Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State was the man to beat in the June 21, gubernatorial election but surprisingly he was defeated by Ayo Fayose, former governor of the state. Unknown to bookmakers, several reasons were said to be responsible for the dismal performance of the incumbent governor
| By Olu Ojewale | Jul. 7, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
IT WAS one election a lot of Nigerians would like to regard as a model for subsequent elections in the country. It was free, fair and devoid of rancour. At the end of the exercise, the contestants, like good sportsmen, accepted the verdict with equanimity; they shook hands and congratulated the declared winner. That was the message from Ekiti State where the people voted out incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi in the June 21, gubernatorial election and elected Ayo Fayose to replace him.. Hence, history was made as Fayose, who was chased out of office as governor eight years ago, was returned to the office at the expense of Fayemi. It was an election marked for turmoil becauseduring the electioneering campaigns, the state seemed to be bursting at its seams with political violence that were threatening to blow into a major conflagration. This prompted the federal government to deploy security officials massively to stem the violence which had already caused the death of at least one person and injured several others.
Mercifully, the conduct of the election and its outcome were received in a statesmanlike manner that must have baffled many political pundits as well as the election itself. Following the announcement of the result, it was Governor Fayemi, a candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, who probably doused what could have prompted violent reaction. Addressing the state on the night the election result was announced, the governor said in his state broadcast: “Yesterday, Ekiti State decided. Following the gubernatorial elections held in the land of honour, Ekiti State, Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission has officially returned the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party as the winner of the election. If, indeed, this is the will of the Ekiti people, I stand in deference to your will. If the result of the election is an expression of the voice of our people, we must all heed your voice.
“I have just spoken with my brother, Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose, congratulating him on his victory. In a few hours from now, I would be meeting the governor-elect to discuss the future of our dear state and how we would work together to institute a smooth transition programme.”
But the outcome of that election is one thing that has been baffling to the national leadership of the APC because the popular opinion was that Fayemi would defeat Fayose, his main challenger from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, hands down. The result has not only sent jitters into the spines of the APC, it has forced it into thinking of ways to avoid a similar loss in the forthcoming Osun State gubernatorial election scheduled for August and especially if the party does not intend to lose the whole of the South West region where it is currently holding sway. The party leaders have since started strategising and holding meetings aimed at ensuring that Osun State doesn’t go the way of Ekiti.
Apparently not willing to go down without a fight, the APC said it would fight against the outcome of the election in court. At the end of the first meeting of the party’s National Working Committee, NWC, held in Abuja, on Thursday, June 26, the party declared that the Ekiti State gubernatorial election was neither free nor fair as it claimed that the process to it was skewed to favour the PDP. The party said it had thus directed its members and officials who were arrested or limited in the days leading to the election to seek legal redress.
A communiqué issued at the end of the meeting and signed by Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the party, stated thus: “In order to prevent a recurrence of what happened in Ekiti, especially the militarisation of the process, the harassment and intimidation of citizens, especially those in opposition, my party has decided to challenge in court some of these constitutional breaches and will also encourage our leaders and supporters, who were arrested, harassed and intimidated to seek the enforcement of their fundamental rights that were recklessly abridged by the security agencies.”
Mohammed said that the events leading to the election-day itself, “negate the principles of a free, fair and credible election. From the militarisation of the election to the police attack on our supporters, arrest and detention of our leaders across the state and the use of huge funds to induce voters, the federal authorities skewed everything in favour of the PDP.”
It was Raji Fashola, governor of Lagos State and a member of the APC, who first showed his apprehension concerning the election. Speaking at the State House, Marina, Lagos where he addressed local councils officials, the governor said no one could have predicted that Fayemi would lose the election given his level of performance. He asked: “Does a governor whom everyone said did well, lose in his own ward? If he was such a bad governor, was the deputy too bad? Was the speaker of the house also bad? I know that this may be difficult to convey but I want Nigerians to examine the message and not the messenger,” adding: “I want everyone to remember that the governor-elect, his party told everyone that he has a criminal issue to answer. They removed him and took him to court. They haven’t come to tell Nigerians that he has been acquitted. And they bring him back to the same state; is that consistent with human behaviour with this result? Will human being behave like that? Memories may have faded, but do they all fade such that the same person now defeats an incumbent whom everyone said has done well for his people; in all local governments? These are issues that I think we need to ponder and ask about what really happened. From the human behavioural angle, is there any governor that has lost election like this in the country?”
