Ekiti is a New Sociology, Stupid! By Israel Jaiye Opayemi
The Ekiti governorship election has come and gone, but certainly not its consequences. This is why in other climes, both the party that won and the one which lost the election would have by now commissioned different studies to into the circumstances in which the election was won or lost.
Sadly, we have been regaled with strange perspectives from an army of Political Analysts many of whom have not been to Ekiti but have advanced reasons why Dr. Kayode Fayemi lost the election and Mr. Ayo Fayose won. I often tell my professional colleagues, we are in trouble with the way the media generously dispense the title, Public Affairs Analyst and Commentator to anyone who has something to say about an issue of pubic interest whether the person is a subject matter expert or not.
By now, we would have seen the electronic media inviting professionals who truly qualify as subject matter experts to discuss the Ekiti election and the emerging issues. In other climes, we would have seen the APC commission a research or stage a Focus Group Discussion to gain an insight into what really happened in the last election so as to predict what may still happen in Osun State and perhaps the rest of South West Nigeria.
I have been to Ekiti a couple of times before the Fayemi era. Interestingly, one of those occasions was to attend the burial ceremony of the departed the mother of the Labour Party Governorship Candidate, my dear brother, Barrister Opeyemi Bamidele when Mr. Ayo Fayose was governor. I also visited Ekiti State a few times during the Segun Oni era.
But nothing compares with the development I saw in the State when I visited again in June 2013 at the invitation of Governor Kayode Fayemi. Then, my frequent trips into Ekiti State began. I am therefore an on the ground witness to the campaign and the issues involved. I write not just about what took place on the streets or in the media but at the back end of the Fayemi campaign.
Expectedly, Fayemi ran a decent issue based campaign. He assembled a great team of professionals and politicians alike. He deferred to his campaign team but wavered not on issues of principles. He took nothing for granted. He took his campaign to the grassroots. I have heard some puerile arguments that Fayemi lost because his campaign, just like his government, was elitist. Space will fail me to avail readers the details of Fayemi’s Voter Contact Programme.
A Governor that was said not to be in touch with the grassroots reached out to all the 263 farmsteads in Ekiti State with the message of his campaign spread across Ado, Ife-Orun, Efon, Emure, Gboyin, Ekiti South West, Ifelodun, Oye, Ileje Meje, Ikole, Ekiti East, Ekiti West, Ijero and made in roads to the smallest communities in Moba and Ikere alike.
A Governor that has been accused of running an elitist government created jobs for 16, 000 young men and women through the Youth Volunteer Corps; another 800 jobs through the Ekiti State Peace Corps, yet another 400 jobs through engagement as Para-Medics and Fire Fighters and put in place a best in class Social Security Scheme to cater to the needs of 25, 000 elderly citizens through payment of Social Security allowances every month.
Interestingly, the media reported all of these giant strides by Fayemi before the election but the same media is today replete with the stories and analyses of Fayemi not being in touch with the grassroots after the election. We cannot be approbating and be reprobating.
Something is not quite right and I believe a few people should know. Ekiti State under Fayemi is perhaps the only State I know where the people come together at Town Hall meetings to set their own local governance priorities as part of the annual budgeting process.
The Fayemi administration institutionalized meetings at 132 towns and villages to connect with the people and feel their pulse on what they want per time. The government then makes provision for those projects desired by the people into the State’s Budget.
Most often, local contractors from the communities are picked to handle such projects and their names published or sent to the community leadership for everyone to know. Yet, we have been told Fayemi was out of touch with the grassroots and did not “connect” with the people. Ademo Olu Michael, Chairman, Okada Riders Association of Ekiti State in a recent interview with The News Magazine acknowledged that Fayemi has employed and empowered 15,000 youths through the Youths in Agriculture Programme. But who did he lead his members to vote for? Fayemi has been accused of offending Ekiti State students.
President, Students Union, Ekiti State University, Temitope Ibitoye has this to say about Fayemi, “ in terms of developing the State, in terms of the execution of his projects, I will give him a pass mark. I think he deserves a second term to consolidate and finish the good work he has started. I give him 80 percent mark…The man is trying.
He employed 10,000 youths giving 10,000 each.” But who did Ekiti State University students vote for? The Fayose campaign was delighted to splash their pictures displaying their bags of rice and their voters cards on social media platforms to drive home the point. But the campaign and Fayemi’s governance methodology are not the subject of this article but what I suspect to be the new sociology of the Ekiti people, our own ‘Fountain of Knowledge’.
I will be writing and speaking about the Fayemi campaign more in the near future before the next general elections.
My thesis is, a new sociology may have emerged in Ekiti land. Insights into this new sociology in Ekiti began to emerge during one of my trips at which some members of my consulting team had joined me in Ekiti.
They opted to take a cab to join me in the hotel where I lodged in Ado Ekiti. They engaged the taxi driver in a discussion about how beautiful the city had become with good roads, street lights and good drainage systems. His response was rather worrisome to my team members.
He acknowledged that Fayemi had performed excellently well especially on roads but spoke glowingly and with nostalgia about the Fayose days and how his convoy would stop by at their taxi park and he would dole out cash to the lucky ones around.
He would have none of their sermons about what was wrong with a governor doling out tax payers’ money in that fashion and the principle of accountability and all that my team had to preach about. From then on, we took a decision to always do this whenever we were in Ekiti.
