now: Olujimi owes virtually all her achievements in politics to Fayose; majority of her political advancements, including her present senatorial seat, had been at Fayose’s pleasure. Is she now biting the fingers that fed her or, following a Yoruba adage, is she now of age and ready to assert her political independence and chart her own course?
Alarming as the Aribisogan and Olujimi’s volte-face may seem to the average PDP supporter in Ekiti and elsewhere, the likelihood is that they may be early starters in a crowd of ambitious party leaders waiting in the wings and ready to spill the beans if they would not be allowed to eat it. There are so many PDP leaders eyeing the governorship race. Some of them were eased out of Fayose’s cabinet recently either to deny them the use of the platform to further their political ambition or give them enough room to make the much-needed rounds to solicit support. Fayose has repeatedly promised a level-playing ground for all aspirants. Trust politicians; that may not be assurance enough.
In fact, what the average Nigerian politician covets is not as much the godfather’s neutrality as his partisan support on their behalf! Once they cannot vouch for this – bedlam! Having just wriggled out of Ali Modu Sheriff’s bearish hug, however, PDP at all levels needs to re-build and not distract or weaken itself through personality clashes. Personal political ambition, however overarching, must be subsumed by all under the overall party interest to achieve success in next year’s governorship election. PDP in Ekiti must learn useful lessons from APC’s loss in the recently-concluded Osun-West senatorial by-election where APC lost to PDP because its own (APC) members reportedly “flung” the election, as it were. If Ekiti PDP members fling next year’s governorship election, they will have themselves to blame. It is Aribisogan and Olujimi today, who is next tomorrow? To prevent this from happening – and stave off the “unkindest cut of all”, which may be lurking around the corner – is to quickly embark on damage control. The fires that Aribisogan and Olujimi have stoked must first be contained and then smothered completely. PDP Ekiti – and Fayose especially, after his breath-taking grandstanding on the national scene as the unofficial voice of the opposition – cannot afford to lose Ekiti to APC in next year’s governorship election. It may be too late to ask Aribisogan that question since he has already purportedly defected to the APC, but Olujimi should reflect and see which is by far more important – her personal ambition or PDP’s overall interest. Citing her political trajectory, she has been branded by opponents as disloyal and unreliable; must she now dance to the tune?Enegide is publisher and public affairs analyst based in Lagos.