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The revelry and ecstacy about the recent elections in Ekiti State have thrown up many seemingly important issues that there would be a tendency to underplay the fundamental, given the characteristic surface analysis and group think of our society. There are several issues we need to appreciate from the occurrence to serve as useful pointers for appropriate future political attitudes, behaviours, decisions and actions.
Some of the issues being raised and applauded include the somehow “peaceful” conduct of the elections, the impressive turnout of voters, the wide margin used by the victorious Ayo Fayose to defeat the incumbent, the efficacy of the connection of a candidate to the grassroots over the “laudable elitist” policy, programme and projects of the outgoing government and the political maturity and statesmanship displayed by Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi in conceding, congratulating the victor and working out cooperative machineries for an effective transition towards continuity and a greater Ekiti State. An interesting cliché often quoted is the emergence of “a new sociology” of Ekiti that is worthy of further exploration by the Academia and other intellectuals
In close connection are the overarching implications of the election results on the reducing influence of the regional political chieftain Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his hegemony in the south west, being the second of such loss in that area, the first being to Dr Mimiko of Ondo State, despite the massive human, material and financial resources and propaganda committed to the sustenance of an expansionist and exploitative agenda. On the flip side is the smart appropriation of the victory by the national ruling party PDP and a convenient projection that the results reflect the acceptance and vindication of the party and the government at the centre and the dimming of the electoral chances of the APC opposition particularly in its South West stronghold
The elections were generally regarded as largely free and fair recording a few incidents of malpractices, characterised by the effective arrangements by INEC and the heavy policing and militarization of a contingent of about 35,000 personnel drawn from all arms of the security agencies .Relative to the recent experience in Anambra State, the conclusion would be a safe and convenient one. However, noting that this is an isolated election with the full machinery of INEC and the security agencies deployed, analysts, looking at efficiency and effectiveness, would quickly draw the conclusion that it is not yet uhuru. This is clearly a militarised free and fair election, with huge attendant logistics and security costs. If efficiency ratios of costs per effective voter are utilized as a basis for assessing freeness and fairness, it would have been easy to see that if this election had been part of a national election, the perception would have been different as the arrangements would have been spread out. On another stretch, it could also be contended that given the level of deployment of security resources to address what could have been another national embarrassment, one wonders why the same level of attention and deployment could not be given to what has now constituted an international embarrassing activities of the insurgency of the Boko Haram, particularly the abduction of the Chibok girls.
Some elements in the opposition APC are also postulating that a measure of intimidation of electorates before and during the election could have led to the wide margin experienced between the votes recorded by the victor and the incumbent. This is posited and contended by no less a personality than the current Governor of Lagos State who indicated that there is something curious about an incumbent Governor, Deputy Governor, Federal and State Legislators, Commissioners and other political appointees losing their constituencies. Although this argument may appear tenuous and puerile in the absence of hard evidence, it would be interesting to see these assertions validated in the law tribunals with the pursuit of the APC in an electoral petition.
But the reports of the monitoring mass media and the horde of local and international observers that applauded the high turnout of Ekiti Electorates and the peaceful conduct of the electoral process also weighs much against any listless contention. Perhaps this was immediately recognised by the incumbent Governor Fayemi in conceding and congratulating the victorious in his famous.”..if this is the wishes of Ekiti people” acceptance speech. Smartly, he threw an interesting dimension of the “emerging, new and different sociology” of Ekiti as a point of interest for academicians, intellectuals and political pundits. This has led many observers and commentators to commend the ‘statesmanlike’ response of Gov Fayemi which is being inferred as an indication a new wave and good development in our evolving democracy. Although, this is being watered down by incoming Governor Fayose as a cheap publicity and image building stunt by a severely worsted loser who is not following up by not responding to the further calls for cooperation.
It would be apt at this point to explore further perhaps the most academic or intellectual position on these results so far by Governor Fashola, who called for a continuing debate on these interesting developments. Whilst filtering out the other political innuendoes in his presentation, the core of His Excellency’s argument is that there is no rational basis for the all round electoral rejection of a ‘performing’ incumbent who has provided many impressive physical infrastructure in the various development domains of education, health, transportation etc etc. and this portends a dangerous anti development political strategy for contenders who could appeal or exploit the perceived base ‘stomach infrastructure or stomachstructure’ needs of the electorate. The other underlying premise to the argument is that the people would necessarily compensate an elected or appointed political figure in their domain with their votes by virtue of their perceived performance or primordial identification. Whilst these positions are desirable, the hard realities may be different and divergent. Unfortunately, these realities may fall within the blind spot of our political players, elites and intellectuals who harbour strong perceptions, paradigms and world views of the needs and the development imperatives or who knowingly or unknowingly have exploited the same tendencies for their own emergence or to oil their political machinery given the level of our political and democratic consciousness.
