Last week I celebrated Fayemi for conceding victory to Fayose in a most gracious manner. In that article I also wondered why the idea of the gallant or gracious loser has not really become engrained in our political culture despite the fact that those who conceded defeat honorably, given the relative novelty of such gestures in the country, were always rewarded with public approbation and adoration.
Ironically in almost all the instances where a loser, especially in governorship elections, conceded defeat graciously, something always happened to spoil the fun. We are already seeing signs of this in the widely celebrated détente between the victor Ayo Fayose and the vanquished Dr Kayode Fayemi.
In his concession speech, Fayemi said: “It is my belief that we must all start imbibing attitudes that will make us avoid activities that can threaten our peaceful co-existence. We must also avoid the bad loser syndrome. I believe we need to build this democracy to a mature end, rather than pull it down.” A bad loser syndrome is an affliction which makes a loser whine and accuse everyone else but himself or herself of being responsible for his or her loss. Essentially at a time people are expressing optimism that the adulation given to Fayemi for being a gracious loser could be a cure for the bad loser syndrome, the All Progressive Congress (APC) quickly reminded us that old habits die hard. The party, which likes to appropriate the progressive sobriquet to itself, said it would challenge its defeat in court and that though Fayemi conceded victory, the party was not willing to toe the same path of honour.
It may be tempting to pose the question of why I am descending harshly on APC when the party has merely indicated it will exercise its constitutional right to challenge the outcome of the election in courts. The simple answer is that I believe that for our elections to be sanitized, we need to entrench the ‘Fayemi effect’ and for the ‘Fayemi effect’ to be entrenched we should all see it as our collective responsibility to come hard on both the sore loser and the triumphant winner. In that eulogy to Fayemi I opined: “It should be the duty of the Nigerian media and Nigerians to take on both the sore loser and the triumphalist victor if we are serious about sanitizing our politics. Both the sore loser and the triumphant victor must be seen and treated as problems to the democratic processes in the country. We must begin to find answers to the question of why the phenomenon of the gallant loser has not become entrenched in our political culture despite the fact that Obasanjo became a global statesman by merely handing over power to a democratically elected government in 1979.”
APC claimed that the grounds for such a challenge would be the ‘militarization’ of the electoral process. In a communiqué after the party’s inaugural National Working Committee meeting held at the party’s National Secretariat in Abuja and read by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed about two days after Fayemi’s famous concession, the party said that “ in order to prevent a recurrence of what happened in Ekiti, especially the militarization of the process, the harassment and intimidation of citizens, especially those in opposition, my party has decided to challenge in court some of these constitutional breaches and will also encourage our leaders and supporters, who were arrested, harassed and intimidated to seek the enforcement of their constitutionally-guaranteed fundamental rights that were recklessly abridged by the security agencies.” (Vanguard, June 26 2014).
While I can understand the need for damage control by APC, especially with the coming governorship election in Osun on August 9 2014, it can also be argued that the party’s non acceptance of the results helped to create the conditions that may lead to a quick breakdown in the spirit of camaraderie exhibited by Fayemi and Fayose after the election was won and lost. It is only natural that Fayose and his group would respond in kind to APC’s lack of grace in defeat. Had APC been able to restrain itself and conceded defeat in as much gracious manner as Fayemi did, it would have earned it more respect from Nigerians. However by choosing to do otherwise, it not only put Fayemi in a difficult position but also allowed cynics to revel in the gossip that the party wants to resort to the courts because its leader Bola Tinubu has proven adept in “winning governorship elections through judicial processes”.
My personal opinion is that the grounds of objection by APC may actually be the reasons why many people felt the Ekiti election was perhaps INEC’s best outing so far. In my opinion, it was good judgment to keep governors (whether PDP or APC) away from states conducting elections (except the governor of the state conducting the election) because the truth is that in this country state governors are not ordinary citizens.
Their presence and the accompanying gravitas not only serve as distractions, the incredible war chest they carry around could also corrupt the entire electoral process. Additionally governors hold the rigging manuals for elections in Nigeria. I therefore strongly feel that INEC should institutionalize the idea of the President; Governors (other than the Governor of the State where elections are taking place) should not be allowed to visit another state conducting elections on the polling day or even a day or two before that. Yes, this could be an abridgement of their constitutional right of free movement but that little derogation in their constitutional entitlement must be seen as a small price for the nuisance they are capable of causing if allowed into election venues on a polling day or even a day before.
Something should also be said about the putative swagger Fayose is already developing, which could further poison the relations between him and Fayemi, making future losers not to take the high moral ground. Given the public adulation that followed the manner Fayemi conceded, Fayose, goaded perhaps by jealousy or a feeling that a loser is being treated better than the winner, was alleged to have declared that Fayemi’s concession was a mere publicity stunt. He was quoted by the Vanguard of June 27 2014 as saying: “The governor said I am conceding to defeat. Let me be realistic with you, there is a difference between propaganda and reality. I have been calling the governor since after our meeting but he hasn’t picked the call” (Vanguard, June 27, 2014).
There is also a feeling that Fayose is seeing himself as a co-Governor of Ekiti State – even though he still has more than three months before he is sworn him. For instance he took umbrage at the reported attempt by Governor Fayemi to create new Local Government Areas and to offer some people jobs before his tenure expires. Fayose said that would be creating problems for the incoming administration, which may well be true. The point however is that Fayemi remained the executive Governor of Ekiti State until October when he (Fayose) will be sworn. He can of course reverse aspects of Fayemi’s policies he does not like when he is sworn in. But to act as a co-governor of the state when he is merely the Governor elect, will be testing the patience of Fayemi.
One would obviously expect Fayemi to consult the governor-elect in certain critical decisions. But it is his prerogative on whether he should consult Fayose or not – just as it will be Fayose’s prerogative on whether he will retain any of Fayemi’s policies when he is sworn in.