June 22, 2014
The Ekiti people are not stupid. Ayo Fayose did not win the election because he is a sterling candidate; rather, what happened in Ekiti was that the people cast a protest vote against Kayode Fayemi and the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Fayemi never learnt from the history of gubernatorial elections in the state nor did he explore reasons why no incumbent governor has won a second term since 1999 and why stability has eluded the state in terms of gubernatorial succession. If he did, he did not show it through his actions as governor. He created a cult of personality around himself and his wife and assumed people would simply be happy if he gives the impression that like a god, he’s doing them a favour by giving them anything. He ran a government open only to a coterie of friends and hangers-on and assumed that the vote of the educated would go for him while largely ignoring them. He defined his opposition as thugs, but failed to appreciate that Fayose has a decent record in many parts of the state despite the over-simplified imaging of him as thuggish and unpolished.
Secondly, the APC underrated the national consciousness of the Ekiti people by importing all manner of ‘national figures’ into Ekiti to campaign for Fayemi. Yet, every one of their heavy hitters there represented something unwelcome to the savvy and independent-minded Ekiti. For instance, many Ekiti people do not trust Bola Tinubu and his cartel-politics of predatory godfatherism. Rightly or wrongly, they consider Fayemi his minion, but he does not have the moral standing to win any vote for Fayemi in Ekiti. On the contrary, Fayose has always presented himself as independent-minded from the moment he entered Ekiti gubernatorial politics in 2001. He has even managed to redefine his problems in the state that led to his impeachment as something resulting from his anti-establishment stance within the PDP. His public spat with former President Olusegun Obasanjo cemented this notion. More crucially, the people see the APC as a foreign party, trying to impose foreigners on Ekiti. They are not happy with any of the characters likely to be its presidential candidate. They’ve read the tealeaves and calculated that the 2015 presidential election is not likely to be won by the desperate APC who are likely to produce a Northerner as presidential flag-bearer. Considering that no Northerner has ever won the Yoruba vote for the presidency, they voted in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state in order to align with the party more likely to win that presidential election in order to improve the state’s political fortunes through federal patronage.
Thirdly, Fayemi and the APC showed their undemocratic and authoritarian credentials in the stifling way they conducted their party primaries and in how they handled the fallouts of some of their crises. For instance, while Fayose was reaching out successfully to aggrieved members of the PDP who weren’t happy with his emergence as the party flag-bearer, Fayemi was vilifying his internal party opposition and pushing them into the Labour Party (LP) and the PDP. He thought people like Segun Oni who had no great following joining him from the opposition was enough political coup to counteract any loss of disgruntled elements within his party.
Fourthly, Fayemi overrated the value of the media and social networks in winning elections. While he had so much support on the Internet, certainly more than Fayose, he failed to mobilize these supporters for his cause, as he simply assumed their noise in support would count as votes. The agenda-driven media that presented him as some kind of beacon of hope for Ekitians waited for his big idea that never came. In time, populism showed its limit and Fayemi learnt the hard way that in politics, your ground game wins you actual votes on the day, not your noise.
Lastly, Fayemi lost because he did not make the Ekiti business and the investing community happy. He’d used the contract system and state patronage as an instrument of vendetta and political fencing. The result is that many otherwise enthusiastic businessmen and women who’ve put in money into government projects purely as a business thing became weary of the Fayemi political frisking machine trying constantly to ascertain their loyalty before paying outstanding money owed them or before awarding contracts. These people control workers and families and as the bulk of them turned their backs on Fayemi or simply went off him, they sent signals to those who depend on them on the ground and this translated into electoral negatives for Fayemi.
In conclusion, the Ekiti people turned out in large numbers and peacefully voted out Fayemi, because he is too pompous, authoritarian, blindly partisan, dependent on godfathers and outsiders, anti-business, anti-elite and is largely remote from the people. Fayemi’s case is a warning to those APC-controled states, including other APC governors seeking re-election who think merely crying wolf at the drop of a hat or vilifying President Goodluck Jonathan is a better vote-winning strategy than actually presenting a sustainable or alternative vision of development to the people. Most Nigerians do not see much difference between PDP and APC, but it would seem the APC has doubled down on the worst excesses of the old PDP. For instance, it’s become synonymous with godfatherism, imposition politics and extremism and as 2015 draws near, this image will be presented in better relief and the worse it would be for the APC. Nigerians need genuine opposition against PDP, not a poorer version of it as an alternative, be it at state or national level.