THE membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Campaign Council for Ekiti State governorship election signifies the intent of the party. The election is a must-win for the party. Apart from enlisting 14 serving governors, two more than all the governors on the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) platform, the list also contains eight ministers, among them Petroleum, Defence, Interior as well as Power, Works and Housing ministers. There are also many senators and other notable members of the party. The list is as intimidating as they come and the council is as formidable as could be imagined. The composition of the council is an unequivocal message to other parties, especially the PDP, that the APC’s resolve to win the election is not a matter for conjecture.
While inaugurating the committee on behalf of the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, APC Deputy National Chairman (North), Senator Lawali Shuaibu, said, “The election in Ekiti is very important for the APC. In fact, we feel the level of importance of the election is slightly below the importance of the presidential election to us. We are not going to relent in our effort to win Ekiti State.”
But the election is not any less important to the PDP whose officials have been chest-thumping. They claim that with Dr Kayode Fayemi as APC’s flag bearer, it would be another 16-0 on July 14.
According to Governor Ayodele Fayose, “We are winning the Ekiti governorship election. We have done well in the running of the state and our continuity agenda stands firm. When we defeated the APC in all the 16 local government areas of the state in 2014, they went to town with a lot of lies. Now their party is in control at the federal level, we are waiting for the excuse they will give, as they will suffer another humiliating defeat again.”
With the positions of the two leading parties in the contest, the battle for Ekiti will be fierce and vicious. It will be full of bile and bitterness. It will be fought with the brawns and the brains. It will be fought with words and war-chest. It will be fought on the streets and in palaces. It will be fought at motor parks and on campuses. It will be fought on social media platforms and on the traditional news channels. It will be fought with the ballot box and in the witness box. It is not a battle that will end quietly. It is not a battle that will lapse with the election or the inauguration of a new governor. It is a battle whose rancorous effect will linger after July 14.
The election is quite important to both the parties and the dramatis personae for two principal reasons.
At a personal level, both Fayose and Fayemi have an unfinished business. While Fayose, who defeated Fayemi in the 16 local government areas in the state in the 2014 governorship election, believes that he won fair and square, Fayemi is of the view that he was robbed of victory in that election by the PDP through the deployment of soldiers and the employment of money. Having won the ticket of his party, which is now in control of the armoury and the treasury, Fayemi is now poised to take his own pound of flesh. On the other hand, Fayose has a point to prove that his 2014 defeat of Fayemi was not a military-aided victory. So, for both of them the stage is set for an epic showdown.
This election is significant in the reckoning of political parties because it is the first election on the run to the 2019 elections. Whatever happens at this election will signify the pattern the ensuing 2019 elections may take. If the APC wins despite Fayose’s braggadocio and seeming hold on Ekiti, then the task of President Muhammadu Buhari retaining his seat as the president may not be as arduous as some people have made it appear. However, if the PDP wins the election regardless of the array of men and materials at the disposal of the ruling party, the message will have been made that President Buhari is not undefeatable. So, this election is a contest far beyond Dr Kayode Fayemi and Professor Kolapo Olusola Eleka, the PDP candidate.
But the downside of the battle is that it is not mainly about improving the lot of the people; it is about personal aggrandizement and improving the lot of those involved. In spite of what the politicians may say about wanting to serve the people, governance in Nigeria is about serving the political elite at the expense of the masses. Every one that gets into political office leaves the office better and leaves the people he is supposed to serve poorer. While there is no doubt that the administration led by Dr Fayemi between 2010 and 2014 brought some improvement to the people of Ekiti State, can the level of improvement be compared with the improvement in the lot of Dr Fayemi and those that served with him? Did they not get much better than the people did? The same thing applies to Governor Fayose. While not discountenancing the strides he has recorded as Ekiti State helmsman, is his lot not far better now than it was in 2014?
The question the leading candidates in this election should answer are; after the election will whoever emerges as the governor between Eleka and Fayemi be as committed to governance as he has been to this campaign? Will the new governor be quick to respond to developmental issues as the candidates have been responding to campaign issues? Will he take matters that affect the people as seriously as candidates are taking matters that have to do with elections? Will the new government in the state be as attentive to the people as they now are to their campaign foot soldiers?
Without commoners at its core, governance is empty. If politicians commit themselves to improving the lot of the commoners as much as they do to elections, Nigeria would be a better place for all of us.