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The Scoop Special: “Why we voted for Ayo Fayose on Saturday” – Ekiti people speak to The Scoop

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The Scoop Special: “Why we voted for Ayo Fayose on Saturday” – Ekiti people speak to The Scoop

By Femi Owolabi

The most interesting election in recent times, unarguably is the June 21 Ekiti State governorship polls. The tussle had three major contenders; John Kayode Fayemi– JKF, of the APC, Peter Ayodele Fayose—PAF, of the PDP, and Michael Opeyemi Bamidele—MOB, of the LP.  Not until PAF won the Ekiti PDP governorship primaries in March, the discourse was around JKF, the incumbent governor and the candidate of the APC, and MOB, the candidate of the LP whose defection from the APC was on the claim that his former party did not practice internal democracy.

In the beginning

JKF had contested the governorship election in 2007 and won. Unfortunately, Segun Oni, the then PDP candidate and an anointed political-son of President Olusegun Obasanjo was announced winner. JKF headed to the courts, and in 2010, he reclaimed his mandate, and was sworn in as the governor.

Before the 2007 election year, Ekiti was almost becoming anarchical under Ayo Fayose. Fayose, who used popularity as leverage and his welfarist agenda to defeat the incumbent Niyi Adebayo in 2003, was seen to be intoxicated by power. A move to impeach PAF was allegedly sponsored by a popular elite group in Ekiti called e-Eleven. His eventual impeachment would result in a chaos that led to the then President Obasanjo declaring a state of emergency in Ekiti.

The feud between e-Eleven and PAF remains till date. In the build-up to Saturday’s election, e-Eleven filed a suit against PAF, asking the court to stop him from contesting the June 21 election, arguing that PAF had disclosed false information in Form CFO 1 of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in respect to his impeachment by the state assembly. The court, however, just a few days to the June 21 election, adjourned the case to the 30th of June. This adjournment questions the relevance of the case, since the election would have been done and winner announced.

In the three years, 2007-2010, in which JKF fought for his mandate, PAF lent JKF his support. At the time, PAF, who seemed to have been betrayed by President Obasanjo, left PDP, albeit, he claimed to be politically neutral. He became an APC sympathizer who openly campaigned and canvassed for JKF. Investigative findings revealed that JKF rode on PAF’s popularity and won during the [2009] rerun in some of parts of Ekiti, particularly in the then incumbent Governor Oni’s Ido-Osi Local Government. There were speculations, however, that PAF only did all he did for JKF and APC with an expectation of getting a consolatory offer; a senatorial seat at least. He did not get it.

So fast forward to 2014, and the battle lines were drawn.

Amidst tight security, the Ekiti electorate in a considerable number, participated in the June 21 Governorship polls. On the eve of the election, travelers coming in through Efon Alaaye-Ekiti, the first point of entry into Ekiti State on the Osun-Ekiti border, met about eleven checkpoints before getting to Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. At about 6:30pm, it was reported that people coming in through the Ekiti-Akure border, were denied entry and turned back by soldiers. In almost all corners in Ekiti, heavily armed policemen and soldiers were stationed, and in what seemed like militarization, more than a thousand others were parading while others continued to troop in.  Unarguably, no state in Nigeria has witnessed the kind of the military presence during an election as Ekiti did in the June 21 Governorship polls. Some argued that the militarization was indeed needed, citing the unrest [violence] that had always ensued in previous elections in the state. Some, however, condemned it as an unfair militaristic means by the PDP-led Federal Government to intimidate JKF and, in a way, manipulate things in favour of PAF, the PDP candidate. Cited was, a few weeks to the election, reports of how JKF and his supporters were harassed by policemen.

On the eve of the election, TheScoopNg, moved around some parts of Ado-Ekiti, the state capital. From Adebayo, where PAF campaign office is, to Basiri, Fajuyi, and Ajilosun where the APC secretariat is, PAF’s candidacy seemed to be the most popular.

The reemergence of PAF stirred the political pool in Ekiti State. Till now, there are serious allegations of corruption, arrogance and murder hanging on PAF’s neck, that make people, especially those observing from the outside– to already conclude that, there was no way PAF would defeat JKF who, to people from the outside, runs a transparent government. Observers from the outside may be confined to what’s only obtainable on the social media; a tool JKF has relentlessly used to run what appeared participatory governance. JKF is verified on Twitter and has almost forty thousand followers. PAF’s Twitter handle only surfaced a few months ago, and his followers are less than two thousand as at the time of this election. Unfortunately, the teacher and the barber in Basiri who The ScoopNg spoke to, seldom check Facebook/Twitter, that is, if they have an account on any of these social media platforms.  An argument underpinned by logical reasoning by people who live in Ekiti, is that the real followers are not on Twitter.

