No doubt, Ekiti State is the only homogeneous state in Nigeria. Ekiti State indigenes share the same cultural universe and ancestry. It is equally the only distinct state in Nigeria where the dialects have little or no significant variation.
Ekiti was created and carved out of the old Ondo State in 1996 by the late military head of state, General Sanni Abacha. Bordered by Ondo, Osun, Kwara and Kogi states, Ekiti has an estimated population of over three million people.
Ekiti has a long history of political violence in response to the wilful attitude of those who leverage on power and wield the coercive apparatus of the state to denigrate the sanctity of the electoral box. In other words, the people of Ekiti State have always ensured that their electoral choice is protected by their political will to defend popular choice against electoral heist. Unfortunately, those who are officially saddled with the protection of the constitution of the state and expected to defend popular choices have often demonstrated a penchant for its desecration, thereby mocking the democratic principle of one man one vote. Historically, the people of Ekiti are known to have always resisted any attempt to foist impostors on them. It is a foregone expectation, therefore, that they will surely defend their choice in the coming June 18, 2022 elections.
Since the return to civil rule in 1999, the Ekiti appear to have changed the nuance and trajectory of their political culture. Unfortunately, however, little or nothing has been done to interrogate or examine this change in political culture. We shall attempt to provide some reasons for this change in political culture.
The reasons for that shift are not far-fetched. Prior to the emergence of the Fourth Republic, the Ekiti had always demonstrated a collective and incurable affiliation with a political party of their choice. Precisely, election outcomes at that time often revealed a pathological support for a political party, which approximated and reincarnated the ideals and politics of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Back then, the Ekiti were also seen to put their lives on the line, in order to stop any attempt to obliterate their choice. There was simply no means a politician would buy their votes. They took their conscience as sacred and considered vote buying to be highly profane.
However, events since 2003 have shown that the Ekiti, by and large, presently do not have much regard for party affiliation any more. This may have arisen from a critical assessment that politicians in the Fourth Republic are generally not only insincere but also overwhelmingly opportunistic and hence Ekiti voters have concluded that it is preferable to vote, based on their assessment of individual candidates, rather than party ideologies. Yet, the most plausible explanation for this shift in the paradigm of political allegiance, in our judgment, is the failure of the elite as amplified in the crises, which often dog the process of democratisation, on one hand, and, on the other hand, the disconnect between the Ekiti masses and the echelon of the rapacious governing elites that formed successive governments since the emergence of the Fourth Republic.
Therefore, the search for good governance has always made the Ekiti to rather deemphasise and dump party support and affiliation for affinity with individuals who are perceived to be credible, honest and austere in their life style. For 23 years, the Ekiti have struggled for political accountability in the way they are governed and appear to have concluded that political parties in the Fourth Republic are nothing more than an avenue to seek power.
In appreciating how the failure of governance has engendered an asphyxiating social condition in which the Ekiti people are enmeshed, two political parties and two individuals cannot be ignored in the making of this problem.
The All Progressives Congress, which is anchored by Governor Kayode Fayemi, and the Peoples Democratic Congress, which is symbolised by former Governor Ayo Fayose, have, arguably, controlled the state for 16 years out of its 26 years of existence (and 22 years of civilian administration). Therefore, it is fair and most reasonable to focus on these two personalities in any dissection of governance in Ekiti State. In our opinion, both personalities have represented a disaster to good governance. Three reasons are immediately advanced for this conclusion: the first is demonstrated in the consequences of their leadership policies as evident in the deepening poverty and widening social inequality that have characterised the state. The second is the huge debt profile of the state in the context of the capacity of the state to settle this debt without affecting the citizens. The third is supported by the fact that they have become excessively richer than they were when they first came into government. These are the tell-tale clues that show an acute failure in governance. One is thus inclined not to believe any of them had a good history of public or private service before they came into government. If this was the case, the logical question to ask is how have they become stupendously rich in the past few years since they ascended the seat of political leadership as Ekiti State governors.
Interestingly, this must be a stonewall question for them and their lackeys, especially when the radar of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is still on one of them and, with time, we may soon know if the other will also get spotted by the lens of EFCC (especially after his loss of political immunity as a serving governor).
