Ekitis and Fayemi: Moral Values and Integrity of Choice

By Bunmi Makinwa

There are new lessons and confirmation of old ones that have emerged from the July 2018 gubernatorial election in Ekiti State.

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Ekiti State

The first time that I witnessed an election up close was in 1983 in Ibadan. No, I was not an observer or a politician. I was “inside” the political campaigns, sitting next to gubernatorial candidates of political parties. I saw political thugs of candidates in cars and trucks that drove recklessly on town roads. I observed thugs using dangerous weapons to attack other thugs and supporters of political opponents of their leaders. I saw men lying in their pool of blood and barely breathing whilst policemen watched them dying. I was a terrified, fairly new reporter covering the campaigns.

At the then capital of Oyo State, I also witnessed heavily armed policemen who guarded the offices of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO) whilst vote counting went on inside. Only the returning officers of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) that constituted the federal government were allowed inside. The NPN agents were fully protected by the frightfully armed policemen. The officials of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) the opposition party that governed Oyo State were prevented from entering FEDECO premises to witness or observe the vote counting.

As results were announced on radio stations, the city was locked down by security forces. The winning candidates circulated freely. The candidates of the opposition party were locked up in their homes or detained in police stations. According to the security forces, the security actions were necessary to “maintain law and order”.

When a political party constitutes the federal government in Nigeria, it has control of the security forces, and with it the power to manage and decide outcomes of elections is almost unlimited. The federal government uses this power when the stakes are high.

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Voting in Nigeria (via Techpoint)

In 2014 in Ekiti State, candidate Peter Fayose defeated sitting Governor Fayemi with a near 100 per cent vote count in the gubernatorial election. Fayose had the backing of the strong Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that formed the federal government. The party hence was in charge of the security forces and they backed candidate Fayose. During the election the state was locked down by security forces.

In the recent July 2018 elections in Ekiti State, sitting Governor Fayose’s hand-picked PDP candidate, Mr. Olusola Eleka, deputy governor, was defeated by former Governor Fayemi. The latter had the backing of the strong All Peoples Congress (APC) party that forms the federal government. The state was locked down by security forces.

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Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi

 Lesson one – the party at the centre with control of security forces can use the so-called “maintain law and order” in ways that are open to various interpretations . The security actions that were taken by the federal government during elections in Oyo State in 1983 do recur in several elections. They were similar to the security actions taken in Ekiti State in 2014, and again in Ekiti State in 2018.

Lesson two – money has become absolutely crucial to win elections among Ekiti people. And the amounts needed to influence voters and buy results of party primaries and elections has increased significantly. The use of money is more public than ever. The Ekitis were general perceived as tough, stubborn and fiercely loyal in their political beliefs. They would hold a position, support a candidate and protect their beliefs with their lives, if necessary. The Ekitis have changed. Money has become the dominant factor for the voters. They guard their stomachs with their lives. Governor Fayose used “stomach infrastructure” as official governing policy. His opponents adopted it for the elections. At every stage of the recent electioneering process, within their means, for all parties, including APC and PDP, money was the currency of engagement.

Lesson three – the more money is spent by candidates to win their elections, the more money the candidates have to recover once elected. In addition, the successful candidates have to look after their party, members and their personal future interest. What do people expect from their governments, governors, elected politicians? Having spent huge amounts of money to buy party delegates during primaries, and also to buy voters during elections, there must be a lot of holes to plug once in office.

Lesson four – Nigeria has become more homogeneous in expectations from political leaders, especially during elections. Ekiti people are no longer an exception. “What we get NOW from the candidates for political offices is the only benefit to us. Once they assume office, we get nothing”, say the voters. For various reasons, including poverty, loss of confidence in the political leadership, pressing needs and sharp “marketing” by politicians, people have given up on higher standards of politics as service to the people.

Lesson five – election results are almost invariably contested. Only in rare instances do candidates accept their losses and cheer the winners. Campaigns and elections are desperate, win-or-die times for politicians to attain power and wealth. The reports of observer groups on Ekiti elections vary. Whilst some say that it was reasonably free and fair, others say that it was unfairly conducted and over-militarised. Both APC and PDP are accused of carrying out activities that could undermine the proper conduct of voting and determination of results. Several cases are in court to ascertain whether party primaries and state-wide elections were done properly.

Can the in-coming government of Fayemi recover some of the lost moral values of Ekitis? Can he rally his people to bring back the personal integrity of Ekitis on choice of political leaders? Can he rekindle the high ground that he took when he lost gallantly to Fayose in 2014? Can he raise the “bar of excellence” as he stated while conceding defeat? Or faced with the realities of desperate politics of acquisition wealth and power, will he fall further into the “stomach infrastructure” miasma?

