Ekiti, that homogenous state in our country, is literally at war. For a group of people famed for wars, at least we all remember the Ekiti Parapo war, that internecine war between Ibadan and combined forces of Ekiti/Ijesa, which lasted 16 years; they’re no strangers to wars. But this war is for the votes of Ekiti citizens come Saturday, July 14, and we can only hope that the state come out better after the war.
When news broke that the Inspector General of Police, the same person who refused to move to Benue State when ordered by the president, had deployed 30,000 policemen to Ekiti over the governorship election, one should have a fair sense of how militarized the state has become over who takes over from Governor Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It is a battle, but one between brothers and that’s why it is deadly. Nobody can strike a mortar blow like the person who knows you best, having an insight into your strengths and weaknesses. Both sides are deploying their arsenal to prosecute this war.
Billions of naira has been spent and it has not stopped; yet salaries of civil servants have not been paid for a while now. Both sides that see citizens only as pawns in this dirty game are trampling the majority in Ekiti down. For the APC and her candidate, Kayode Fayemi, an academic turned politician who seemingly has learned the tricks of the Nigerian brand of politics more than his academic theories, it is a fight to the finish, while Fayose too has shown that he has the capacity to make the state ungovernable if pushed to the brink.
From an acrimonious primary, which left APC more bruised and divided, it has been a campaign not devoid of violence and thuggery, which even got a top shot in the party injured. Having served as governor until Fayose defeated him four years ago, not a few had asked what he forgot at the Oke Ayaba Government House that he wanted to go back and pick. To his credit, however, he got off his high horse and reached out to those who contested the primary with him, a reason why even those who were not campaigning with him before are doing so as this is being written. That is one of the reasons why there is so much activity as the election draws nearer.
Forget what people have been saying, the fact on the ground based on interviews with many in Ekiti in the last two weeks is that the election is too close to call. People forget that the only PDP senator in the southwest in 1999 was from Ekiti, Gbenga Daniel Aluko, who represented Ekiti South constituency in the senate from 1999 to 2003, even when PDP were treated as social pariahs in Yorubaland. There was also a time when PDP and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), one of the component parties of APC, had equal numbers of members in the state house of assembly – 13:13 until November 2010 when a member died. What am I saying? A party has never dominated Ekiti heavily; all of them have always been dominant at a time or the other. The pendulum in this governorship election can swing either way.
Another factor, indeed a major one, is the Fayose factor. The APC failed the first test when she allowed this election to be defined solely as a referendum on Fayose, someone whose name is not on the ballot. Sure, at a level, it’s a referendum, but Fayose had dominated the contest more than necessary. His peculiar brand of politics, which is quite popular, and has held Ekiti, the land of warriors and academia, in tight grip in the last four years, unless one is not truthful; is a major determinant in this election. Scholars need to look more critically into Fayose’s kind of politics wherein salaries have not been paid for months yet people are rooting for him. What makes rice, salt, and vegetable oil more popular than programme of action or developmental plans? He seems to be matching APC in the game throwing the kitchen sink at this election including, but not limited to, asking commercial drivers to park their vehicles and collect N10, 000 each with their voter’s card on a day APC fixed a major rally.
Based on Ekiti politics, two towns are crucial: Ikere and Ado. Whosever wins these two will surely become governor and that’s why the battle seems fiercest there. With the PDP candidate, Kolapo Olusola, an Ikere person; and running mate from Ado just as the APC’s candidate running mate is from Ado too, the contest gets more interesting. Sadly, in the cacophony of this election, both sides are saying little or nothing about programmes or issues they will tackle if voted into power. It’s the way we roll in this part of the world. I wager that the turnout on Saturday will be low, very low, as many might notbe able to stand the militarization and the obvious threat of violence. May the better candidate win so that Ekiti, the land of warriors, might know peace, the kind thatmakes development easier.