Sola Akinyede: Ekiti – The myths and biases of ‘stomach infrastructure’

With regard to our selling our destiny for bags of rice, and the talk of “stomach infrastructure”, what I perceive is sheer hypocrisy, anger and ignorance. During the last campaign as with previous campaigns, I saw bags of rice with the APC logo and picture of Fayemi in numerous vehicles criss-crossing the state.

The victory of the PDP in Ekiti came as a surprise to many and countless APC sympathisers are simply shell-shocked. But this is simply because they are not on ground and have little or no connection with the people or the reality on ground in Ekiti. As an Ekiti man and politician, the signals of the victory were glaring and overwhelming. The only surprise was the magnitude of the victory. When one of my aides told me that the PDP will score 80% of the votes cast in the state capital where he resides, I thought he was being overly optimistic. But the PDP scored 70.62% of the valid votes cast in Ado-Ekiti.

The surprise about the PDP victory emanates from the lack of knowledge of the historical trajectory of Ekiti politics and culture. The Ekitis have always been fiercely independent as exemplified during the Kiriji War (1879-1886) in which the Ekitis in trying to extricate themselves from the hegemony and subjugation by the Ibadans, fiercely and successfully defended themselves from the rampaging onslaught of the Ibadan army and overlords. During the First Republic many Ekiti politicians were in the NCNC led by Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe GCFR when the majority of the Yoruba were in the AG led by the Chief Obafemi Awolowo GCFR. During that same period, Chief G.B.A. Akinyede CON, my late father, was elected into the House of Representatives as an independent candidate while Chief Awolowo was still the leader of the AG in the western region. In 1999, of the 18 Senate seats in the South-West, the AD won 17. The only senatorial seat that was won by the PDP was Ekiti South. The PDP won in Ekiti in 2003 and 2007. The victory in the 2007 gubernatorial election was taken away by the Election Tribunal in 2010. From this historical trajectory, it is clear that more often than not, the Ekitis have not been part of mainstream Yoruba conservative politics which today is represented by the ACN wing of the APC, which prefers to label itself as progressives.

As the PDP candidate in the 2011 Ekiti South senatorial election, I know that but for the use of cutlasses, guns and thugs; ballot-box snatching, burning and tearing ballot papers cast for the PDP, I won the election. Ayo Fayose also contested the Ekiti Central senatorial seat on the platform of the Labour Party. We know why and how we “lost”. All that simply happened in 2014 was that with our knowledge of what happened in 2011, security agents were deployed and the rigging machinery of the APC was completely paralysed. That the APC has a monolithic control of the South-West is a myth. This is exemplified by the last Ondo State gubernatorial election in which the APC or ACN as it then was came third after the PDP.
However, for many commentators who are shocked and many APC sympathisers who are angry about the way we voted in Ekiti, the level of ignorance and/or bias amazes me. Let me start with those who criticised the heavy deployment of security agents in the state among whom were activists, the chairman of the Ekiti State Councils of Traditional Rulers and the Catholic Archbishop of Ekiti Diocese who stated that Ekiti was not at war.

However, for the villagers voting in remote farm settlements, whose only protection at the polling station is a policeman with nothing but a baton, the standard practice of continuously firing guns throughout the night on the eve of the election by local and imported thugs, the day of the election is not much different from war as these thugs reign supreme snatching ballot boxes and thumbprinting ballot papers. In the UK, where polling takes place on a normal working day, you do not see a policeman at a polling station.

I therefore find it difficult to believe that those criticising the deployment of security agents did not understand the fact that with our level of development, this was a necessity. To do otherwise, would have led to total chaos and anarchy. INEC stated that there was only one reported case of ballot box-snatching. The international observers have declared that the Ekiti election was the freest and fairest in recent times.

