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Ekiti and a turbulent transition

In this piece, TUNDE ODESOLA x-rays the turbulence that greeted the political transition in Ekiti State

If indeed this is the will of the Ekiti people, I stand in deference to your will. If the result of the elections is an expression of the voice of our people, we must all heed your voice. I have just spoken with my brother, Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose, congratulating him on his victory. In a few hours from now, I would be meeting the Governor-elect to discuss the future of our dear state and how we would work together to institute a smooth transition programme. As expected, in the course of the campaigns, there were unsavory episodes as the candidates toured the nooks and crannies of the state to sell ourselves to the people.

“Elections tend to be highly divisive affairs that often see brother rising against brother. Despite our diverse party affiliations, and regardless of which way we voted on Saturday, we must remember that we are all sons and daughters of Ekiti State. Ekiti is ours to build together.” These were the words of Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the morning after he lost the bid, on June 21, 2014, to be re-elected for a second term in office. The speech is generally considered as one of the most moving political speeches delivered in recent times.

Speaking earlier, Fayose said his coming to the governor was borne out of a genuine intention to promote love and unity among Ekiti leaders. He praised Fayemi for conceding defeat to him, saying the sportsmanly conduct would forever remain in history. He said “I am here today to further promote peace and reconciliation among Ekiti leaders. No more politics of bitterness because Ekiti is one. The time is ripe for all leaders to think of how Ekiti can develop rather than promoting division that would set us back. In this election, there is no victor, no vanquished. It was a victory for all Ekiti indigenes”.

Fayemi ascended the saddle exactly four years upon the judgment of the Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, which sacked the Segun Oni-led administration. After a three-and-a-half-year legal battle, the court, through the instrumentality of law, breathed life into the governorship petition of Fayemi, on October 16, 2010. The petition, which sought the cancellation of the victory of Oni, who contested on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, had undergone trials and retrials at the Election Petition Tribunals that sat at the state capital, Ado Ekiti. Echoes of the pronouncement of the Appeal Court in Ilorin immediately reverberated in Ekiti State as supporters of the then Action Congress of Nigeria took to the streets in wild jubilation even as the Isan-Ekiti-born activist-turned-politician mounted the saddle as the duly elected governor of the Fountain of Knowledge – the sobriquet of Ekiti State – for a four-year tenure, the next day.

The journey that began exactly four years ago would end today when the power bequeathed to the War Studies scholar by the electorate in the governorship election of 2007 ceases. From the outset of the administration, Fayemi came up with an eight point agenda that included good governance, infrastructural development, modernisation of agriculture, education and human capital development, revival of health care system, industrial development, tourism development and gender equality/empowerment.

Although the Ekiti electorate never minced words that the Fayemi administration put its hands on the plough from its very first day in the office and never looked back thereafter, the outcome of the governor’s re-election bid remains “a mystery” as Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, put it Ado Ekiti, on Monday.

A former Governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Ayo Fayose, contested the June 21, 2014 governorship election against his former ally, Fayemi. They were both in the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria together, and they, in alliance with other party chieftains, mounted a campaign against Oni, who incidentally has defected to the All Progressives Congress and currently occupies the post of the National Vice Chairman of the party, South-West zone.

Fayose fell apart with the APC after the party refused to allow him to have his much-desired senatorial ticket; he retraced his steps to the PDP, surmounted a stiff challenge and claimed the party’s governorship ticket. The outcome of the election must have left the APC ruing over the desirability or otherwise of allowing Fayose to defect. Fayose coasted to victory in all the 16 local government councils of Ekiti, amassing 203, 090 votes over Fayemi’s 120, 433 votes.

The uncommon relationship between the two political leaders soon broke down. The first sign reflecting a sour relationship was the creation of new Local Council Development Areas. Not long after this, the Fayose camp accused the outgoing government of last minute recruitment of civil servants and funds withdrawal. The Chairman of PDP’s Transition Committee, Dipo Anisulowo, subsequently warned commercial banks in the state against involvement in illegal financial transactions with the outgoing administration. In a September 2, 2014 letter sent to all branch managers of commercial banks in the state, the committee said it had a piece of information that the outgoing administration was mopping up N50m each from banks under the guise of taking contributions for Education Trust Fund.

Referring to the banks, Anisulowo said, “We wish to state, with due respect to your corporate image as a registered financial institution in Nigeria, that the incoming administration of Mr. Peter Ayodele Fayose when it comes on board in October 2014, will not hesitate to take appropriate administrative and legal actions, in consonance with the dictates of the relevant financial laws, principles and regulations against any bank/financial institution found culpable of negligence, reckless and fraudulent financial dealings with the outgoing administration.”

