By Kingsley Kuku
Mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion etc… – Frederick Engels (1820-1895)
Reading Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola’s commentary on the outcome of the June 21 governorship election in Ekiti State was quite exhilarating. However, for the Lagos chief executive, who has so far succeeded in giving the state a positive image of good governance, one would have expected a better appreciation of the game-changer that the Ekiti election now represents.
It is indeed regrettable that leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and their sympathizers, who all claim to be the direct ideological beneficiaries of a tradition that stresses the existential condition of a man as the basis of understanding and developing society, are those now deriding the doctrine’s influence on the Ekiti governorship poll.
At the ballot, the Ekiti electorate opted for the man whose position was that the first thing you do to a person deprived of his most basic needs – food, shelter, clothing – is not to engage him in a debate on politics or on the aesthetics of hospitals, roads, schools, industries etc. you would be constructing for him and his community. To be sure, the man would need these also. But he needs to exist (live) before he can be expected to appreciate those ‘superstructures.’
When in 1883 at Highgate cemetery in London, Frederick Engels made the remarks above at the funeral of his friend, Karl Marx, with whom he founded scientific socialism, the great forebear of welfarism (which the APC claims to embrace), the world was in the grip of an ideology that disavowed man as the centre of society’s productive activities. Capitalism was in full flight, dictating that man, the crown of God’s creation, was subjected to what he created. It taught that such other means of production, capital, machinery, land, property, money etc. were superior to man. Man and the way you treated him in the chain of the production process did not matter. Man was thus relegated, resulting in the deification of capital and what it produced. The grave final outcome of this affair was the drop of man from his central position in material production relations.
In a word, “mankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion etc…” That is the origin of today’s social welfare regime, which even arch-capitalist United States of America is subscribing to in order to give oppressive capitalism a human face.
Putting it in perspective, that is what the PDP candidate, Ayo Fayose, creatively worked on in Ekiti to emerge the governor-elect. Yet, that is what Fashola mocks as “the infrastructure of the stomach” or “stomachstructure.”
“By this,” Fashola wrote in Thisday of June 30, 2014, “they assert that although the incumbent has built schools, hospitals, markets, tourist complexes and other infrastructure that provide a system for organizing the economic development and affairs of Ekiti, to create direct and consequential jobs for construction workers, architects, quantity surveyors, school teachers, doctors, and even employees of banks that lend money to finance these projects; the party of the governor-elect would rather not do that.
“They say, by their own methods, these things do not matter in any gubernatorial tenure. Do nothing, gather money, buy rice, stop at a few local pubs to show you are ordinary (maybe without shoes) and distribute money and rice to the “grassroots” , and you are sure to get to Government House; and this is the plan for the whole of the south west and the presidency.”
Apparently, Fayose had all of this figured out. In his response to Fashola in an interview published in The Punch of Sunday, July 6, 2014, the governor-elect was flexible enough to reveal the strategy by which he emerged victorious. He said: “It is not about education. It is about native intelligence and your ability to humble yourself and live with the people. Most of the people that are local politicians, I know their names, I know their houses, I know their farms. I know what they need. I helped them. I have their phone numbers. I announced my phone numbers on the radio, they call me, I pick (their) calls. How many of the opposition politicians can put their numbers in the public domain for people to call them?
“Sometimes, it is not about money. There is no ward in Ekiti that I don’t know people by names, at least 10 people per ward. If I don’t know your name, I have an idea of who you are… Most politicians give their T-shirts free to supporters, (but) I sold mine. My T-shirt is N300 because I am like the football star. My T-shirt is not free. When others give supporters their T-shirt, they leave it and buy my own. My hand band, which has the inscription of my name, is N100. My baseball cap is N200. There is a membership of the PDP that is general, but the membership of Ayo Fayose group costs N500. I have at least over 90,000 registered members; they beg to register.”
So, why such a negative and derisive interpretation of Fayose’s victory? What have Chibok and lack of electricity got to do with the discourse? Nothing. What has Fashola’s argument that the rejection of scholar Kayode Fayemi amounts to the rejection of scholarship to do with the poll? Nothing. Why would the Lagos governor assume that the good citizens of Ekiti prefer rice to schools and hospitals and roads, conveniently forgetting that Fayemi also resorted to the distribution of his own largesse to the people to win votes?
