By Ken Eluma Asogwa
The just concluded governorship election in Ekiti may have come and gone but the undercurrents therein will continue to reverberate around the political circles for a long time. A number of pundits have tried to postulate on why the incumbent governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, failed the election. Having taken an in-depth look at Ekiti, and having closely monitored the election and the chances, or otherwise, of all the dramatis personae involved, I would try to hazard three reasons that led to the defeat of Dr. John Kayode Fayemi in the election.
One, it has been a widely held view that Fayemi is too elitist to govern a rustic Nigerian state like Ekiti. Even though Ekiti, more than any other state in Nigeria, parades the highest number of university professors, it should not be lost on us that in as much as hunger still pervades the land such elitist world view would hardly sell. Peter Ayodele Fayose whose populist posturing ruptured Fayemi’s chances understood this, and used it effectively to his advantage. Fayemi lost the connection with the people, if truth be told. Even though he may have had some long term visions for Ekiti people, he failed to understand that a hungry man is not known to have any iota of patience.
Two, Fayemi’s decision to re-grade teachers/civil servants was another of his undoing as the civil servants massively mobilised against him.
Three, what I consider as the most potent reason Fayemi lost was the PDP’s avowed resolve to jettison zoning in their quest for a suitable flag bearer. They did not allow primordial sentiments to becloud or dictate their choice of candidate. In analyzing this, I would want to give a little background to the power structure in Ekiti since 1999.
Otunba Niyi Adebayo of the then Alliance For Democracy (AD), from Ekiti Central Senatorial District, governed Ekiti till 2003 and lost his re-election bid to Peter Ayodele Fayose. Fayose, also from Ekiti Central, succeeded him and ruled till 2006 when he had some issues with then President Olusegun Obasanjo. After Fayose came Former Governor Segun Oni from Ekiti North. Oni held sway until 2010 when he lost his seat through a Court of Appeal verdict that returned the incumbent Dr. John Kayode Fayemi as the duly elected candidate. It is instructive to note that Fayemi is from the same Ekiti North as his predecessor.
What is deducible from the above, therefore, is that Ekiti South is the only Senatorial Zone yet to produce a governor since the return of democracy in 1999. In the build-up to the 2014 PDP Gubernatorial primaries in Ekiti, a number of candidates signified their interests to clinch the state’s number one position on the platform of PDP. From Ekiti North came names like Sen. Ayo Arise, Hon. Wale Aribisala and Dr. Obafemi Peter. The Central had names like Peter Ayodele Fayose, Bodunde Adeyanju and former Police Affairs Minister, Navy Capt. Caleb Olubolade (Rtd). Ekiti South had some zoning protagonists like the former deputy governor of the state, Chief Abiodun Aluko, former Wema Bank Managing Director, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, former speaker of the state House of Assembly, Mr. Bisi Omoyeni, Hon Femi Bamisile and Amb. Dare Bejide, former Nigeria’s Ambassador to Canada. Prior to the intervention of the PDP Headquarters, the sentiment amongst some party top notches from Ekiti South was for the candidate to emanate from their Zone, in the spirit of treating the gander the way the goose was treated. Abuja reasoned that defeating incumbent Gov. Kayode Fayemi was a hard nut that could not be left in the hands of any political minion.
Having taken a look at all the persons that lined up for the ticket from the South, the Party was of the view that none had such grassroots base as Fayose who is from the Central. Bearing in mind the growing influence of the APC in the South west, the Party reasoned that sticking to zoning, rather than merit could cost them the seat. As a result, the President was politically deft in ensuring that Peter Ayodele Fayose emerged as the PDP’s flag bearer in the just concluded election. And, that to me, was a political masterstroke that eventually paid off. It is noteworthy that PDP moved swiftly to unite and pacify all the aggrieved party men as soon as Fayose emerged winner of the Party primary. This was done to forestall any form of sabotage arising from the aftermath of the Party Primary.
It is pertinent to note that part of the reasons PDP lost some states in the South West in the 2011 elections was because of its internal wrangling in most of the states. This was evident in Ogun and Oyo states. It was equally palpable in the last Anambra elections. As a friend would put it, PDP seems to be the problem of PDP. Throwing their weights behind Fayose, it was only natural that he was going to win given his popularity amongst the voting population in the State.
Having highlighted the above, it is very crucial at this point to bring to fore the Imo scenario. PDP should, as a matter of urgency, move to address the growing animosity amongst party men in Imo State. A critical look at the two scenarios will reveal the inherent nexus between Ekiti and Imo. The analogy cannot be overlooked given that the two states share a number of similarities in their power balancing and equation.
