The ding-dong in Ekiti (1)

There is a ding-dong in Ekiti State; it reminds me of the days of Ido-Osi when a single local government held an entire state to ransom over a bitterly-contested election. Rerun after rerun got the INEC further enmeshed in the miry clay until, finally and mercifully, Dr Kayode Fayemi of the then Action Congress, now a legacy party of the All Progressives Congress, which controls power at the centre, regained his mandate. But not before Ido-Osi had become a  metaphor for election shenanigans and the bad blood it generated ran so deep that for four good years, Fayemi as governor could not find the stomach to forgive the man who purportedly stole his mandate – Chief Segun Oni, then of the PDP. Fayemi decreed that no one should refer to Oni as one-time governor of Ekiti. To demonstrate his seriousness, he removed Oni’s photographs from all public spaces; likewise, the photo of Oni’s Chief Press Secretary, life-loving and vivacious Wale Ojo-Lanre, was stepped down in the office of the Chief Press Secretary to Fayemi, amiable and self-effacing Yinka Oyebode.

It took the second coming into office of the incumbent governor, Peter Ayodele Fayose, to return Oni’s photo, his famous or infamous place in history, and other entitlements; thereby negating, by one stroke of the pen, Fayemi’s efforts to arrest or rewrite history! No one can undo what has been done,not even Ibrahim Babangida or Sani Abacha’s (loathsome?) place in history can be so whimsically erased! History is dynamic such that, today, the same Fayemi and Oni, erstwhile inveterate foes, nestle and hobnob in the same party. They are not likely to be the best of friends but necessity compels them, today, to be pursuers of a common cause. On the other hand, Fayose, who at one time or another was a valuable ally of both men, is today a sworn political enemy they would do anything to annihilate. I do not put anything beyond our politicians. Therefore, I will not be surprised if circumstances and situations change tomorrow for their political drums to exude different tunes.

Today’s political gladiators in Ekiti are not radically different from those of the days of Ido-Osi; only that we have had a realignment of forces. A few people outside of Ekiti had given Fayose any decent chance to return to power. I must confess that I was one of them. Even when friends who are “sons of the soil” and regular readers of this column kept telling me that the situation on ground in Ekiti was different from what we “Lagos and Abuja critics and commentators” were dishing out, I stuck to my wish list. I attended Fayemi’s rally in Ado-Ekiti and prayed many nights for him to win. When he lost – doing so woefully and “losing his deposit” in First Republic political lexicon – I felt sad and bitter.

I bought into arguments that the election was massively rigged. How on earth could an incumbent lose in all the local governments, including his own? Talking sincerely, I still believe that the election was helped; as is often the case with elections in this country. I heard true-life stories of the military intimidating APC leaders on the eve of voting especially. The margin of winning and losing was also surreal. The shenanigans apart, Fayose could still have won, though, possibly with a thinner margin, because when my bitterness waned and I dispassionately interrogated events, I had to admit that head-to-head, Fayose was far more popular that Fayemi with Ekiti people. As I monitored the election, I saw Fayemi the elitist/philosopher-king and Fayose the populist/man-of-the people. An ardent reader of this column had warned me repeatedly that Fayemi, articulate, urbane, and well-travelled, executed for Ekiti what he felt Ekiti needed and not what Ekiti told him they needed. Every politics, as they say, is local. Therefore, any politician that fails to connect with the grassroots cannot but have himself to blame. We learn from our mistakes – especially if there is a second chance waiting, and we are humble enough, that is.

Three reasons have been adduced for the present dog fight in Ekiti. One, the anti-graft war, into which vortex opponents of Fayose are trying desperately to entrap the governor, while Fayose on the other hand is fighting tooth and nail to extricate himself. I will not tire to raise my voice against the approach and modus operandi of the Buhari anti-corruption war. It is selective; it is inquisitorial; and it is hyped/media lynching. For the avoidance of doubt, I support the shaming and jailing of the corrupt– all of them, and not just a section. If you are seizing the property of Air Force chiefs Amosun, Agbaje, Gbadebo, seize the Dubai property of Army Chief, General Tukur Buratai, as well.  If you are detaining Femi Fani-Kayode, Iyiola Omisore, etc., before searching for evidence to nail them, treat similarly the ministers and presidential aides against who are damning allegations of corruption.

