Opinion: Ekiti Governorship Election: Between Gold And Sand By Segun Dipe

There is a Chinese saying that it does not matter if a cat is black or white, as long as it can catch mice, it is a good cat. This saying is already playing itself out as the June 21, 2014 governorship election in Ekiti State approaches. But as Charles De Gaulle once observed, politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.

Barely 50 days or less to go, 18 political parties have come up with names of their governorship candidates and their running mates.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has lined up the contestants in a list recently released to the whole world.

It is however prime time season for all political observers to begin to critic each of the parties and their candidates. On the surface the list of 18 looks like a presentation of possible governors and their running mates, each laying claims to having the capability of giving direction of sorts to the people, nay, followers, who crave for quality leadership. 

But beyond this facade, there is the need to also begin to sift the grain from the chaff. Deciding which candidate to be voted into office should transcend the parochial party line while the discerning majority should cast their votes based on some noticeable characteristics in the candidates. It is not enough for the now discerning people of the state to categorise the parties and their candidates only to the right or to the left but as the right or the wrong stuff for them.

On a closer look, the list raises some questions as to what values the political parties think the electorate holds so dear. Education is immediate. It is expected that the choice of a Governor and deputy by parties will be influenced by such an understanding that there is a wide range of very educated Ekiti sons and daughters from whom a candidate could be chosen by every political party and on whom ignorance could be unleashed if otherwise. Anything short of quality education should be a no-no, be it in the choice of a governor or that of the running mate.

Ekiti is not just all about academic excellence. As a land of honour and pride, honesty and integrity are two qualities that the electorate cannot overlook, notwithstanding the widely held belief that they “violate” the fundamentals of political rule.  Indeed, honesty would reveal who the candidate really is and disclose his mistakes, which would give others the opportunity to criticize or reject him openly.

Integrity on the other hand is defined as ‘the adherence to moral and ethical principles; the soundness of moral character.’  Both develop the right character and build credibility and trust, which are the foundation to evoke confidence and respect from those around. A candidate with criminal cases hovering over his head should ordinarily not aspire to govern a land of honour and pride. Political leaders who possess integrity can be trusted because they never veer from inner values, even when it might benefit them to do so. 

Compassion as another gauge is the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something to alleviate that suffering. While many see compassion as a weakness, true compassion is a characteristic that converts knowledge to wisdom.  A good political leader should use compassion to see the needs of those he or she leads and to determine the course of action that would be of greatest benefit to all those involved. Social welfare for the aged and the vulnerable in the society fall into this category and any candidate that gives priority to this has scored a high mark.

Next is Confidence. Having confidence as a political leader is an inner conviction that one would act in a right, proper, or effective way.  A good political leader needs to be both confident in himself or herself as well as in their ability to lead.  Leaders who possess this quality inspire others, drawing on a level of trust which sparks the motivation to get others on board and get the job done.

Being flexible, which is another virtue of a gold candidate, is about understanding the give-and-take aspects of politics, and the ability to find the common ground.  Good politicians listen carefully to all sides, to not only hear their arguments but to especially learn what it will take on behalf of all parties involved to reach a consensus. This characteristic allows political leaders to recognize setbacks and criticism, to learn from them and move forward.

The electorate should not also shy away from weighing the candidates on the legacy scale. In historical terms, a legacy is something that is handed down from one period of time to another period of time. A historical legacy can be counted in later times as a good thing or a bad thing. Does any of the candidates have any legacy that is worth considering? At least two, if not all, must have and they must be weighed by them, if indeed experience would count.

One may then begin to now ask what constitutes sand in a political leader aspiring to be a governor? The sand dwells in that potential leader whose character is toxic. He respects no person or institution. Such a leader should not only be ignored but rejected. A toxic leader is a person who has responsibility over a group of people or an organisation, and who abuses the leader–follower relationship by leaving the group or organisation in a worse-off condition than when he first found them. The character is innate and it will be a total tragedy to allow a leader who has displayed it once to unleash it on the followers a second time.

The basic traits of a toxic leader are generally considered to be insular, intemperate, glib, rigid, callous, inept, discriminatory, corrupt or aggressive. He boasts that he is supposedly clever, always criticize others and avoid or dislike to be asked awkward questions about his leadership style. It would be unfair to impose such a candidate on the good people of Ekiti at this point in the history of the state having experienced both the good and bad leadership and now know the difference.

Segun Dipe, Director of Publicity and Media of APC, Ekiti State writes from Ado Ekiti.

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