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“Those who vote determine nothing. Those who count (record, and announce) the votes determine everything” – Joseph Stalin, Soviet Union’s maximum dictator.
Many have described the Saturday, July 14th governorship election as the war of proxies. Some have also said it was a case of when two elephants fight. Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, whom INEC has declared winner of the contest, was the candidate of the Presidency and the ruling party, APC while Prof. Kolapo Olubunmi Olusola Eleka, who is contesting the INEC declaration, was the candidate of the sitting governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Peter Ayo Fayose, and the PDP. The Presidency and APC rolled out its awesome arsenal – security forces, INEC, financial muscle, etc but PDP was lacklustre, having failed to walk the talk like the Presidency and APC did. The PDP leadership was abject. While Fayose tried the best he could, he was a baby elephant compared to the elephantine Federal power. Fayose and PDP’s major undoing in that election was that they did not have a counter-force to challenge the military might of the APC/Presidency. After the close to 50,000-strong security forces deployed for the election were used to lock down Fayose/PDP, the same forces said to have been deployed to provide security looked away while APC thugs brought from Kogi and Ondo states unleashed terror, arresting PDP leaders and agents, driving away voters, snatching and stuffing ballot boxes and preventing party agents from doing their jobs. As truly observed and stated by election observers, due process was not observed in the Ekiti election. INEC especially did not walk the talk – and many will vow, deliberately. Security and INEC officials aided APC’s “see and buy” tactics on Election Day. They either looked away or actively aided it by ensuring voters complied, directing them to payment point after voting to receive N5000 from the “cashier”.
PDP leaders were derelict over the Ekiti election. None of them was on ground on Election Day whereas APC had many of its governors and party leaders at hand and their security aides were of immense assistance to APC’s cause. This is apart from the moral, tactical and financial support they also offered. PDP and other political parties should learn useful lessons from the Ekiti election. Three determinants of that election were the security forces, which include thugs and rough-necks or enforcers, as they are called; finance; and INEC. The task of security is to hold the hands of your opponents while giving you and your thugs free rein to disrupt election in your opponents’ strongholds, snatch ballot boxes for your party members to stuff in secret locations, and snuff out post-election mass protests. Next is finance. If you don’t have enough financial muscle, please do not bother at all to venture into elections in Nigeria. There is no need to draft manifestoes, print posters or campaign; it is all a precious waste of time and resources. You can very well save yourself the hassles and lay ambush for voters on Election Day. Last but not the least is INEC: If you allow them sweet-talk you with so-called cloud and dust technology, you are done for! Have them in your pocket and you are home and dry. This prognosis may sound alarmist or appear dreary – but that is the fact.
In defence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
Many could not fathom the role played by Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the Ekiti election. Recall that Asiwaju made Fayemi governor of Ekiti in 2010. Recall, also, that the same Fayemi, together with other godsons of Tinubu, later reportedly turned against Tinubu when they joined Buhari’s camp. Tinubu had been the master strategist who cobbled the APC mega party together but when he thought it was time to sit down and enjoy the fruits of his labour, he was rudely shoved aside. His former protégés were said to have been the ones who revealed to detractors the “secrets’ of how to neutralise the Jargaban Borgu. Remember that Buhari then openly contested Tinubu’s title of APC National Leader. Pronto, Tinubu was reduced to “a national leader” or “one of the national leaders” of APC. He became the butt of cruel jokes and a play thing for Presidency cabals. His former boys also did not spare him. One after the other, he lost his once vibrant base. Edo, Ondo, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti in quick succession and Tinubu was reduced to a laughing stock. Fashola, the super Minister, has enough financial muscles that made Lagos irrelevant in the calculations of these so-called “young Turks.” At a point, Presidency vultures began to swirl over Tinubu’s head, ready for the kill – but then help came from unusual and unexpected quarters. Fayose rose in defence of Tinubu. He declared him Yoruba leader and dared anyone touch him. Everyone was shell-shocked. Silence fell over the polity. And so was Tinubu rescued. Fayose has never looked back in his support for, and deference to, Tinubu. But he may have to do a re-think after the Ekiti election.