The resultant effect of the threat was that banks stopped granting facilities to the government with civil servants bearing the brunt as they were owed salaries and allowances.

Fayemi, who said it was wrong of Fayose to give orders to banks transacting business with the state governemnt, maintained that the mandate given to him and his deputy, Prof. Modupe Adelabu, subsists till October 16. In a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Olayinka Oyebode, Fayemi blamed the inability in paying workers’ salaries on the “mischievous” directive given by Fayose, whose tenure has not started. He stated that it was the first time that workers’ salary had been delayed during his administration.

Things boiled over on September 22, 2014 when thugs stormed Ekiti High Court and disrupted proceedings in a case challenging the eligibility of Fayose to contest the election. The invasion took place shortly after the judge, Justice Olusegun Ogunyemi, refused an application to set aside an order abridging the time for Fayose to file his defence in the case instituted by a group, Ekiti-11. A member of the group, Mr. Femi Ajakaiye, instituted the suit on behalf of the group.

Justice Ogunyemi had adjourned sitting till 12pm to prepare a ruling in a similar matter filed by the Citizen Popular Party before trouble began.

As he was preparing to return for the continuation of the matter, angry youths besieged the court while the judge escaped through the backdoor to avoid being lynched.

Contrary to the argument by the PDP, the court said the decision to abridge the time did not contravene Section 32 of the 1999 Constitution. Justice Ogunyemi said the PDP and Fayose failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the reasons why the court cannot hear the substantive suit.

The judge consequently dismissed PDP’s application, saying the court cannot set aside its own ruling of June 6, 2014 and that the timeframe had been overtaken by events.

All hell broke loose on September 25, 2014 when for the second time in four days, a mob besieged the Ekiti State High Court, the venue of the Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

They attacked a judge of the High Court, Justice John Adeyeye, beating him up and tearing his suit into shreds.

They also tore the record book of the Chief Judge, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, into shreds.

Later in the day, a former Ekiti State Chairman of the National Union of Road Transport Workers, Omolafe Aderiye, was killed by unknown gunmen in Ijigbo area of the State capital, Ado Ekiti. A day after the murder of Aderiye, the residence and five vehicles belonging to a former state chairman of Road Transport Employees Association of Nigeria, Mr. Rotimi Olabiwonu, were burnt by people yet to be identified. Aderiye, a staunch supporter of Fayose, was considered as a rival to Olabiwonu, a loyalist of Fayemi. The office of Kayode Fayemi Campaign Organisation, the office of the APC, and three campaign vehicles in the state secretariat were also burnt that day.

The police have also come under serious attack from the Nigerian Bar Association, which queried why more than 100 armed policemen deployed in the court could not prevent the attack on the court.

Tracing the genesis of the violence in the state to the attack on Justice Ogunyemi, Fayemi blamed the law enforcement agencies for not doing enough to avoid the situation. He said, “This happened in full glare of the law enforcement agents with inappropriate response. Clearly, these brigands exceeded the limits of acceptable behaviour.”

But Fayose said the chaos caused by the mob on the streets of Ado Ekiti “is a clear reaction of the people to the steps being taking by the outgoing government to simply cause chaos in the state before its exit.”

The violent situation forced the Chief Judge, Justice Ayodeji Daramola, to order the immediate closure of all the State High Courts. The Chief Registrar of the court, Obafemi Fasanmi, in a statement in Ado Ekiti, said the closure followed the increasing concerns over the spate of attacks by political thugs.

Acting on this, the Governor imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the state, saying “there would be no movement between the hours of 7.00 p.m. and 7.00 a.m. every day till further notice.”

But Fayose, who spoke with journalists in Ado Ekiti, denied the allegation, describing it as spurious.

In an interview last Friday, Fayemi said: “I knew the machination behind what transpired in Ekiti and I knew the next phase they were about to move into. I chose to rescue our people from that because I felt it would be double jeopardy. This was why I then called the governor-elect and said ‘I think it would help Ekiti – since you said you have changed to   behave more maturely. To approach this in an institutional manner, put your team together, send me a list of people that you want in your transition committee. Let your team meet with my team and work through a process. If there is anything that is confusing or unclear, please feel free to ask me questions.”

It is yet to be seen whether or not the violent drama unfolding in Ekiti State would stop upon the exit of Fayemi and the inauguration of Fayose.

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