“I stand to be quoted, we will lose the election with a very wide margin if it is the SSG that is chosen going by what people are saying in the State’
‘Ma, with what’s happening in the State, we can’t win with the emergence of the SSG even if we spend trillions……’
‘We are afraid of the owner of the dog, but the dog is thinking that we are afraid of it. When we get there, we shall take her to her rightful place as just a Political Observer in the State’
‘The JKF/Erelu/Oyebanji camp should be smart enough to know that the trend of things is going the way of 2014, with the rented and pretentious crowd shouting BAO’
All the above are snippets from a torrent of articles that flooded cyberspace late last year and early this year as we prepared for our political season in Ekiti State. I usually do not block people, I believe in freedom of expression. The quotations are from a certain fellow who took it upon himself to forward every negative article about me to my WhatsApp inbox, and it would be followed by a blistering commentary of his own, trying to get me to change my errant political ways. When I had enough, I blocked him.
On June 18th 2022, Mr Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji (BAO) former Secretary to the State Government (SSG) won the election in a landslide victory. In other words, contrary to my WhatsApp Nostradamus, BAO won the election with a very wide margin, fifteen out of sixteen local governments. The gap between APC and SDP who came second was 104,846 votes. There are many factors that led to the resounding victory of APC and Mr Biodun Abayomi Oyebanji, I will briefly summarise a few of them as follows:
1. THE CANDIDATE
BAO won the election because Ekiti people know him. They trust him. They love him. As a young lecturer in his twenties, BAO served on the State Creation Committee. He went from taking notes for the elderly members of the committee, to serving as Secretary when the incumbent Secretary left for the United States. BAO served two Ekiti State Governors as Special Assistant, Chief of Staff, Commissioner (various portfolios) and SSG. He has a reputation for competence, diligence, loyalty and generosity. I don’t know the ‘people’ the Whatsapp Nostradamus was referring to, but the vast majority of Ekiti people rallied round someone they regarded as a ‘Homeboy’.
2. A COMPELLING MESSAGE OF CONTINUITY
Ekiti State has never been fortunate to have any government succeed itself in power. It has been a political seesaw since 1999, of one party this season and another party next and another party next and so on. This resulted in many abandoned projects, wasted resources and a lack of policy coherence and planning. The BAO campaign promised, ‘Together with you…….Let us keep Ekiti State working’. The Ekiti 2022 election was a referendum on the two administrations of Governor John Kayode Fayemi (JKF1 2010-2014 and JKF2 2018-2022). The JKF years have witnessed unprecedented growth and development across sectors, inspite of the many obstacles the State faces, particularly in the area of financial resources. Being the savvy political leader that he is, it would have been naïve of people not to expect JKF to have a succession plan. The magnitude of the win on June 18th was a clear message from Ekiti people that they were tired of playing political ding-dong and they want an uninterrupted path to development and prosperity.
3. THE PARTY
Every political party is a family. In families, you have disagreements, sibling rivalry, difficult parents, bossy Aunties, hawkish Uncles, insatiable cousins, treachery, betrayal, there is no end to the potential dysfunction. It still remains a family, warts and all. Even when some family members decide to storm out of family meetings or refuse to show up for family celebrations, there is still room for peace and reconciliation. The Ekiti APC family closed ranks and family members fought to protect the interests of the family whose name they collectively bear. Aggrieved members were given an opportunity to air their grievances. Bridges were built and alliances strengthened. The APC is the ruling party in the State with two Senators, six House of Representatives members, Twenty-Five House of Assembly Members and a full complement of 35 Local Government/LCDA Chairs. Add to all this Commissioners, Special Advisers, Assistants and Board Members. All these party members are responsible for delivering their respective units, wards and local governments. Unlike in 2014 when federal might was brought to bear on the State by the ruling party at the center, grinding the State political machinery into dust, this time the local party architecture was unshakeable. A few fell by the wayside or surreptitiously worked for other camps, but the vast majority stood firm. I hope my WhatsApp Nicodemus has learnt a lesson in patience and humility. No one is God. You cannot predict the outcome of a process simply because the beginning is not to your liking. You also should not cry more than the bereaved.
4. THE CAMPAIGN
I have been involved in many political campaigns in Ekiti State and elsewhere. The BAO campaign was a rather unique one. This is because, due to the INEC timetable for the 2023 elections, there was very little time for a conventional campaign in a State like Ekiti where we had an off-season election. The party at the State level had to organise primaries for the State House of Assembly, National Assembly, and after that they had to move to Abuja for the Presidential Primaries. In place of the usual jamboree visits to communities and local governments by the candidate led by party officials, the political space was taken over by numerous volunteer support groups. Many of these groups were not even party members, but were keen on supporting candidate BAO. There were ‘Teachers for BAO’, ‘Okada Riders for BAO’, ‘Christians for BAO’, ‘Muslims for BAO’, ‘Youth for BAO’, there were over 200 such groups around Ekiti. Mostly at their own expense, they traversed markets, farmsteads, communities and campaigned relentlessly. A major lesson learnt here is that big campaigns with a crowd are impressive, but not necessarily impactful. The ‘boots on ground’, grassroots door to door campaign led by the BAO support groups and the Women’s Campaign Council covered so much more ground than the usual massive campaigns would have done. Talking about big campaigns, there was a ‘Mother of all Rallies’ on June 14th at Ado-Ekiti. The Mega-Rally was led by Baba ‘Emilokan’ himself, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. There were at least 14 Governors, the APC National Party Chairman and many other key party leaders from around the country. The emergence of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as APC Presidential candidate and his determination to make Ekiti State his first victory on the way to 2023 sealed the fate of one of the opposition parties who had been hoping to reap from the perceived cracks in the local APC family. No family plants its totem pole in the backyard of a rival family.
5. THE WOMEN
Ekiti women pulled their weight before and during the June 18th election. For Ekiti women, a lot was at stake too. They had been given unprecedented attention during the two JKF administrations. There was also a female Deputy Governorship candidate, Chief Monisade Afuye, a local businesswoman and politician. The APC party women campaigned fiercely, taking over the political space when the party was busy with the different primaries. The Women Campaign Council which I Chaired, ensured that we made maximum use of all our networks of market women, elderly women, female chiefs, young women, professional women, female artisans and so on. It was my pleasure to present Dr Yemi Oyebanji, BAO’s wife to all these networks, as the person who will continue all the work I have done to promote women’s empowerment in the State. We organised door to door campaigns, stakeholder meetings, women’s rallies, market outreach, farmstead visits, roadshows – women were everywhere. On election day, Ekiti women of all ages showed up in massive numbers.
Success is good when it comes your way. No one sets out on a venture to fail. Yet, there is no greater motivator than failure. I know what it is like to fail. It doesn’t matter if it was your fault or not, or if you tried your best. The end result of failure is ridicule, insults, lies, betrayal. The ghost of 2014 and what followed haunted many of us for a long time. Governor Kayode Fayemi’s electoral victory of 2018 chased the ghost away and paved the way for a golden age for Ekiti State. Opponents tried to invoke the ghost of 2014 again, but with the blazing victory of BAO on June 18th 2022, Ekiti has made a unanimous choice to move forward and never look back. To God be all the Glory. Mr WhatsApp Nostradamus, how market?
Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She is the First Lady of Ekiti State, and she can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com