By Sufuyan Ojeifo
The stage is set for the July 14, 2018 Ekiti state governorship election. I call the contest the ultimate deal. It is a deal between the people of Ekiti and those who seek to govern them. The candidate that receives the endorsement of the people at the poll clinches the deal and becomes the new face of Ekiti after the exit of the incumbent governor, Ayodele Fayose. The approved candidate will either adopt Fayose’s style to sustain the people’s acceptance or approach governance differently to engender the people’s buy-in.
One thing that the July 14 election signals is the fact that the Fayose era is inching to a terminus. There is no doubt that his political razzmatazz; public space theatrics and peculiar governance style have apparently defined his eon in the politics of the state. His first time as governor, much as it is with his second, was rambunctious. He had defeated a sitting governor, Niyi Adebayo, in 2003, though he did not complete his four-year tenure due to the political onslaught sponsored against him by the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Fayose had sensationally returned in 2014 to unseat another incumbent governor, Kayode Fayemi, at the poll. If his victory against Adebayo in 2003 was considered a fluke, the 2014 victory against Fayemi certainly cured the mischief that his earlier victory was sheer happenstance. It, therefore, means there must be something that is alluring or appealing about the politics and the personage of Fayose that compel his acceptance at the poll by the Ekiti people.
What is it about Fayose, his unique selling point (USP) that commands acceptance and followership? Is it his intellectual capacity or educational background? Is it his moral magnitude? Or is it his integrity and commitment to keeping electoral promises? The answers to these posers are blowing in the wind, apologies to Bob Dylan (1962). Conversely, could it be his loquacity: his ability to talk a great deal, most times in a manner devoid of finesse? Could it be his proclivity for verbiage that has cut a niche for him as a peculiar actor in Ekiti’s burgeoning political dramaturgy?
The Ekiti enclave has been satiated with Fayose’s dramatics. Since the entirety of Nigerians, not only Ekiti people, love drama, Fayose’s resolve to pilot and propel governance and performance, somewhat, along that wavelength finds approbation with many people countrywide. The aggravating socio-political and economic conditions must have compelled people to endorse the resort by elected officials to political “gangsterism” in the guise of playing the role of opposition.
Regardless, Ekiti people have shown that they love Fayose’s brand of politics and governance style. He is in the race this time by proxy against a familiar opponent, Kayode Fayemi, whom he defeated as an incumbent governor in 2014 in all of the sixteen local government areas that make up the state. While Fayose had ensured the emergence of his deputy from Ikere, Professor Kolapo Olusola, as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the governorship election, Fayemi, who just resigned as minister of mines and steel development, had been able to lock in the ticket of All Progressives Congress (APC).
That is what makes the July 14 election the ultimate grudge battle between Fayose and Fayemi. It promises to be a witty and gritty contest. Fayose wants to prove a big political point: that he is the inimitable maverick of the politics of Ekiti with a large followership and undying public approbation. He has boasted that he would repeat the 2014 feat. Fayemi believes he has a good chance to rebuild his damaged electoral fortune by winning the July 14 governorship election.
Processes, permutations and outright choreographies have been perfected to consummate the deal. Fayose has made his moves: picking the PDP candidate from Ikere with the second highest voter population and the running mate, Kazeem Ogunsakin, from Ado-Ekiti with the highest voter population to set a very high stake in the battle for the soul of Ekiti state. Fayose might not be an academic but he is politically strategic. He would be glad to refer to himself as Professor of Political and Electoral Strategy in Ekiti state.
Anybody who wants to win the governorship election in Ekiti state must lock in Ikere and Ado-Ekiti votes. The other places then provide the supportive votes to consolidate victory. This is Fayose’s strategic calculation. He is, no doubt, ahead of Fayemi in the strategic move to clinch electoral victory. Ikere has never produced the governor of Ekiti state. They have the opportunity now and would be expected to vote massively for their own.
Ado-Ekiti is a cosmopolitan state capital with population that is made up of indigenes and non-indigenes. Fayose’s decision to pick the immediate past Local Government Chairman, Ogunsakin, a 39-year old economist, who performed well while in office, is considered very strategic. Besides, he is a young man, a factor that is expected to attract the sympathy of the teeming voting youth population and he is a Muslim. The Christian-Muslim ticket coupled by Fayose has its electoral value.
Fayemi must be worried about Fayose’s strategic maneuver and political cum electoral war plan. That obviously explained his decision to pick a 74-year old Chief Adebisi Egbeyemi, also a former Ado-Ekiti local government chairman (1991-1993), as his running mate. This is an attempt to divide Ado-Ekiti rather than allow Fayose an easy ride to victory.
Perhaps, apart from the federal might at Fayemi’s disposal, it remains to be seen how he plans to seal this ultimate governorship deal. The federal might will certainly not translate into votes. It will be counterproductive and antithetical to the vaunted integrity capital of the Buhari presidency if it gives tacit approval for the subtle or brazen manipulation of the electoral process in Ekiti.
If the APC-government at the centre has resolved to win the Ekiti governorship election at all costs, there will be problem if the votes of the people are discounted. Otherwise, it will have to double down on the sensitization, mobilization and campaign effort to re-orientate the Ekiti electorate who, only four years ago, handed Fayemi outright rejection at the poll.
A majority of the electorate, including civil servants that had an axe to grind with Fayemi, who ensured that Fayose defeated Fayemi in all of the sixteen local government areas of the state, are still on ground in Ekiti. And Fayose has been able to sustain his robust relationship with the masses. There are development projects dotting the nooks and crannies of the state that bear Fayose’s imprimatur despite the poor monthly receipts from the federation account and low internally generated revenue (IGR).
Again, managing the post-governorship primary tension has presented Fayose and Fayemi with their fair share of anxieties. Apart from Prince Dayo Adeyeye who has left Fayose’s PDP for the APC, Fayemi is tentative and finding it difficult to relate with the camps of the 32 other aspirants that contested with him in the APC for the ticket of the party.
Finally, the nature and character of the Ekiti electorate deserve some appreciation in the ultimate governorship deal. The people seem to know the kind of leadership they want. Fayose has understandably appropriated the leadership of Ekiti, always declaring confidently that Ekiti people are his people; that they know him and he knows them. If this is the correct situation in Ekiti, then one does not need a crystal ball to know whom the people would be ready to enter into a social contract with, even if by proxy, in the ultimate July 14 governorship deal.
Ojeifo contributed this piece via email@example.com