“Fayose is a son of a
bitch.”“Yes, he is our son of a bitch.”
The above statements came from an exchange between two users on a social network medium to express their opinions on the outcome of the Ekiti governorship election, which Ayodele Peter Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, emphatically won. As inappropriate as their language may sound, nobody can capture what has just happened in Ekiti State any better.
Yes, Fayose, the PDP candidate went into that election trusting only one thing: the efficacy of democracy in guaranteeing the popular will. He was insulted, called names, denigrated and had his reputation dragged in the mud by the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and its supporters, especially in the media.
He was portrayed by the APC and a good section of the elite in the South West as a bad dream that should not be allowed to come to pass. And when all that failed, propaganda was ignited that “a court” judgement has barred the PDP candidate from the election.
It was all too clear that the emergence of Fayose as the PDP governorship candidate in Ekiti State had thrown the APC into confusion. Their natural response was to hit the panic button by threatening violence, thunder and brimstone in what should simply be a peaceful process for the enlightened people of the state to decide on their collective fate.
Thus, speaking at his investiture as the Chancellor of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, the APC leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, had called on his supporters to unleash mayhem should there be any other outcome other than his party’s victory in Ekiti and Osun governorship elections.
According to the APC chieftain: “It will be rig and roast…we are prepared not to go to court but to drive you out. We will not take it anymore. If you mess up in Ekiti and Osun states, you will see our reactions. For every action, there must be a reaction.”
Interestingly, the people of Ekiti State on Saturday (June 21) shunned Tinubu and his APC war chants to embrace the democratic principle of “one man, one vote.” Thus, that morning, with the reassuring presence of security operatives, which the President, Goodluck Jonathan, had promised, the voters in Ekiti were confident enough to turn out in large numbers to cast their votes for the candidate of their choice after what was largely a heated campaign period largely coloured by the melodrama and infantile pretensions of some APC governors. So, rather than the “war declaration” of the APC, the Ekiti election was very peaceful and the conduct, exemplary.
There were no reports of ballot box snatching or stuffing and neither were there allegations of the same. Indeed as Dan Nwanyanwu, the National Chairman of the Labour Party, whose candidate, Opeyemi Bamidele, participated in the ballot, put it: “This is the best election that INEC has ever organised in the country. And credit must go to the military and other security agencies for confining troublemakers to their hotel rooms where they were quartered and giving the people a peaceful ambience to exercise their right of choice.”
While the PDP and the governor-elect, Fayose savour this moment of victory, the sterling performance, which INEC displayed in delivering the Ekiti State election, deserves commendation. After the 2011 general elections for which Professor Attahiru Jega and his INEC were lauded, they followed it up in Edo and Ondo states, respectively.
But in Anambra just recently, the election management body was heavily criticised for somewhat shoddy handling of the election process. But the way INEC has responded with its transparent handling of every step in the entire process of the Ekiti election hints of an institution that appropriates criticisms positively for improved performance. More than anything else, INEC’s performance in Ekiti naturally has increased public confidence in the electoral process as a vehicle for delivering popular will. As one of the most important indices of democracy, periodic elections are the best vehicle for vertical accountability in self-restraining systems.
In other words, elections remain the chief means by which citizens control what their government does. They serve the purpose of rewarding a performing administration with a new mandate or removing a “bad” government by voting it out of power as has been done by the people of Ekiti State.
But all these would have amounted to nothing without an unbiased umpire, which INEC has proved to be. It is important also to note that President Goodluck Jonathan, by showing his hand early as a democrat, has given INEC the courage to exercise its critical independence. That has never been the character of INEC under past administrations.
The lesson in the outcome of the Ekiti election is there for all to learn. First, democracy is a rule-governed system. Once there are no infractions on the rules, the result is always acceptable to both the victor and the vanquished. Second, democracy is about suasion and popular choice. It is about the people and the people alone. It does not matter how well-meaning and eloquent a candidate might be, it is all down to popular choice. Fayose might be “a son of a bitch” but Ekiti people are saying that he is “their son of a bitch.”
Those who think that the 2015 general elections are ominous for the continued existence of our country can take the Ekiti election as an irrepressible metaphor for what is to come. All the threats of “rig and roast” and “the baboon and the monkey will be soaked in their own blood” petered out into an anti-climax.
What is needed is for the political parties to improve on their internal democracy so as to produce credible and popular candidates through competitive and transparent primaries.
This is where the APC lost it. Whereas the APC characteristically did not even want to discuss the issue of primaries in Ekiti, thus shutting out an asset like Opeyemi Bamidele, PDP rejected the temptations of a consensus candidate that most probably would have eliminated a popular choice like Fayose.
President Jonathan deserves the credit for insisting on this competitive primary in Ekiti for his party and followed it up by providing a secured ambience for the election to hold. And yet in another deft move, the President quickly moved in to quell the internal acrimonies that resulted from the PDP primaries. That was simply how a clueless Jonathan routed the savvy APC in Ekiti.
Is this a sign of what is to come in 2015?
John Ainofenokhai is a public affairs commentator. He lives and works in Benin City, Edo.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.