An APC Ward-Youth leader who spoke with TheScoopNg said the incumbent governor, JKF, won the hearts of Ekiti people in 2007, first, with his CV, and secondly, because they never liked the PDP imposed Segun Oni who suffered insults throughout his stay in office. “He [JKF] was even referred to as the messiah,” he said. In an interview sometime ago, JKF himself had confessed that his candidacy, in 2007, received a wider endorsement because of his CV. JKF said he was amazed, seeing people photocopying his CV and distributing around Ekiti. Worthy of mention in JKF’s CV is his post-doctoral concentration on democratization. From the conversation with the APC Youth leader, an obvious undertone was that JKF, after becoming governor, had ruled “[un]managed” the Ekiti people who voted him in with disdain. The Youth leader, however, gave an assurance of voting his party’s candidate on Saturday, nevertheless, he said he was unsure of victory.

On the Election Day, TheScoopNg was at St Michael Primary School, Ward 4, in Ajilosun, Ado-Ekiti, to observe the exercise, and was, via phone, receiving reports from other Wards. Accreditation started around 10:28am at the two polling booths in St Michael Primary School, and the voting started around 1:15pm. The atmosphere was calm and things proceeded peacefully and in order. Armed soldiers were stationed at the two gates leading into St Michael Primary School, and also at the Mobil Filling Station that is directly opposite St Michael Primary School. Men of the NSCDC and policemen stood by the INEC officials and the ballot boxes. At twenty minutes interval, a helicopter of the Nigeria Police flew above. Despite the scorching sun, the old and young endured the long election hours.

No way to share the money

Under a tree shade a close distance to the school’s gates, sat some people, watching as event unfolded. TheScoopNg spoke with some of them and they alleged that the APC had dropped N1million to be shared between the two booths, while PDP dropped N400,000. The original plan, according to them, was that, APC was to give N5,000 to anyone who casts for them, and PDP, N2,000. This couldn’t play out as they told TheScoopNg that the soldiers had been alerted of this plan, hence their heavy presence around the polling centers, hunting suspects. While we discussed, a van loaded with armed soldiers zoomed from one of the gates and veered onto the street by Mobil Filling Station. Returning, they had nabbed two men and kept them inside their van. The men under the shade identified one of the men picked by the soldiers as one Mr. Sunday, who they alleged was one of the APC men who had raw cash on him, to share to voters.

Immediately, one of them called his brother on the phone and hammered it repeatedly into his brother’s ears: “Don’t collect money from anybody o, soldiers are arresting people.”

At about 4:49pm, voting had ended at St Michael Primary School and people who had waited, keenly watched as votes were transparently counted. The polling officer, as he counted, would raise the ballot paper, making it visible to the electorates who also counted along. At the two polling booths, when the polling officers announced the turn(s) of APC or LP’s votes to be counted, the atmosphere becomes quiet. However, at the mention of the PDP, the whole place was overwhelmed by a resonating response: “power!” It was obvious that most of the voters there wanted PAF of the PDP as the next governor of Ekiti State.

Ironically, St Michael Primary School is the nearest polling center to the APC state secretariat. After the counting, at booth one; JKF of the APC polled 103 votes, MOB of LP, 15 votes, and PAF of PDP, 296 votes. At booth two; 159 votes for JKF, 37 for MOB, and 499 for PAF. At this time, results from some victory-determinant Local Governments [Ikere, Ido-Osi, Ikole, Oye] had been reported, and PAF of the PDP polled highest. Infact, the incumbent governor, lost to PAF in his [JKF’s] Oye Local Government. For the overall result, as officially announced by INEC, PAF of PDP won with 203,090 votes, defeating JKF of APC who came second with 120,433 votes.

So, why is PAF the preference of Ekiti people?

TheScoopNg moved around Ado-Ekiti, asking electorates this question.