A dangerous dimension that has also been introduced into it is that the EFCC has now found an ingenious, back-door approach to undermine the constitutional provision that says a citizen cannot be detained for more than 48 hours before being taken before the court. They have cashed-in on our collective angst against the monumental corruption in the land to abridge this very important fundamental human right. Arrests are made before investigations, instead of the other way round; after which the EFCC gets holding charge from the court, which can be renewed to keep anyone incarcerated for as long as it catches their fancy. When I speak against such methods, it is because history teaches that those are the same insidious methods of ruthless dictators. Fascists Adolf Hitler (Germany) and Benito Mussolini (Italy) both used seemingly legal means to entrap and bring Europe on its knees. Let Buhari/EFCC stop the ambush; follow due process; adopt a level-playing field; be fair and even-handed to all; and stop portraying Nigerians as corrupt people before the international community. The negative effects are already bouncing back on all of us. When you sell your own people cheap in the local market, how can they appreciate in value in the international market?

Two, is the unofficial “Leader of Opposition” tag that Fayose has taken upon himself. I had cause to lampoon Fayose when, during the presidential campaign, he overreached himself to portray Buhari as medically unfit for office. I was at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos press briefing by PDP governors where Fayose compared candidate Buhari, 73, to his (Fayose’s) mother, 74, who, after waking up in the morning, would take a long time to “boot” like an obsolete Pentium computer. I said that was in bad taste. There is no denying the fact that Buhari and, lately his wife Aishat, have suffered scathing criticisms from Fayose. Fayose’s current travails are thus seen by many as payback time from Buhari who is (?) unleashing EFCC/federal might on the governor.

I have consistently objected to any attempt to muzzle the opposition – beginning from when PDP was the ruling party – and I dare to restate that again. Had APC/Buhari been so ruthlessly muzzled by PDP/Jonathan, we would never have had a rancour-free change of government. Without vibrant opposition, democracy becomes just a sham; a mere shell without its substance. Opposition must be preserved at all costs. That is one good point no one can take away from Jonathan. He allowed free speech; even Buhari enjoyed free speech under Jonathan. Buhari made volatile, incendiary speeches under Jonathan and lived to tell the story. I demand no less accommodation from Buhari of his own political opponents. There is nothing that Buhari has been subjected to by Fayose that Lai Mohammed did not inflict on Jonathan 10 times more. Yet, Jonathan kept his cool and did not unleash “mad dogs” on anyone. Tell me, what has Aishat suffered that Mama Patience did not suffer a million times more? She was consistently the butt of cruel jokes; yet, she not only kept her cool, but also regaled us even more! I demand no less from Buhari and his wife.

LAST WORD: I am humbled by the effusive show of love, support, and encouragement from my teeming readers over last week’s “When silence is not golden…” Thank you especially for your prayers! But have you heard the news? Buhari’s leopard is yet to change its spots. Last week, he appointed a new MD for the Nigeria Ports Authority; she is from Kaduna State! You must also have heard the news that Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, our own eyes and ears (?) in the Buhari administration, has opposed restructuring, which the South, especially his own South-west, has vociferously promoted. In a “clarification” later, Osinbajo was said to only oppose restructuring “based on ethnic lines or returning the country to regional structures.” Can someone please ask the VP whether he is also opposed to a country run on ethnic/regional basis; with one section dominating the others? Esther (Hadassah), woman, erstwhile girl-slave in a foreign land, stood up and spoke for her embattled people in their hour of need: Need not Osinbajo, a man, free-born, and Number Two in the hierarchy, do likewise or even more? “If I perish, I perish” are the immortal words of Queen Esther that keeps reverberating to this day. Challenged by her uncle, Mordecai, Esther rose to the occasion. Because of space constraint, kindly reach out for the Holy Bible and read Esther 4: 13 & 14. There is also this quote common in those days amongst the Marxists at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife); to wit: “Every generation out of relative obscurity discovers its mission – to fulfil or betray it”. Has God divinely-ordained Osinbajo to come to the Presidency for a time such as this? Has he discovered his mission?

NEXT WEEK: “The ding-dong in Ekiti – 2”; God willing.