The Fayemi mystique will linger. Of course, it will: there are overwhelming dimensions that require intellectual enquiries. I have read so many commentaries on what I will call “Iyanu Ekiti” (The Ekiti Miracle) but only few x-rayed these dimensions. As usual, some of the discourses exhibited high grade pedestrianization while others were scholarly. Most of the elements and essentials of the election that have been analyzed so far, quite expectedly, were ornamented with speculations, assumptions, street gists, malice, prejudices, informal sentiments, elite fallacy and populist triumphalism. Some of the commentators were unspairing in their castigation of Fayemi while others have been very generous.
But of all the commentaries I have read on the election, the one that really excites me most was that of the governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola. Though not a tight and deep exploration of the sociological perspective, his views/comments on the elections paraphrased the composite tendencies of human actions. Fashola, still in doubt about the credibility of the election, wondered how an incumbent governor, who had been celebrated globally for his achievements and performance, would lose an election in his ward and local government. Though he admitted that the Ekiti scenario throws up some contradictions, what he could not understand was the resolution of an electoral paradox in favour of behavioural illogicality. He pooh-poohed the accusation of “disconnectedness” against Fayemi wondering how this connects with quality electoral choice to be made between an erudite scholar and a fraternal demagogue of okada operators.
Fashola’s position contrasts with the argument of Richard Sennett in his book, “The Fall of Public Man.” Sennett posits: “Intimacy is a field of vision and an expectation of human relations. It is the localizing of human experience….the more this localizing rules, the more people seek out to strip away the barriers of customs, manners… the expectation is that when relations are close, they are warm; it is an intense kind of sociability which people seek out in attempting to remove the barriers to contact…”
“Disconnectedness” therefore was one of the offences allegedly committed by Kayode Fayemi against the Ekiti people. But the question is: can a man that is ‘disconnected’ from the people be working assiduously for the provision of infrastructure that will not only stimulate economic activities for the people of the state but will also ensure quality and meaningful existence for the people.
I understand when people are classified into elite and grassroots, which is for the purpose of social stratification and scholarly analysis. What I do not understand is the classification of the contents and materials of development. Both in theory and in practice, the concept of development is understood by all and sundry to mean structural, infrastructural, social and welfarist programmes and policies that will benefit the generality of the people. The people of Ekiti are free to romanticize “stomach infrastructure” but are they saying that the components of the real infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools, housing, tourism, agriculture etc have no direct utilitarian value on their stomachs and other parts of their bodies?
My reading of the “iyanu Ekiti” is that the defeat did not and still does not, make Fayemi a failure. Instead, Fayemi was a collateral damage in the hate-contest between the people and his appointees. If I say 8 out of 10 Ekiti people love Fayemi and hate his appointees, I am not exaggerating, the outcome of the election notwithstanding. I may not have the empirical data to support my assertion but from my interaction with the people before and even after the election, I know this to be true.
The truth of the matter is that the people hated Fayemi’s appointees with passion and were determined to sacrifice the governor to get these appointees and some elected officers out of office. Assuming, but not conceding, that the election was free and fair, like Fashola said, the outcome of the election stands logic on its head. How come the All Progressives Congress (APC) did not win a single local government when the party controls all the 16 local governments through appointed caretaker committees, twenty five out of the twenty six members of the State House of Assembly, all the six House of Representatives and the only three Senatorial seats? Besides, all the appointees, the chief of staff, commissioners, special advisers and special assistants are representatives of the local governments or the three Senatorial Districts. If the Party (APC) failed at all the local governments, does that not speak volume about these people? These are the people that should be doing the grassroots interaction, socialization and intimacy on behalf of the governor.
The governor on his part had played his role by ensuring that projects were distributed to the various local governments with systematic precision. It is a shame that all these people failed to enhance the electoral value of the governor at the grassroots because of their aloofness and emotional distancing from the people. Some of the appointees and elected officers were accused of being very stingy and indifferent to people’s problems. It was said that some of them run to Lagos and Ibadan every weekend and use office protocols to prevent their people from having access to their offices during working hours.
Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political thinker and historian best known for his work “Democracy in America”, must have had these people in mind when he wrote “Each person, withdrawn unto himself, behaves as though he is a stranger to the destiny of all the others. His children and his good friends constitute for him the whole of the human species. As for his transactions with his fellow citizens, he may mix among them, but does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone. And if on these terms there remains in his mind a sense of family, there no longer remains a sense of society.”
The governor, on his part, was accused of humiliating the teachers, local government workers and the civil servants by introducing many reforms aimed at improving the quality of teaching and service delivery in Ekiti State. All these had been expertly analysed by public commentators but suffice it to say that Fayemi is a leader who ideates development through aggressive policies and reforms. What many people are saying is that some of these policies, particularly the ones on the teachers and civil servants, should have formed part of his agenda for the second term and not first term. This was said to be his undoing.
It must be stated however, that an idealistic leader like Fayemi never envisaged electoral defeat as a consequence of policies and reforms that would transform Ekiti and position the state for greater development.
Aside from demystifying theoretical constructs, the Ekiti election has introduced fresh dynamics into our politics. It has also cast a serious aspersion on the dominance of the political space by the elite. What kind of dominance would allow jaundiced masses and malicious teachers and civil servants to determine the political direction of a sophisticated state like Ekiti, using their sacred votes in favour of an individual that lacks the erudition of his rival? What kind of dominance would remain passive when a people were committing political suicide when confronted with the choice of leadership? What kind of dominance would allow the temporary seizure of the political space by vengeful elements who preferred Barnabas to Jesus? The apathy of the elite, the supposed architects of society’s vision, towards electoral competitions is causing gradual erosion of their political power.
In addition, the dominance, or is it supremacy, of the elite is being questioned and challenged by a politically vibrant but prejudiced peasants backed by a group of hateful, ungrateful and slightly literate elite, who have arrogated to themselves the authority to control the political space by opting for misfits in power. A voter’s power should be exercised with some degree of sanity and logical discretion and should not, under any normal circumstances be used to encourage the enthronement of tyranny and to celebrate mediocrity.
The Ekiti people had used their votes to present Fayemi to the public as a local villain but Fayemi has used his character- the act of accepting defeat minutes after the announcement of the official results – to turn himself to an international hero and political celebrity.
As much as one appreciates the ecstacy and the excitement of INEC for its self-congratulatory posturing for conducting a “very peaceful free and fair election,” methinks it is rather too hasty to contemplate the adoption of the Ekiti election and its attendant process, as a template for future elections in Nigeria. It is the responsibility of everyone of us, especially our scholars, to do critical appraisal and analysis of the Ekiti election in order to understand and resolve its numerous contradictions, paradoxes, ironies and surprises. Until we are convinced that the whole electoral process was not skewed along the line, it will be very hard to accept the use of a template that is still shrouded in mystery.