Interestingly, while it is alleged that Fayemi offered the electorate cooked rice, which they ate, digested and forgot who gave it almost immediately, his opponent reportedly made a lasting impression with his offer of uncooked rice, with the option of cooking it the way they wanted. So, some of them could not forget even on election day!
Fashola casts the votes of the Ekiti people in his essay in quotes, to inform us that he does not accept the outcome as real and decisive. This ridicule of a sacred enterprise suggests he is only a democrat when the ballot goes his way. When his party loses, democracy goes to the dogs. But the enduring virtue of the friend of democracy is to bow to the wishes of the people. That way when it is your turn to earn the approval of the electorate at the poll, you are assured of support by the side you have defeated. If you do not have this commodity, you cannot be admitted into the club of democrats.
The point is that Fayose correctly understood the mood of the people of Ekiti at this point of their history and took his time to reach out to them, whereas Fayemi relied on the “imported ideas” of the godfathers, whose interferences were choking the people. Ekiti citizens saw Fayose as closer to their present needs than a Fayemi who looked for the future without a hold on the present. If you do not take good and adequate care of the present, you would not be able to access the future.
For Fashola and his ilk, it is befuddling and illogical human behavior for a ‘good governor’ to lose election in his ward or his local government. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Speaker Dimeji Bankole, former Osun and Ekiti Governors, Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Segun Oni respectively as well as Senator Iyiola Omisore all lost in their wards to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidates, it was logical. As one commentator queried, when should victory be seen to be in line with logical human behavior? Is it when it is pre-determined and handed to a particular party because of its media grandstanding?
So, what makes Fayose and the Ekiti case different? Fashola and the APC apologists need not be told that it is time to smell the coffee and come down from their high horses. The rejection of his party, which actually began in neighbouring Ondo State, has now spread to Ekiti. The political tsunami has just started. The indicators are everywhere in the South West.
Another lesson they need to take out from the Ekiti experience is the large heartedness and the capacity of the traditional institution and elite in the state to forgive. Having been accused of arrogance towards traditional rulers and the elite in the state, it was assumed that they would nail Fayose at the poll. But alas, they accepted his act of contrition after he sincerely apologized and promised to turn a new leaf. Of course, because the traditional institution in the state was mature, they not only forgave him, they also gave Fayose another opportunity.
There is a correlation in this with the allegation against the APC leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who was recently accused of insulting Yoruba traditional rulers. While Fayose apologized, the same cannot be said of the former Lagos governor. Rather than show contrition, it was the APC that offered a half-hearted apology on his behalf.
The response of the APC to the election even raises more questions, one of which is its resolve to go to court when its candidate, Governor Fayemi, had accepted defeat. So, what is the APC’s grouse?
It is rather curious that despite admitting not questioning the credibility of the poll, the party has decided to challenge what it considers to be “too much security” during the election. Before now, opposition parties had accused the security agencies of not doing enough during elections in the country. Now that they have upped their game, the APC has started crying wolf and has vowed to ensure the Ekiti security experience was not repeated in next month’s Osun governorship poll. What kind of logic is this?
On this score, the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, has been prancing about and threatening fire and brimstone if the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) re-enacted the Ekiti security scenario in Osun. He needed to be reminded that if the intimidation antics failed in Ekiti, it would also fail in Osun. Just like him, the PDP candidate, Iyiola Omisore, is also on ground and had been in the state even when Aregbesola was still in Lagos as Tinubu’s acolyte and lord of Alimosho.
If anything, the security arrangement for the Ekiti election ensured that the culture of intimidation of voters and the use of party thugs was largely checked. This equally ensured that the votes of the electorate counted. So why would one party kick against such arrangement if it had nothing to hide?
Once again, the President Goodluck Jonathan administration has proved with the Ekiti poll that free, fair and credible election was possible in Nigeria. Methinks this must be the irreducible demand for the Osun and all subsequent elections in the country. We must not allow anybody take us back to Egypt.
Kingsley Kuku is Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Chairman, Presidential Amnesty Programme