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The Ekiti Election and Femi Fani-Kayode’s Vituperations: A Rejoinder

In civilized climes, political parties are identified based on principles and ideology, and not on whether you are from the North or the South as it is been done in Nigeria. In any country where you have such recurring decimals in its polity, it represents tell-tale signs of deep-seated hate and factionalized elitism and followership.

Very recently, precisely on June 23, 2014,  Mr Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK), a one-time Minister of Aviation during the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency published an article titled “Ekiti– some hard lessons for APC”, where he congratulated the People’s Democratic Party and its candidate, Mr Ayodele Fayose over the party’s success in the just concluded gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State. Please permit to also extend my sincere congratulations to Governor-elect-Mr Ayodele Fayose and the out-going Governor-Kayode Fayemi (PhD), both of whom have been magnanimous in victory and in defeat. Nigerian politicians certainly have a lot to learn from the latter, given his uncommon display of sportsmanship, and his concession of defeat.

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In the said article, FFK advanced some reasons as to why the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost the election. Arguing essentially that the party lost the election owing to the growing apathy of Nigerians for the party and what he called APC’s cult like modus-operandi, and also due to “their evil, covert and subterranean agenda, or wish to turn the Yoruba people, and indeed the entire south, into perpetual slaves and also because of APC’s patently and unapologetic anti-Christian agenda”. Arguing further, FFK noted that “given the history of our country and the suffering of the people of the South-west over the last 53 years since we gained independence from the British, no true Yoruba nationalist should have anything to do with them.” He further argued that some elements who he claimed are from the ‘Yoruba nation’ “are working day and night to hand over power to a die-hard, ultra-conservative, ''born to rule'', hegemonistic, brutal dictator and despot like Mohammadu Buhari, who believes that Nigeria was bequeathed to him and to his people by God and his forefathers”.

While I absolutely agree that FFK has an inalienable right to his opinion, and as such, owes no one any apology for the views expressed by him, where I however disagree, is FFK’s seeming denial of the truth and his consistent situation of Nigeria’s current dilemma within the confines of the APC leadership; particularly, his unswerving ethnic jingoism. FFK, given his self-acclaimed ascription to himself as a progressive, however failed woefully to admit that there is no genealogical difference between the APC and the PDP. He also failed to accept the fact that Nigeria’s problem is not just a Northern problem, but that of every politician who at one time or the other have had the opportunity to preside over the affairs of this entity called Nigeria, himself inclusive.

For the purpose of this article therefore, I will disagree with FFK on the following grounds. The first is on FFK’s claim that Fayemi lost the elections in Ekiti owing to the growing disdain Nigerians are beginning to have for the party, a claim which implies that Fayemi was merely a victim of APC’s rejection by the EKITIs and the Yoruba people in general. With all due respect to FFK, I think he goofed in this regard. Several arguments have been advanced has responsible for Fayemi’s loss in Ekiti, out of which I do not think ‘APC’s perceived rejection’ by the Ekiti people is a major factor. In my opinion, Fayemi (and not the APC) lost the elections primarily because he failed to understand the political sociology of the Ekiti people. Several months before the election, there were a number of policies which Fayemi’s administration took, and which supposedly had not gone down with most Ekitis’ particularly the civil servants, most notably of which was the Competency Test/Teachers Development Needs Assessment (TDNA). As a consequence of this spat, the outgoing governor refused to pay the new Teachers’ Salary Structure (TSS) until a few weeks to the election when it had become very glaring that the Ekiti teachers and civil servants had made up their minds to vote him out, with majority of them believing that Fayemi’s civil service reforms are too frontal and insulting.

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Second was the issue of Fayemi’s perceived elitist political orientation and what some observers have argued as “an alarming disconnect with the Ekiti people”, among which were Okada riders, artisans, market women, civil servants etc., with the majority perceiving the out-going governor as largely foreign in his governmental relations and socio-economic interactions. In contrast to Fayemi, Fayose is widely believed to be a ‘Man of the People’ and an enigma, who even in the face of intimidation, and his many battles with the Obasanjo presidency during his first term in office did not forget his primary constituency--the masses or if you like the average Ekiti man on the street, most of who saw it as an opportunity to identify with Fayose in his hour of need.

One voter was even quoted as saying “we support Fayose because he understands us. He is close to the common man and knows our problem,” So for this group of electorates, Fayose’s supposedly tainted past, mattered less. Next in line to this hypothesis is the perceived notion that Fayemi ran a government described in some quarters as favourably positioned to benefit “only a coterie of friends and hangers-on, with the assumption that the vote of the educated would go for him”. Fayemi, they argued “defined his opposition as thugs, but failed to appreciate that Fayose has a decent record in many parts of the state despite the over-simplified imaging of him as thuggish and unpolished”. These issues as painted above appear quite logical and understandable, and they could sell as probable reasons why Fayemi lost re-election, as against FFK’s obscure and ludicrous postulation that the PDP under whose banner Fayose ran was better than the APC. Deducing from the above explorations, it seems quite obvious that Ekiti people voted for a man (Fayose) they thought they knew and understood, and not a Fayemi they presumably perceive as ‘American’ in theory and in practice.