It is hogwash to hear stories that Fayose intends to make his son a candidate to the House of Representatives on the ticket of PDP, while former Governor Niyi Adebayo also wants to put forward his son to represent the APC in the same House of Representatives. Does this undemocratic trend not portend the likelihood that Fayemi may also be interested in putting his son (or wife) up for the House of Representatives or Senate in 2026? Ekiti State has become privatised by these actors, whose actions in government have disastrous consequences for the entrenchment of democracy, good governance and public accountability.
Ultimately, it is apparent their perception and understanding of democracy is the promotion of narrow interest and perpetuation of family hegemony. This is one of the reasons which can be adduced for the radical shift from voters’ consideration for party ideology and a strict identification with political parties towards support for individuals as political candidates. It is a statement of dissent: Ekiti State is not for sale. Fortunately, Ekiti State Government is neither a family business nor a fiefdom which patrimony must be distributed by these personalities. This is why Ekiti people look forward to the June 18, 2022 elections to pass a vote of no confidence in their politics of patrimony and say a resounding no to state capture.
Furthermore, the recent controversial primaries in both political parties have thrown up interesting conjectures. First, the bitter acrimony that resulted from the primaries of both political parties demonstrates the absence of internal democracy in the conduct of the affairs of both parties. If a political party could not conduct a credible primary for its members, what ‘moral grammar’ does their leader want to speak to convince Ekiti people that they would be an asset for the engendering of good governance? Another relevant question is what could be responsible for the absence of internal democracy in a period of transition, one may ask, especially when neither Fayemi nor Fayose would come back as governor since each has served two terms? Obviously, the reason is the desperation to govern by proxy (and by all means, too), so as to assert illegitimate and undemocratic pressure on the institution of the state and, beyond that, to leverage their primitive accumulation and the manipulation of state institutions for personal gains. Admittedly, one is at a loss to substitute these conclusions with a better one.
There is no way a cult regime that has demonstrated an abysmal failure of governance during its term can come back like the abiku to engender good governance by proxy through a kindred spirit! This is the dilemma both victors and beneficiaries of the recent heavily-contended and apparently rigged APC and PDP primaries must address, especially because these beneficiaries were once members of the inner cabinets of the two principal actors. What would both Governor Fayemi and ex-Governor Fayose have lost if they had allowed the primaries of their respective political parties to reflect popular will? The answer: they would have lost their relevance and leverage to control the state and its resources.
A political party which is devoid of internal democracy cannot transform Ekiti State in a manner that delivers our people from abject poverty, squalor and misery. Such a political party that is driven by the incurable and morbid desires of the two musketeers cannot unleash the kind of emancipatory politics that raises quality of life from asphyxiating social conditions in which our people are enmeshed. For this reason, all attempts must be resisted to further pummel the state and weaponise poverty as a subtle strategy to control Ekiti people through predatory politics. So, as can be seen, it is quotidian and naïve to expect beneficiaries of thoroughly rigged and contentious primaries to contend issues with their principals and financiers. After all, he who pays the piper dictates the tune.
Already, many Ekiti indigenes can see behind the facade and know that the pleas of these beneficiaries to chart a new structure that will birth good governance are hollow and rather unconvincing. Of course, Ekiti people can see that a concentrated power structure in the hands of this cult regime portends danger to the liberties and lives of Ekiti citizens and residents. The future of Ekiti people does not lie in their predatory politics but in an Ekiti society that is driven by honour and conscientious values.
It is clear that those who represent either the APC or the PDP in the state have reached the zenith of their capacity to govern the state. Obviously, their administrations, policy directions and governance structures have had disastrous consequences for the Ekiti people. They simply cannot give what they do not have. This is why Ekiti people must seek a credible alternative. What Ekiti State has endured in the last few years (and especially in the last eight years) is a government that has deliberately undermined democracy and encouraged plutocracy. We cannot allow a government of subterfuge to last longer than June 2022.
Herein lies the fundamental reason why we must begin to raise conversations on the permanent closure of Fayemi and Fayose to control power and state purse in Ekiti State by proxy. If they could not achieve democratic gains for the citizens of the state in 16 long years, there is nothing their proxies can do to deliver democratic gains to our people within the next few years. Such expectation would be likened to expecting continuous heavy rainfall in a desert!
