Deputy Editor, Sam Nwaoko, highlights some of the issues dominating the current season of protests and counter-protests in Ekiti State, as the state inches towards 2018 governorship election.
EKITI State has remained active on several fronts for over two years now. Since the state emerged from a governorship election held on June 21, 2014, in which Governor Ayodele Fayose won in all the 16 local government areas of the state, Ekiti has barely known peace. Interestingly, the election itself was generally adjudged free and fair, with many international monitoring agencies describing the entire process as a benchmark. Yet, the election has remained the issue in Ekiti up till now.
Before the election, Ekiti was charged right from the peripherals of its build up to its eve. The two major political parties in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC) both had their fair shares of crises in the processes that led to the election. For instance, the disagreements over the intention of ex-Governor Kayode Fayemi of the APC to run for a second term, and how to handle the party’s ticket for the election, created a major rift in Ekiti APC.
The chaos in Ekiti APC in 2013/2014 was mainly because a sizable number of its members felt that the exclusion of those who wished to contest the primaries for the governorship ticket with Dr Fayemi, especially a former commissioner in Lagos State, Mr. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele (MOB), was “unfair and undemocratic.” This caused a schism in the party which was in power.
MOB, who was elected to represent Ekiti Central Federal Constituency I in the House of Representatives on the ticket of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), decided not to join the APC when it was formed in 2013. In early December of 2013, he formally left the ACN, refused to join the APC and rather pitched his tent with the Labour Party. And this easily created a ‘we against them’ scenario in Ekiti APC. The APC and Labour Party thus became cat and mouse. The bigger, more established ruling APC used every means imaginable to cow the Labour Party members and these included reported mutual violence, in which lives were lost.
While the APC and Labour Party ran their rat race, the percieved behemoth PDP was in what many saw as “a total chaos.” The party in the state, and owing to its legion of governorship aspirants, was sharply divided between those among them who want their candidate to emerge through a consensus arrangement and those who want a primary election. Soon, the troubles in Ekiti PDP distilled squarely to become Ayodele Fayose versus all the other aspirants.
While all the other aspirants, who were mostly from Ekiti South district, wanted a consensus candidate chosen from among them, Fayose alone stood against them for, and got the party to conduct, a primary election to choose a candidate. After the primary election, the party literally crashed into a disarray. Many of the aspirants including Chief Abiodun Aluko and Senator Gbenga Aluko, angrily took to the media to express their anger at the turn of events and also to debase the winner of the primary by the PDP: Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose.
After the emergence of Dr Fayemi, Mr. Bamidele and Fayose as the candidates of APC, LP and PDP respectively, the job of the political parties was cut out. Each of the parties threw in everything it had in the election, including funds, advertisements and, notably, propaganda and blackmail. The blackmail was notable because it drew the loudest reactions in terms attracting sympathy or opprobrium to the contending parties. Each of the parties was in the political cesspool but, most of the propaganda, especially from the APC was directed at Fayose, the PDP’s candidate. During the period, the state was agog with numerous allegations which had earlier been levelled against Fayose in the past and which were serially regurgitated. The social and regular media were handy.
That period threw the state back to the era of a volatile Ekiti and raised the question of whether Ekiti would return to the dark days. For many, it was reminiscent of the troubled first term of Governor Ayodele Fayose, in which certain elements in the state rose against him and succeeded in brouging down his government in 2006. But the new angle to the 2014 troubles of Ekiti was that it had one of the progressives’ insiders in the fray in the person of Bamidele. Thus, many observers of the burgeoning political war knew it was not going to earn the APC good reward, considering what some analysts referred to as “old strategy in a new war.”
The entire scenario was so different from that of 2006. One of the main financiers of the ‘Fayose must go’ war then, Chief Dipo Anisulowo had become the director general of his campaign, while Prince Adedayo Adeyeye, one of the strong contenders for the PDP governorship ticket with Fayose, had also joined in his campaign. On the other hand, the MOB bloc, including some members of the Fayemi government who felt aggrieved with his style, had moved out of APC with gaping effects on the party. The PDP in the state too also lost some staunch supporters of Fayose, including the current publicity secretary of APC in the state, Chief Taiwo Olatunbosun, and the serving deputy chairman of the PDP in the state, Mr. Femi Bamisile. They all moved to the APC to galvanise support for Fayemi. Thus the cycle was seemingly complete.
Even with the movements then, some political observers cited what they saw as “the popularity of Fayose in the race” as an example and had even argued that “the election was a two-horse race, considering the enormous hardwork of Dr. Fayemi and his APC.” They held tenaciously to the belief that Bamidele’s Labour Party was only “a journeyman in the election,” because according to them, “his Labour Party has no base in the state and the goodwill he had was eroded by the emergence of a popular Fayose with a strong political party and base.”
