AFTER months of rancour-filled, mud-slinging and largely issue-lacking governorship election campaigns, the Ekiti electorate will storm the polling booths today to elect a governor from a motley crowd of 18.Among the leading candidates are incumbent Governor Kayode Fayemi of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Ayodele Fayose of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Hon Opeyemi Bamidele of the Labour Party (LP).
Being one of the poorest states in the country in terms of revenue allocation but arguably the best in terms of number of graduates and PhD holders, the Ekiti election, ideally, should be decided by thought-provoking manifestos of the candidates like their policies on tax, education, health, agriculture and
employment as witnessed in advanced democracies.However, it will not be surprising if the ability of the candidates to outdo one another in the sharing and distribution of edibles like cooked and uncooked rice and poverty alleviating packs including peanuts play a decisive role in who emerges as winner. This is a pointer to the fact that poverty is still endemic in the country and the electorate still see provision of power supply, road and potable water by governments as major achievements.In the last couple of days ‘sharing of rice’ by two of the leading candidates –Fayose and Fayemi has been a major and albeit funny feature of the campaigns. While Fayose distributed uncooked bags of rice to ever-willing citizens, who formed long queues during his campaigns, Fayemi together with his wife, Olayinka and other chieftains of the APC, served the citizenry, especially the elderly hot plates of jollof rice. Indeed, for a while, the First Lady had been running “Ekiti Soup Kitchen” in the 16 local councils of the state.The ‘rice sharing’ move is one of the efforts of the candidates to show that they love the citizens and would do more to improve their welfare if voted into power.An observer said it is disheartening that in 2014, in an oil-rich country like Nigeria, politicians still entice the electorate with rice , salt, pepper, food, money. “We all know that our schools are underdeveloped. We don’t have healthcare delivery, no road, no water, no electricity etc etc. Why can’t politicians provide these?” he wondered.
To him, politicians are taking advantage of the grinding poverty in the country to woo voters with trivial things like rice, salt, wrappers, etc. The development shows the disconnect that exists between the candidates and real aspects of governance.The commodities, some critics maintain, will not guarantee victory at the end of today’s exercise in Ekiti state owing to the fact that the state portrays an array of literate people and is christened Land of Honour.Wondering how the state, formerly described as Fountain of Knowledge, allowed issue-based politicking to be relegated to the background some analysts said if not checked, the rend may prevent Nigerians from enjoying the dividends of democracy for a long whilePoliticians treat us as dregs—AturuReacting to the development, Human Rights crusader, Mr Bamidele Aturu, said such acts are not only shameful but also against the Electoral Act.“It is shameful that our politicians still treat our people as dregs who can only be given token gifts when elections are approaching. It amounts to bribe giving under the Electoral Act. It is because people are poor that is why you see such in our society. The fact that you distribute rice does not guarantee victory and don’t forget that Ekiti people are also literate and educated and as such cannot be bought so cheaply.”
BY CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, DAPO AKINREFON & CHARLES KUMOLU