Toba Suleiman, in Ado-Ekiti, examines the prospects for peace and prosperity in Ekiti State in the looming second governorship tenure of Mr. Ayo Fayose, under whose watch, during his first tenure in 2003, the state had been buffeted by thuggery and sundry bloody incidents
The candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, Mr. Ayo Fayose, is set to begin his second governorship term after winning penultimate Saturday’s election in Ekiti State. He defeated the candidate of All Progressives Congress and incumbent governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi.
Fayose swept to victory on a note of populism, much the same way he had come to power in 2003 as a green horn in the race and with little attention paid to him. He had come into the race about a year to the 2003 election during the administration of Otunba Niyi Adebayo of the Alliance for Democracy.
While the ruling party at the time saw him as posing no threat to its re-election, Fayose’s party, PDP also did not appear to see him as a credible candidate that could effectively challenge the incumbent.
But at the end of the day, Fayose defeated the incumbent.
Unfortunately, as a young man in his forties then, probably consumed with youthful exuberance, Fayose’s tenure faced serious challenges. Though, at home with the youth and popular at the grassroots, many among the political and traditional elite were not favourably disposed to his style of governance.
Fayose fought serious battles on several fronts throughout the three and a half years that his government lasted before it eventually collapsed. From a certificate scandal, which lasted almost a year in court, to his brushes with royal fathers, who accused him of lack of respect for the traditional institution, to his encounters with the political elite, who were virtually alienated by his government, it was a regime of daunting travails for Fayose.
The situation continued until his controversial impeachment on October 16, 2006, and subsequent escape to an unknown destination, believed to be outside the country.
Many, however, believed Fayose performed better than his predecessor.
Fayose leveraged his time in power to build a strong political structure, which subsists till date, and he was credited with putting in place a lot of infrastructure aimed at transforming the largely rural state. Virtually all the dual-carriage roads within Ado-Ekiti metropolis and the ones linking major cities of the state together were constructed by his government.
Exile and Return
Fayose was in self-exile until December 2007, when he came to town with a bang during the government of then Governor Segun Oni, who governed on the platform of PDP.
Oni’s emergence as governor was controversial, as many people in the state and within his party were not happy with the way he emerged. He was alleged to have emerged PDP candidate from a third position at the primaries. And outside his party, many Ekiti people did not believe he actually won the 2007 governorship election, which he had contested with current governor, Fayemi.
Due to the political enmity between Fayose and Oni, which dated back to government of latter, Fayose did not support Oni at the court-ordered 2009 re-run governorship poll. He, instead, teamed up with Fayemi, who was eventually declared winner by the Court of Appeal, Ilorin, on October 15, 2010.
However, despite his role in the emergence of the APC (then Action Congress of Nigeria) government, Fayose’s attempt to contest the 2011 senatorial election under the Labour Party against the incumbent senator for Ekiti Central, Babafemi Ojudu, suffered a setback, as he lost to Ojudu.
Realising that he could not achieve his goal in LP, which he had built in the state from scratch, he went back to his former party, PDP, like the Biblical prodigal son, who returned to his father to plead for forgiveness. But while Fayose was pardoned and given a waiver by the PDP national leadership, he met a stiff resistance at home, where the party refused to accommodate him.
However, Fayose was able to fight his way through. He was alleged to have installed the core of the present PDP executive in the state during the 2012 congress of the party. That was the second time he would be installing the state PDP executive. Upon his election as governor in 2003, he had sacked the then executive members and installed his own nominees.
Build-up to 2014
Fayose met another stiff opposition from his party during the build-up to the 2014 governorship election. His emergence as the governorship candidate of PDP on March 22 caused a commotion, as no fewer than 21 aspirants, who had kicked against his candidature, boycotted the primaries. They made it clear that he was not worthy to be the PDP candidate. But the PDP national leadership insisted on him.
His emergence as PDP candidate and the subsequent lifting of the ban on political campaigns by the Independent National Electoral Commission on March 24 set the ball rolling for the hot race to the New Government House, Oke-Ayoba, in Ado-Ekiti, built among other legacy projects still under construction by the Fayemi government.
The three months intensive campaigning by the three major parties, APC, PDP and LP, which had Hon Opeyemi Bamidele as its candidate, was quite remarkable. It was a moment of high level of political activities, horse trading and politicking, with the parties traversing the 16 local government areas of the state to canvass for votes. The campaign also took the candidates round the 132 communities in the state.
This year’s campaign was unique in the sense that the candidates and their wives were in it together. The women went to the remote places, where sometimes their husbands could not reach. This was the situation until penultimate Saturday, when the election was held.
The big surprise was the defeat suffered by the incumbent government, and the circumstances that led to the outcome of the election.
At the end of the day, the election, which went on smoothly and peacefully, and it has been widely applauded as one of the best conducted by INEC so far.
Fayose has broken the second term jinx. While his success has been attributed to his popularity, political sagacity, and grassroots appeal, many also believe the incumbent government had failed to get its priorities right.
Most surprising about the result of the governorship election, perhaps, was the fact that virtually all the aides, political appointees and other members of Fayemi’s cabinet, failed to win their units, let alone wards or council areas, for APC.
It was learnt that the deputy governor, Professor Modupe Adelabu, lost her unit, Ado-Ekiti; Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Ganiyu Owolabi, lost in Ilupeju; the Chief of Staff, Yemi Adaramodu, lost in Ilawe-Ekiti. Oni, who recently defected to APC from PDP, and Adebayo all lost in their units.
The story was the same for virtually all the National Assembly members, state assembly members, commissioners, chairmen of local governments and others.
According to a school of thought, what happened last but one Saturday ago was nothing but a revolution by the masses against an unpopular government, aided by political appointees, who not only distanced themselves from the people, but failed to accord them the respect they deserved.
The election has come and gone, but many observers are worried whether Fayose has learnt from the mistakes of the past, when the state under him was almost ruined by violence and high level banditry. The state has enjoyed peace and security in the last four years of Fayemi’s administration and there is apprehension in many quarters about Fayose’s capacity to maintain the peace. The acclaimed peaceful atmosphere of his election has done little to douse this fear, even though he had promised during his campaign that he was now “a brand new Fayose.”
Pundits, however, believe the best thing Fayose would do to his political career during his second governorship term is to make it a corrective period for all the wrongs and mistakes he had been criticised for in the past.