By Bayo Adeyinka
Most APC die-hard supporters could not believe there would be an upset. But the handwriting became clearer on the wall when it was obvious that Bimbo Daramola, Yemi Adaramodu, Adewale Omirin, the Deputy Governor Prof Mrs Adelabu and former Governor Niyi Adebayo all lost their wards/booths.
From results, out of the 12 wards in Oye Local Government, Governor Kayode Fayemi’s Local Government, APC won only 2 wards while PDP cleared the rest. Fayose won in all the Local Governments in Ekiti State, scoring over 203,090 votes to Fayemi’s 120,433. The defeat was total and absolute. It was one defeat that leaves your jaws open and makes you wonder what went wrong. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on the side you are, the election was free and fair. Though it took place under a massive security arrangement, there was no report of disenfranchisement whatsoever. The turnout was massive and it was reported that some polling booths witnessed close to 80% turnout of registered voters. People travelled from Lagos and other states just to vote in Ekiti. I personally know people who went to their Ekiti home state just to register their feelings with their votes. After voting, people stayed and ensured the votes were counted. One account had it that an old woman asked a citizen journalist to write Fayose’s results on her palm.
Some people attributed Peter Ayodele Fayose’s victory to the sharing of rice and other inducements but this is begging the question because APC also shared rice and even doled out money. Those who were on ground confirmed this and most of them collected from both parties. Consequently, it was not the victory of ‘raw rice’ over ‘cooked rice’. So what caused the massive rejection of APC and consequently Governor Kayode Fayemi at the polls in spite of the well noted above average performance of his government? Why would the most educated homogenous group in Yoruba land elect Ayo Fayose, someone supposedly ‘under-educated’ by their high educational standards and reject Kayode Fayemi, a PhD holder and incumbent for four years? What lessons are there for APC for the coming elections?
1. People Don’t Care How Much You Know Until They Know How Much You Care
True, Governor Fayemi built roads and embarked on urban renewal. His footprints were all over the State. However, he was disconnected from the masses. There was a general perception that his government was elitist and he didn’t do anything to correct that impression. He did not have the common touch. He was building for the people but the people did not feel any connection with him. His style brought back a feeling of nostalgia about Fayose’s days to the people. Fayose could speak their language. Fayose also made a mountain about living among the people. In all the years he was away from office, he never left Ekiti. He did not become a Lagos or Abuja politician and the people noted it. That was why there was a chant of ‘Ghana Must Go’ a few days to the election- referring to where Governor Fayemi resided at a point in time.
Did Fayemi engage in town hall sessions across Ekiti constantly through his tenure? If he did, were they effective? Our politics in the South West still remains rudimentary and that is why any touch of populism will carry the day.
2. All Politics Is Local And When You Forget This You Get Punished For It
Governor Fayemi practically lived and campaigned on social media. He ran a very effective facebook and twitter campaign. You can never fault him for taking advantage of technology. However, Twitter does not vote and most Facebook activists don’t come out to vote. When Governor Fayemi assembled bloggers from Lagos and brought them to Ekiti to assess his performance, I knew he was embarking on a fruitless exercise. The bloggers could only influence the opinion of those who read them and how many people actually read them in Isan, Ijan, Erio-Ekiti, Iworoko and other less-city towns?
3. When You Refuse To Make Friends Of A Former Adversary, He Hurts You More Than Ever Before
This election was APC’s to lose. Actually, it should have been a walkover for Governor Fayemi if they had kept Fayose in their corner of the party. Fayose was a major contributor to Fayemi’s victory at the last polls. I remember Fayemi published an advertorial thanking Fayose for his efforts. When Fayose’s father died, it was widely acknowledged that he carried a signage with the note ‘Vote For Fayemi’. When Fayose celebrated his birthday, the who’s who in the then ACN were present and they poured accolades on him. However, he claimed there was an understanding that he will be given a senatorial slot as compensation. This was never honored and he decamped to the Labour Party where he was trounced. He brought in this bruised ego into the political field. When a man’s ego suffers, other things bear the consequences. What would it take to cede a slot to ‘Oshoko’ and let him retire at the Senate? Even the Holy Writ asked us to quickly make friends of our adversaries lest they put us in gaol. APC is now in gaol, politically.
4. The Rejection Of The Over-Bearing Influence of Bola Tinubu
Many people that I know don’t see Ayo Fayose as a credible candidate yet they voted for him. They explained that their vote for Fayose was actually a rejection of the Bourdillon overlords. Many in Ekiti have not forgotten how Hon Oyetunde Ojo, a son-in-law of Bola Tinubu became a member of the House of Representatives. This same Hon Ojo is married to Tinubu’s daughter who is now the Iyaloja of Lagos. Tinubu’s wife is also a Senator of the Federal Republic. Fayose made some comedy out of this when he announced that he will ‘bring the government back from Bourdillon to Ekiti’. Tinubu needs to watch it. His drum is sounding too loud and this election was to burst his bubble, just like Ondo and Anambra people just did. His latest pronouncement to the effect that only three kings in Yorubaland were reliable and supported the aspirations of June 12 further alienated him from the traditional rulership and essentially the people. Fayemi’s defeat was a collateral damage of sorts.
Widely acknowledged as a good and responsible leader, he caved in due to the wrong perception of his godfather.
5. The Bandwagon Effect In Ondo State
Due to the cultural affinity shared between Ondo and Ekiti States, there would always be a meeting point. When Governor Mimiko of Ondo State asserted himself and won the Ondo State Gubernatorial election, I knew it was just a matter of time before Ekiti followed suit. A very proud group of people don’t want to be vassals. And vassals they think they are especially when there is the perception that all key decisions are taken in Lagos. So it was waiting to happen.
6. Policies That Don’t Connect With The People
Such as the Teachers Needs Development Assessment Tests, ban on okada riders without proferring an alternative solution, removal or demolition of shops to give way for urban renewal without immediate adequate compensation, demolition of ‘slums’ without providing alternative homes and similar policies. Once the livelihood of people are threatened, they will find a way to revolt. What happened in Ekiti was a revolt of peasants- a revolt of sorts. Not even the cooperation of all the kings in Ekiti land with APC could stop it. Policies must ‘wear’ a human face. Opinions must be polled and listened to in some cases. This is not to say that decisions should not be carried out to the benefit of people, even if they are difficult. However, the people must be engaged and the benefits explained rigorously. Having policy somersaults at the 11th hour on election eve opens you to opprobrium.
7. The Lack Of Clear Distinctions Between APC And Other Parties
Before now, it was very popular to tout the achievements of the ‘poster boy’ of APC, Babatunde Raji Fashola as proof that the APC was different and will offer a better platform for the people. That argument won over people in droves. But no more. Ekiti people also saw the achievements of Olusegun Mimiko during his first term under the Labour Party and realized it was not just about the party alone. Political parties as we know them in Nigeria have no clear cut ideologies. People seem to be wiser now and they are ready to consider candidates irrespective of the platforms presenting them.
APC needs to re-strategize if the same fate will not befall them in Oyo, Ogun and Edo States. I personally think Ogbeni Aregbesola is on ground in Osun State and will be able to retain the State for APC except a serious mis-step occurs before the election. Oyo, Ogun and Edo are three swing states that may be lost to the opposition anytime soon. A word is enough- if they are wise.