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Ekiti and the Shifting Paradigm of South West Politics

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By Chika Onuora
“A new sociology of the Ekiti people is emerging…”, so said Kayode Fayemi, the state's outgoing governor in his major speech after losing the last governorship election in the state. He was wondering aloud how the enlightened, highly educated populace in Ekiti would reject his elitist posturing for Ayo Fayose whom the All Progressives Congress (APC) propaganda machinery has derisively labeled a tout. To him, it is a choice that needed further research.

Much as Fayemi has won hearts across Nigeria and beyond for the statesmanlike manner in which he conceded to Fayose and even offered a hand of fellowship to him, many disagree with his reading of his failure. Since he is not a bitter man, perhaps it is important for him to learn the bitter truth about the issues that led – or contributed substantially — to his abysmal outing in Ekiti.

He may have distanced himself from the common people and lost touch with their day-to-day preferences– in contradistinction with his rival who is a grassroots man –but the reasons for Fayemi's loss were more profound. Yes, the personality of Fayose contributed immensely to the triumph of the Peoples Democratic Party but one must also put in perspective, the deficiencies in Fayemi's All Progressives Congress.  

Ekiti people, like most other parts of the South West geopolitical zone, are discontented with his party and the manner in which its affairs are being conducted by one Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.   A more appropriate question therefore would be: how has such an enlightened race like the Yoruba, left its political fate to the whims of one capricious man?

Tinubu has run affairs in the APC like one would a fiefdom. In the South West political zone for instance, the former governor of Lagos state insists on playing the sole king-maker, ramming his choice candidates down everyone's throats. Well known for his habit of talking people down –supposed allies and political opponents alike — he has since extended it to other leaders of the race. But by far the most offensive act of his is the manner in which he has of recent denigrated Yoruba traditional rulers. It rankles to no end that those institutions that the society holds sacred, have not been spared from the man's insults and uncouth language.

  At one of the events to mark the 80th birthday of the Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona, he took on a whole generation of Yoruba Obas, calling them of all things, worthless. Of all the Obas in Yorubaland, only three were worth the name. It was few days after the Olubadan of Ibadanland marked his 100th birthday.   So when the OOni of Ife responded on behalf of other Yoruba Obas, it was obvious they were set for a showdown which portends defeat for his party in crucial elections, especially since other leading lights in the party failed to distance themselves from that statement.

If abusing the Obas was wrong politics, the Asiwaju's inciting statements prior to the Ekiti poll was offensive. For a man who was only a boy when Operation Wetie turned his Yoruba homeland into the Wild Wild West , the threat to re-enact the scenario in Ekiti was insensitive, to say the least. At his investiture as the Chancellor of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso and award of honourary Doctor of Science in Management Science on him, he had threatened fire and brimstone should the governorship elections in Osun and Ekiti states be rigged. From his queer political dictionary, rigging means when any other party different from the APC is returned as winner of the poll. By voting PDP, the people dared him; and by accepting defeat, Governor Fayemi taught him a lesson in civil conduct.

The APC's loss in the South West will be PDP's gain. The nation's foremost political party has in recent times resurged in the zone that was hitherto dominated by the APC. The party has been re-strategising to win back the zone: it has set up committees to reconcile aggrieved members, and others to mobilize support from the grassroots. The Mobilisation and Organisation Committee headed by Prince Buruji Kashamu is easily the most potent, mobilising in all the wards, local governments and the six states in the South-west to canvass support for the party.

The Ekiti election was significant in the sense that it was a test of their strength ahead of 2015. It was an election that would either reaffirm the dominance of the All Progressives Congress in the South West or herald the resurgence of the Peoples Democratic Party in the zone. Kashamu's boasts to deliver Ekiti as a first step to delivering the entire zone to the PDP, is therefore not an empty one with over 200,000 canvassers already mobilised for the party across the zone. After Ekiti, the party's machinery has since moved to Osun which holds its governorship poll in August. So what happened in Ekiti may not be a fluke after-all, but a paradigm shift in the voting pattern that will ultimately sweep across the South West.

In all, Fayemi has conducted himself well since his loss.   It has no precedent in Nigeria that less than forty-eight hours after such a bitterly fought contest, (even before the ink on the voters' thumbs have disappeared), the contestants would sit and discuss in the interest of the people.   For this he deserves commendation. It seems so odd that such a fine gentleman is found within the APC.

Onuora contributed this piece from Abuja.