At the St Michael Primary School, a man said he voted PAF because the PDP runs a “chop make I chop government.” “Money didn’t flow well in this man’s government,” he said, pointing to JKF’s billboard that was across the road. He said the APC was “now pumping in money at the die minute to election.”

Another respondent, an artisan who identified himself as Mr. Kolade, said JKF wasn’t awarding contracts to indigenous contractors. He said that if contracts were being given to local contractors, the welder, carpenter and others would benefit from it. But under Fayemi, he said, it was mostly given to contractors from out-of-state.

“When PAF was governor, this wasn’t the case. I know how much jobs I was getting then,” Mr. Kolade said.

A similar narration was from an Engineer who pleaded to be anonymous. “Yes, JKF’s government has done well with infrastructure. But, at the first phase of the 5km road project, only two Local Governments were awarded to local contractors; Dromo International Ltd and Deco Construction Company.”

The Scoop also spoke to a Local Government worker who accused JKF of underrating the ability of Ekiti people. “He is always bringing people from outside the state to work for him,” he lamented. “When PAF was governor, everybody knew his personal assistant, Goke. Goke is a son of Ekiti. Also, when Segun Oni was governor, his personal assistant was Bunmi Ojo, a full blooded son of Ekiti. But look at JKF, when he became governor, we heard his personal assistant, one Egghead Odewale from Osun, and nobody knows him in Ekiti.” The man even alleged that JKF’s cook is a Chinese. “Most of his commissioners and special advisers are people who don’t live here in Ekiti. Ekiti State, being the fountain of knowledge, is the state that should even supply personnel to other states,” the man concluded.

A woman who sells by the junction around Old CocaCola said JKF was just too proud for her liking. “Look at his [JKF] billboard, he says he is the owi be se be (one who does what he says), is it not only God that does whatever he says?” The woman expressed her anger over what she called JKF’s careless remarks, and how he makes Ekiti people feel inferior.  A cab driver around Adebayo area also spoke with TheScoopNg. “I have never dreamt of seeing a governor in my life, the cab driver explained. But, one day, when PAF was governor, he was driving past and he stopped by a restaurant where I was eating. He sat beside me and ordered for his own food. This experience is the only reason I voted for PAF,” he said as he was engulfed by excitement.

At the Federal Housing area, a teacher who spoke with TheScoopNg, said he voted PAF because PAF was a friend of teachers. “Before PAF became governor in 2003, we were only given biscuits and a bottle of Fanta whenever we went for seminars. But when PAF became governor, he exposed us to some things and made us realize that we are entitled to N14,000 allowance for participating in such seminars. We are yet to attend such seminars in the years that JKF has been governor; we are, however, being harassed to come write one Teachers’ Needs Assessment Development Test. And, JKF has never celebrated Teachers’ Day with us, unlike PAF, who when governor, took Teachers’ Day so importantly. He gave each Local Government a cow, bags of rice, such that teachers were overfed during Teachers’ Day, and when leaving, an enveloped N2,000 was given to teachers as their transportation fare. It was during PAF’s government that I bought a car and built my house,” the teacher said, letting out a smile.

At Balemo Village (formerly known as Onala), a banker turned farmer said he couldn’t vote for JKF because he hasn’t been fair to farmers. In his explanation; the government uses tax payers’ money to plant cassava, and whatever remains from cassava exported, the government sells to us at higher price. I buy 200 heaps of cassava at the rate of N7,000 to N8,000, sometimes, during raining season, I buy as low as N5,000, from peasant farmers. But from government, I buy 200 heaps of cassava for N10,000 and sometimes more, he lamented. He also alleged that the funds released by the Federal Government to the State Government for Cassava Growers have not been disbursed to them. PAF understands Ekiti farmers better than JKF who just returned from abroad and became governor, the farmer concluded.

It was also gathered that, PAF came to Balemo village to campaign. The locals said he came down from his jeep, spoke, shook hands with people and shared bags of rice. Whereas, JKF’s deputy only promised that they were coming to Balemo to campaign but never came.

An unemployed graduate at Moferere area said PAF became his preference because JKF’s employment scheme, to him, is a scam. He challenged TheScoopNg to ask unemployed people around the state; how many of them were shortlisted during JKF’s recruitment exercise into the Civil Service Commission, after they had paid N1,000 each for a photocopied application form. “How do we differentiate this APC government from the PDP-led Federal Government who also charged applicants N1,000 for the Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment test?” he asked. “And even those people JKF employed into the Ekiti State Traffic Management Authority EKSTMA, none of them has been given his/her appointment letter. And the government only pays them peanut,” he said.

