Ekiti: Lesson For The Future

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Ekiti: Lesson For The Future

 

By

 

Anthony Akinola

 

 

culled from GUARDIAN, October 31, 2006

 

History has a way of repeating itself. There was once a tale of two premiers in the old Western Region with Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola and Alhaji Dauda Adegbenro locked in a leadership tussle. The 1962 intra-party crisis which infiltrated the leadership cadre of the defunct Action Group (AG) was halted by the then Federal Government which imposed a state of emergency on the turbulent region.

 

A not too dissimilar scenario has played itself out in Ekiti State, formerly a district in the Western Region. The not too neat methodology employed in impeaching Governor Ayodele Fayose by the state legislature saw the former Speaker of the House, Chief Friday Aderemi assuming the position of Acting Governor. Encouraged by the unconstitutionality of the impeachment procedure and its condemnation by both the Chief Justice of the Nigerian Federation and the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Biodun Olujimi, the erstwhile Deputy governor, impeached along with Fayose, boldly challenged the legality of her impeachment in a court of law as well as constituting herself as Acting Governor in the absence of her boss who had fled the state capital. Anarchy was looming in Ekiti State, prompting the Federal Government to impose a state of emergency. It was the right thing to do in the circumstances.

 

There is an interesting and noteworthy contrast between the crisis in the old Western Region and that of Ekiti State vis-?-vis the intervention of the respective federal authorities. The Federal Government of the First Republic (1963-1966) was suspected to have aided and abetted the crisis in the Western Region for opportunistic reasons. For the ruling coalition comprising mainly of the Hausa-Fulani-dominated Northern People's Congress (NPC) and the Igbo-led National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) the crisis provided an opportunity to weaken the political base of the Yoruba-dominated Action Group which had provided "recalcitrant" opposition at the centre. No such ethnic interpretation of federal response this time around, the Ekiti crisis was an eyesore for President Olusegun Obasanjo and the leadership of the People's Democratic Party (PDP), not least because it was another unacceptable indictment of their collective competence and political integrity. The PDP has been engulfed in embarrassing crises in some other states which include Anambra, Plateau and Oyo. The revelation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that most of the state Governors are corrupt is no good advertisement for the PDP's qualifications to retain power in 2007.

Recent events in Ekiti State are not to be unexpected in a nation where democracy has been as epileptic as its supply of electricity; rather, society should learn and be stronger by the experiences that come its way. There are lessons for the electorate in making a choice among those who seek to govern them, as there are also lessons for elected politicians about the limits of their powers and authority. Even the wise men of the judiciary should have learnt a small lesson from Ekiti State that when a people chooses to revolt there is scant regard for legality and constitutionality. A judiciary that elects to compromise its own integrity would be easily swept aside by the wind of political change.

 

The intrusion of Mr. Fayose in gubernatorial politics indicts the quality of the political environment that made it possible, a questioning of their collective sense of values and evaluation. Fayose was hardly known in Ekiti State until about 2002 when he rolled out the tankers, distributing water and goodies to all and sundry. The level of his educational qualification is small issue because he is even more educated than some of the soldiers who had presided over our nation in the past. Intimidating academic qualifications cannot be a substitute for political competence and experience. The issue is that both Fayose's party and the Ekiti electorate did not enquire his suitability for the position he acquired. They seemed to be more preoccupied with what he was capable of bribing them with.

 

Mr. Fayose's style of political leadership is an interesting mix. He carved and craved the image of an Adegoke Adelabu-like populist appeal, while he was somewhat Samuel Doe in other respects. There is a population of Ekiti people who genuinely believe he was a nice person, not least because of the personal touch he gave to their lives. However, the more informed segment of Ekiti society detests his crudity and "lawlessness". Now that Fayose has forever lost his immunity from prosecution the authenticity of allegations of crimes that are a lot more disturbing than corruption and graft should unfold in the days ahead.

 

Talking of corruption and corrupting democratic ideals, it should be highlighted here that Ekiti legislators were not known to have emphatically on their own called Fayose to order over his gambling of public money on frivolous gifts and favours. They were all, at one time or the other, beneficiaries of his prodigalism and Machiavellianism. A future legislature of more enlightened men and women will not compromise the principle and essence of Separation of Powers entrenched in the Constitution. There was no need for the legislators to have travelled to Europe and America under the guise of understanding more established parliaments. Fayose probably saw himself as a headmaster leading pupils on a school trip. I bet the legislators were grateful for their "estacodes"!

 

The legislators should also not have endorsed Fayose's appointment of an unelected person as replacement for impeached Deputy Governor Abiodun Aluko, not least because of the absurdity that such an unelected person could become Governor in the event of Fayose's death, impeachment or incapacitation. That "selection" by Fayose was one executive arrogance and dictatorial streak the legislators should have contained because it made nonsense of a succession order which any constitution worth the paper it is written on should have provided. It should be interesting to know why Mr. Adebisi Omoyeni resigned his position in less than three months for Mrs. Olujimi to subsequently become the third Deputy Governor in a space of three years.

 

Corruption may be the Nigerian disease but the one institution one hates to see it infiltrate is the judiciary. The judiciary is the last hope of the ordinary citizen insofar as justice and fairness are concerned. Of course the methodology employed in impeaching Governor Fayose and his deputy did not conform to the requirements of our constitution and has been competently and rightly condemned but this should not provide solace for the erstwhile Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Chief Kayode Bamisile who was assumed to have compromised his integrity in assigning a "sympathetic" panel for the trial of the duo. Critics of Chief Bamishile suspected he had intended a result which he set out to achieve by constituting a panel made up of "questionable" individuals who they also believed were Fayose's cronies. The Chief Judge, without an iota of doubt, had discretionary powers to constitute a judicial panel but it was one power which his professional calling and personal integrity demand he exercised with utmost caution and consciousness of history in mind. So there is a lesson for all of us in the Ekiti saga which we hope will not set off an ignominious chain of events like the historical Western Regional crisis of 1962 which culminated in a bloody civil war for our nation.

 

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Dr. Akinola lives in Oxford, England

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