Should we have asked Dr. John Kayode Fayemi to set fire on his beliefs of many years and copy this despicable practice? I have read and heard some Public Affairs Commentators argue that Fayemi should have done this if only to win his re-election since that is what Ekiti people wanted in their governor. But I ask, what is the place of character in that? Would that not have amounted to crude deceit? Shouldn’t a leader have a character that defines him? How will a leader account for cash doled out in such a manner?
I am not a Sociologist, but my elementary knowledge of that interesting discipline will suffice here. I hold a Masters Degree in Political Science with specialization in Political Economy.
So the Stomach Infrastructure theory is of great interest to me having done an in-depth study of the work of Professor Joseph Richards on “Democracy and Prebendal Politics: The Rise and Fall of the Second Republic” while preparing my Masters thesis. Joseph used the term to describe the sense of entitlement that many people in Nigeria feel they have to the revenues of the Nigerian State.
Elected officials, government workers, and members of the ethnic and religious groups to which they belong feel they have a right to a share of government revenues. Was the Ekiti voter behavior a validation of the views of Richard Joseph? Not one voter so far interviewed after this election has said Fayemi did not perform.
Their case against him was that he did not build what is now called “Stomach Infrastructure”, a euphemistic reference to his failure to dole out cash from the State treasury to them.
Sociology is the scientific study of human social behavior and its origins. According to the American Sociological Association, “Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior.
Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts. Since all human behavior is social, the subject matter of sociology ranges from the intimate family to the hostile mob; from organized crime to religious cults; from the divisions of race, gender and social class to the shared beliefs of a common culture; and from the sociology of work to the sociology of sports.”
It is therefore logical to extend this context to the sociology of politics and in this case sociology of Nigerian politics.
If our political parties have what is today called Research, Trends and Emerging Culture Committees within their structures, understanding the sociological issues the Ekiti election has raised should be the preoccupation of such a group for both the APC and the PDP now.
So, what has changed about the social life of the Ekiti man and woman? Who is today’s Ekiti man or woman? We grew up knowing that once an Ekiti person says No to you, he or she would rather be killed than change his mind. So, what manner of Ekiti artisans were those who met Fayemi, gave him theirs word but collected cash and rice from Fayose and gave him their votes? What manner of Ekiti teachers were those who endorsed Fayemi publicly a few days to the election and voted for Fayose secretly? Shouldn’t we then interrogate if there are social changes taking place? A classic case in point was a field report an Aide to the Governor shared with me.
It was a Polling Centre in Ido Osi where voters pleaded with INEC officials to allow 17 elderly people who had been accredited to vote first by reason of their age and frailty. After the votes were counted, Fayemi should at least have had 19 votes if the votes of the 17 elderly people were added to that of the APC agent and the Aide in question. But strangely Fayemi lost that Polling Booth and the Aide quietly approached some of the elderly people who waited patiently to see the votes counted and asked why they voted for the PDP candidate. One of them responded in Ekiti dialect that Fayose has promised to increase the Social Security Allowance they are being paid to N10,000 if voted into office and he has demonstrated his commitment by paying each of them the same amount of money as incentive to vote.
So, don’t look too far for answers to why Fayemi may have lost all the local governments. It was money speaking! Again, shouldn’t Mr. Ayo Fayose be interested in this question, who is today’s Ekiti man? Shouldn’t the APC be interested in knowing if what happened in Ekiti is a regional behavioural change or an isolated one restricted to just Ekiti State?
Will the Osun people collect cash and rice and still follow their hearts to vote for Ogbeni Rauf Aregbeshola? Will our self-styled Public Affairs Analysts tell us in 2015 BRF only succeeded in building physical infrastructure in Lagos and not stomach infrastructure to justify a defeat of the APC if one happens? Is this stomach infrastructure theory becoming the shared belief of the Yorubas as a people with common culture?
The need to probe these issues was perhaps the intent of Governor Babatunde Fashola recently when he raised some questions about the Ekiti State elections. But Mr. Ayo Fayose, the man who should be interested in interrogating these sociological issues more got it all wrong and took up the gauntlet with BRF, accusing him of insulting Ekiti people.
Since sociology is also a scientific study of consequences, shouldn’t we as a people be interested in the consequences of the verdict of the Ekiti people for democracy in Nigeria? One consequence I can predict with a measure of accuracy is that, elected officials may simply not bother so much about performance. I suspect the thinking will become much more about primitive accumulation of wealth by stealing and saving a little for reckless distribution at motor parks and at interest group meetings. While we can wish the Ekiti people, “happy married life” with the Governor of their preference, the implication of the Ekiti election may just be indicative of a new sociology not just in Ekiti land but perhaps in the South West. An election in which a candidate who did not present a single manifesto to the people got their overwhelming votes should give some cause for worry.
An election in which the incumbent who was widely adjudged to have performed excellently well and presented a clear manifesto before the people for his second term “lost” in all the 16 local governments cannot be healthy for the democracy culture.
This is the time for the political parties to put on their thinking caps. It is crass naivety, sorry, insipid stupidity not to focus on this new sociology and interrogate it further. It is a disturbing sociology and a destructive sociology at that.
This is certainly our expressway to becoming a failed State.
Mr. Opayemi, a Public Relations Consultant, writes from Lagos. You can converse with him @iopayemi