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Elections reduced ‘to victory of the highest bidder’

The tenure of the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi, ends on October 17. File picture: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

The tenure of the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi, ends on October 17. File picture: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

Published Jun 18, 2022


By Dr Omololu Fagbadebo

Today is another electoral date in Ekiti State, where the people will exercise their right to elect a new governor, to steer the affairs of the state for the next four years.

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The tenure of the incumbent, Kayode Fayemi, ends on October 17. The political gladiators from the various political parties have been crisscrossing the state, soliciting the support of citizens. As usual, states have put up various shades of political characters seeking to take control of power.

In March, the Independent National Electoral Commission, released a list of 16 parties that had presented candidates for the election. The race is limited to three major contenders: Biodun Oyebanji, Segun Oni and Bisi Kolawole of the APC, SDP and PDP, respectively. Oyebanji is the candidate of the ruling party at state and national level and enjoys the support of the government.

He emerged, as the anointed candidate of Governor Kayode Fayemi. Segun Oni was a former governor under the platform of the PDP. He defected to the ruling APC, but rejoined the PDP. When he lost the PDP ticket to Kolawole, who was the candidate of the immediate past governor, Ayodele Fayose, he defected to the SDP and emerged as its candidate.

The three front-line candidates have had direct links to the Ekiti State government house, one as a former governor, and two as candidates of the incumbent and the immediate past governor.

Given the monetisation of politics and the electoral process in Nigeria, monetary inducement is crucial in the determination of the person who emerges as governor. The APC candidate will have access to the public treasury by proxy to fund the mobilisation of voters, while the other contenders will have to fall back on their reserves from the previous looting of the treasury.

One of the ironies of electoral politics in Nigeria is that while there is a paucity of funds for service delivery, there is always abundant money for electioneering campaigns and inducement of members of the public.

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Budgetary allocations, especially in an election year, are most often diverted to fund elections. The phenomenon, known as “Stomach Infrastructure”, has reduced elections to the victory of the highest bidder.

The election in Ekiti is no different. The losers will be hapless citizens who have mortgaged effective service delivery on the altar of the money-for-vote syndrome. Electoral victories are no longer determined by the proposed policies capable of transforming service delivery but by the capacity of the contestants to induce voters.

The elections in Ekiti on Saturday and in Osun State on July 16, respectively, are going to be a testing ground for the ruling APC for the general elections next year. The two states are under the control of the APC. But the major contenders are not pushovers.

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If the APC wins the two states, it will douse the tension threatening the fortunes of the party next year. Given the divisive culture of politics in Nigeria, not all the members of the APC are supporters of the candidates in the two states. Similarly, the opposition parties are not stable either.

The PDP will have to contend with its members that were against the imposition of candidates. Likewise, the SDP in Ekiti will leverage only the goodwill of Segun Oni, as a former governor, with little but formidable political flavour.

The thin-line victory of the APC in the 2014 election in Osun State is under threat by the acute faction that characterises the party. The outcomes of the elections will probably influence the general elections. The internal squabbles in the ruling APC in Osun and Ekiti are degenerating.

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With the emergence of Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi as the presidential candidates of the APC, PDP and LP, respectively, there is a political cloud hanging over the direction of the general elections.

Stomach Infrastructure, rather than the policy focus, will probably determine the outcome of the election. The cycle of prebendal politics, or what we called mercantilist politics, will surely continue. With money as the determinant of electoral victories in Nigeria, the best candidates will never emerge through the electoral process. It goes to the highest bidder.

While “Stomach Infrastructure” thrives, service delivery is in jeopardy.

* Fagbadebo is a Research Associate at the Durban University of Technology who has taught courses in political science and management sciences in Nigeria and South Africa