While apparently ignoring Fashola’ rhetoric, the PDP, in its response to the APC’s allegations, said that the federal government was forced to deploy security forces in the state because the APC was about to unleash mayhem in the state. Olisa Metuh, national publicity of the PDP, made the comment in a statement. He said the communiqué of the APC demonstrated the party’s “preference for anarchy and blind homage to nihilism and destruction of the democratic order.” Metuh said further: “The APC has once again confirmed that it is nothing but a chaotic organisation, totally averse to democracy and orderliness. It has shown that it is a party of desperate, frustrated and violent individuals promoting a Janjaweed ideology.”
That Notwithstanding, the APC is determined not to allow what happened in Ekiti repeat itself in Osun State. On Sunday, June 22, John Oyegun, national chairman of the APC, and Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and the national leader of the party, met Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun State, in Okuku, his hometown, on how to help the party retain its hold of the state in the August election. The leaders were said to have asked Oyinlola to be part of their new movement. Oyegun, who spoke first, said: “The APC knows that you are the national secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party in the face of the law. But we want you to be a part of our new movement.” Tinubu similarly expressed the same sentiments by acknowledging Oyinlola’s leadership qualities.
In his response, Oyinlola thanked the leaders of the APC for their visit and acknowledgement, promising to make consultations with his followers over the meeting with the APC. Oyinlola, who acknowledged that he remained a PDP member, said he would fight the case of his removal as national secretary of the ruling party to a logical conclusion.
Besides, the party has also set up a committee to see to the re-election of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State by embarking on a door-to-door campaign, seeking for people’s support and votes for him in the forthcoming August 9, election. Governor Aregbesola is not sitting on his oars either. He is also busy campaigning for a renewed mandate. Speaking in Ikirun, Osun State on Tuesday, June 24, Aregbesola claimed that his counterpart in Ekiti State was rigged out of office, but assured his supporters that it would be impossible to rig him out in the poll. He said at the campaign rally: “They perpetrated fraud in Ekiti but we are looking at them. They said that my days in office remain 43 and I just laughed. What they did in Ekiti is not possible here in Osun. Osun is different and they know it. In 2011, all Yoruba states voted for Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate but Osun people voted for Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, who was the Action Congress of Nigeria candidate. We are different in Osun. Don’t let them scare you. The people here today have shown that they are solidly behind us. We are not angry about the development in Ekiti State because it is part of democracy. Ekiti people have made their choice.” Aregbesola’s main opponent in the election is Iyiola Omisore, a former deputy governor and senator, who is contesting on the platform of the PDP.
What, perhaps, Aregbesola has in his favour is that he is more considered as a grassroots politician than Fayemi, who lost his governorship seat in Ekiti State. Outgoing Ekiti State governor was said to have largely lost the election to Fayose because the governor-elect is more of a grassroots politician. It is on record that Fayose was even riding on Okada, a local parlance for motorcycle, from one campaign stop to another. Sometimes he would stop to eat corn on the roadsides to interact with the locals about their problems and, where possible, solved some of them. Hence, a lot of people in the state regarded him as one of them. But Fayemi, the incumbent governor, is seen as a “foreigner” because he could not bring himself down to the level of mixing with them. One analyst summed up by saying that Fayemi did for the people what he liked; whereas Fayose did for the people what they liked.
Fayose himself drove the message home in a post-victory interview while describing his relationship with the people: “My charge to every politician is to target the poor people. They will not come and ask you for contracts, all they want is to have their lives improved, to which they believe I have an answer. I do things a governor is expected to do. For me, I am a grassroots man and because of the way I operate with them, they call me Senior Advocate of the Masses. So, I want to continue that trend; I want to identify with them continuously. I will not leave them.”
Besides, many pundits have argued that the return of Fayose as governor, to the state he governed eight years ago and left with ignominy, was nothing short of a surprise, especially given the performance record of the incumbent governor. Indeed, on paper, Fayemi had everything going for him as an incumbent governor. He did more infrastructural development programmes than any of the previous governors that have ever ruled the state. With his eight-point agenda, the governor built roads and introduced agricultural projects to get the youths off the streets. He is the first, and, perhaps the only governor who pays monthly stipend of N5,000 to the elderly and give them adequate health care. For students, his administration provided 30,000 laptops and another 18,000 laptops for their teachers and ensured that they were all trained to use them.
