By Femi Owolabi
It is almost 4pm, and we are approaching the land of the rolling hills, Ekiti State. From the Ojota Park in Lagos, the discourse has been the Ekiti elections. As we get closer, posters of Peter Ayodele Fayose, PAF, the PDP gubernatorial candidate, are sighted in border town of Erimo, Osun State. It leaves you wondering; why extend the pasting of posters even to Osun State? But, one is quickly reminded that it is PAF, who, during the 2003 electioneering, had a lineup of his billboards along the Lagos-Ibadan Express Way, some hundred kilometers away from Ekiti.
Entering Ekiti State through Efon-Alaaye, we are welcomed by the Labour Party gubernatorial candidate, Micheal Opeyemi Bamidele, MOB’s billboard. A few miles further, the incumbent governor and the flag bearer of the APC, John Kayode Fayemi, JKF, smiles at us from his billboard. And then, a few miles further, we are stopped by soldiers. For checking.
I speak with one of the soldiers when, in Efon-Alaaye, we meet the second checkpoint.
When will the military presence reduce in Ekiti? I ask.
Well, after this election if trouble dey, we go still dey. If trouble no dey, we dey comot, he says as he flaunts his gun.
Close to C.A.C Grammar School in Efon-Alaaye, we see a fenced house with an overflow of people who look like party supporters. No party logo is visible and we can’t tell which party is hosting the crowd. Our driver, however, tells me that, the only thing happening in there is the sharing of money. I couldn’t disagree with him.
We meet the third checkpoint in Erio-Ekiti. The soldier who comes to us looks tired. Lifting the shades off his face, he peeps into our car and says, you see, I’ve missed my house. I need to rest. Shebi you people no carry exhibit? He asks, stifling a yawn. Yes! We chorus. Oya go, he waves us off.
Approaching Aramoko-Ekiti roundabout, we see more than a hundred armed mobile policemen, disembarking from their truck. They are full of energy as they jump out from the truck in different combative ways.
We meet the fourth checkpoint after Aramoko roundabout. A soldier comes to our car, and wearing a frown, he harshly barks at us. “Hey! Come down everybody,” he said. While others shiver, finding their way out of the car, I am reluctant. Can’t you address us in a polite manner? I tell him, as I cast a gaze on his chest, an attempt to pick his name. “Before the count of three, come down!” Like a hungry lion, he roars, raising his gun in the direction of my head. Since his name is nowhere to be found on his chest, I am left with just one option.
We meet the fifth checkpoint in Igede-Ekiti. A few meters further, we meet the sixth checkpoint, around Oke-Owa, Igede-Ekiti. Driving past the sixth checkpoint, about five trucks loaded with armed policemen speed past.
We meet the seventh checkpoint in Iyin-Ekiti. A few meters further, we are stopped again at the eighth checkpoint by armed men around the Hilltop Chalet junction in Iyin-Ekiti. The ninth checkpoint, we meet in front of All Saint Anglican Church, Iyin-Ekiti. While being checked, my brother, Prince, who awaits my arrival in Ado-Ekiti, calls to tell me that people are already being denied entry by soldiers, from the Akure border. People coming into Ekiti from Abuja, using that route, are being asked to return to Akure, Ondo State. It is almost 7pm and my brother is worried about people coming from Lagos, through Efon Alaaye, if they are not returned, too.
We meet the tenth checkpoint at Araromi-Ekiti. And the eleventh is at the city-gate leading into Ado-Ekiti, where a battalion of armed men are on parade. The Third World War is not going to start in Ekiti, so why has Nigeria moved its Defense Headquarters here? I ask myself as I let out a heavy sigh. Eleven checkpoints, from Efon-Alaaye to Ado-Ekiti! Whereas, BokoHaram raided a secondary school in the tensed Bornu State for six hours and there was no military interruption. Need I say Bornu is under a state of emergency? I, however, sincerely, recommend these armed men deployed to Ekiti State to be redeployed to Bornu State. Their presence alone is enough intimidation for the terrorists.
In our car, the other four guys are coming to Ekiti to vote tomorrow. I ask them which of the candidates would have their votes. Two say their vote is for Peter Ayodele Fayose, PAF, of the PDP. The other two say theirs is for John Kayode Fayemi, JKF, of the APC. I begin to take rough statistics.
Entering Ado-Ekiti, I, briefly, visit my darling friend, Yetunde, who lives in Basiri area on the north wing of the town. While Yetunde walks me through the street, the rising noise is ‘Osoko.’ Osoko is the nickname of Peter Ayodele Fayose, PAF, of the PDP. Yetunde tells me 80% of people in this area are rooting for Osoko. As we walk, I stop a woman walking past us. She is a teacher. I ask her who she’s voting for. Smiling, she says, Osoko nio. We walk on, I branch a Play-Station Game Center, I ask one of the guys who he’s voting for tomorrow. He tells me, his candidate is John Kayode Fayemi, JKF, of the APC. We walk on, I branch a salon. I ask two guys seated outside who their man is. They tell me it’s PAF. As we walk on, a man, walking behind us, overhears our conversation, and he screams at me, bros, Osoko nio! Soon, Yetunde’s sister who has traveled with their dad to their hometown for tomorrow’s election calls her over the phone. She tells Yetunde they just arrived at their hometown, and when asked, she says she is voting PAF. Going by my rough statistics, Osoko, PAF that is, seems to be leading in this area.
I flagged down a bike to take me to Ajilosun area in Ado-Ekiti. As we ride, I open the conversation with the bike-man. He tells me he’s voting for JKF. He starts to analyze JKF’s achievement. The man does anything he says he will do, bike-man tells me. He’s wowed, especially about the N5,000 JKF, as part of his social security policy, pays old people every month.
