Ayodele Fayose, the irrepressible politician who could be described as the proverbial cat with nine lives, has done it again! He has replicated a feat he pioneered in 2003 when he dethroned the incumbent, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) to emerge the governor of the state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
His tenure was however cut short as he was removed from office on October 16 2006 in a controversial circumstance. Since his removal in 2006, coupled with all the hurdles placed on his path to prevent his come-back bid by successive administrations, Fayose had told whoever cared to listen that he remained a factor in Ekiti politics. This he had proven again at the weekend.
Like in 2003, Fayose again unseated an incumbent by defeating the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, Governor Kayode Fayemi. The Governor-Elect, who humiliated the sitting governor with a landslide 203,090 to Fayemi’s 120,433 votes affirmed himself by proving that power actually belongs to the people at the grassroots. Fayose’s victory, to an average Ekiti man, is the triumph of popular will over sectional and elitists’ preferences.
Although Fayose could not be described as a saint politically, the people of Ekiti state have demonstrated their willingness to forgive him and afford him a second chance for atonement, instead of trudging on with an APC government which had obviously lost touch with the down-trodden.
The Ekiti Governor-Elect seemed to understand the psychology of his people as he had severally predicted that nothing would save Fayemi from defeat even when political watchers were cautioning him to be mindful of the power of incumbency. He once told journalists in Abuja that “Nothing would save Fayemi from defeat on June 21st. I brought him to contest the election and I was instrumental for his being the governor of Ekiti state. I am determined to send him back to where he rightly belongs. By the grace of God, we are going to send him packing out of the Government House and take over power from him. Ekiti people have rejected him.”
Undoubtedly, Fayose is a popular politician in his state but the PDP would have lost him but to its strict adherence to the principle of internal democracy. Eighteen aspirants, including the former Minister for Police Affairs, Caleb Olubolade, obtained the Expression of Interest’s Form form the PDP National headquarters. While the remaining 17 were clamouring for the emergence of a consensus candidate from among them, Fayose alone insisted on primary for the party’s flag bearer to emerge. Though the party leadership was under pressure to accede to the call for consensus, reason prevailed and a primary was conducted.
The PDP’s electoral victory at the weekend further confirmed the Governor-Elect as a politician who knows his onions and could boast of grassroot base and support at all times.
Apart from Fayose’s acceptance by the Ekiti people, Fayemi’s unpopular policies in a predominantly civil service state also helped in alienating him from the electorates and this made them to remember Fayose’s first coming with nostalgia. Common people, including the popular ‘Okada Riders’ were discountenanced just as the APC’s administration continued with its focus on the elites who do not have the capacity to deliver him at the polls. For instance, the helmet provided for the Okada Riders by the Fayose’s administration some eight years ago only got changed by the Governor-Elect during his campaigns.
The governor equally stepped on the toes of the state’s civil servants, especially the teachers, who form the bulk of the electorates and even INEC ad hoc officials. Fayemi got into trouble with them very early in his administration. First was the issue of promotion and payment of the new teachers’ salary scale, TSS. Fayemi was said to have told teachers that he would not be able to pay owing to paucity of funds in government coffers.
That was in 2011. But a month to the election, he announced his readiness to pay.
Similarly, the service reclassification exercise, though good on paper, was a political suicide. The exercise saw to demotion of some principals to vice-principals and vice-principals to classroom teachers. In fact, some of those affected could not accept the “humiliation” and as a result put in retirement notice. Primary school teachers refused to take the reclassification examination but they were also aware that should the governor come back, they would be in trouble as they would either be forced to take the test or face the sack. They mobilised massively against the governor on the eve of the election.
Another reason Fayemi lost to Fayose was because he lacked the requisite political structure to prosecute his reelection project. He rode on Fayose’s back into power. The Governor-Elect has boasted severally that he made his political structure available to Fayemi to contest and win the
election which made him the governor. But to the surprise of many, Fayemi displayed political naïveté by neglecting to build his personal structure and leaving same to his cronies who were busy building political castles around themselves.
