Politics is a game for the wise and the foolish, but who eventually wins is the one with the smarts. For months now, the intrigues of parties participating in the Ekiti gubernatorial election have dominated the nation’s news cycle. It’s normal because the election is happening at a time no other election is scheduled. It’s come down to Governor Ayodele Fayose putting forward his deputy, Professor Kolapo Olusola for the position and strongly standing by him, while the APC and the federal forces have lined up behind Kayode Fayemi, a former governor, who lost all 16 Local Governments of the state to Fayose in 2014. In the intervening period, Fayose has been a torn in the flesh of the federal forces and a sort of battering ram for the PDP that lost the presidency.
Up to this point, the race has been too close to call. Fayemi has attempted to present himself as a new man. When he picked up his party’s ticket, he apologized to the Ekiti people for his mistakes in the past because he was seen as aloof and arrogant, something unforgivable in politics. Yet, in his march towards taking the ticket, he exhibited all the characteristics of a bully, all the arrogance and pomposity of someone who thinks stolen money and federal power will win it for him. He used these blatantly at the party primary and now, at the real election level, they’ve wheeled in all the instruments of violence, force and coercion into Ekiti. However, possibly unknown to them is the fact that the militarization of the state before the election is a signal that Fayemi’s party is desperate. Fayose has taken to playing the politics of the underdog punching above his weight and despite his many faults, he’s kept a tight ship and a consistent message, which is that the federal forces are presenting Fayemi as the Trojan Horse to conquer Ekiti state.
Then, Buhari and the APC bigwigs came calling. And now what have we got? The federal forces trying to humiliate a sitting governor by using force against him! He wants to do a rally and the police are saying they would have none of it. There is no law stopping the PDP from doing any rally today when the election is still Saturday, but they would not allow him. They barricaded Fayose and his supporters inside Ekiti Government House. Whether on the street or inside Government House, teargas was used. The earlier pictures on social media are showing Fayose sitting on the ground suffering effect of tear gas, surrounded by some seemingly frantic others. Some of his opponents are all guffawing at what they consider to be some amateurish drama. How is it that only Fayose amongst those standing with him and captured on camera is suffering this dramatic effect of tear gas? How is it he’s the only one being reported to have been taken to hospital?
Okay, I have made inquiries with people on the ground in Ekiti and they are all saying it really happened and that Fayose was not the only one affected by the tear gas, but that he was the one people not affected ran to when it happened and all that. Some sent me other pictures of people they said were affected and all. But in all honesty, I was not about to determine the validity of all these since they were all still shots and not videos, but now videos are circulating showing it’s worse than we thought. At any rate, whatever anyone thinks, the only unquestioned part of the whole story, even from known APC supporters I spoke to is that there was in fact teargasing. Indeed, the case of the APC supporters who claim to be on the ground is that it was not such a heavy teargasing that could have affected Fayose the way he’s making out. Amidst guffaws, one of the fellows told me Fayose was rehearsing for his post-governorship career in Nollywood.
But, they miss the point. Whether Fayose is acting up or not is not the issue. The issue is that the federal forces ostensibly put on the ground to ensure a secure, free and fair election have showed their hands and it is not a good show. There was no reason to barricade the Government House; there was no reason to be lured into a Fayose trap, if indeed it was a trap. There was no reason to dispense teargas anywhere around there or near anywhere the governor was! It’s never happened in the history of our country! Whenever high-handedness had been applied against a governor who disagrees with Abuja, they’ve used the mechanism of the law, even when totally mangled to effect their aim; it’s never come to physical force against the governor or around him. A governor is not a slave of the president or federal forces. He is the executive head of a federating unit of the federation with all powers therein. There is a reason the Constitution grants the governor immunity; he’s protected by our laws against anything like this. This should not happen to him or around him, especially when perpetrators can be proved to be persons or security officials acting at the behest of Abuja.
Now, does anyone at the federal level fighting this Ekiti election on behalf of Fayemi think this will win them any vote? Do they think any genuine Ekiti person seeing their governor and their state humiliated like this would be clapping and hailing them for a job well done? Well, except for those who’ve taken partisanship beyond common sense, I do not see many supporting them. They have just lost this election because no matter how they frame this, it is out there that the Buhari presidency is treating Ekiti like a conquered territory and as far as people still have their PVCs, they will fight back. Why, because the national political atmosphere does not favour the APC amidst the hardship and all the killings going on in the nation under their watch and with the president unable to hide his bias for the killers. Whatever anyone thinks of Fayose, majority of the Ekiti people see him as their protector against the rampaging herdsmen via his anti-open grazing law and his proactive actions against elements who want to flout it. The last thing you would expect is for people accused of being thieves to be found with the blood of the stolen meat dripping from their mouths. APC just nailed it’s own coffin. What we see here is enough to send them back to the wilderness in Ekiti. And no, it may not be because they ordered it or want it; it would be because they allowed themselves to come out on the wrong side of the optics.
Yes, optics matter in politics and they’ve just given Fayose the opportunity to not only create it, but to also define the immediate post-election narrative on his terms, while putting the APC off their game. That’s a huge unforced error, a terrible giveaway by APC! For instance, whether in support or against, this would be the talk in Ekiti before the election. Not every voter is on social media or savvy enough to look at things beyond what they are told. Most would buy the more dramatic versions and spread them far and near. What most rural voters would be hearing is that Buhari attempted to kill their governor when he sent in his goons to attack him and bomb him at Government House. They will hear that their governor escaped an assassination attempt and is now in hospital. Meanwhile, I’m hearing there are processions going to the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti palace to protest this. In the midst of this drama, the APC message will never be heard. They will not add one single vote to their tally, but the PDP might be winning the sympathy vote and some via the propagandization of this matter. In a close election, these little margins matter.
In my view, the APC has scored an own goal and the referee is waiting to blow the final whistle after this tight game where no one had seemed capable of making any headway. For Ekiti people, this is no longer about Fayemi; it’s about sending a message to Buhari and his goons that they are not a conquered people. No matter the machinations of the APC, including any attempt at rigging, this is already a lost cause. I, Kennedy Emetulu, a Nigerian, have called the election for the governorship of Ekiti State for the PDP candidate, Professor Kolapo Olusola. You heard it here first. Thank me later.
NB: There’s a caveat. There are things I know APC can do right now to turn this around or limit the damage significantly, but, unfortunately for them, I do not support the APC in this election, even though I’m not exactly a PDP supporter as well. So, no, I wont give the suggestion here for free. They should go and think and try to save their hide (I’m guessing anything they think up on their own will be tantamount to them digging themselves deeper). As things are, this election has been won and lost already.