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The Fading Power of Incumbency

By Enenim Ubon

'Politics is dynamic.' ~ Godswill Akpabio
Unfolding events in the political sphere in Nigeria are clear attestations to the dynamism of politics. Everyday we are confronted with watershed moments filled with lessons that will certainly be valuable to students of political history in the future.

Aside the electoral tsunami orchestrated by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo which swept across the south-west in 2003; it seemed almost impossible for an incumbent governor to lose elections in Nigeria,rare cases (like that of Chinwoke Mbadinuju and Mohammed Alabi Lawal) also abound,were as incumbent governors they wronged the powers at the centre and those powers were determined to remove them by hook or crook. A sitting governor was almost always assured of victory in the next election and campaigning were oftentimes seen as a mere formality.

After the announcement of governorship election results in 2011,a lot changed - due to so many factors but chief among them(to me) being political awareness/enlightenment of Nigerians. At least three incumbent governors had lost their seats,even when it seemed victory was assured - feelers from those states showed that either the governors had performed abysmally in the last four years,initiated projects that did not have any direct impact on the people or outrightly were 'sleeping on duty'. It is even said that the only achievement of one of such governors was the planting of grasses round the state capital and the showing of same on international cable stations. Well the governors were gone and the new ones settled into their new offices.

Then came the Ekiti election scheduled for 21/06/2014; with the soaring reputation of the incumbent governor Kayode Fayemi and the hype surrounding his performance(in the almost four years of his tenure) on various social media platforms, one would believe the election was only going to be a mere formality. JKF associates online made it seem like the man had so performed that Ekiti people would not only be willing to keep him in office for another four years but would also want to amend the constitution and give him a third term - if it were possible. After a select team of bloggers/writers/journalist visited the state,all we were told were tales of how the man is loved by his people for transforming a hitherto backward state and how his political opponents were no match for him.

Alas came the election day;after all was said and done,the results announced came as a shock to many people who followed the elections without any particular interest and almost all of the governors political associates. The incumbent was not only defeated, it was surprising that he couldn't win a single local government area including his. Firstly,one wonders what happened to all the folk tales told before election day. Secondly in the three years plus of Fayemi's administration whose interest was he serving,that no single local government area could stand up for him when it mattered most. Thirdly,all the projects he has embarked on,are they located in neighbouring states whose citizens were not permitted to vote in Ekiti state? In the end what the result showed is that either the man had been 'sleeping on duty' or that his people see his projects as meaningless to them; whatever the case,one thing is certain JKF had lost touch with the people at the grassroot(who are the majority that go out to vote on election day) resulting in his 'trashing' at the polls.

As the 2015 election approaches,what happened in Ekiti state should serve as a lesson to other political office holders - that when you lose touch with the electorates,the resultant effect is always devastating. This might be the beginning of the end to the incumbency factor during elections; performance therefore will become the only guarantee for electoral victory. This remains the only way the dividends of democracy will trickle down to the common man and not just the elites who have access to the resources. Every politician should readjust,the times are changing and things are not the same as before.

Ekiti people have set a precedence by WHOLLY rejecting what they believe is not good enough for them and I only hope the incoming government will bring them all the good things they yearn for. Nigerians are wiser now and surely won't settle for less than they deserve.

The writer is on twitter @enenimubon