Governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose, loves razzmatazz. His day is incomplete without showiness that is designed to excite the polity whether in his Ekiti domain or in the national milieu. Many Nigerians have incongruously come to accept him and his brand of oppositional politics as hope-inspiring in this season of extreme glitch.
He had deployed populist razzmatazz to sweep into power, defeating Dr Kayode Fayemi in the 2014 governorship election. And, to be sure, that was not the first time he would emphatically kick the ass of an incumbent out of government house. He did so in 2003 when he defeated Governor Niyi Adebayo, thereby denying him the chance of a second term in office.
It is remarkable that on the two occasions he won election to be governor, he did so from a disadvantaged position-from outside government. But, he had, on both occasions, leveraged on the people power to upstage the applecart of incumbency. He deployed populism to appeal to the sensibilities of the local folks in Ekiti. The last time round that he short-circuited Fayemi’s flow into a second term ritual, he gave a verbal elegance to the crude process of stomach infrastructure that he adopted and popularized to achieve the feat.
Besides, the Fayemi defeat was a widespread revulsion of sorts by the people for the enlightened political elite, which should have deployed the machinery of state, finesse and fidelity to corner and sustain their (people’s) mandate for another term in office. The Fayemi government, arguably, suffered a serious disconnect with the people. It was pursuing self-serving policies and programmes that empowered political office holders alongside some members of his party while the people were emasculated. Fayemi was not versed, at all, in the politics of identifying and connecting with the people in the street or grassroots. Unlike Fayose, who touches base with the people at will, Fayemi was standoffish and did not engage with them.
Public communication was abandoned, even when workers’ salaries in arrears of months remained unpaid. Angry workers resolved to punish Fayemi with their votes and he was defeated hands down in all of the sixteen local government areas in the state. Interestingly, Ekiti State government, under Fayose, owes workers’ salaries but the governor has been able to explain the cause and has secured their understanding, thanks to his utilitarian public communication. The people now know about the constricting inflows from the federation account and the management of the internally generated revenue. He also showcases to the people projects he is executing. Nevertheless, Ekiti deserves more development.
Ekiti people love Fayose, no doubt. But Fayose will not contest in 2018. Therefore, he cannot transfer the people’s love for him to whoever he wants to sponsor as his successor. His would-be successor will have to, personally, earn the adoration and widespread support of the people. And, believe it or not, Ekiti people are politically enlightened, despite the stomach infrastructure narrative that is being derisively told.
This is why the All Progressives Congress (APC) with its array of 32 or thereabouts contestants will have to be sagacious, prudent, pragmatic and programmatic in its choice of a candidate. It must streamline and present its best for the contest if it wants to defeat a Fayose proxy in 2018. I have seen the long list of aspirants and I think former governor and the party’s Deputy National Chairman (South), Engineer Segun Oni, without equivocation, will present a most formidable front in the impeding battle of wits and grits.
Having been governor from 2007 to 2010 before he was ousted by the Court of Appeal, which emplaced Fayemi in his stead, he has intimidating pedigree and credentials of performance, especially in the building of road and other sophisticated infrastructure. The consensus in Ekiti is that Oni is prudent in the management of public finance.
He did not deploy public office for personal aggrandizement. There was no record that he diverted or laundered the funds of Ekiti State; he did not use state funds to acquire property anywhere in the world. His hands were not caught in the cookie jar of crime. Like Caesar’s wife, he was above suspicion and reproach in financial matters. He is an omoluabi (a well brought up and thoroughbred child) who is committed to the uplift of the society for the general good.
What was fundamental to him and his government while in the saddle was the development of Ekiti as well as the security and welfare of the people, which he related with as “the directive principle of state policy.” That did not detract from the thrust of his original agenda for Ekiti when, ahead of the governorship primaries of his then party, he single-mindedly sold his aspiration to Ekiti sons and daughters both at home and in the Diaspora, which they bought into.
But for the interregnum, which he was made to experience due to the Court of Appeal verdict, he possibly would have finished his two terms as governor on the PDP platform in 2015. The interruption terminated an era of sophisticated and ingenious leadership that was quietly making things happen in the state. He was not standoffish like Fayemi, neither was he loud like Fayose. Interesting, he is much older than both and, of course, calmer, wiser and more judicious. This time round, he must be voluble on achievements if providence thrusts him back to power.
The head-start that he has ahead 2018 is multifarious. First, he has been there before and he knows the terrain better than any other aspirant who has not been there. He is no stranger to the people. He had traversed the length and breath, every nook and cranny of the state in 2007 and while in office up until 2010, delivering on project development as promised during his electioneering. His blue-print for development will still suffice, possibly with little input and modifications here and there.
Perhaps, another issue that is likely to work in his favour is his political relationship across the divides of the state. He has massive networks in the APC, just as he has former loyalists who worked with and for him while in the PDP who would, because of pristine affection that is rooted in the not-too-distant past, endorse his candidature in the event Fayose makes a faux-pas of presenting an unpopular candidate or decides to foist on his party a candidate through a compromised process.
Overall, the Ekiti governorship contestation in 2018 will be very interesting to the extent that APC and the PDP are ready to make it so. If well advised, APC should weigh in with Segun Oni, whose second coming, will not only excite the polity but will also define the shape and texture of the contest. And since Fayose represents the best the PDP can offer in Ekiti in terms of populist politics, it will be interesting to know the candidate he will produce to sustain his kind of politics and governance method.
–Ojeifo contributed this piece via email@example.com