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Politics of Rice and Sundry Issues

politics of rice

Ollis Salus Populi Suprema  lex Esto (The welfare/good of the people is the supreme law)….CICERO

The contentious but eye opening Ekiti elections have come and gone, shocking but some will say predictable outcome of an incumbent shuffled out of government house in a land slide amidst what many acknowledge was as free and fair an election as we have ever had in these time and clime.

Like many casual observers social commentators and even activists we all keenly followed the run up to the election ,there was certainly no dull moment as the whole electoral episode played out consisting interesting and colourful participants, a Lagos godfather accused of cornering most of the contracts in the state with his acolytes interfaced with an emerging godfather from Ogun state with a drug smuggling indictment hovering over his head, moral baggage aside both had deep pockets and were willing to go considerable lengths to Install or reinstall their candidates.

It seemed a straight fight between the incumbent and his former friend Barrister Opeyemi  Bamidele until Fayose the former Governor popularly called “Osoko” by his grassroots supporters burst onto the scene in his over bearing and charismatic splendour not only changing the dynamics of the elections but giving social media a bloody nose which many are still yet to recover from. Both friend and foe are united in their agreement that the man virtually colonised public sphere either in positive or negative news reportage.

The whole process was really interesting and never short of the convoluted intrigues, Politricks consistent with Nigerian politics, you read and saw all sorts from the sublime to the out rightly ridiculous. We wove satiric prose out of rice both from the 5kg of Fayose and Aregbesola monogrammed rice to Fayemi's cooked rice offering to senior citizens.

Politics as accurately surmised above by the quote from the Philosopher Cicero is not only a game of numbers but that of personal interests and expectations. Underpinning this is a compelling connection of a politician with his or her target demographic. From the socialist enclave of Venezuela to the capitalist heartland of the United Kingdom this holds rigidly true and sacrosanct. Many intellectuals hated Chavez but he still had a huge following amongst those who matter. In the United Kingdom many cannot stand the stomach churning right wing, xenophobic ranting of Nigel Farrage's Ukip party but will readily acknowledge he is not only a man of the working class down trodden fringe in society he is the people's man, you are more likely to find a picture of him holding a glass of beer in the midst of working class people than the hallowed chambers of Westminster or in some uptown restaurant posing for pictures shirt rolled up. A voter is likely to vote for an aspirant who not only demonstrates empathy for their circumstance but one whom they can identify with. This transcends and overrides every other consideration.

The whole debate about Ekiti elections especially the various stance advanced by many in their pontificating has been narrowed down to rice sharing incident. Ekiti indigenes stereotyped as ignorant backwater who simply lined up and collected 5kg monogrammed rice and dutifully "Pless their finger for Fayose" apologies to Mama Peace. Never mind the fact that not all voters collected rice or were induced not influenced but simply voted out of their convictions.

Irrespective of the erstwhile Governor Fayemi's personality, intellectual acuity the moment he disconnected from yearnings of his people he had lost their trust, other allegations like his elitist leanings and implied condescension or the slightly more damaging allegations of being ruled from the Lagos imperial palace of emperor Jagaban are toxic mix  simply waiting to be used against him.

Fayose in spite of himself and the moral baggage weighing heavily on his shoulders actually did a lot while he was Governor, a friend of mine an Ekiti indigene attested to this even though he absolutely abhorred the man.Due to a confusing weave of filial connections which even I could not explain I had cause to visit several times and even a dead body would attest to the deplorable condition of the roads. The palpable and noticeable underdevelopment during those dark days could not be adequately described but imagined. The state was resplendent in personae of abject poverty of infrastructures until Fayose came on board.

He built roads and commissioned social welfare initiatives, infrastructures. Many indigenes especially grassroots are united and unanimous in their verdict that he brought them out of the primordial state of under development coupled with his personality and connection with the grassroots they loved and cherished him.

Contrary to what many who have never even been to the South west much less Ekiti think Fayose was not removed, controversially I must add solely because of corruption even though he was corrupt but a victim of power play and ego between him and former President Obasanjo, hence it is absurd to use this as sole indices for asking why the people voted for him, he never had a chance to test his popularity before Ekiti indigene hence many still saw him as a victim.

In addition to the above the major problem he had then was the running battle with several elders and traditional rulers, the adulation of his supporters and excellent relationship with Obasanjo before it went sour got into his head and fostered an unbridled arrogance in him he rode rough shod over them insulted them hence they wholeheartedly supported even instigated his removal .

PDP had been decimated by the ACN train led by jagaban Tinubu in the south west; hence they needed an inroad to start recovering lost ground especially now that PDP had their own counter to Tinubu in the moneybag Buruji Kashamu who was not averse to digging deep into his resources. The only other candidate that could have offered a serious challenge to the incumbent Barrister Opeyemi  Bamidele would never ever have considered running on the PDP platform so Fayose was the obvious candidate, all he needed was a cash injection and mending fences with those elders and traditional rulers. He went on a spending spree ably funded by Kashamu and rekindled dormant feelings and emotions amongst the grassroots and they responded favourably to him.

All he needed to do in addition was highlight-exaggerate and severally extrapolate the source of people's angst towards Fayemi via suggestive rhetoric, cleverly placed half-truths and outright propaganda.

It cannot be denied that Governor Fayemi both by his accomplishments and several testament to his personae also had a huge groundswell of support especially being the incumbent, however his support base was already split between him and Opeyemi Bamidele his erstwhile political colleague coupled with some of the reasons advanced above bordering on his style of Governance. Moreover as well intentioned as it sounded courting social media influencers, inviting bloggers to Ekiti most if not all who were not even indigenes of the state or had no any connection nor direct influence on voters and indigenes did not impact upon his acceptance or otherwise. I will not comment on the divided dichotomy of SM influence versus sole grass root adherents because this has been severally discussed hence a moot issue as it were.

As things stand now an introspective appraisal of how lessons can be learnt should be the focus not passing of insults and verbal barbs, questions must be asked not just how a man with questionable and marginal judgement managed to win an election but why it is that present generations failed to connect and how we can learn and replicate this next time around and in other elections. It is imperative that any semblance of perceived intellectual arrogance and hue is completely shed when advancing reasons for the incumbent's loss because that would be naive unhelpful and a distraction from real issues we should be tackling. Lastly the magnanimity and maturity displayed by accepting the election results and promptly congratulating the victor must not only be applauded but imbibed by us especially present generation 

The writer of this article first published last year after the Ekiti Elections and now reposted is Bunmi Olaniyan and he tweets from @bunmola2010


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