The second issue relates to the reactions that have trailed the way we voted in Ekiti. I have heard statements such as “PDP won because of ‘stomach infrastructure’.” “His destiny is worth a (small) bag of rice.” I believe this was my friend Nasir El-Rufai tweeting. In the Punch, (of June 25, 2014) a newspaper notoriously sympathetic to the APC, Uche Igwe wrote: “By choosing a man whose educational standards are subject of public debates over an erudite academic, it means that such things as quality do not matter much to an ordinary man in Ekiti and that the assumption that the Ekiti people are highly educated may be a myth.” What arrant nonsense! Perhaps our Constitution should be amended to provide that only professors emeritus should be allowed to contest for public office .First of all Fayose’s educational standard is not subject to any public debate. We all know those whose educational standards have been subject to public debates. Fayose will be the first to tell you that he has an HND but that he possesses what many PhD holders do not posses –a superlative and multi- dimensional intellect. You cannot but agree with him when you meet him. He brings his razor sharp mind to bear by lightning-quick identification of problems and proffering solutions which are usually spot on.

With regard to our selling our destiny for bags of rice, and the talk of “stomach infrastructure”, what I perceive is sheer hypocrisy, anger and ignorance. During the last campaign as with previous campaigns, I saw bags of rice with the APC logo and picture of Fayemi in numerous vehicles criss-crossing the state. In addition, less than a week to the elections, Fayemi donated 100 motorcycles to the Okada Association in Ekiti (Tribune of June 16, 2014) and gave a 50 million naira “loan” to cooperative societies in the state. In my federal constituency, about one week to the election, the APC member of the House of Representatives gave out cars, motorcycles, tricycles (Keke-NAPEPs), hair-dryers, grinding machines to mention a few. Why then is the Ekiti man who voted for PDP being castigated because he was given a bag of rice when the APC did the same and even more? All over the world, voters routinely vote out their leaders in reaction to paternalistic but unsavoury policies and measures .Sarkozy lost to Hollande in France and Papandreou was forced to resign in Greece in reaction to austerity measures put in place in those countries. Voters also vote out leaders who are out of touch. As an example, I know that Governor Fayemi did not just get it when he invited bloggers to a three-day retreat at Ikogosi-Ekiti at government expense to “interface with the blogosphere and vice-versa.” How does such a retreat impact on the welfare of the average Ekiti man? Perhaps, this was what Senator Ojudu described as leaders being miles ahead of their people but which in reality is simply being out of touch.

To many people in Ekiti, the issues were clear contrary to what these commentators and APC sympathisers may want people to believe. One – the overbearing effect of “Lagos” and the outsourcing of contracts to “Lagos boys” to the detriment of the Ekiti people. Two- Economic issues e.g. phenomenal increases in student fees and drastic reduction of salaries of civil servants. Three – the broader Ekiti geo-economic political philosophy which is that with our meagre resources and the paucity of infrastructure, Ekiti has no business being in opposition to the federal government. This is particularly so in view of the nature of our federal set-up where we have a strong centre as against for example the Canadian form of federalism where the federating units are stronger than the centre This philosophy which many of us have long subscribed to was enunciated by Chief Afe Babalola SAN in his letter to the governor-elect Ayo Fayose dated 24th June 2014. Perhaps, our critics will also accuse the erudite billionaire legal and social icon as an uneducated and uninformed victim of “stomach infrastructure”.
With regard to the theorist expounding the still unexplained “photochromic” theory, which apparently suggests the magical disappearance of APC thumbprints from ballot papers as an explanation for the APC loss, Nigerians are looking forward to a proof.

A few days to the election two lives were lost (may their souls rest in peace) and houses of PDP stalwarts were burnt in Isinbode –Ekiti. I would therefore like to end by commending the following for ensuring that the ‘roasting’ instruction from “Lagos” was not carried out. One- the security agencies for tightly policing Ekiti and ensuring that there was no rigging and therefore no roasting .The international observers have stated that this was one of the freest and fairest elections in recent times. Two-INEC for conducting a smooth and orderly election. Three -Governor Kayode Fayemi for being magnanimous and following the statesman-like footsteps of Hon Demeji Bankole former Speaker of the House of Representatives and Professor Chukwuma Soludo both of whom conceded defeat and congratulated their opponents when they lost their elections. By so doing, Governor Fayemi has calmed the frayed nerves of those who might have been inclined to “roast”. I wish the governor well.

Source: Thisday Newspapers

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