After about 21 years in the doldrums, Ikogosi Spring, which emits both cold and warm water, is now a tourist attraction, which is bringing in revenue for the government under the Fayemi administration. This has helped to create jobs, especially for young school leavers in the state. Based on his record of achievements so far, Fayemi had believed that the June 21, governorship election would be a foregone conclusion to bring him back to consolidate “on the achievements of the last three-and-a-half-years and ensure that the state does not go back to the dark days of one-week, one-trouble, violence and looting of public funds.” That looks a forlorn hope now.
Nevertheless, some observers of the Fayemi administration actually believed that the governor unwittingly asked for what he got at the polls. He was said to have abdicated some of his responsibilities to Yemi Adaramodu, his chief of staff, who was allowed to run the government as he pleased. This was said to have alienated some of his loyalists while Adaramodu continued to build his own political bloc.
As a former academic, most observers thought Fayemi would get the support of Ekiti intellectuals, political appointees, teachers and civil servants. But that was not to be. The governor’s political moves and policies implemented in the state were not favourable to the state civil servants, especially teachers. Fayemi, on assumption of office, reduced the 27.5 percent of teachers’ elongated salary to 16 percent, which he claimed was a joint decision that was taken after a meeting with the teachers, where he told them about the lean resources of the state. As if that was not bad enough, the governor asked the teachers to write the Teachers Development Needs Assessment, TDNA, examination to test the level of their proficiency.
For the students of the Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, EKSU, the governor, first of all, increased their tuition fee and introduced a policy of no-school fee, no-examination. Hence, the students, who were hitherto allowed to pay their fee by instalment, were aggrieved with the school’s policy. The students also accused the government of making them pay exorbitant tuition fee. Initially, there was an allegation that the EKSU management had increased the school fees to N150,000.00. But a statement issued by Ajibade Olubunmi, deputy registrar, Directorate of Information and Corporate Affairs, debunked the claim, saying the government had only announced a flat rate of N50,000 as tuition fee for all categories of students, thereby making the university one of the most affordable public institutions in the country. The school management explained that students were expected to pay for other sundry fees like medical, library, sports, identity cards, field trips some of which cost as low as one thousand, five hundred naira and two thousand naira. But some of the students suspected that the government lowered the fees because of election and that once the election was over, the fees would be increased.
Besides, when the political crisis in the state reached the peak, the management of the EKSU decided to shut the school and send the students home. The students used the occasion to blackmail the government by accusing it of being responsible for slowing down their academic progression and disenfranchise them. Explanation by Tayo Ekundayo, the state commissioner for information and civic orientation, that the move was a proactive measure aimed at ensuring that the students were safe with their parents and guardians during the polls, failed to convince them.
Ekundayo maintained that there were no plans to disenfranchise the students as most of the students were resident in the state and would, therefore, be able to vote during the election if they were registered. He wondered why a decision that was statutorily that of the EKSU Governing Council was being linked to the Ekiti State government. “It is common knowledge that the election is around the corner. Everyone knows that security is the number one issue in Nigeria today. I am sure the council of the university made up of seasoned administrators and caring parents must have held wide ranging consultations in arriving at its decisions. I know that they must have considered the fact that most of the students don’t live with their parents and they could easily fall prey in the hands of unscrupulous politicians who could negatively use them during the elections,” Ekundayo said.
Capitalising on the students’ grievances, Fayose allegedly distributed free rice to them with a promise of N2,000 to each of them but later reduced it to N1,000. The governor-elect also allegedly told the students that the closure of the university was a ploy by the Fayemi government to disenfranchise them. At the election proper, it was apparently the opportunity the teachers and students were waiting for to vote Fayemi out of power. They did not allow it to slip off . According to observers, anyone who wins Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, largely seen as a civil service town dominated by civil servants and students, wins any election . Fayemi lost in the city. Little wonder that the governor has refused to contest his defeat at the poll.
In the same vein, Fayemi did not have the traditional elite behind him. Reports said that as soon as Fayose joined the race and won the PDP ticket to contest the election, Ekiti monarchs and chiefs had a nostalgia on how well he related with them during his aborted tenure as governor as against the tenure of Fayemi. They reportedly started to think of how it would be if he could be returned to office. Analysts said results in various local governments areas of the state clearly showed that a good number of the monarchs worked to ensure his victory.
