SO, it’s all over. Kayode Fayemi, the donnish fellow with a guttural voice, will now return to the mound he vacated four years ago. Ayo Fayose, the governor as theatre, now retreats either to the shadow of oblivion or ignominy.
And it was a long way coming. Like the words of T.S. Eliot in his poem The Journey of the Magi, “a hard journey” he had of it. Fayemi crouched, sulked, fought over that 2014 poll. He said he was robbed. Some believed, many doubted. The courts acclaimed the winner. The erudite former governor seemed to have collapsed into a sort of ennui.
But still hovering over that dreary dawn were many questions: The electronic evidence of Jonathan’s soldiers in gladiatorial electronic heist. His political minions in a million lying tales. The birth of stomach infrastructure. Fayose as a feathery impresario and a sort of mythical tale of a returnee to power.
Fayemi consoled himself with a ministerial toga, but what consolation. He still felt an ache. Anytime I saw him, I saw the ache in a contrived display of self-confidence, and even defiance, the sense of someone deprived. I remember he explained to me over the phone, a few days after INEC released the results, while Fayose still huffed and puffed. He said he had to concede because he did not want any “killing fields.” The ache I think is still not over. He carries it still until he is done. A big meal was at the table, but he still worked himself over the one he did not finish. Now he has the chance again at the table.
So, while Fayose peacocked and derided him, he answered back, but his voice was somewhat muted. The narrative of stomach infrastructure rose over any rhetoric of his achievements. On my television show on TVC, just before the APC primaries which he gulped handily, I wanted him to go back to his time as governor, the charge of aloofness, of focusing an elite style over what many saw as Fayose’s “common touch.” He was not all that repentant. He had learned his lessons, but he would not sway from his task of obviating poverty.
He is not the type to stop by a market and help women fry garri, or buy bole at the roadside, or utter imprecations at an old, ailing president. He could not do that even if it meant losing an election.
But the ache egged him on for over four years, working the grassroots methodically and in silence, a stealth agenda to clobber the great foe of his political life. The same Fayemi who would stay away had been jolted by the necessity of victory into the humility of grassroots work. Franklyn Delano Roosevelt’s biographers have said that if polio did not paralyse him, he might not have been president. The former U.S. president, often called FDR, was too patrician to understand the common folk. Was that what happened to JKF? Was the earlier defeat an asset for his soul and political trajectory?
But he insists he never lost, and that question remains up till now. How do we agree that he lost all 16 local government areas? But Fayose lost all but four. Yet the difference in numbers were about 20 thousand. What is clear is that what Fayemi had was a victory, not a mandate. That is critical. A mandate is an overwhelming victory. It may not be a landslide, but the difference must be emphatic.
So, a more of the folksy heartbeat should remain with Fayemi as he remounts the throne. Few people have opportunities for redemption. But shall we say, that the great numbers that Fayemi’s opponent, Olusola Eleka, had was a vote for stomach infrastructure? That means, Fayemi must see a median between his lofty philosophy of governance and the quiet rumblings from society’s ether. Some eyewitness accounts of those who thought Eleka prematurely won chanted in Yoruba, “oju ti owo. Oju ti agbara.” Translation: “shame on money. Shame on power.”
Yet, we cannot blind our eyes to a common story from reporters. Both sides turned election into a sort of bazaar. Money sprayed on voters. Some are saying that the people voted for the highest bidder. In Ondo, they called it “di’bo ko se’be” – vote and cook a soup. In Ekiti, the refrain was “see and buy.” If it was a battle for the highest bidder, there was no innocent party. The guilty one was our brand of democracy.
In this age, democracy is still a bourgeois ideology. It lacks the innocence of its beginnings in Athens, a thing lamented by philosopher Hanna Arendt in her classic, The Human Condition. Political scientists say, money is the mother’s milk of politics. So, does it mean that Fayemi won because he outspent Fayose? That may be an oversimplification. But some analysts think, in an ambience of poverty, especially when civil servants had not been paid for many months, money was a great catcher. So, are we practising cash-o-cracy or buy-o-cracy? Maybe it is one tragedy our babyish democracy thrusts on us.
Lincoln, perhaps America’s best, often said his best triumph as president was the Emancipation Proclamation. But he could not get it through Congress without bribing. There was, in spite of Lincoln’s great morality, a Machiavellian impulse. We ought to learn from their beginning, not copy, or console ourselves that filth is permitted with the lucre at this stage of our democracy. If that is the way of politics now, it means the new rigging is not to bully the ballot but sully the mind. To rig, first rig the voter’s mind. That is the definition of rigging at source. No bloodletting. No roughnecks bearing guns.
So, is it possible for Fayemi to ignite the common touch now. The election shows the majority want it the Fayemi way, perhaps with the proviso that he is less lofty, his voice less granite, his eyes in softer hue.
Fayose’s desperation in announcing the result was an act of subversion, not permissible in a democracy. It was an admission that he had lost the argument. He has opened the doors wide for his foes to floor him without a fight. He has governed with the principle of the id as official ID.
Now, Fayemi has a chance to return. It will begin like Jesus’ return to Jerusalem in pomp. But in Shakespeare’s words, “all is well that ends well.” In four years, that is. Will the return of the native look like Thomas Hardy’s novel of that title where the novelist is not sure whether the native’s return ends in a romance or estrangement? Dr. John Kayode Fayemi has the opportunity to write that testament.
