Lessons from Ekiti Governorship Poll
Fora nation that sees Ekiti and Osun states’ elections as test cases for the success or otherwise of its 2015 election, the successful and peaceful conduct of June 21 governorship election is a signal that all will be well with the nation, despite speculations to the contrary, if we the people resolve to play the game according to the rule.
In its editorial in the June 15-21 2014 edition, titled, “Ekiti Election: Let’s Play By the Rule,” this newspaper had said, “Come next Saturday, June 21, Ekiti people will go to the poll to elect the governor that will pilot the affairs of the state in the next four years.
“The three major governorship candidates are the incumbent governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi; the candidate of the People Democratic Party and a former governor of the state, Mr. Ayodele Fayose; and the candidate of Labour Party and a Member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele.
“As far as reality and experience go, the success or otherwise of the nation will depend on how these three candidates conduct themselves and their followers on the one hand and how the security agencies and the electoral umpire, the Independent Electoral Commission, INEC, discharge their respective statutory roles on the other hand.”
This tense pre-election atmosphere and the dramatic peaceful and violence-free post-election era are a proof to this newspaper’s position that electoral violence or success is a function of the resolve of all the stakeholders to play the game according to the rule. Precedent to the June 21 election, Ekiti had become a theatre of war where blood flowed freely and acrimony, crises, mutual distrust reigned and trailed every political campaign, thus pumping apprehension into the air and prompting heavy military and security presence during last week’s election.
The success of the June 21 Ekiti governorship election, which has been adjudged free, fair and credible by all stakeholders, including election observers and opposition parties, is a credit to the Ekiti people who resolved to say never again to the electoral scourge that has been ravaging their state since 2007.
Ekiti people have redeemed their image and have spoken to the nation in a loud voice that Nigerians are capable of conducting free, fair and credible elections. The election is also a testament that 2015 is doable.
The concession of victory by the incumbent governor of Ekiti State and APC governorship candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, to his Peoples Democratic Party counterpart and governor-elect, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, is unprecedented in the nation’s political history. It is one of the rare instances when the whisper of concession and congratulation is louder than the sound of ecstasy and victory.
Less than 24 hours after the announcement of results, Governor Fayemi had put a congratulatory call through to Governor-elect Fayose, calling him “my brother”, pledging to work with him for the progress and development of Ekiti and promising to pay him a visit thereafter.
Days later, Governor-elect Fayose had, as a worthy citizen, paid Governor Fayemi a visit at the Government House, saying he was there to pay “my governor” a visit. The two statesmen promised to work together in the interest of their people.
This display of statesmanship and civility is a departure from the do-or-die politics that has dogged the nation’s political space since independence. From independence through the days of “Operation Wetie” in the Western Region to these days of ’do-or-die politics, parties and candidates have engaged in post election litigation, violence and protest during which scores of lives, millions of Naira and other resources have been lost. It is instructive that the correction of election violence was birthed in the South-West where it unfortunately began 60 years ago.
The relationship between Governor Fayemi and Governor-elect Fayose should translate to peaceful transition and continuity in governance. Ekiti people are living witnesses to the good works of Governor Fayemi and will want their governor-elect to complete all uncompleted projects while embarking on his own. The people benefit more when continuity trails government and governance.
While it is worthwhile to commend governor Fayemi, his party, the APC, and Governor-elect Fayose and his party, the PDP, for demonstrating statesmanship and patriotism, it is apposite to urge them to sustain this rare feat in the interest of Ekiti people.
In the next four years, the two statesmen and their parties should concentrate on governance. While Ekiti people crave responsible, development- and people-oriented governance from their elected governor and his party, they also desire constructive criticisms from the opposition parties in the interest of the state.
The message of responsible governance and opposition must be preached by all the candidates and their parties to their followers. The power struggles that attended the June 21 election are elements of electioneering and they are buried after the results have been announced in developed democracies. Ekiti should not be an exception.
Governor-elect Fayose emerged as the people’s choice. He must build on and spend this goodwill and not squander it. As a second timer in the Government House, he must put on the garb of experience and offer service in a way that is unprecedented in the nation.
The free, fair and credible outcome of the Ekiti election is good image for the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the security agencies. It is not only proof that they are capable of midwifing credible elections, it is also an indication that 2015 will be a plus to the nation’s political history. But we must condemn the militarization of the state all in the name of election and the clampdown on journalists from media organizations from APC controlled states.
All the agencies have to go back to the drawing board to strategize for the 2015 nationwide election, adjust where necessary, as the scope is wider, and the stake, higher. The civil society, the media and the National Orientation Agency must evolve strategies to educate, enlighten and sensitize the citizenry on the need to be politically correct in the interest of the nation, especially as some nay-saying agencies have predicted that the nation will not survive 2015.
This nation is known for its resilience. The peaceful conduct and credible nature of Ekiti election is first proof that 2015 elections will unify and not divide the nation. The nation must water this proof and make it manifest during next year’s general election.