President Goodluck Jonathan with the Ewi of Ado Ekiti during a previous visit
That the Presidency will take more than a passing interest in the coming governorship polls in Ekiti and Osun in view of the 2015 election is expected. However, to profit from the state elections President Goodluck Jonathan and his team have to make the right choices.
From all indications – from the non-transparent PDP nomination processes to the body language of the Presidency, it seems that they are missing the plot. The recent statement attributed to Vice-President Namadi Sambo makes it therefore very urgent to warn the President against making a grave mistake that will undoubtedly prove fatal to his prospects for re-election next year.
Sambo’s statement likening the election in Ekiti to a war that has to be won at all costs gives the impression that the federal ruling party will shy away from nothing, to ensure the victory of its candidate on 21 June in Ekiti. That is a bad omen both for Ekiti people and Nigeria as whole.
The national leadership of the PDP, whose ultimate goal is Dr Jonathan’s victory at next year’s presidential election, is getting its strategy wrong. By imposing Ayo Fayose as its flagbearer in Ekiti, it is obvious that the party leaders are up to mischief.
Fayose’s tenure as governor of Ekiti was prematurely terminated in 2006 by a lawful impeachment, for wrongdoings in office, by a House of Assembly dominated by members of his party, showing that he carries a heavy, debilitating moral baggage that should have disqualified him for consideration as a candidate in the first place. That the PDP forced him on its members in the State shows that it was determined to disregard Fayose’s unpopularity even among his fellow party men and women.
The PDP leaders in Abuja also pretend to be ignorant of the records of the former governor in office, a period when insecurity ruled in the State, when economic activities were at their lowest ebb and unemployment reached new heights – in fact, a period bereft of any meaningful development that most Ekitis would rather not remember.
The PDP bosses also overlooked the fact that Fayose could not win his Senatorial zone at the last general election; in fact, out of the five local governments that make up the zone, he did not win a single one!
Given Fayose’s proven unpopularity even in his home area of the State, who do the PDP generalissimos expect to vote for him on 21 June?
Is it Ado people, whose sense of cultural pride Fayose during his inglorious reign as governor repeatedly hurt through an open, brazen and serial denigration of the revered office of the Ewi of Ado-Ekiti?
Is it Ikere people, whose children – students of the College of Education – were shot by one of Fayose’s henchmen while participating in a peaceful protest, or whose traditional ruler, the highly respected Ogoga, the PDP flagbearer abused openly?
Who in Ekiti, whose commonwealth Fayose is currently standing trial in a federal court for stealing, will vote for the imposed PDP gubernatorial candidate?
I can go on and on.
Where, then, in the State that Fayose turned into a theatre of political violence during his infamous tenure, is Abuja expecting the votes for its man to come from?
It is very obvious, therefore, that the PDP generals are not courting Ekiti people for their mandate. They intend to seize it.
History has shown, however, that Ekiti, whose people are renowned for their fierce independent spirit, is a very bad place to rig elections. Since 1964, resistance to electoral fraud in Yorubaland has been hottest in Ekiti.
It must not be forgotten that the Southwest is the most peaceful region in the country at the moment and any attempts to manipulate the Ekiti polls will add to the security troubles of the President. A chaotic election in Ekiti, therefore, will not only increase national instability but also hurt the President’s standing in the international community at a time when he needs global support to win the ongoing battle against the murderous Boko Haram terrorists.
It must be emphasised here again that the Ekiti polls is not a test run of the Presidential election. The election is about the decision of Ekiti people over who governs their State. Given the many positive changes in the State in the past three and half years, it is very obvious even to a casual observer how Ekiti people will vote on 21 June.
However, the verdict of the Ekitis at the governorship election is not necessarily an indication of how they will vote at next year’s Presidential election. Ekitis are not the kind of electorate that votes for a party irrespective of the candidate, which is why President Jonathan won in the State in 2011 even though the State’s then ruling party ACN fielded a candidate. This is a point that deserves serious consideration by the President and his advisers.
It should also be remembered that at the 2011 general election, the people of Fayose’s Senatorial district overwhelmingly rejected him while the electorate of the entire State overwhelmingly voted for the President.
Dr Jonathan should not be deceived by desperate politicians who want to ride roughshod on the back of the presidency illegally into office so that they can loot the treasury.
It would be catastrophic for the President and his re-election ambition if the Ekiti people perceived him to want to impose an unpopular governor on them and take them back to a period that they would not like to remember.
Nobody should underestimate the resolve and capacity of Ekiti people to resist imposition. It is palpable in the air that the people are firmly and resolutely resolved to respond to any attempts to steal their votes with the decisive force of popular resistance. This is a sign that any efforts to manipulate the election can only result in disaster.
Also, any attempts to impose an unwanted governor on Ekiti people will turn the whole of Yorubaland against Dr Jonathan. That is certain. Moreover, it could spark a chain of events, the end of which no one can predict.
Ekiti 2014 is about the future of Ekiti, and its people should not be hindered in any way from freely and peacefully deciding that future. In fact, a free, credible and transparent Ekiti polls - whatever the outcome - will be a boost to President Jonathan’s chances next year and will bolster his image in the international community.
There are enough killing fields in Nigeria; we cannot afford a new trouble spot in Ekiti.
* Femi Awoniyi, a Germany-based journalist and an indigene of Ekiti State, is the Publisher of the bi-monthly magazine The African Courier.