Several arguments have been advanced to explain the loss of the gubernatorial elections in Ekiti State by the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi of All Progressives Congress. There is the argument that Fayemi was too elitist, and was unable to connect with the people in a consequential way. There is also the related argument that his government’s political communication—explaining its policies and activities to the people—left much to be desired.
This particular argument has been made even by commentators who are sympathetic to Fayemi. Besides, some argue that during his tenure the governor took on powerful sections of the society like teachers and civil servants; and his decision to rationalize the universities in the state was perceived to alienate potential supporters.
Some have even advanced the thesis that Fayemi’s undoing might be his resolve to rely less on the oars of the political machine that brought him to power, and more on the material facts of his stewardship. Finally, the obverse of the argument about elitism: that Fayemi’s opponent, Ayodele Fayose, bested him by way of the common touch. He knew what the people wanted and he wasted no time in giving it to them. Fayose himself has been quoted as confirming this sentiment. He would like to “empower these people…to make them strong to be able to feed themselves.” And so on.
These arguments are ultimately useless, I think; they are shallow in the most anecdotal way imaginable. It is true that the electorate in Ekiti made a choice it considered to be in its interest. But I think it is a bad choice, and it doesn’t matter whether or not I live there. I do not think that people of Fayose’s intellect should be in position of power in Nigeria.
The real problem, it seems to me, lies elsewhere, and it is a profoundly Nigerian problem not to see it. The problem is not the people’s choice of Fayose, but the system that makes it possible for him to stand election. This man, the governor-elect, was impeached on allegations of money-laundering, was put on trial and is, to all intents and purposes, still on trial.
What kind of system will put someone with a case to answer in a position to wield political influence of this magnitude? It says something about the People’s Democratic Party that is generally known—its extraordinary corruptiveness. More than this, it says a lot about the level of cynicism in the government of Goodluck Jonathan.
As far as Jonathan and his supporters and functionaries are concerned, what matters is the acquisition of power by any means: it seems that they are adepts at the game, and they cynically deploy all and any tools that can ensure that goal.
Does it speak well of them? Do they care? In a sense, this state of things is a reflection both of the political and intellectual cultures in the country at the present time. The point is that it didn’t start with Jonathan’s government, and it will end not a moment too soon.
Fayose was one of the governors foisted on a section of Nigeria in 2003 by the former president, Olusegun Obasanjo. Almost without an exception, these governors got into office through vote-rigging and blatant thuggery, and they ran their tenures in an atmosphere of fear and wantonness. It couldn’t have been otherwise.
Such is the level of banality in the political sphere that few people have forgotten the megalomania, the banditry, and sheer imbecility of these governors. Some of them survived into second terms (Fayose was one of the two that did not), and that because of depth of the corruption through which they got into office in the first place. The overturning of the elections of the governors of Ekiti and Osun State in 2010 showed what abjectly and unrepentantly negative force the PDP is in the country’s political culture.
There is nonetheless another side to this picture. Hard as it is to imagine, Fayemi is also a beneficiary of this political culture, and this is where my interest lies. Do politicians like him, with intellectual ability and demonstrable political decency, represent something hopeful in the country’s evolving politics? Or better still, can we say that with the kind of perplexing outcome witnessed in the governorship election in Ekiti, the country is actually evolving?
There is no doubt that the APC is cut from the same cloth as the PDP, and that given the chance, the party would reproduce some of the tactics its rival is using with success. Yet, one has to hope that politicians like Fayemi endure, that they are able to rise above the myopia of their class. I wish him well. I wish the people of Ekiti well in Fayose’s hands.
Professor Adesokan keeps a regular monthly column with Premium Times. He is at the University of Indiana where he teaches English literature.