By Sufuyan Ojeifo
It was the inimitable pioneer Editor-in-Chief of Newswatch magazine, the late Dele Giwa, who once wrote that one life taken in cold blood is as gruesome as many taken in a pogrom. His intervention, possibly in the context of some murder, is as significant now as it was when he made it. It underscored, and it still does, the sanctity of human life.
A Jacobean metaphysical poet, John Donne’s “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” resonates eternally and captures the essence of fatal predestination. No man should terminate the life of another whether by accident or by some premeditation.
That almost happened in Ado-Ekiti on Friday (June 1, 2018) at the State Secretariat of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It was the scheduled flag-off of the campaign of Dr. Kayode Fayemi for the forthcoming July 14 governorship election. Bullets that were accidentally discharged from the rifle of a policeman on illegal duty in Ekiti hit some persons, including Honourable Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (MOB).
They consequently lost much blood. But for God, MOB could have died. Two bullets were reportedly extracted from his arm and stomach. That incident was quite portentous. Coming on the heels of the first governorship primary of the party which was violently stalled, there are genuine fears about the possibility of violence characterising electioneering for the July 14 governorship election.
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state has justifiably latched on the two back-to-back incidents to upbraid the APC and slam it for importing violence into Ekiti. The fear is, if within the APC, members could violently challenge and disrupt a simple process of choosing a standard bearer among themselves, would they not act much more violently against the ruling party in the quest for the ultimate governorship position?
It is instructive that the APC has faltered twice. Although the second incident has been attributed to the silliness of a policeman who was attached to a bank in Lagos but escorted a politician to Ekiti on illegal duty; that the near fatal act happened on a day that the APC was to flag off its governorship campaign bode evil. Are all of these saying something about the fate of the APC and its candidate in the governorship election?
Whether or not the APC believes it, both incidents are monumental public perception disasters for it. Nigerians, within and outside Ekiti, now see the APC and its candidate, Fayemi, as violent and obviously desperate to win the July 14 governorship election. This is nevertheless arguable. But one thing is certain: the electioneering will be fast-paced and momentous. Both the PDP and the APC will deploy wits and grits to clinch the prize.
Unfortunately for the APC and Fayemi, Fayose, the incumbent governor that superintends the PDP machinery in the state, is not a gentleman in the battle for political supremacy and survival. Fayose is the last man standing for the opposition PDP in the southwest geo-political enclave. He is the rearguard, trenchantly lampooning the orchestrated plot by the APC to foist a questionable change regime on the people.
There is no doubt that Fayose is ready for battle. He has learnt a great deal of lessons from the Ondo experience. He saw how Governor Olusegun Mimiko, the acclaimed Iroko of the state politics, was dislodged through the deployment of federal might. Buffeted from within the PDP in the state that was fractiously divided and challenged by the awesome Abuja forces, Mimiko was made to fight the greatest battle of his life.
Mimiko was stretched to his elastic limits in terms of funding the entire court processes that confirmed his anointed man, Eyitayo Jegede, as the authentic candidate of the PDP. The Supreme Court resolved the matter in his favour a few days to the election. That made it impossible for Mimiko to drive a robust statewide campaign for Jegede’s election. The powers-that-be used elements within the PDP to divide it in order to truncate Mimiko’s political plan to install his successor.
Luckily for Fayose, the political condition in Ekiti is not the same as the one that prevailed in Ondo during the 2016 governorship election. Perhaps, luckily for Fayose, the opposition APC in Ekiti has a great deal of tension of mutual distrust to deal with internally such that its single-mindedness is compromised ab-initio in the prosecution of a burgeoning contestation for electoral supremacy.
Besides, Fayose’s invincibility in the history of governorship elections during which he had contested twice and had, on both occasions, unseated incumbents presents Fayemi’s APC with a veritable bugaboo. The streetwise political irritator from Afao Township knows the political terrain of Ekiti very well like he knows the back of his hand. He also understands the dynamics that underpin socio-cultural and political interactions in the state.
It is in the context of the atmospherics and the nuances of the political condition explicated supra that Fayose and Fayemi would be expected to outmaneuver each other. Fayose has the grace to connect with the people via the facility of local intellect forcefully delivered through the medium of Ekiti local dialect. If he chooses to convey his message in English, that will not be too different from his Ekiti dialect because of inflexion and intonation.
I hope Fayemi, a cosmopolitan Englishist will not repeat the same mistake he made in 2014 when he approached his campaign with a large dose of elitism. He should drop his phonetics in his bedroom and speak in the language that Ekiti people understand. Fayemi should advisedly dismount from his elitist high horse and embrace populism as his new offering in the post-Fayose era.
But the opportunity that the electioneering should have provided for him to engage the people and drive the narrative of his “I can do things differently” would appear to have been lost to the incident of violent politicking as happened at the APC governorship primary and the accidental discharge that resulted in an ill-omened bloodshed at the flag-off of his governorship campaign in Ado Ekiti.
The attention of participants in and watchers of the political process in Ekiti has been adverted to these dimensions. The pressure is now on Fayemi and the APC to change the public perception that they have imported violence into Ekiti and violated the pristine enclave that has not witnessed any political violence since 2014. The narrative that his governorship enterprise might have been stained with blood and therefore jinxed must be approached with a different strategy to change the perception. This is not a tea party. The onus is on Fayemi and the APC to rewrite the narrative.
Ojeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, contributed this piece via firstname.lastname@example.org