I heard some things and can also deduce some things. Some said Tinubu played a leading role in the “disgrace” that Fayose suffered in Ekiti, with an ordinary police sergeant hitting him and telling him “governor, my foot” Others said, “no, but for Tinubu, orders from above were that Fayose should be dragged out of Government House and be paraded as a common criminal in the streets of Ekiti”. Some said Tinubu was the brain behind the plans that saw Fayemi “winning” the election the way he did. Others said, no, the only thing Tinubu did was give support. Defenders of Tinubu said he had no choice in the matter. He is still in APC and must support his party. He is a party leader and must behave as such. When you are in Rome, you act as a Roman. Another defence put forward for Tinubu is that Fayemi has begged him and asked for forgiveness. They said Fayemi prostrated and held Tinubu’s legs. In Yoruba land, that is the highest level of penitence and submission. They also said the Presidency tied the Ekiti project around Tinubu’s neck, telling him they would hold him responsible if Fayemi lost the election. In other words, they were telling him they knew he could pull it off if he wanted. It was a test of his loyalty. Remember a President Buhari seeking re-election has started romancing Tinubu again as 2019 draws near.
The counter-argument, however, runs thus: While the above reasons may be true to some extent, there are other reasons why Tinubu acted the way he did. One: Public grandstanding apart, Tinubu is aware the “young Turks” have cut a lot of ground off his feet and that they could pull off the feat of “winning” Ekiti willy-nilly with or without his support. So, to save his face and not be disgraced if they pull off the feat without his participation, he had to fall in line. Remember it happened in Ondo state and Rotimi Akeredolu rubbed it in. So, it is a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Tinubu is, therefore, doing damage control so he could continue to have a semblance of relevance. Two: Osun state election is due in September and Tinubu has a candidate. If he does not put his hand in the “win-Ekiti-by-all-means” project, he will be punished in Osun. So, it is “rub my back. I rub your back” Having cooperated in Ekiti, it is likely Tinubu will be allowed to have his way in Osun. Three: Fayose’s rising profile has always been a source of worry and cause for concern to many. Tinubu is called the Asiwaju of Yoruba land. There can be no two captains in the same boat or ship. Cutting Fayose to size, even if that is not a Tinubu project, definitely serves his interest.
All the above arguments and counter-arguments considered; I can draw the following inferences: That the issue was not straightforward at all; that decision could not have been easy to come by; that no decision taken eventually could have pleased everyone; and that Tinubu himself cannot be 100 percent satisfied with whatever decision he might have taken – if at all he took any decision on, or played a role in the Ekiti election.
As we close, consider the case of Okonkwo and the slave-boy Ikemefuna in Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”. Okonkwo was warned by his friend after the decision had been taken by the whole town to sacrifice Ikemefuna to the gods: That boy calls you father, have no hand in his death. But Okonkwo, fearing he would be deemed a coward, was the one who cut the boy down with his matchet. Unknown to the boy that it was Okonkwo that did the job, Ikemefuna ran to him and shouted: Father, father, they have killed me. Okonkwo wasted no time in finishing off the boy. The decision to sacrifice Ikemefuna to the gods was not Okonkwo’s but that of the entire community. The role of an executioner was also imposed on Okonkwo. But his friend warned him! Okonkwo never recovered from that incident. He would have loved it never happened. Consider also William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” where Caesar’s best friends and peers, those he trusted most and whose interests he had defended, were the ones who orchestrated his assassination. Antonio was to describe Brutus’s own stab of Caesar as “the unkindest cut of all”
Like many other APC leaders, Tinubu might have been caught between the devil and the deep blue sea on Ekiti. As the Yoruba would say: Oro na so si’ni l’enu, o tun bu iyo si. Put differently, Ekiti was an “akara” that had pebbles; it was a dangerous fly that perched on many APC leaders’ scrotums. I do not envy them at all. My fear, however, is that in the end, they and Tinubu might turn out the losers. Mark my word!