In case you have missed it, there is another political thriller on the way in Ekiti State, which this Saturday votes for a new governor.
There are 35 candidates, including former governor Kayode Fayemi. His closest rival is Kolapo Olusola, the current deputy governor and adopted candidate of the lame-duck governor, Ayodele Fayose.
Mr. Fayose, who had previously ruled between 2003 and 2006, took the office for the second time in 2014 after defeating Mr. Fayemi, who was seeking a second term.
But Fayemi’s loss was really no loss at all. In a state he had governed for four years, it turned out he had been savagely rigged out by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was in control at the centre, the controversial Fayose taking 56.34 per cent of the spoils to the incumbent’s 33.41.
Nothing might have been known about how that was accomplished but for the heroic intervention of Captain Sagir Koli, a soldier who, at great risk to life, limb and family, had secretly audio-recorded a rigging meeting of officials of the PDP in Ado-Ekiti days before the contest.
Koli, who had accompanied his superior officer to the meeting, subsequently leaked the recording, and then fled the country.
But it was irrelevant. Fayose, a man whose first tour of the governorship had involved extra-judicial killings that were confirmed by the Inspector-General of Police in 2006 and were outstanding, was back in charge. Although he was impeached for political malpractice and other offences, it was a sign of the times that eight years later, he emerged not only the PDP’s candidate, but one behind whom the party was willing to throw a lot of money and bend all the rules.
The irony is that this week, the glove is on the other hand: it is Fayemi’s party which holds sway at the centre. To that end, it is no surprise Fayose has been alleging rigging scenarios against the APC, conscious of the impunity with which his party had operated.
The more important question is whether APC can resist the temptation to “make sure” its candidate wins. President Buhari has already pledged to attend Fayemi’s inauguration.
In similar circumstances in 2014, President Jonathan travelled to Ekiti to campaign for Fayose, following which he sent Musiliu Obanikoro, his Minister of State for Defence, to coordinate a “winning” strategy. On the Koli tape, Obanikoro repeatedly asserts he is on a “special mission” for Mr. Jonathan.
Naturally, none of the men gathered around the table Koli taped said anything about rigging. But the government and the security agencies were well-represented, although that was unknown to the public and but for Koli would have been presented only as rumours.
For those who have forgotten, present was Brigadier General Aliyu Momoh, former Minister for Police Affairs Jelili Adesiyan, former Osun State Senator Iyiola Omisore, Anambra politician Chris Uba, and Mr. Fayose. Flush with power, they are overhead plotting to intimidate members of the APC; Fayose bullies and bribes the hapless General Momoh.
Days before that election, the Inspector-General of Police, MD Abubakar, confirmed the arrest of several persons who were allegedly found stuffing ballot boxes in a hotel owned by a PDP chieftain in Are-Ekiti, but nothing ever came of it. And then Momoh’s men prevented top members and governors of the APC from attending Fayemi’s political. Transportation Minister (then Rivers’ Governor) Rotimi Amaechi was forbidden from traveling by road; and APC Chairman (then Edo Governor) Adams Oshiomhole, from leaving Benin City.
Today, these are among the nation’s most powerful men, with mountains of funds and the same security forces on speed dial. Given the fractious and nervous state of the APC today-in addition to its ethical dubiousness and how much respect it has lost since 2015- can APC resist the temptation to be today’s PDP?
Of greater interest is Oshiomhole, who took his new office only days ago, just as the party began to come apart at the seams.
In an article last July, little knowing that within one year the former Edo Governor would emerge APC chairman, I wondered if he could in fact become Nigeria’s wildcard. I was commenting on the overly-generous and widely-criticized severance package he was offered by the Edo government, concerning which I had reluctantly supported his acceptance.
I felt that, given his unique story, he could help solve through federal law the messy problem of outgoing governors determining outrageous departure largesse for themselves. I asked: “Can he rise above narrow interests and fight for his country, bringing his brand of scorched-earth justice on every false tree and every withering branch?”
Now, Oshiomhole can. But does he see the trap ahead of him, or does he merely feel the power of the moment?
Oshiomhole arrives at a time of great decline and division for APC. It is a disease that has arisen from the same genes and weaknesses which ruined the PDP, helped on by lack of vision and willingness to pay the price of democracy.
For three years, APC forgot the mission. Worse still, it was too powerful to hear what Nigerians were saying. APC spoke to and listened to its ego.
Now that the party has glanced at the calendar and discovered it is an election year, it is showing signs of stress and distress.
I don’t know if Nigerians will buy APC’s new snake oil, given all the lives and opportunities already squandered on the altar of convenience, planlessness and insincerity.
Three years later, APC’s sense of history has dwindled considerably. While other leaders in Buhari’s position speak about millions they have liberated and are liberating from poverty, the party Oshiomhole now leads brags about feeding a few thousand school children.
While some African leaders speak about building Germany-style autobahns and Switzerland-style rail, Buhari talks about dualization of roads. While Ministers and top security officials are thrown out of office elsewhere over a minor breach of civil rights, Buhari thinks he should not be blamed when he hypocritically superintends the loss of hundreds of lives.
This is the APC that Oshiomhole now leads, and it is the APC which will attempt to land big victories in next year’s federal elections. But that test, and of whether APC can see beyond its nose, begins in Ekiti this Saturday.
Given its ineptitude so far, can APC conduct free and fair elections? Fayose has lambasted Buhari’s government for three years; can the army and police, the heads of whom owe Buhari deep personal loyalty, protect the electoral process for Nigeria rather than for Buhari or against Fayose?
• Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense