NIGERIA: Revisiting the Ekiti Narrative

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 Two weeks ago, something happened in Ekiti State. They held the gubernatorial election. It was an election that produced a great surprise, if not a shock wave in the polity. A day to the election, my friend and brother, Abraham Ogbodo, the Editor of The Guardian on Sunday, had called me, while out of the country, to boast of how the PDP will overrun the APC in the election. I dismissed  his prediction as the noise of a neophyte.

In my naivety(?), I had written off the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mr Ayo Fayose, as not having the capacity to win the election.

I had reasoned that Ekiti people are sophisticated and very educated. That given their penchant for writing petitions, that they are a very critical set of people, who would all be too vexed with Fayose, who, while he governed them six years earlier, raised the tempo of violence in the state. There were many murders of political characters perceived to be opponents, by unknown persons. Fayose was being prosecuted for some of them.  I recall that under Fayose at the time, Ekiti lost its innocence. It became a near killing field with innocent bloods shed on the altar of political knackery.

In my naivety, I thought the Ekiti people will be awakened to the memory of the odious past with the candidature of Fayose.
What is more, I had believed that the Ekiti people, who too often, sound and posit themselves as social and moral puritans, would remember that Fayose was accused of embezzling N860 million from a phoney poultry project, supposedly awarded to Biological Concepts (presided over by one Gbenga James), which neither produced chickens nor eggs. I had thought they would remember that Fayose is standing trial for his allegations of corruption by the EFCC; and that they are too enlightened to elect a suspect.
I had believed that the Ekiti people are too morally straight to put a suspect on the throne.
But alas, on that Saturday, June 21, they turned all my beliefs upside down, and emphatically so. They elected the same Fayose with a rousing vote margin of 203,090 votes against Fayemi’s 120,433 votes.

And I find it curious. So what happens to the accusation of graft and murder hanging on him? Somebody said it does not matter. That he is not the first “thief” to be elected into government. He had indeed approached the court last February, much before the polls, to suspend the trial until after the election. But the court rejected the request. As it is now, the case is technically dead. If for six years, out of office, the Nigerian judiciary could not drive Fayose to justice post, it is unlikely that anything would be heard of the case again, even after his immunity expires in four or eight years’ time. That is how Nigeria rolls.
I have read tons of commentaries on how and why Fayose won the election. They say he “connects” with the people. The way the word ”connect” has resonated with Fayose seems to suggest he is an electric wire that connects power from one point to another. Perhaps he is.

A week to the election, he began to distribute 5kg bags of rice to the Ekiti electorate. Some uncharitable persons say the rice had expired. Indeed, the people formed long queues to collect the rice. It was his way of connecting. I hear he goes to roadside bukas to eat and drink with even the frail and feeble. It is his way of connecting. I hear he has the bank account details of some of his supporters to whom he gives “support” whenever they are in distress. It is his way of connecting. They say he “can ride on Okada” to go look for his supporters. They say he mingles and dangles.
I have heard them say the incumbent governor speaks too much English. That he is too urbane and classy for the  ‘rustic’ Ekiti populace. And I am unable to reconcile that. How can a people who pride themselves as the fountain of knowledge, who claim to be the headquarters of learnedness, what with having the largest number of professors in Nigeria, suddenly become uncomfortable with one of their own, who speaks English?
Away with the fixation on English. So what about Fayemi’s works? Did the connect capacity of Fayose truly discount all of Fayemi’s works?
Even the most avid supporters of Fayose declare that Fayemi worked. That he transformed the state with committed disposition to development.

It is difficult to understand the psychology of the Ekiti voters.
Here was a governor that hit the ground running. In four years, he had touched lives and raised, by several notches, the development index of the state.
I remember how he took on the existing schools, during the summer holiday of 2012: how he tore down the many dilapidated school structures, and within ten or so weeks, new elegant and modern school structures were already standing, bedecked with conducive furniture and general favourable ambience for teaching and learning.
I remember, in particular, the Corpus Christi College, Ilawe Ekiti. How several classrooms, halls, hostels, laboratories were reconstructed with a tasty finishing. All the schools in the state, that year, experienced the touch of the Fayemi magic. The communities hailed him to no end as he drove from community to community monitoring the work himself. He felt giddy.
I remember also his rebirth of the famous Ikogosi warm spring. How he had beautified the tourist settlement with lots of chalets, chapels, halls, and general aesthetics that confer on it a true tourist settlement. Already, corporate organisations were travelling from across the country to hold retreats, conferences, seminars etc at the place.

Surely, slowly but steadily, the economic potential of the state was being marketed with the development drive of  Governor Fayemi.
He had also spoken of the Samsung centre that was supposed to establish a factory in Ekiti. It was a project that held such a huge promise to the economic breakthrough of the state.
The Ekiti roads had improved, with many of them dualised, others expanded. As he drives around, he takes notice of where there are potholes, overgrown roadside bushes. His ADC, in a notepad, writes the spots, for action.
I recall how excited the small community of Ire-Ekiti was when Fayemi, in a bid to reload the industrial potential of the state, resuscitated the Red Bricks Factory, established by late Pa Michael Ajasin as Ondo State governor, but abandoned over 30 years after.
What is more, Fayemi (I think) is the only governor practising what looks like social security in his state. He pays the old people (65 years and above) a monthly stipend of N5,000 till date. How humanistic can a government be!
So the talk about Fayose sharing money to people has been properly matched by Fayemi through legislation wherein the old and the weak look forward to this stipend every month. It is such a noble policy that I thought, would endear Fayemi to the hearts of the beneficiaries and their families. But no, they wanted something else.

To boot, Fayemi, had won many awards from across board on account of what he had done in Ekiti State. He was voted Man of the Year by a couple of media houses, for the same reason.
But the good and great works of Fayemi were not enough. They could not see him through the hearts of the Ekiti people. They said that much, with loud acclaim, on June 21.
In Ekiti, we now learn that winning election is not all about performance. Something else is needed.   They call it “stomach infrastructure”, “stomachstructure”, for short. In other words, no matter how much infrastructure a government puts in place, as long as the government does not deposit money in their various pockets directly, he has not done anything. No responsible government anywhere in the world does that. Not even in a socialist state.
That direct money into their pockets is what they call stomach infrastructure.
Fayemi wanted to arm them with fishing nets, with all the groundwork of his infrastructure, so they can fish and earn a living on their own long after he had left. But Fayose knows his people will prefer to be handed over some hungry tilapia—a tablet for the moment, and not beyond. The people chose the latter. In accepting the lean tilapia, the people may have mortgaged their tomorrow, or those of their children. They will hardly have any moral ground to demand good governance from their fish-giving governor, as they have been “settled” in advance.

As Funke Egbemode, of The Sun wrote, the Ekiti people are a lucky set of folks. They had the benefit of being governed by a performer, and now the benefit of the one that connects. As they say, the Ekiti people, at the end of the day would have carried gallons of water and gallons of palm oil, they will soon discover which one is heavier.
From the various reports I have read, the poll went freely and fairly. It is beyond controversy that Fayose is the choice of the Ekiti people. It is democracy. The people have spoken. No greater voice can contrast that of the people.
Governor Fayemi said that much in his signature broadcast accepting the outcome of the election, without a fuss. He swiftly congratulated the winner and pledged to respect the wish of his people. No one can claim to be more Catholic than the Pope. We all therefore queue behind Fayemi to say as the Ekiti people have said, so shall it be. Goodluck to Fayose!

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