He, however, says he has collected PAF’s money but won’t vote for him. He tells me that, today, before leaving his area in Matthew Olokuta, PDP had shared N1,000 each for [them] supporters.
We ride past the APC secretariat and PDP secretariat along the Ikere-Ekiti road in Ajilosun. Both places are empty.
I arrive at my Ajilosun house in Ado-Ekiti. And, my brother, Prince, drags me to a nearby beer-parlor. Another brother joins us. The subject of discourse in this beer-parlor, of course, is tomorrow’s elections. I can pick some conversations from around the tables close to me. A man says the only thing JKF has given them in Moferere is a transformer. He says despite the fact that the road leading to Moferere from Ajilosun is just by the APC secretariat, the Governor is yet to help them fix the road. Another man, who seems to be angry with both JKF and PAF, says he would prefer to waste his vote by casting it for MOB.
While peppersouping, Prince shares his concerns with me. I always respect his views, especially on the politics of Ado-Ekiti and Ikere-Ekiti. He will not tell me his candidate, even when one of his uncles is the APC chairman in Ikere-Ekiti. He, however, firstly, express his annoyance with APC who he tells me shared N200 two days ago in Moferere area, an extension of Ajilosun. Is that money? N200? He says, expressing disgust. JKF is now doing what he ought to have done since, Prince tells me, snapping his fingers. He says JKF now promoting Civil Servants at the last minute. He tells me that a particular friend has been promoted twice in the last few months. Prince tells me that JKF is a knowledgeable man who, unfortunately, surrounds himself with ‘bad’ people. He tells me that JKF is unable to manage the interest of his supporters. The aggressive ones, especially, who attacked MOB’s supporters, whenever they went on rally, with the claim that MOB is a traitor. JKF would have absorbed PAF into the APC when the latter joined the former to reclaim his mandate in 2010, Prince argues. PAF is the closest to the common man, he says. Once, people trekked from Ikere-Ekiti to Ado-Ekiti in solidarity with PAF. Only PAF enjoys such reception, he says. Prince expresses his anger with Yemi Adaramodu, the Chief of Staff to JKF, who he calls a confusionist planted in JKF’s camp. He asks if I heard of how JKF’s wife slapped Yemi Adaramodu when the latter said they should stop wasting fund on campaign as he’s unsure of victory at the polls? While we talk, I dial the numbers of about two people working with JKF, in an attempt to seek clarity on some of these issues I consider as beer-parlor talks. None goes through.
On getting home, we continue the conversation with Prince’ mum, a seasoned educationist who has served Ekiti State Government for almost three decades. JKF does not owe us [teachers] salaries, she says. She tells us what she has benefited, as a teacher, from JKF’s educational policy. As she says this, Princess, Prince’ sister interrupts with a scream. Which educational policy? She asks. Princess, a second year student in the State University, seems to be angry. She does not understand why she pays N83,000 as school fees against JKF’s promise to keep the fees at N50,000. Some pay as much as N120,000, she says. It is this reason that Princess tells me, MOB owns her vote. She dismisses PAF as a thug unworthy of governing Ekiti State. I explain to Princess that in February when we met JKF, I particularly asked him this question about the Ekiti State University fees. JKF told us that the fees is N50,000. However, departmental charges, citing Geology department where students go for fieldtrip, are what amount to those figures above N50,000. She disagrees with me, with JKF. As a student in the Faculty of Arts, she says they don’t go on any fieldtrip, so why the additional N33,000? In February, I had pleaded with JKF to intervene and see to the reduction of these ‘departmental charges,’ but he says the school runs autonomously and there’s a limit to how he can influence things that concerns the school’s administration.
I am incredulously held in shock. My observations, however, do not hold for all LGs in Ekiti, but most people I’ve met seem not to talk about the infrastructural developments, evident in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. I had expected the whole place to be overwhelmed by praises of JKF.
While MOB campaigns on a promissory note, both JKF and PAF, the two most popular candidates, refer electorates to their achievements, having spent at least, three years each as governor. For the fear of not being accused of being an APC affiliate, I would have made bold to say JKF’s achievements far outweigh PAF’s.
From my observations, it is a bit difficult to understand what the Ekiti people really want. With JKF’s achievements, there should be no doubt whatsoever over his reelection. Some people, however, see JKF as an elitist, disconnected from the people, and PAF, the populist who stops at every junction to dine and wine with the common man. In an interview with The Africa Report, JKF was asked what he thinks about this perception of elitism and disconnectedness associated with him. Responding, JKF said, ‘Am I an elite? Absolutely. I’m not going to sit down here and deny that I belong to that class of people who have the benefit of solid education, know what good governance is, and are prepared to do things in accordance with the law. Elitism is not derogatory. Elitism should not be a term of derision because if you are an elite in its sociological underpinning, you are also focused on the good society. But does being an elite necessarily qualify for disconnectedness? Absolutely no.’
Perhaps, as traceable to Ogbeni in Osun State, JKF would have ensured a balance as an elitist and a populist?
As fingers remain crossed, my worries grow, seeing armed policemen and soldiers continually trooping in here and are almost becoming more than the electorates! Some people I’m speaking with now are even scared of going out to vote tomorrow. Prince tells me that, the Federal Government, owner of these armed men, is not being fair to JKF, as their intention is to build fear in people, killing their interest to go out and vote. With this, things could be easily manipulated in favor of PAF, the Federal Government’s candidate, Prince tells me.
Logging onto the internet, Egghead Odewale, Deputy Chief of Staff, Ekiti State, tweets, “Joint team of police, SSS and military men storm Hilmat Hotel, Ado-Ekiti arresting some guests whose identify is yet to be confirmed….”
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