Tunde Fagbenle: Why we must join the ‘voter-values volunteer force’

by Tunde Fagbenle

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Granted that Ayo Fayose had a peculiar appeal (some say “hold”) on his people, and granted that there were other factors that conspired against Dr. Kayode Fayemi, if truly, contrary to long held values of the Ekiti and the Yoruba people, the Ekiti result is owed largely to people’s preference for “stomach infrastructure” to long-term overall development of the state

The dust is yet to settle on the unexpected turn the recent Ekiti governorship election took whereby an otherwise most unlikely challenger with an image as sordid as they come trounced the incumbent with an image as clean as a whistle.

The upset is made more significant (and rare in these parts) by the general contention that the election was — barring the over-militarisation and uneven-handedness of pre-election security forces — relatively free, fair, and peaceful. More spectacularly, the defeated incumbent was quick to accept defeat and congratulate the victor, a gallantry perhaps unprecedented in Nigerian, nay African, political history.

But the curiosity and unease it has generated in the polity resound with pressing urgency. The three-month interlude before the change of guards actually occurs has brought some awkwardness in socio-political arrangements and relationship. The triumphant, unsettled, are less triumphal; the vanquished, humbled, are at sea what or where next. Both are in a state of mutual suspicion and observation. The populace are beginning to reflect on the choice made, many of the ignorant masses anxious for the ‘dream gravy’ to start flowing!

The general and popular contention is that the Ekiti electorate, disenchanted with the ‘elitism’ of their now disfavoured governor and his ‘futuristic’ economic development model, voted for ‘stomach infrastructure’ whereby ‘selling’ wholesale their conscience (votes) for a mess of porridge, a feature known derogatorily as ‘amala politics.’ But, to be sure, ‘amala politics’ is not a new order in Nigeria. Every election in our history — be it local, state or national — has witnessed it in varying dosages and impact.

But in the Yoruba west from where the name derives, particularly amongst the fiercely proud and stubborn Ekiti/Ondo people, amala politics is a corrupt order hitherto viewed with disdain if not intolerance. In my opinion, the culture may be pervasive at elections, but, alone, it has rarely been the dominant or determinant value. And, taken together with the unpleasant image the victor cuts and the damaging charges he still faces in law and in the court of public opinion, the gravity of the Ekiti phenomenon is better appreciated.

Hence, the general atmosphere of disturbed peace and concern in the west especially with another governorship election due in the State of Osun next month and in other states next year.

Certainly, the result in Ekiti has energised the opposition everywhere else and emboldened otherwise pariahs to dream dreams of similar victories for themselves. Is what happened in Ekiti reflective of the ascendancy of the hitherto scoffed-at subculture? Or is the poverty (of mind and pocket) in Ekiti of such extreme and peculiar nature that the ‘aberration’ is now the norm? Have the Yoruba, for whatever reason, now reached a point of general discontent and despondency to embrace anything, no matter how repugnant, with an adonkia (I don’t care) shrug?

Reminds me of a wildlife programme (I am an addict of Nat. Geo channels) I watched on television a year or so ago. Though lions may be the “king of the jungle”, they know that messing with the elephant is taboo. Suddenly one day a pride of lions (numbering about 10), just for pastime, decided to torment a stray elephant. It started as a tease, when it assumed a more sinister dimension with a few of them jumping unto the back of the elephant and, like leeches on a dog, began to claw and bite at the unyielding hide. Others took cue and began to have a go — at the tail, at the logs then go for legs, at whatever they could safely try while the poor elephant swung in wonder, then anger, then fury. Circling and circling, the elephant tried to grab a lion within its trunk, or stamp on one into the earth to teach the silly carnivores a lesson. To no avail! The smarter lions danced and ran rings around the now exhausted elephant. In the end the tired elephant fell, and then the lions began wondering what to do with the dying elephant. It was a tough job penetrating anywhere through the tough hide to make an impression at all. But, finally, after a long time they succeeded through the underbelly area and a flood of blood ensued.

Sadly, it didn’t end there. Which is the lesson I am getting at. The queer pride developed an appetite for elephants such that they began hunting for them at will, singling one out and setting on their gory game, made more gory by the slow and agonising death for the elephant and the fact that the lions couldn’t devour all of one elephant even for days! The ordinarily leave-nature-alone wildlifers, probably for the first time, had to intervene. They herded the deviant pride and removed them permanently from the land before the virus spread to other pride and the aberration assumed the norm in “mad-land”!

Granted that Ayo Fayose had a peculiar appeal (some say “hold”) on his people, and granted that there were other factors that conspired against Dr. Kayode Fayemi, if truly, contrary to long held values of the Ekiti and the Yoruba people, the Ekiti result is owed largely to people’s preference for “stomach infrastructure” to long-term overall development of the state, then there is danger in the land and all right thinking people must recognise this and get armed to confront the virus before it assumes epidemic proportion. The danger must be nipped in the bud before it catches elsewhere.

Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State made this aberration more stark when he succinctly queried: “If a good governor did not win his ward, let alone his local government, none of the deputy governor, three senators, all the House of Assembly members won their local governments, the question that arises in my mind is: Is this logical human behaviour? Is there an incumbent amongst all those defeated in Nigerian electoral history who lost all their local governments and even their wards?”

Although Fashola’s argument implies some conspiracy theory (probably of a high-tech fraud nature such that our ordinary eyes cannot detect), which I do not buy, I do agree that what happened in Ekiti — for Fayemi to lose in his own ward, for the APC to lose in every local government where they have high political office holders and are ordinarily in the majority — defies logic and runs contrary to normal human behaviour.

As I said, I find it hard to buy any “conspiracy theory” of dominant fraud simply because if the result had not reflected the true wishes of the people, no army on earth could have stopped the people, especially the Ekiti people, from instantaneous reaction of the violent kind before even a Fayemi could douse it with his good-statesman acceptance speech.

We are back to the issue of voter-values that are consistent with acceptable morals for societal development. Stomach-infrastructure or amala politics is not the product of good homes and is not the sort of values to be handed down to our children and youths, regardless of any poverty alibi. As I said, it is not a new trend in our politics. But what has happened in the past is that the people sensibly take whatever money is offered by politicians wanting to “buy” their votes, then go ahead and vote according to their conscience.

It is time for good people, rich or poor, to get up and join the “voter-values volunteer force” starting with the State of Osun, to enlighten our electorate on how precious their votes are, and of the imperative not to trade their votes to satiate an immediate hunger; and not to sacrifice a bounteous future with an adonkia attitude!

I have begun on that mission. And that’s saying it the way it is!

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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