Ekiti Election: A Few Words, By Reuben Abati
I have up until this moment resisted the temptation to comment on the just concluded gubernatorial elections in Ekiti state for the simple reason that the more the facts of the process emerged, the more confusing they seemed. About a week later, certain things have however become clear which deserve our attention.
One, the Ekiti gubernatorial election is a classic Nigerian type of election. It was certainly a do-or-die election, in which the two main parties involved were determined to win by all costs and by any means possible. Nigerian politicians believe that whoever wins and gets declared has the upper hand. Win first and if the other party likes, he can go to the tribunal or the appellate courts. But just don’t lose at the first instance. Whatever happens thereafter is a matter of chance and technicality. In this regard, the APC smartly outwitted the PDP, and the victory seems sweet.
However, the reduction of the Nigerian electoral process to such tragic melodrama certainly does not serve our democracy well. There were no heroes in the Ekiti election, only villains.
Two, there is no evidence here or elsewhere that the Nigerian electorate has learnt any lessons from past experiences. They openly collected money, from all possible sides in the conflict. Vote buying sets us back by a long stretch. Tethered as it is to a transactional root, Nigerian democracy is physically challenged. This is sad, and it is important that reports of vote-buying by both local and international observers should be investigated. A cash and carry voting process is a violation of free choice.
Three, the Ekiti election presents us with perhaps the most brazen case of godfatherism that we have yet seen. There were two major candidates, Olusola Eleka of the PDP and Kayode Fayemi of the APC. But the whole thing soon became a contest between Fayemi and the out-going Governor, Ayo Fayose. You would think Fayose was the one on the ballot. He danced more than the bride and cried more than the bereaved. Why do outgoing Governors insist on anointing their own successors and dictating to the electorate? They abridge the people’s choice by seeking to impose their own will. They are driven not by public good but their own insecurity.
By rejecting Fayose’s candidate, it can be said that the people rejected his presumptuousness. And by the way, what manner of man is Olusola Eleka? He accepted and projected himself as a puppet throughout the entire process. Many Nigerians do not even know him as a candidate. He was absent, voiceless and timid. If he had won, he probably would have ceded authority to his Godfather and allowed him to do a third term by default. He did not deserve to win. If I had a stake in the matter, I certainly would not have voted for him.
His spinelessness is disgusting. But Fayemi should also not be over-triumphant. He may end up with a hostile and aggressive PDP-dominated House of Assembly. The war with Fayose may also only just have begun. It will be naïve to under-estimate Fayose.
Four, the electoral commission, INEC, still has to clean up its act ahead of the 2019 general elections. Its performance in Ekiti is far from satisfactory. What we have seen is that the professional political elite is prepared to do battle in 2019, and that promises to be a really fierce battle. Voter education will be most critical; the people’s readiness to sell their votes speaks to the level of poverty and depravity in the country. Nigeria itself needs to be saved.