Standing by his side, was his uncle who works with the Water Corporation. He hailed PAF, as he narrated his experience. “We were denied the chance to partake in a particular promotion-test. We are HND holders; this seemed to be our offense. We took our protest to PAF who was the governor then, and surprisingly, PAF joined us in the protest and led us back to where the test was being held, ordering the authority to allow us write the test, because by disallowing us, they are also telling him that, being a governor whose qualification is HND, he’s not competent.”

At the Iworoko area where the state university is, TheScoopNg spoke randomly with few students. A student said she does not understand why JKF would give them a three-week break from school because of a one-day election. She, however, suggested this to be a ploy by JKF to send students home, knowing that many of them had registered to vote at the polling center(s) in the school area, where PAF appeared to be more popular. Nevertheless, she and a few other friends had trekked, for almost an hour, all the way from their parents’ houses in Adebayo to Iworoko to vote for PAF. All the students who spoke with TheScoopNg bitterly complained about what they pay as school fees. “This is not what JKF promised us in 2007,” a student from the Faculty of Arts said. “JKF always argue that the fees is N50,000, but what students pay here is a double if not a triple of that,” the student added. Another student from the Faculty of Science who was indifferent about the high school fees, however, said students do not enjoy what they pay for. He asked TheScoopNg to visit the university on lecture days, to see how heavily congested lecture theatres are. Although, before JKF, things have always been like this, he said. “But JKF, being a committed academic becoming a governor, was expected to have made this project an utmost priority. Most of the electrical appliances in the lab are not working, and in the whole of Faculty of Science, they had only one electron microscope, until the Faculty was merged with the defunct University of Science and Technology, Ifaki-Ekiti, that more electron microscopes were brought in from the defunct university,” he added.

A student, who is in his final year said, it is laughable that in the list of things paid for as school fees, is the ID card, and since he was admitted into the school, he has never been given a school ID card. What serves as his ID is the departmental [association] ID card. The same thing holds for every student TheScoopNg spoke with. None of them has been issued a valid school ID card in the last four years.

One of the parents who spoke with TheScoopNg said she voted JKF in 2007 because she thought he was a descendant of Awolowo who ensured free education when he was premier of the Western Region. “But, I am paying almost N300,000 now as school fees for my three children who are in the state university. How much is my salary?” She asked.

TheScoopNg also gathered that the state TV, EKTV, didn’t air PAF’s campaign, only JKF’s. And the only time PAF was on EKTV was the day his podium collapsed while campaigning in Ifaki-Ekiti. An attempt by EKTV at ridiculing PAF, a man told TheScoopNg. Federal Government owned Progress FM and NTA were the two media platforms that PAF used for campaign. A man, however, told TheScoopNg that it was payback time for PAF. “When he[PAF] was governor, he was so domineering and shut out his opponents from using the state media platforms,” he said.

A man living close to the APC secretariat said, even those people following JKF are just sycophants. “Look, I have chopped from the APC, but my vote is for PAF,” he said, laughing.

An effort by TheScoopNg to reach some of JKF’s aides failed, as their phone lines weren’t available.

After the results were announced, it was a season of jubilation as people were seen in groups, at beer parlors around Ajilosun area where TheScoopNg observed and monitored things.

On Sunday morning, a day after the election, TheScoopNg visited CAC Oke Oloruntedo, a church behind the APC secretariat in Moferere-Ajilosun.

TheScoopNg observed how joyous people were at how peaceful the much-talked-about Ekiti election went and, how PAF had won. A woman who spoke with TheScoopNg at the church entrance couldn’t hide her joy. “That is why I am tying a red headgear,” she said, flaunting it, being the color of the PDP.

Starting the church service, a church elder assumed the pulpit as he enjoined the congregation to rise for the opening hymn. Hymn number 418, CAC hymns book, he announced.

Smiles spilled over the faces of the worshipers as they sang, and TheScoopNg wondered if the choice of this hymn was coincidental or deliberate:

Olutunu ti de
olutunu ti de
emi lati oke wa
ileri Baba wa…
(The comforter has come
the comforter has come
a spirit sent from above
the promise of our Father)…

– The Scoop’s Femi Owolabi contributed this report from Ado Ekiti

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