As the dust in Ekiti settles in the aftermath of the gubernatorial election, memories of the gruelling and hard-fought campaigns have already started fading from the nation’s collective consciousness. And, as we witness the end of one chapter and the beginning of another in Ekiti State, there is one central lesson that Nigerian politicians can take away — one example that reverberates a very strong message of hope in our political practice.
In the wake of the PDP victory in Ekiti, Governor Kayode Fayemi conceded defeat in the Ekiti elections with grace and humility; he did something that was extraordinary. Conceding defeat, in of itself, in a normal setting, is nothing extraordinary, but with the kind of extraordinary atmosphere in our political structure, where elections are seen as do or die and obvious defeats are challenged by those who, for one reason or another, have a sense of entitlement, yielding to an electoral loss often becomes an impossibility.
Losing at anything in life is always very difficult and losing in politics is bound to be even tougher because it takes place on a very public platform. But even besides the publicity involved, the reality of any campaign is that a large sum of money must have gone into supporting that campaign. Therefore, apart from the public let-down in addition to a bruised ego at the thought of being beaten by a rival, the loss of an election carries with it the loss of a fortune as well. The combined loss of so much must be very hard to come to terms with.
It is a credit to Governor Fayemi that he has such decency and the altruistic carriage to appreciate that there is so much more to life than being in political power. It is refreshing to see a government official who understands that it is not the end of the world when one moves out of the government house. It is a relief to finally see an example of an aspirant who doesn’t put too much value to being driven by endless motorcades and sirens or having their picture draped in all offices and business houses in the state or having their name mentioned in the front pages of newspapers. The grace and poise in which Governor Fayemi has conducted himself since the election is very inspiring and should set a standard in elections that are relatively freely and fairly conducted.
Current and aspiring political officeholders should indeed take a cue from Governor Fayemi’s “dignified demeanour” as he gracefully accepted defeat and duly congratulated his opponent sportingly. In other saner climes, this is the norm amongst politicians as they unassumingly concede defeat and accordingly congratulate their rivals. This seemingly trivial but salient act alone is essential for the enhanced political development of the polity. It largely dissuades post-election violence/conflicts and also ensures that the elected official focuses explicitly on their mandate. In Nigeria, however, the “do or die” mentality amongst some of our politicians has largely been the bane of our political development.
It is a well-known fact that the power of incumbency plays a vital factor when politicians vie for political offices during elections. As such, politicians in this dear country of ours characteristically hold on to power, not wanting to relinquish it until they are forcibly removed from office; this is why such archetypal leaders like Governor Fayemi need to be glorified and commended. Such leaders need to be recognized and credited for conducting themselves in the best interest of the society and in a manner that advances peace.
A majority of our African countries are plagued with conflicts, some emanating from incumbent leaders who do not want to relinquish power until they are forced out. The likes of Hosni Mubarack, Muamaar Ghaddaffi, Mobutu Tse Tse Seko, Idi Amin all held onto power until they were forcibly removed.
But why? Perhaps it is because of the “fear of the unknown” after exiting government house or the unlimited access they have while in office to government coffers for their personal use. Perchance, it is the unlimited power they wield while in office, the endless motorcades and sirens used in various official and personal functions, the number of “sycophants” at their disposal, the “godlike” mentality they assume while in office, et cetera. Possibly, it is a combination of all these factors that deters such leaders from relinquishing power. Such incumbents engender conflict, particularly in cases where free, fair and credible elections are held, and the incumbent refuses to accept defeat and vacate office.
In Ghana, undoubtedly regarded as an epitome of democracy and good governance in Africa, the likes of Governor Fayemi could be found there, as the majority of the country’s politicians at various times have put the interest of their country ahead of personal interest. In 2000, when Rawlings’ mandatory eight-year governance ended, many thought he would seek a third term in office or refuse to step down. However, not only did Rawlings supervise a free and fair elections, he also honourably handed power to an opposition leader, M. A. Kuffor, who won the elections. This landmark moment in the country’s history marked the first peaceful transfer of an incumbent to an opposition. President Kuffor in turn also supervised a free and fair election and handed power to the late President Atta Mills, the opposition presidential candidate in the 2008 general elections of Ghana. In Zambia also, the country set an example for the rest of Africa about how power
can be transferred peacefully via the 2011 elections, when Michael Sata, the long-time opposition figure, defeated the incumbent Rupiah Banda. There was a peaceful transition of power as Banda conceded defeat. Compare this to such leaders like Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo who refused to stand down as president until he was disgracefully forced out of power, despite the country’s Electoral Commission’s pronouncement that the opposition candidate, Alassane Ouattara, had won the presidential election of the country. This single act almost made the country slip back into civil war, causing undue mayhem and violence in the process.
Retrospectively, Nigerian politics has witnessed the blatant abuse of the power of incumbency; incumbents lacklustre deportment at supervising a free and fair elections and conceding power when defeated at the polls. But Fayemi is indeed a true democrat and progressive devoid of the do or die mentality of a majority of Nigerian and African politicians. This singular act has thus forestalled any form of post-election violence or conflict in the state and it is unquestionably worthy of emulation by every politician in this great country of ours.
Follow me on Twitter-