The party system in Nigeria is still a baby. Sometimes it appears to have grown into its adolescent years, but it quickly recoils into its cot, squealing and all teary-eyed. Its greatest feature is that it is often undemocratic. But it is undemocratic because of what political scientists call the big man syndrome.
The big man syndrome hails from our feudal makeup in which kings and princes ride over a fawning and helpless people. Capitalism upended it, but in our country and most of Africa, democracy has not rewarded the individual freedom that helps to nourish a modern state.
But there is a reason why we have the big man syndrome. It is the big money syndrome, which arises from a milieu of crude money makers based on rent. When money comes in, choice vanishes. That is something that is going on right now in the so-called party of change as regards the delegates system.
It is one of the landmark actions that Adams Oshiomhole will have to make as the party helmsman as the National Working Committee of the APC meets today (Monday) over whether they should institute direct primaries or go through the indirect one, which is the delegates system. The next test of this action will be the Osun State primaries for the post of governor.
Some members of the NWC say they want the delegates system, while the others want it to be through direct primaries. But at bottom is the question as to what is the system that best represents the tempo and temperament of the party. This idea also refers to other parties, including the PDP. The delegates system, in and of itself, is not philosophically anathema. But it is subject to abuse in a society like ours where the big man takes precedence over choice and conscience.
If it is the democracy of conscience we want, then we should not have a delegates system yet in the country. As a so-called change agent, the APC should not put money over choice. When the primaries are under the delegates system, it becomes not a democracy in this instance. It becomes an oligarchy. A few powerful, tendentious characters corral some men and women who are arbitrarily picked to become deciders of who becomes the party flag bearer for the top office in the state.
So, it is a unilateral aberration. But what problematises it is that the NWC is not clearly mandated to pick a particular formula. This constitutional agnosticism opens the democratic system to fraud. It becomes the decision of a few men, and often in our society, it is the decision not of a few wise men, but a few foolish men. Put more clearly, it is the decision of a few tendentious men, who want to cow the system and crown a man who has not felt the heartbeats of the men and women in the lower rungs of the party.
The APC constitution says in Article 20 (vi) that “without prejudice to Article 20 (ii) and (iii) of this constitution, the National Working Committee shall subject to the approval of the National Executive Committee make rules and regulations for the nomination of candidates through primary elections. All such rules and regulations for the nomination of candidates through primary elections. All such rules, regulations and guidelines shall take into consideration and uphold the principle of federal character, gender balance, geo-political spread and rotation of offices, to as much as possible ensure balance within the constituency covered.”
The letters of these words point to an openness of decision. But the spirit is unimpeachable. It means the decision must not be rigged by a cabal of party bigwigs. It calls for inclusiveness. How inclusive can it be when only a few men, who have held the party’s artificial jugular, decide for the ordinary man and woman who must be their candidates.
If money is the centre of this problem, it has other branches. Since money can be received and the receiver can decide to follow conscience, some party chieftains often decide to tie these delegates to all kinds of oaths. These oaths are often diabolical. In not too long ago, a former governor locked his men in an oath. If you picked the money, you also swore to an occultic oath. This is spiritual blackmail. The delegates, often beholden to this society’s aggressive superstition, cower and obey. We cannot forget the image of the party men in a southwest state carrying calabashes on their heads. Is this a modern democracy, or the democracy of the gods, of the daemons of tradition, of men who have caved in to the spirits of the dead instead of the living.
How do we trust a system to a few men who hail the name of orisha instead of the people when they pick our governors? Some oaths are not less diabolical when the consequence is death by non-supernatural means. The oaths that force the delegates to drink blood of goats, or rams or chicken or, as some have speculated, human blood, also means disobedience is death, or some greater body or psychological harms. The men and women obey because, it is safer to obey than to sacrifice their lives and careers. Democracy suffers and the people mourn.
It means our politics is beholden to cabals of aggressive spiritual content, and contempt for the people. If democracy is a system of popular persuasion, we need the process to be about the people. Not about a few.
The NWC has a chance to pick apart a system of barbaric efficiency, or pick the popular will.
The football hero
As the World Cup ends, it is time to announce Nigeria’s football hero. For me, its not Rohr, nor any of the players like Mikel Obi or Ahmed Musa. The hero probably can no longer kick or identify modern soccer formations. But he is a hero nonetheless. He is former governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio. Reason: he has given us our only claim to glory in soccer today: the stadium in Uyo. Not the one in Abuja, which has now shamefully become a political platform rather than a place for athletic display. Nor our darling National Stadium in Lagos with its great memory of players like Haruna Ilerika.
The hero cannot be Coach Rohr, who did not believe. Months ago, a famous television broadcaster introduced him to me at the airport in Lagos. And I asked him if he did not think we could win the World Cup. He said that was too ambitious. He said some world class teams were too good to beat. He referred to Germany, Brazil, Spain and Argentina. But these teams were routed by Davids who believed. Our Rohr did not believe, so his team did not roar. Croatia, Russia, Sweden, et al, believed. Success is not always about technique. It begins with the heart. Rohr did not instil in our men the heart of a lion.