In the same article also, FFK claimed that Nigerians in general and the Yorubas’ in particular are fast becoming intolerant of the APC’s perceived Northern hegemonic agenda, and as such have no option than to support his party, the People’s Democratic Party. FFK however forgot to add that he was also at some point in time a card carrying member of the APC, a party he described in May 2013 on the occasion of his declaration in Ado Ekiti as an assemblage of people “his spirit had been with long ago?” And that he was dumping the PDP because he doubted “PDP’s sincerity in delivering good governance to Nigerians, given the autocracy of its decision making body and the rascality of President Goodluck Jonathan in a political feud with the Rivers state governor, Rotimi Amaechi”.

As I write, Goodluck Jonathan is still the President of Nigeria and the perceived feud between him and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers state, in my estimation has probably gone from ‘worst’ to ‘worse’. It is also imperative to add that as at the time FFK was declaring for the APC, the party, as it then was (and still is) paraded the same Muhammadu Buhari, whose personality FFK now derides. Interestingly, FFK never had any problem(s) to be a member of the APC then. The same party he now describes as Almajiri's People's Congress and a party laden with “sympathy for Boko Haram”. The question then is--was FFK oblivious of all these tendencies when he was a member of the party? And for how long will Nigerians continue to trust politicians with no clear ideology and allegiance to personal and political principles which they themselves had once professed? I will leave this answer to this poser for posterity and Nigerians to decide

As a Nigerian, what I expect from FFK in particular and Nigerian politicians in general is an exemplification of ‘politics based on principles’ and not ‘politics of hate and tribalism’. My ideal Nigerian politician is that individual who sees Nigeria has a collective project, and not an entity whose identity and composition is drawn along ethnic or religious bias. This unfortunately is lacking in the polity. What I read on the daily basis are threats of fire and brimstone if power does not return to the North in 2015, and threats of war from some apologists of President Goodluck Jonathan if he is not allowed to serve out his two terms as constitutionally recognized. Across the divide, and among Nigeria’s present political class, I am yet to see a political party with a defined road map potent enough to transform Nigeria from its present state of putrefaction to the path of sanity and posterity.

In civilized climes, political parties are identified based on principles and ideology, and not on whether you are from the North or the South as it is been done in Nigeria. In any country where you have such recurring decimals in its polity, it represents tell-tale signs of deep-seated hate and factionalized elitism and followership; two constant features of a country on the brink of collapse. I am so certain Nigerians would not care wherever their President comes from as long as he or she can provide them with adequate security for their lives and properties, portable and affordable health care, solid social and capital infrastructure, quality and reasonably priced education, functional social welfare schemes, and sustainable jobs.

Unfortunately, the ruling party (the PDP), which FFK belongs, has been in power for over Fourteen (14) years and has failed woefully to deliver these basic dividends of democracy to Nigerians. If there is anything the party has done, it has only succeeded in making the lives of Nigerians miserable, through its anti-people policies and the regrettable encouragement and warm embrace the party extends to corruption. The recent withdrawal of the corruption charges against Mohammed Abacha, notwithstanding the heavily indicting evidences against him, is a sad reminder of the odorous romance of; and the impunity with which the PDP preside over the affairs of this country. Is it not also shameful that more than 74 days after the abduction of over 200 girls in Chibok, Borno state, FFK’s self-acclaimed righteous party, the PDP, has failed to deliver on its most important constitutional responsibility; which is to protect the lives of its people as every responsible government does?

On a daily basis, Nigerians are been killed by forces of darkness, either in the form of Boko Haram or by endemic corruption, sectarian violence, alarming poverty, unemployment, epileptic power supply, etc., and FFK’s ruling party have continued to turn a blind eye to these ‘madness’. The same also goes for the opposition APC in some of the states under their control and the Federal government, both of who now appear to have joined hands with Boko Haram to make education ‘haram’ or in some instances the exclusive preserve of children of the rich, courtesy of the very criminal and capitalist school fees been charged. The cases of LASU, LAUTECH, UNIPORT, OAU etc. are quite relevant in this regard.

Let it be noted for the avoidance of doubts that I am not, and do not intend to be a card carrying member of any political party in Nigeria, neither do I intend to be in the foreseeable future, but as a Nigerian, and Political Scientist by training, I feel obliged to set the records straight when politicians in their utterances and actions continue to play politics of ethnicity and religion for the purpose of scoring cheap political points. If this country is to ever move forward, our political elites must rise beyond their obvious short-sightedness or if you like, ‘blurred vision’ by playing politics according to the rules and by also placing Nigeria’s unity and progress beyond personal considerations. This for me is the only way forward, not these highly sentimental and ethnically biased positions often advanced by politicians.

As we move towards the 2015 General elections, may the spirit which saw the Ekitis voting according to personality and principle pervade over Nigerians and guide them towards making the right choice(s) by electing responsible and principled leaders who can change the current tide of mis-governance across board in Nigeria.

Olumuyiwa Babatunde Amao is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Politics, University of Otago, New Zealand. He can be reached via [email protected]