Imo, just like any other state in Nigeria, has three Senatorial Districts fashioned along cultural zones. The zones are Orlu, Okigwe and Owerri Zones. Since 1999 Owerri Zone is yet to produce a governor. Former Gov. Achike Udenwa from Orlu Zone ruled from 1999-2007. Thereafter, Chief Ikedi Ohakim from Okigwe Zone came on board and served for a single tenure and vacated the stage in 2011, after failing in his re-election bid. The incumbent Gov. Rochas Okorocha, also from Orlu Zone, came on board in 2011. Chief Okorocha came on the platform of APGA but has since jumped ship to APC where he hopes to seek re-election in 2015. Imo situation is, therefore, very similar to that of Ekiti in many respects:
In Imo, there is a growing sentiment amongst the people of Owerri Zone for the next governor to come from their zone. Amongst the zoning agitators here are Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, Chief Ifeanyi Ararume and Sen Chris Anyanwu. Ekiti scenario is playing out here in the sense that the three leading contenders from the Zone have one form of baggage or the other. For Chief Ihedioha, PDP is yet to forgive him for the events leading to his emergence as the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. His past standoffs with the Presidency are well profiled and are waiting for the day of reckoning. For Chief Ararume, his altercations with the Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in the build-up to the 2007 elections have not helped matters for him. He may not be all that were ascribed to his person, but the Former President portrayed him as a brutal fellow who had some questionable history. Chief Ararume could not have been any of that but he is yet to extricate himself from such allegations. For Sen. Chris Anyanwu, her being a woman is a great limitation for her in our male-dominated society.
Just like Ekiti, most of the gladiators in Imo who want to unseat the current governor are in the PDP. Imo is PDP state, no doubt, but defeating the governor will largely depend on who emerges as their flag bearer.
Both states have produced plethora of intellectuals. While Ekiti unarguably parades the highest number of Professors in Nigeria, Imo arguably has the largest number of professors in the South East.
Imo, just like Ekiti, has a governor who has lost touch with the people. While this piece is not about Chief Okorocha’s personae, one cannot pretend to be oblivious of the maladministration going on in Imo State. A man who trivialises governance issues and makes comics of serious issues of state policies should not be allowed to stay one day longer than May 29, 2015.
Having crucially drawn the analogy, it is trite to state here that PDP could be PDP’s problem if Abuja does not wade in to give Imo the Ekiti treatment. To do this, the Party has to be vehement in doing away with zoning if it wishes to reclaim Imo from the clutches of the APC. This is vital, given the fact that most of the heavy weights who could wrest power from Gov. Okorocha are from the same Orlu Zone as him. Apart from Okorocha, the Zone boasts of such political heavyweights like Sen. Hope Uzodimma, Chief Achike Udenwa, Sen. Osita Izunaso, Chief Tony Ezenna, Sen. Francis Arthur Nzeribe. While Chief Achike Udenwa is constitutionally barred from seeking the position of governor, having served for two tenures, Sen. Osita Izunaso is now in the opposition APC. Chief Nzeribe on the other hand has the issue of age militating against him. Okigwe Zone boasts of the likes of Chief Ikedi Ohakim. Former Gov. Ohakim’s candidature may also hit the brick wall given that his first outing was abysmally poor.
In the light of the above, Sen. Hope Uzodimma, though undecided on his governorship project, remains the best bet for the PDP. This, in my judgment, can only be achieved through a wise and timely intervention from Abuja. Confronting an incumbent as Gov. Okorocha requires the political sagacity of a Hope Uzodimma. Anything short of this will be grandstanding and tantamount to handing the seat over to Chief Okorocha on a platter. Sen. Uzodimma is a tsunami that is far higher than Fayose’s. He has been around, and has overtime built and maintained well oiled and coordinated grassroots political machinery. The NWC of the party should insist on bringing on board a candidate who has the capacity, the charm and the charisma to unite all the camps. Anything short of a man with such stature will tear the party into shreds. If not well managed, the selfish and individual ambitions of some party men who do not have the clout to defeat an incumbent may grossly and adversely affect the Party’s chances at the polls.
What an average Imo citizen needs today is a governor who will assuage their pains, place food on their table and serve them the basic necessities of life. Zoning is an elitist concoction which is alien to the needs of our people. Our people across board are interested in who can deliver the goods and not where the courier of the goods is from.
Finally, while this intervention is not about image laundering, one cannot resist the temptation of calling a spade a spade in this matter. Once PDP gets it right, internally, Chief Rochas Okorocha will be history in Imo. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine.
Mr. Asogwa, a lawyer, is a public affairs analyst.
SOURCE: The Source Magazine