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Ekiti voters and stomach infrastructure



Ekiti voters and stomach infrastructure

Governor Ayo Fayose means different things to different people. To some, he is a loquacious politician who has no idea of when to bridle his lips and often say more than necessary at times. On many occasions, the governor absolutely lost control of his tongue. He’s just a regular gadfly, one whose kind of politics may have cast aspersions on the aphorism of a state that prides itself as ‘Fountain of Knowledge.’ But to some, what many consider as the governor’s nauseating preoccupation read like a good novel. Such people believe that a man like Fayose is needed in the polity to put the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on its toes at all times. Whatever the view is, the governor cannot be described as a Lilliput in Nigerian politics.

It will be unfair to describe a man who defeated two incumbent governors at different times as such. Fayose’s admirers are always quick to point to his closeness to the grassroots as his unique selling point. The governor is populist and popular. He often goes to the market to interact with market men and women. He rides on motorcycles; plays ‘Ayo’, a traditional game, with the elders under the trees. In the past, he had distributed foodstuffs to the people.

He once asked policemen in the state to be in queue to get Christmas rice and chicken. Before the 2014 election, Fayose, the then candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had devised a means of reaching out to the people of the state by regularly giving them foodstuffs.

This forced the then incumbent governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to leave his tightly-knit coterie of elite and identified with the masses in a new way. While Fayose was distributing uncooked rice and vegetable oil, Fayemi cooked his own rice and personally served the Ekiti people. His wife was even there with him to serve the food. But Fayemi’s gesture was rather too little and too late.

The electorate did not find his kind of grassroots politics as genuine and natural as Fayose’s. Fayose later called his gesture ‘stomach infrastructure’ when he became the governor. The success story of Fayose became attractive to Nigerian politicians. Senator Iyiola Omisore, in his bid to unseat Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State also tried to replicate ‘stomach infrastructure’ with the people of the state.

He went to the market to buy a few things. He rode a commercial motorcycle. At another time, he brought out his head from the open roof of his SUV while campaigning on the streets of Osogbo, the state capital. He was munching corn, one on his right hand and another on his left hand. He later stirred up a debate on the social media as to whether it was morally and culturally right to eat with the two hands at the same time.

Populism worked for Fayose but it didn’t work for Omisore in Osun. Prior to the Christmas celebration in 2016, Fayose employed tailors to sew clothes for children in his state. Poor parents sang praises of the governor. These gestures and many more endeared him to his people. It was not surprising that he boasted that he would add to his unique political credentials in the state by ensuring that his deputy, Prof. Kolapo Olushola-Eleka, succeeded him as the governor of the state.

Fayose was so sure that even if he presented a chicken, the Ekiti people would not have an option but queue behind. But the governor now knows better. The election had been won and lost. Fayemi is the choice of the Ekiti people. By now, it has dawned on Fayose that populism alone cannot win election. Populism, like I argued last week can be fraught with dishonesty. And even though it can adapt to all situations, a populist leader can be tempted to think he is infallible and can be pushed to promise unrealistic changes. Fayose appears to be a classic example of such a leader. On the day he was swornin as the governor, he opened the gate of the Government House to the indigenes. Quite a number of them had access to the swimming pool on the premises.

They were told that it was their property and they could use it anytime they felt like. In reality, we know this is not sustainable. Security apparatus won’t allow that. Fayose is a folklorist who believes that once hunger is taken care of, half of human problems are solved. May be this is the reality when the Yoruba first used the proverb many years ago. But the enormity of human problems in today’s world and the complexity of life have shown that hunger is just a fraction of human problems.

People whose minds are troubled with deep melancholy need genuine economic empowerment that can liberate them from the shackles of poverty beyond sharing of foodstuffs as if the country is in a war situation. Over the years, there has been deliberate and consistent conspiracy by the political elite to lower the masses into the abyss of poverty.

This, of course, makes the masses to be subservient and with little or no power to resist egregious policies foisted on them by the elite. With largely illiterate voters, vote-buying witnessed in Ekiti last week will be replicated in the coming elections. Politicians will stop at nothing to capitalise on the pervasive poverty that permeates our landscape and turn ours into a land that is bleak and bare.

This is why a lot of the electorate were part of the “see and buy” election that took place in Ekiti last week. It was a case of which party did it better than the other. Or a case of ‘cunning man died, cunning man bury am.’ To say either the PDP or the APC displayed high sense of responsibility and decorum expected in a democracy is akin to saying there is a difference between six and half a dozen. Both parties are “same of the same.” It is even sad that the security agents were part of the show of shame.

There were reported cases of security agents monitoring voters to see the party they voted for and in turn gave signal to the party agents who were a few metres away from the polling booths as to know voters that were eligible to be paid depending on the party they voted for. Interestingly, the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Mahmoud Yakub, had appealed to the police during a visit to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to help arrest vote buyers and sellers and prosecute them under the Electoral laws. Perhaps, it didn’t occur to him that the police usually participate in rigging. And a thief cannot arrest a thief. It is expected that Fayose’s camp will fight back after the result was announced.

The governor knows that the outcome of the election will either make or break him. He knows the likely consequences now that his deputy had lost. It is more about Fayose than about Olushola-Eleka. For a man that never knew he would be deputy governor, the worse that can happen to the professor is to go back to the classroom where he was picked to serve the state. But Fayose will have a lot of questions to answer except if his hands are clean. Fayemi had dropped the hint that Fayose would be probed. There’s nothing wrong in that. However, I found the post on the Twitter handle of the EFCC strange particularly because the antigraft agency had been advised to desist from media trial. The tweet, which reads:

“The parri (party) is over, the cloak of immunity torn apart and the staff broken. Ekiti Integrated Poultry Project/Biological Concepts Limited N1.3 billion fraud case file dusted off the shelves. See you soon,” shows desperation on the part of the EFCC. Although the anti-graft agency had since removed the tweet from its handle following the backlash that trailed it, there is no need tweeting such in the first place as if there is a personal war between it and Fayose. In all of these, I pity the Ekiti voters who sold their votes for a pot of porridge. The money used in buying votes was taken from somewhere. It could be from the principal actors in the election, money from the state’s account, loans from banks, friends or relatives.

If people invested their money in the election, part of which was used in buying votes, it’s natural that the first thing on their minds is to recoup their investment. If it’s loan, it has to be repaid and most likely with interest. This is the danger in vote buying and selling. You can’t have your cake and eat it. What will be the moral justification for holding elected officials accountable when the electorate actually got gratification before doing their civic responsibility? This is where one expects the National Orientation Agency to roll out jingles on radio and television that will educate the electorate on the danger of selling their votes to desperate politicians.

For those who have suddenly realised that ‘Federal might’ won the election for Fayemi, such narrative can only come from a chicken with a broken beak. The same song was rendered in 2014 when Fayose defeated Fayemi. And for those who think President Muhammadu Buhari is not a democrat because PDP lost to APC in Ekiti, how democratic was the president when his party lost in elections in some states in the last three years?

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