As the countdown to the 2014 gubernatorial election in Ekiti commences, it is becoming apparent that the incumbent governor and candidate of the All Progressives Congress,(APC)Dr Kayode Fayemi is favoured by the critical success factors in the election.
The comparative turnout at the campaign rallies of the three leading contenders in the race, Hon. Opeyemi Bamidele; former governor, Ayo Fayose and Governor Fayemi and the expression of support by the critical stakeholders in the electoral politics of the state indicate that in spite of the hullabaloo of the contest, suggest that Fayemi is set for an easy ride back to the Government House. The race has actually turned out to be a clear race between Fayemi and Fayose. The expectations that Bamidele will be a major contender in the election had evaporated when it turned out that not a single prominent member of his former party, APC, -not even a councillor at the ward level- decamped with him to Labour Party, a non-major player in the politics of the state.
Perhaps the most important advantage Fayemi has over the other contenders is the peace he has brought back to the state since assumption of office, especially in comparison to the experience of the state while Fayose held sway as the governor between 2003 and 2006.Fayose had emerged against all odds as the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) against the respected Chief S.K. Babalola who was perceived as the preferred candidate of the then president, Olusegun Obasanjo. He rode on to a more surprising victory over the incumbent governor and candidate of the Alliance for Democracy, Chief Adeniyi Adebayo.
Fayose brought government to the street, demystifying officialdom as he rode on Okada across the state capital, walked in the market to buy foodstuff, stopped official governor’s convoy to buy roasted plantain and maize by the roadside to the admiration of the common man. He is also credited with improvement in road infrastructure in the state. However, due to what he recently admitted to be youthful exuberance (he became governor at 42), Fayose’s administration was characterised by too many battles ,many of them against critical and powerful power broker in the state.
Fayose, who is not oblivious of the drawback this history constitutes to his chances in the election has repeatedly announced that he is now born again. Fayemi has given the state a new lease of life in the last three and half years. Street fights, violence and brigandage are no longer signposts of Ekiti State.
Fayemi has also been able to exceed the performance of Fayose in the area of infrastructure development in the state. He has expanded road infrastructure beyond the level achieved by Fayose and former governor Olusegun Oni. Many of his programmes have also targeted critical grounds to build loyal pools of vote. This includes the Old People Social Security programme in which 25,000 indigenes who are above 65 years in age receive a stipend of N5, 000. The oldies also enjoy free medical services. This is the first of such a policy in Nigeria. He also scored a first in the passage of the women protective law against domestic violence, the economic empowerment of women and the adequate representation of women in the government. He introduced the Young Commercial Farmers programme to encourage youths into farming and embarked on the distribution of free seedlings and granting of loans to farmers. This has brought in a large population of farmers in the largely agrarian economy of the state on board his support base. The Youth empowerment programme through which 10,000 unemployed youths are engaged for two years and paid a stipend of N10, 000 each to engage in vocational training have also established a large pool of youths in support of his return to office.
Fayemi has also secured the support of the highly influential Ekiti elites through the acknowledgement of their contributions to the creation and development of Ekiti State. He introduced the annual Ekiti Honours Award through which icons of the state irrespective of party affiliations or political tendencies are granted state awards. This probably explains why while Fayemi receives daily endorsements by the icons and elders of Ekiti state.
Until lately, the major threats to Fayemi’s votes came from teachers and workers in the local government service. He, however, played a masterstroke when he approved the 27.5 percent pecuniary allowance which the teachers have been agitating for. He also won over many adversaries when he returned some workers in the local government service to work, as agitated for by the council workers union in the state.
It is against this background that any political observer of the contest in Ekiti State will not be surprised that the high expectations that predated Fayose’s entrance into the race fizzled out almost immediately he embarked on rallies across the state. It is a reminder that less than four years ago, the same Fayose had lost the election to be senator representing Ekiti Senatorial zone, a third of the state at the National Assembly.
By Feyi Agbetuyi
This article was first published in The Nigerian Tribune on May 30, 2014.
Last modified: May 30, 2014