With 15 years in an unbroken regime of democratic governance, we should begin to recognise that the awareness and expectations of the stakeholders from the democratic experience and the inherent development necessity would be changing. Hence our definitions of development and performance should begin to shift from the tinted western lenses of our political players and the prescriptions of our development experts to the true eyes of the people, stakeholders and electorates in a consultative, collaborative process. This way the people are parties, partners and participants in the planning, implementation and monitoring of the mutually identified development projects rather than being passive observers or incidentals in a rapid, largely imposed development happening around and about themwhilst not involving them actively and oblivious of their real needs. This takes the argument of development and performance beyond the pedestrian and hygiene issues of rice over rights to a more pragmatic or real definition of democracy as government of the people, by the people or for the people. As Prof Nwolise of the University of Ibadan said, :we don’t still have a true democracy, what we have is a conspiracy of the party stalwarts, the political god fathers and the shylock money bags. Perhaps, this is what Ekiti people are quietly reacting to albeit in a profoundly simplistic manner
This does not lend any credence to the opportunistic advantage taken by or the political dexterity of the incoming Governor Fayose and his party PDP who are now beginning to flex muscles and claim popularity and acceptance of the quiet people revolution on Ekiti land. As the Fayose phenomenon is a striking characteristic of a glaring trend in the political firmament since 1999. This trend witnessed the emergence of political entrepreneurs and investors with craftily sculptured schemes designed to exploit the prebendalistic, entitlement and beggar culture that had been developed right from the post independence era and heightened to dizzying levels during the military rule right into the democratic dispensation. This involves the systemic exploitation of the ignorance and poverty of the people right through the political process for political advantages through pseudo welfare or empowerment schemes towards building a connection with the grassroots.
These merchants are conveniently spread across all the political divides at various levels and consist of personalities with issues such as certificate mockups, shady wealth, foreign and local criminal records who exploit the poverty and ignorance of the people for political advantages, political dividends and the building of economic war chests and uninspiring political hegemonies. So much so that our politics is characterised not by ideas, ideologies, issues, programmes and public good. Merit, competence, community service and credibility are sacrificed for cronyism, sycophantism and ethnic and primordial sentiments leading to access to elective and appointive responsibilities being awarded to cronies, families and hanger-ons to guarantee bounteous returns from these merchantilistic endeavours. The people nevertheless have been gasping and panting under the crushing weight of benevolent dictatorship, waiting patiently for the day they will cut their own pound of flesh.
Such pattern of political economic interaction can only thrive in a warped monocultural economy where there is huge dependence. at all levels of government on allocations from the Federal Government centre. A State Governor then being the local dispenser of “wealth not worked for” through contract or other patronages or other direct cash and indirect transfer schemes. Ekiti State, without the advantage of a huge taxable population and the dizzying and pulsating commercial and economic activity, would not have the unique official and non official revenue generating abilities and leakages that a Lagos State has. This puts a potentially benevolent Governor at a disadvantage in addressing “stomachstructure” after devoting sufficient resources to development projects.
On the other hand, the resident populace and electorates in Ekiti could be very vulnerable to various antics and schemes given their vulnerable income and economic base. A cursory look will reveal that the current demographic composition of Ekiti state residents does not indicate the often touted typology of Ekiti being a hotbed of people of substantial educational accomplishments, with every household having at least a Professor. The reality of the situation is that these highly educated indigenes would have emigrated, with their 1st and 2nd generation offsprings to other climes such as Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, even Ife, Ibadan etc and abroad in US, UK, Germany, France, Singapore, UAE, Canada etc in other parts of the world for greener pasture leaving at the base a residual substantial population and effective electorate of people called NEET (“Not in Education, Employment, or Training”) who are easily susceptible to bread and rice issues over rights. It could even be inferred that these emigrated Ekitians would have constituted a vibrant digital community through Facebook, Twitter, NigeriaPolitics, EkitiKete, Yoruba in Diaspora etc etc that are being communicated with virally and regularly by the Fayemi Admnistration about the laudable development projects. Of course, the return for such endeavors is the attraction of other world class ideas and initiatives which may not have a connection with local realities as the rubber meets the road on Ekiti land and not on the cyber world.
Even the returnees that are imported to serve the Government could have unwittingly constituted themselves into local expatriates, stalking around in their glittering latest automobiles and flashy lifestyles to the consternation, chagrin of and repulsion by the local populace. These new sociology may have manifested in this last Ekiti election but can be descriptive and indicative of the situation of most other states outside Lagos. An appreciation of these sociological reality combined with the prebendalistic culture could have accounted for the strange electoral performance. Even in domains with sufficient elite settings and influence, the usual conspiracy of silence, inactiveness and political apathy and “mind my business” orientation often displayed by a lot of enlightened citizens could easily allow the political travesty and tyranny by the majority of gullible and ignorant electorates.
Cynical observers are thus beginning to challenge the appropriateness of the western style of democracy of universal adult suffrage to our multi structured constituencies and societies. The characteristics “elect and regret” and “voter remorse” often experienced by stakeholders in democratic experiments particularly with political organisations and parties not being based on any ideologies but being convenient clusters of power mongers have led people to a consciousness for alternative representative models which promotes merit, competence and credibility as well as clear articulated ideas of ideologies of how societies need to be governed as a critical distinction and performance criteria for political parties. A deeper look at the Chinese model as espoused in a recent Ted Talk by Eric X Li, in “A Tale of two Political Systems” that identifies meritocracy, adaptability and flexibility as essential pillars of an effective political system could assist political players and analysts in designing and evolving structures and methods that are appropriate for our socio economic and political milieu.
Interestingly, some of the current players, recognising the potential spillover effects of the Ekiti phenomenon on their domains are already taking panic and reversive measures that are glaringly not well thought out. These policy and programme volte face are not indicative of practical dynamism but are considered by most observers as deceptive and revealing a shallow understanding of the underlying basis for the interaction. In the final analysis, the people will be the better for it and the experience signals a step forward in our evolving democracy. There are interesting times ahead as we move to the next diet of elections.
Kehinde Sogunle is the Vice Chancellor, Political Leadership Academy (POLA) and the former commissioner for finance, Ogun State, Nigeria.
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