By Azu Ishiekwene
Ekiti State Governor, Ayodele Fayose, has been on the rooftop and won’t come down till long after Saturday. He has been screaming, for all the world to hear, that the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) plans to rig this weekend’s governorship election for his arch foe, Kayode Fayemi.
From Fayose’s camp, it seems that the APC will not be content to win. The icing on the cake would be to brutalise Fayose, break his neck and present his head on a platter to Aso Rock. Armageddon is the closest metaphor.
As Fayose wept, with a neck brace worn upside down and his left hand in a sling, claiming he had been attacked shortly before his party’s rally in Ado-Ekiti on Wednesday, it would take someone who has eaten the proverbial head of the tortoise not to feel sorry for this drama prince.
According to Fayose, the APC has enlisted the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the police, the Department of State Services, and maybe a few stray devils from Libya, to help Fayemi win the vote by means fair and foul.
On Tuesday, he said the result of the governorship election had been written and quoted dodgy figures in two local government councils ostensibly to support his claim.
Even though it is Kolapo Olusola, and not Fayose, that is the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the election, you’ll be forgiven to think that Fayose is in the race. And he might well be.
Whatever the constitution says about term limits, Saturday’s contest between Olusola and Fayemi is a proxy war for Fayose’s third term. He will summon both real and imaginary conspiracies, if not to win the vote, then perhaps to discredit the system and get public sympathy.
His brace and sling are part one of the wretched political game, the costume of a political dramatist.
When Fayose cries wolf about alleged connivance between INEC, security services on the one hand, and Fayemi’s campaign on the other, he’s haunted not only by concerns for a free and fair contest. He is tormented also by prospects that he could be at the receiving end of a system from which he was a principal beneficiary four years ago.
Documented records after the election showed that Abuja robbed the treasury, dragged a major commercial bank into the mess and also put top military and government officials at the disposal of Fayose. The PDP Federal Government left nothing to chance in a desperate effort to ensure victory for its candidate at the time.
It’s probable that Fayose would still have won that contest, partly because of Fayemi’s complacency. But a taped conversation by an insider, Captain SagirKoli, on how the election was rigged by state agents, revealed that rival party leaders, especially those of the APC, were deliberately subjected to harassment and intimidation on the eve of the election, casting serious doubt on the integrity of the result of the 2014 governorship election.
This history is playing out as a farce, with the APC government deploying more policemen and soldiers in Ekiti in peacetime than we have seen in any of the numerous hotspots begging for attention.
After four years of Fayose’s politics of stomach infrastructure, which essentially comprised eating roasted corn by the roadside, eating amala at a market shed, sharing birthday cake on the streets, and supplying petrol to okada riders from the underground tank in the government house, Fayose ought to have raised enough foot soldiers from the 913,000 registered voters to defend the vote and secure a third term, without faking a broken neck.
If this were a vote for brinkmanship, Fayose’s candidate would gain immeasurably from the hubris of the last four years. When Fayose is not advertising his death wish for President Muhammadu Buhari with state funds, he’s taunting and teasing the Presidency over one policy mishap or the other.
He’s been ruthlessly efficient at criticising the Federal Government, insinuating and inflaming public opinion with half-truths often shared on a speed dial.
Now, it has dawned on him that whatever his grouse against Abuja might be – and there are quite a few legitimate ones, like the herders-farmers clashes, for example – his candidate will be judged not by his fans outside, but by voters in the state that he, Fayose, abandoned in his quest for popularity as the self-assigned lightning rod of the opposition.
His worst nightmare must be what happens next. All the brace, the sling and the arrow are diversions from his poor record and the fear of what might happen to him once he no longer enjoys immunity.
The fear runs deep. It goes as far back as Fayose’s first term when police, SSS and court records linked him to the deaths of Tunde Omojola, Ayo Adaramola and Kehinde Fasuba, whose families have yet to get justice.
On his record
At home, in Ekiti, where he was re-elected to govern, there’s little evidence that Fayose’s record would save his candidate in Saturday and give him a third term by proxy.
He said, in an interview with The Guardian in March, that education has been his greatest area of achievement. The records do not support his claim. Ekiti is one of the 17 states that has failed to access a N16.2 billion UBEC fund, provided to ease basic education in the states.
Instead of accessing the fund, Fayose’s government defaulted on the N850 million counterpart fund loan provided by Access Bank under the previous administration. The government creamed off the interest, estimated at N70 million by two independent sources, and simply continued levying primary and secondary school pupils.
On Fayose’s watch, the state university has been starved of subvention and the nursing school is a shadow of itself. Primary and secondary school teachers are being owed salaries of between six and eight months, while pensioners have not been paid for 11 months.
This woeful record casts a shadow on the government’s eager attempt to claim credit for the modest improvements in WASC/NECO school results in the state. Pressed between the rock and the hard place, students may well have taken their fate in their own hands.
If Fayemi lost four years ago because of internal rebellion, his weak grip on a few wayward personal staff and lack of common touch, Ekiti has careened from the elitist Fayemi end of the spectrum to the squalid Fayose end where drama, gimmickry and a personality cult have been elevated to statecraft.
Land of honour and integrity
Governance, it seems, has become a joke and it’s doubtful if serious-minded voters would recognise Ekiti as the same land of honour and integrity they used to know.
In this important election over which Olusola has canvassed strong progressive views on education and ICT, I imagine that he would like to be judged, not strictly by Fayose’s standards, but in his own right as a candidate and, inescapably, a joint heir in the legacy of the last four years.
That’s the whole point of elections – for voters to weigh the candidates on the ballot and decide who will get their mandate on the simple question: Is your life better today than it was four years ago?
None of the major contestants in Saturday’s race is a stranger and their backers have not hidden their hands either.
If voters allow themselves to be blindsided by the drama on either side, they’ll live with the consequences, perhaps for another four years and the god of the stomach will not save them.
Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and member of the board of the Global Editors Network