By Segun Dipe
Understanding the nature of an election is the first step to winning the election. The governorship election in Ekiti State is now underway. It is already scheduled to be held on Saturday 18 June 2022. It is of high stakes, considering the fact that it signposts what to expect in the 2023 nationwide general elections. For the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, it will be used to gauge their effectiveness in conducting a free, fair and credible election. For the various political parties, it will be used to size them up and categorise them into serious and unserious parties. For this reason, some parties and their candidates now have their egos tied to it and would want to prove a strong point to both their admirers and sponsors, so much that no sane voice can tell them to tread softly any longer.
Questions arising on an election with such high stakes include how scoundrels could be successful in the political arena. Even if it is not unusual that morally corrupt individuals would aspire to rule over others, why should voters support certain candidates at all? Would it not be a natural expectation that people should vote for the morally upright ones, backed by their performing capabilities? Do corrupt candidates have any advantage over candidates with integrity? These questions, surreal as they may appear, beg for answers again and again. And, all else equal, they will again stir the governorship election of Ekiti State come 18 June.
In the words of Kennedy, a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. Every party throwing up a candidate should expect an open screening of the character and personality of their candidate if indeed they are the best they can present. This is where the All Progressives Congress (APC) will score a high, it is well-positioned as the party to beat; it also prides itself as an unbeatable party, given the level of acceptability its candidate, Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, initialed BAO, has attained among the now discerning people of the state.
This, however, is not to say that the task ahead is an easy one. No. In most democracies the bad and dangerous men often find it easy to rise to the top of government. Those who seek political office appear to be eager to break the moral code that most people are willing to follow. The greater the power of the political office that a candidate is seeking, the more likely it is that that individual has no sense of right and wrong. And that of a governor is by no means an exception.
Also, considering the fact that merit in politics is rewarded by the possessor being raised, like a target, to a position to be fired at, other competitors and their sponsors are now seeing Oyebanji as a vulnerable target and would persistently throw dirty darts at him. Questions like “Why should he aspire for such a position from “nowhere?” “If indeed he has served two governors meritoriously, what else does he want?” Or lies like “Oh, BAO is not a politician, he is an administrator,” should therefore not be surprising at all.
Politics, after all, means different things to different people. To some, it is a business that requires return on investment. To some it is science, to some it is art, yet to some it is a game that must be dangerously played. But to the APC, the party which holds the ace in Ekiti State as of today, politics is a process of decision making and legacy building. And since it is a service to the people, the party will not allow the state in its current upwardly mobile state to be preyed upon at this point and sent back to its dark past. Neither will APC allow itself to be provoked to act unconscionably or to surrender to any of the oppositions’ negative intents. Rather, APC is the front-runner party in the coming Guber election and BAO is the candidate who ticks all the boxes of good governance.
Oyebanji is coming to ride the crest of the wave of the incumbent Gov. Fayemi. The latter has ceaselessly attracted glory and laurels to Ekiti State like sugar would attract insects. Fayemi is a leading light on how a modern state should be run. The World Bank congratulated the state as the best performer under the National Urban Water Sector Reform Project and the third best performing state under the Community and Social Development Project. The Progressive Governors’ Forum commended Ekiti State for recording the highest number of initiatives in the Forum’s Development Initiative Tracking, spreading across empowerment, job creation, healthcare, etc. The Central Bank of Nigeria rated Ekiti State high on the Ease of Doing Business Chart. The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development recognized Ekiti as the Best Performing State on domestication of Women Rights Instruments. In a report titled “Sub-national Audit Efficacy (SAE) Index 2020 and recently revealed by Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI) 12 states were given positive ratings as states with the most potent audit process in Nigeria. Ekiti ranked very high among the 12 leading lights, having scored 70 percent.
How then does the APC intend to make the Fayemi-Oyebanji succession win at the poll smooth despite all these attainments and considering the inanity surrounding the coming election? Surely not through lethargy or docility, same way it will not be through chaos or brutality. But by keeping it real and constantly gauging its preparation with some values, the party will rise above petty bickering and provocations. Most importantly, the personality, character, achievements and accomplishments of the current Omoluabi governor, Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, CON, is loud enough.
Apart from achievements in governance, which has already put the APC candidate ahead of other contestants, other factors to be relied upon by the party include its record-breaking, membership-focused system. Every serious member of APC in Ekiti state is integrity-driven and proudly so, no matter the provocation. None will trade the party for any other, knowing that no other party is as organized and accommodating as the ruling APC, both in the state and in the country at large.
While being very much aware of the opposition’s antics, APC has in place the right structure. The party ticks off members’ excesses, encourages the spirit of excellence and zeal displayed by members, meet the expectations of the people as well as latch on to the external factors like the timing of the election and playing by the electoral rules.
APC has gauged both the character and personality of Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji as both a homeboy and a seasoned administrator. It is an incontrovertible fact that both Fayemi, the predecessor and the APC candidate, Oyebanji are highly civil. The character of the two personalities is sublime and their personalities positive. No person or institution can impeach the character of either of them. To the estimation of all, their personalities are impeccable. Whatever promises Fayemi must have made that seem not materializing during his tenure, which expires this year due to unforeseen circumstances, Oyebanji will surely inherit and implement them.
The party also emphasises the need for intending voters to get handy their Permanent Voters Cards (PVC). The card is the most important item for adult domiciles of Nigeria who have reached the age of 18. The value attached to a PVC by APC in the coming election cannot be overemphasized. No matter who you are, you are only reliable to Oyebanji if you have your PVC with which you can add to his chances. Surprisingly, those persons we tend to look down upon with ignominy as the relics of the society value BAO greatly and appreciate what they can contribute to his emergence as the next governor by obtaining a PVC. Reason APC at the moment is mobilizing more for the purpose of obtaining PVCs than for mere cheerleading.
Ekiti people deserve BAO and vice versa. He is the candidate of all times. He knows the story of Ekiti from inception till present. It is an incontrovertible fact that he was the youngest founding father of the state. Though thoroughbred, he is a true homeboy who has spent a large chunk of his adult years minding the business of Ekiti. He is a committed progressive. People refer to him as an uncommon politician and they look up to him as a unique administrator. He is pro-people: a dependable ally of the civil servants, teachers, artisans, transporters, faith-based people, the socialites and even people living with disabilities. He is project-oriented and extremely disciplined in keeping his promises. Like Fayemi, he has national value, he is a long-distance runner, he is calm but firm and audacious, he is fluent in speech and he is thorough in action. What more? He is outgoing, socially confident, yet cool and calm. BAO is a mid-point between extrovert and introvert.
So, what else do the people want in their next governor? Methinks the following parameters should count most: Honesty and integrity, confidence, ability to inspire others, commitment and passion, good communication, decision-making capabilities and accountability. And if the people of Ekiti are satisfied that Oyebanji scores high in them all, then they are assured of the right captain to take over the navigation of their ship from Dr. Fayemi without deeming the crest, while the latter steps up to apply his magic wand at a higher level? BAO ni joor!
–Dipe writes from Ado Ekiti