While it is an incontrovertible fact that Fayemi recorded some achievements as Ekiti state governor, sympathisers of the governor had always worried that his lack of strong and virile political structure was a big minus for him as he sought a second term in office. Apart from party cells across the state, many believed that Fayemi needed to have a core of political loyalists, “enforcers” and foot soldiers who would always ensure that he is in touch with the ordinary people. These are people who are expected to pop up at people’s social events and meetings and liaise with them and “deliver” a message from the governor.
Fayemi did not have this set of people. Many attributed this to his refusal to conduct local government election throughout his tenure ─ a situation that brought about using caretaker chairmen the longest among whom spent only one year in office before being removed. During the election, beyond party structure, there were no strong political figures who could swing things in favour of the governor when the die was cast. Most importantly, Fayemi was undermined by the exit of his friend and political associate, Opeyemi Bamidele, who decided to run against him. This exposed the vulnerability of his government and weakened the structure that Fayemi could have mobilised for re-election.
Political analysts also contend that Fayemi may have been a casualty of the APC national politics. One of the worries in his party is the choice of a presidential candidate and his running mate. The party is being accused of pushing a Muslim-Muslim ticket, with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the running mate to whoever emerges in the north. It was permutations towards avoiding this scenario that have thrown up the possibility of a southern Christian becoming a running mate. One of the names that regularly features is Fayemi. This, according to a source, was not welcome in the corridors of
APC powers, neither did it help Fayemi’s re-election bid. The massive support he would have received from Lagos for his re-election bid diminished and vanished, although he was also said to have failed to “lubricate” the relationship in the last four years.
The larger than life posture of some of Fayemi’s aides in the running of the affairs of his government was equally fingered as one of the reasons his administration lost sympathy with the people of the state. His Chief of
Staff, Yemi Adaramodu, who played a prominent role in Fayemi’s election, became so powerful that he dictated the shots in the affairs of his government to the chagrin of the people. A source said there was a time local government caretaker chairmen were to be appointed and Adaramodu alone picked 12 out of the 16 nominees and they were all approved by the governor. He succeeded in alienating the governor from so many political interests which would have been useful for him in his quest for a second term in office.
Adaramodu, according to reports, was able to create an alternate power centre within the government which he used to dispense favour in furtherance of his own rumoured governorship ambition in 2018. His house and office were always a Mecca for those looking for one favour or the other from government. There were allegations that a hit squad was being run without Fayemi’s knowledge. The squad was accused of being behind the attack on Labour Party members in Emure-Ekiti where one Foluso Ogundare was killed. At this point, Fayemi began to cut him to size. He had been npenciled down to head the re-election campaign committee but this was not to be as he was stripped of most of his powers but the damage had already been done.
By and large, Fayose’s unsevered relationship with the people at the grassroots gave his the day as evident in his performance at the wards and local government levels. The Governor-Elect surprisingly won in all the 16 local governments of the state, including those belonging to the governor and his staunch loyalists. Fayemi neglected the grassroots, played elitists’ politics and paid dearly for it at the polls.
The outcome of Ekiti governorship election, adjudged to be free and fair by observers, has proven the maxim that power actually belongs to the people who choose to bestow sovereignty on whoever they want. The election has proven that the only antidote for failure at the polls for all incumbent is good governance and service to the people. Incumbents, especially those seeking for second term, should make the people the centre of their policies failure which they face humiliating defeat at the polls in 2015.
Fayose may not be a saint; he may be facing charges from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and others, but he has been chosen by the Ekiti people to lead them for the next four years.
Kudos should however be given to Fayemi, who on realizing the futility of challenging the outcome of the polls at the Tribunal had conceded victory and congratulated the Governor-Elect. He had said in a conciliatory statement that “If indeed this is the will of the Ekiti People, I stand in deference to your will. If the result of the elections is an expression of the voice of our people, we must all heed your voice.”