In the end, fortune smiled on Fayose. He won in all the 16 local government areas of the state, a record of sorts in an election in Nigeria. It was more so because he defeated an incumbent governor. And interestingly, the numerous local and foreign observers of the election lauded its conduct as free and fair, with some of them contending that its conduct was a benchmark for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
However, the end of the election gave rise to new realities in the state. While the APC, as a party, was challenging the election at the tribunal, where it lost up to the Supreme Court, some concerned Ekiti indigenes under the auspices of Ekiti-Eleven, more popularly known as E-11, also went to court to challenge the eligibility of Fayose to even contest the election. The matter created a lot of tension in the state as there were arguments for and against the eligibility of Fayose as regards his contentious impeachment in 2006. Soon, the contentions shifted to “they don’t want Fayose to be sworn in as governor through court processes.” However, when the Supreme Court dispensed with the election matter, the apex court also permanently settled the impeachment controversy by declaring that it never happened. That seemingly ended the court cases against Fayose.
When he was eventually sworn in on October 16, 2014, his government started well and had what appeared to be a good rapport with the House of Assembly dominated by the APC. Suddenly, claims emerged from the government that the Assembly members were no longer cooperating with the government. That led to another round of crises which, among others consumed the speaker, Dr. Adewale Omirin.
Omirin’s controversial impeachment by some members of the house reigned along with their alleged determination to enter the chambers to sit and impeach the new Governor Fayose. The matter climbed to a crescendo when the APC defeated the PDP in the presidential election. The talk about the state was that with APC at the helm of affairs at the Federal Government, Fayose would be impeached. The state was soaked in the tension and anxiety for about seven months when the tenure of the Omirin-led Assembly eventually elapsed.
While all these were ongoing, a tape had surfaced on the internet which allegedly gave details of how the Ekiti election was allegedly rigged by soldiers and some former ministers. The APC took the matter to a military panel set up by the Federal Government to investigate the entire process. The party testified at the panel and made submissions. Not a few Nigerians have held on to the content of the tape, said to have been made by one Captain Sagir Koli as the truth about the Ekiti election while they still believe that something would soon happen to the Fayose government because of the tape.
The belief among numerous opponents of Governor Fayose in and outside the state is that the government would soon crumble. They cling to issues bordering on the various allegations against both his person and his government as their bully pulpit. However, his supporters often dismiss such contention as utopia, saying that the APC had created such a mirage “to keep its supporters hoping and believing that they still have some fight left.”
Now the people of the state are of the opinion that they “are now in the era of protests in Ekiti.” There have been protests for and against the government for sundry reasons. The APC and many people sympathetic to the party have risen against what they see as “mis-governance and corruption by the Ayò Fayose administration.” They have protested against what they said was the “the looting of Ekiti treasury by Governor Fayose while refusing to pay workers salary.” There had also been protests in which some stakeholders had called for his resignation because “the EFCC has exposed all the crimes he has committed against Ekiti people.”
On the other hand, Fayose’s supporters have also taken to the streets to highlight what they think is a plot by some influential indigenes of the state to scuttle his government. The pro-Fayose groups, including members of the state’s House of Assembly have pointedly accused a member of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government and a Lagos-based lawyer, as being the brains behind the current wave of social discontent in the state. They have held that “the ultimate aim of their protests is to cause chaos that they believe would lead to the declaration of emergency in the state.” On another scale, the Fayose camp believes that “since the APC lost election, they have tried all trick under the sun to discredit the election and grab power through the back door.”
But Olatunbosun disagreed, saying: “People should not construe the happenings in Ekiti to mean organised political rallies. Rather, they are the response of the populace to the kind of hardship that the PDP-led government in Ekiti State has brought on them. It is not premeditated; people voted in individuals they believed could bring about positive changes in their lives but it had turned out that the people have found that they have been duped, that they have been short-changed.
“There is hunger and starvation everywhere. Workers are not getting their salaries for up to seven months now. Resources that are accruing from both the internally-generated revenue and the federal allocation are being squandered and embezzled and diverted to personal use by the head of the government.”
In all, the people of Ekiti State are at the receiving end of the political bickering because they believe it takes its toll on governance and peace in the state. A university din said: “Many of us are of the opinion that the politicians tend to forget that the whole essence of their game is to move the state forward. They resort to crude means to tell their stories and the state suffers in numerous ways, but do they care?”
But the state government has insisted that it hasn’t lost focus. The PDP has also said its government will not lose focus. “Our party will ensure that all the shenanigans will remain on the realm of politics. We as a party assure the people that the state government is focussed and will remain focussed to discharge its duties to the Ekiti citizenry, including the engineers of the perennial noise in Ekiti,” publicity secretary of Ekiti PDP, Jackson Adebayo stated.
A former secretary of PDP in the state, Gboyega Akinola, said “PDP fears no foe and we are on ground and will remain on ground. That is why they want to destabilise the government of Fayose so that they can make an inroad into the state. They know that the arrow head of PDP in Ekiti State is Fayose and that is why all sorts of plots are focussed on him so as to have him removed. But he is there by the grace of God and the people. So, APC is no match to us and if they don’t take time, because their house is not in order, they will not even get the second position in 2018 in Ekiti State.”