In order to clean up Ekiti State and restore the glory of our people, the ultimate position which must be advanced by Ekiti people is to support the emergence of Chief Segun Oni as the next governor of Ekiti State, come June 2022. Oni is a candidate without a godfather and has shown the courage to resist the arbitrariness which characterise the politics of both APC and PDP in the state. Within three years that Oni was the governor of the state, he demonstrated altruism, prudence and high quality service in the way he managed the resources of the state. While in government as a governor, he did not demonstrate arrogance and out of government, there is no culture of opulence and unbridled wealth around him. Oni lives a decent life. It is our onus to mobilise for broad-based support for Oni so that Ekiti State can be delivered from serial misgovernance, corruption and rudderless leadership.
In the light of the foregoing, the primary concern of the Ekiti in the next election should be to vote in a direction that frees them from servitude and bondage. In other words, there must be a collective effort to mobilise against the exclusive politics of both Governor Fayemi and ex-Governor Fayose. This is the most sensible thing for any citizen of Ekiti State to do, in order to end the illiberal democracy that the duo has given us as an option. We should drive a process that will be inclusive and thus reinvent a new social order; one which will deliver the dividends of good governance and make Ekiti citizens to be proud of their heritage, once again.
Why do we think Chief Segun Oni deserves our support? The achievements of Oni for the three years during which he was in government are beyond the achievements of Fayemi and Fayose in their 16 years at the helm of affairs as governors. It is on record that Oni did not borrow a single kobo from either local or international lenders to achieve all he did for our people. He owed neither workers nor pensioners and our children in the public schools were given free books and made to pay nothing. He also ensured free breakfast to children in public schools and this gesture really helped children of the poor. Our public schools were well- funded at that time and education was made accessible. Also, our profile as a state in public examinations conducted by WAEC recorded huge successes. The achievements recorded by Oni in a few years in the areas of poverty alleviation, reduction in inequality, road construction and infrastructural development far outweigh the contributions of Fayemi and Fayose in 16 years. The support that Oni gave to Ekiti State University in the three years of his tenure far exceeds what Fayemi and Fayose have given to that same institution. Unfortunately, it is on record that staff of the institution are being owed salaries that span many months. Payment of salaries is done piecemeal and in percentages for an institution that is central to the development of the state and important for manpower development. This is an indication of the disregard that the government has for workers and also portrays the base intellectual disposition of the government.
On the other hand, the humility Oni brought into governance is unparalleled. Facts are sacred and we challenge any of Fayemi’s and Fayose’s apologists to deny these facts. Our state is bigger than the narrow interest of those who may want to distort facts for pecuniary gains. The concern of those of us in this group is to make the people the centrepiece of governance in the state. We are convinced that the options put forward by Fayemi and Fayose, in the shape and form of their political proxies, will further destroy the basis of democratic governance and pummel to illusions, the expectations of our people to have decent living and possess self worth.
In conclusion, we should see Oni as the emblem of a social movement that seeks to bring democratic gains to Ekiti State and restore honour and self dignity to the people of Ekiti. We must give our support to the process of our liberation from the forces that are desperate to hold us into servitude and bondage. Now and more than ever, we must take ownership of the movement that is built around Oni to bring inclusion and honour into the governance of Ekiti State. This is exactly why we have built the Otoge movement to stop the disaster and exclusion that Fayemi and Fayose have brought into the governance of Ekiti State. We also encourage people to support and valorise the ideals of the Otoge Movement to restore dignity to our people. We must educate ourselves and campaign vigorously for Segun Oni to anchor the dream for a new Ekiti State that guarantees human development, equality, mutual self- respect and self-worth. Our door-to door campaign for Oni must be stepped up for our tomorrow. We must be resolute to vote for Oni and protect our votes against vote riggers on the day of election. There is no power that is bigger than the collective voice of the people. Our goal should be to defeat tyranny and arbitrariness in governance. The June 18, 2022 elections must represent a turning point in our history against the forces of underdevelopment in Ekiti State. Let’s make our votes count, Ekiti kete!
Bello, Ogundahunsi and Akerele who are members of the Ekiti Network for Democratic Governance
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