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

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What Is Next for Yahya Jammeh – Even a billion years will end.

By Bunmi Makinwa

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Gambia’s President Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junjung Jammeh

Had he accepted defeat in the election of December 2016, Gambia’s President Yahya Abdul-Aziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh, 51, would have been one of the few African presidents or heads of state who, having been in power for more than ten years or have had more than two terms of office, decided voluntarily to have a peaceful transition of power.

Notable presidents who stayed in power for a long time, yet organized or supported peaceful transition are Senegal’s Leopold Sedar Senghor who left office in 1980 after 20 years, Cameroon’s Ahmadou Ahidjo who left office in 1982 after 22 years due to ill health, and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere who quit voluntarily in 1985 after 21 years. Others are Zambia’s  Kenneth Kaunda who left in 1991 after 27 years when he lost election, and Benin’s Mathieu Kerekou who also left in 1991 when he was defeated as military leader after 19 years. They were all the first presidents of the countries after independence.

In several African countries, the governments suspend the constitutional limits to presidential terms of office, and enable the leaders to stay in power perpetually or for a long time. From such strong positions, the incumbent presidents generally win elections using any means.

Jammeh, as a 29 year old army lieutenant took over power in a coup d’etat in 1994 and was elected president in 1996. Subsequently, he has been re-elected four times. Under Jammeh, Gambia changed its constitution and removed term limits for the president.

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A young Yahya Jammeh

ECOWAS dropped its plan for mandatory two terms for heads of state in West African countries when Gambia and Togo refused. Jammeh is reported to have said in 2011:  “I will deliver to the Gambian people and if I have to rule this country for one billion years, I will, if Allah says so.” It was clear that he did not see himself leaving office at any time in the foreseeable future. It was not an unusual scenario among his peers.

In 2015, the outcomes of presidential elections were predictably “favorable” to all long-term leaders in Africa.  In April that year President Omar Al Bashir of Sudan won by 94 percent in a poll that was largely boycotted by opposition parties. He had ruled Sudan for 26 years. In Togo in the same month, President Faure Eyadema, 50, won a hotly contested election for a third term after being in power for 10 years, a successor to his father’s 38 years as president. Togo has no term limit for the president.

During 2016, all presidents who have been in office for at least ten years or more than two terms won the elections or were declared winners of contested elections.  The list includes leaders of Chad, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and Uganda.

The scheduled elections for the Democratic Republic of Congo in November 2016 could not hold due to serious civil disturbances as opposition parties and protesters demanded that President Joseph Kabila could not be a candidate. He was pressured to abide by the constitution adopted in 2006 and leave office as required after his second mandate expired in December 2016. Kabila, who came to office in 2001 following the assassination of President Laurent Kabila, his father, was first elected in 2006 as president. In a compromise on 23 December, an agreement, yet to be formally adopted, was proposed by the main opposition group and government under which the president would not alter the constitution and he must leave office before the end of 2017. 

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Congolese voters queue outside a polling station during presidential elections in Brazzaville, on March 20, 2016. (IBT)

Despite the numerous sit-tight leaders, there have been smooth transitions, and changes of ruling political parties and presidents in many African countries. In 2015, election results were accepted by all parties involved in Cote d’Ivoire, Lesotho, Nigeria, Tanzania, Togo and Zambia.  In 2016, Benin and Ghana witnessed superbly smooth transition of power.

Whilst Gambia’s Jammeh has acted true to character by rejecting the results of the election that he had accepted initially, the mood within Gambia and internationally suggests low tolerance of his stalling tactics. Whether Jammeh’s swagger and belligerence can outshine the resolve of internal critics and combined pressure of regional leaders and the international community will be clearer in the near future.

In 2014, Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore tried to force through a constitutional amendment to have a fifth term in office, but his 27-year regime was forced out by a combination of popular mass actions and military disenchantment with the government.

He had won elections four times previously under circumstances that were often similar to those of Jammeh.

The Gambia, as it is known, is the smallest country on mainland Africa. It has a population of about 1.8 million and economy largely dependent on tourism. Fishing and farming are also important.  The country is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal, and its western part opens to the Atlantic Ocean. Its military strength is generally characterized as small with no major exposure to combat. The president is minister of defence and head of the military forces.

There is no documented information of any former African president who accepted unfavourable election results only to reject them later. The question is whether Jammeh can willfully discredit the electoral system which his government had established and which results he had used in three previous elections to confirm his re-election. If he gets away with it, he will become the first African leader to say “yes” and “no” to the same election result.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership. Formerly, he was Africa Regional Director of United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)