Perhaps, the final nail in Fayemi’s electoral coffin was the last-minute deployment of supporters of Opeyemi Bamidele, governorship candidate of the Labour Party, LP, to Fayose. Bamidele had been Fayemi’s friend and benefactor before he left him over a disagreement over the APC governorship ticket. Bamidele contested on the LP ticket largely because he was prevented by the leadership of the APC from contesting the primary against Fayemi. By so doing, he drew some supporters from Fayemi and at the last minute when he saw that he was not going to make it, he asked his supporters to give their votes to the PDP candidate.
Apart from benefiting from Bamidele’s quarrel with Fayemi, critics have also pointed out that Fayose was assisted by federal might to win the race. During President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign visit to the state, he told the people that he would help to develop the state if they voted for Fayose. To emphasise the seriousness of the government to ensure a rancour-free election, there was massive deployment of security officials to the state for the election. This, afforded prominent chieftains of the ruling PDP the edge to flood the state to campaign whereas APC chieftains and governors were prevented from entering Ekiti State on the eve of the election. Besides, Buriji Kashamu, a leader of the PDP in the South-west, was said to have played a significant role in influencing the outcome of the Ekiti election by deploying 25 persons in every village in Ekiti as volunteers and agents. “Each of them was empowered with bags of rice and cash with which they used to canvass for votes,” a source was quoted as saying. An APC source, who made the disclosure, said: “The truth is that the APC ran out of resources to effectively execute the election on Saturday. It was not a case of Fayose being more popular than our candidate. We grossly underestimated the capacity of the PDP to upturn the tables against Fayemi and the fact that the military stopped some of our governors who could have helped financially from entering the state on the day of the final rally last week did not help matters either.”
That notwithstanding, Fayemi was believed to be operating under the shadow of Tinubu, who pretends to be the leader of the Yoruba. The overbearing behaviour of Tinubu is vehemently opposed by a lot of Yoruba people who generally don’t accept him as their leader. In any case, a good number of Nigerians don’t see the election of Fayose as a rejection of Fayemi but a failure of understanding the dynamism of leadership in Nigeria.
“The man Fayemi cannot be said to be a bad governor because he did his best in the development of Ekiti State in the last four years. However, his undoing from what I gathered may not be unconnected with his not-too smooth relationship with workers and civil servants generally in the state. And this should be a big lesson for our leaders. No matter the kind of people-oriented programmes and policies you may think you are putting in place, if you toy with the welfare of the workers, particularly in the area of payment of salaries and other allowances due to them, you can rest assured that you are apparently digging your own grave.
“A similar scenario had played out in my state, Kogi, in 2003 when Prince Abubakar Audu, the then governor on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party was defeated by Alhaji Ibrahim Idris of the Peoples Democratic Party, who spent almost nine years in office with nothing much to show for it. Audu did not lose that election because he didn’t perform. As a matter of fact, his four years in office between 1999 and 2003 saw more development in terms of physical structures than Idris’ nine years. What happened to Fayemi today was exactly what happened to Audu. Despite the incumbency factor at his disposal and the meaningful infrastructural development he recorded, Audu was removed from office by protest votes from workers in the state who saw hell in his hands as governor. The civil servants in the state clearly paid him back with the disdain, scorn and punishment he meted out to them by always refusing to pay them their salaries as and when due.
“So, it is important that our leaders and politicians learn from this and always hold civil servants, and the electorate in general in high esteem and treat them well, no matter what they are doing in other areas to advance the cause of the people. Don’t forget that they (workers/civil servants) form the fulcrum of the masses,” Michael Jegede, a public analyst living in Abuja said.
But Fayose himself has promised that, unlike his previous tenure, his mission this time around would be to develop the state because he has nothing else to prove to the people of the state. “I want to tell you that my performance this time will earn me the necessary leadership in Nigeria. If you do good to people, their loyalty will be with you forever. So, I want to do good so that I can remain the leader here; I want to be the (Obafemi) Awolowo here. Awolowo is long dead but nobody has the courage to insult him. I want to be a man like that who will give my best and earn the respect of my people,” he said. The next four years would, indeed, be crucial for Fayose to prove his mettle. But the lesson according to analysts, is that performance may not be enough to assure any politician of re-election but how the people they govern rate them.