By Bolanle Bolawole
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What goes around comes around
First they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me – Martin Niemoller.
Ekiti state, a state that prides itself as the country’s “Fountain of Knowledge”, is in the news again –and, unfortunately, for the wrong reason. Ekiti is the state where Fulani herdsmen and sundry kidnappers not only repeatedly sow anguish, sorrow and tears but also incessantly desecrate the sanctity of the traditional institution of Obaship while the then effete Gov. Kayode Fayemi administration, like Rome’s King Nero, fiddled on a wild goose chase after a presidency that, in the wildest of imaginations, could never have been his. How many “Ori-Ades” and their families have been so afflicted with their persons, palaces and peace violated! In times past – possibly still so today – Ekiti boasted the largest concentration of academics in the country. Unfortunately, it does appear as if that has not reflected in the quality of leadership that the state has thrown up. Ekiti has the unenviable record of a state where an election re-run (the Ido-Osi re-run) was done again and again; yet, on each occasion ending up in a fiasco that left every right-thinking person stupefied!
Ekiti has one of the highest levels of political instability in the country; three of its governors were denied second term in what many regard as controversial circumstances: Otunba Niyi Adebayo (1999- 2003) was edged out by Ayodele Fayose (2003 – 2006) who, himself was not only impeached in controversial circumstances but was also run out of town in 2006. The turmoil that followed was stupendous: Fayose from his hiding place; his deputy, Biodun Olujimi, and the then Speaker of the Ekiti House of Assembly, Friday Aderemi, all laid claim to the same seat of governor! To clear the mess, President Olusegun Obasanjo, in all respects the agent provocateur of the needless crisis, appointed retired Gen. Idowu Olurin as sole administrator (19 October, 2006 – April 27, 2007). Ekiti, thus, has the odious distinction of being the only state in the country since the ongoing democratic dispensation which was birthed in 1999 where an elected governor was sacked from office and a retired Army general was appointed as Sole Administrator in his place. When, in May 2013, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three states of the federation – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency ravaging that geo-political zone, the state governors were left to remain in office.
Ekiti state’s Fayose (October 16, 2006) was not the first governor to be impeached in recent times in Nigeria. Kaduna’s Balarabe Musa led the pack when he was impeached in 1981. Bayelsa’s DSP Alamieyeseigha followed on December 9, 2005; Oyo state’s Rashidi Adewole Ladoja on January 12, 2006 (later reinstated by the court); Anambra’s Peter Obi on November 2, 2006 (later reinstated by the court); Plateau state’s Joshua Dariye on November 13 to 2006 and Adamawa’s Murtala Nyako on July 15, 2014. It is instructive that five of the impeachments, which were kangaroo to all intents and purposes, took place under the watch of Obasanjo (1999 – 2007) while only that of Nyako took place under Jonathan’s administration. Balarabe Musa’s impeachment was before the current democratic dispensation.
The fact that Ekiti has had a number of political leaders that have smelt the office of governor has fuelled its political instability. Apart from Niyi Adebayo, at the moment a Federal minister, who appears taciturn, Fayose returned with ferocity in 2014 to deny Fayemi a second term of office, aided, as some have alleged, by “Federal might” of the then PDP-controlled presidency of President Goodluck Jonathan. In 2018, Fayemi, taking advantage of the turn of events at the Federal level where his own party, APC, was now in power, returned with panache, bravura, and a ferocity that was befuddling to sweep Fayose, his party (PDP), and godson (Prof. Kolapo Olusola Eleka) off their feet. They called it “return match!” As things stand, Fayose and Fayemi have both returned to clinch the second term that was denied them at some point while Segun Oni (29 May 2007 – 14 October, 2010), a beneficiary of the shenanigans that led to the impeachment of Fayose, the appointment of Olurin as Sole Administrator and the controversial election that followed the disengagement of Olurin (made infamous by the Ido-Osi re-run debacle) is still battling tooth-and-nail to return for his own second term. After he failed to win the PDP ticket for the last Ekiti governorship election, Oni decamped to the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to contest the election, which the INEC declared the APC candidate, Biodun Oyebanji, to have won. As we speak, Oni is in court contesting the INEC declaration even though Oyebanji has since been sworn in as the Ekiti governor.
If you think it is the Executive alone that is steeped in the waters of political instability in Ekiti, you will be wrong! You will also be wrong if you think the present crisis engulfing the Ekiti State House of Assembly is the first of its kind. Permit me to quote from a bad-mannered and ill-tempered press statement released by the Ekiti APC publicity secretary, Segun Dipe, in which he threw tantrums at seven leading Ekiti lawyers who had expressed their reservation about the manner in which the Speaker of the Ekiti House of Assembly, Gboyega Aribisogan, was allegedly impeached and removed from office. Hear Dipe: “That we specifically cannot remember what action was taken by any or all the seven legal legends when, in November 2014, seven assembly members removed the then Speaker of the House, Rt. Hon. Adewale Omirin, and his deputy, Rt. Hon. Adetunji Orisalade, from office. None of those crying fouls called the perpetrators to order; that we also cannot remember whether or not any or all of them complained when, in October 2018, days before the expiration of the tenure of the then Gov. Ayodele Fayose, Rt.Hon. Kola Oluwawole, and his deputy, Sina Animasaun, were removed as speaker and deputy speaker respectively. That our memory has not failed us regarding the role played by some of the seven wise men in ensuring that Engr. Segun Oni, who came third, was foisted on his party, the PDP, and the entire Ekiti state as governor in 2007, only for the Court of Appeal in Ilorin to rule in 2010 that the action was a democratic fraud”
So, it would seem that political instability has become the second nature of Ekiti; little wonder, then, that its development has not only been arrested but has also been set on a backward spiral, despite that it is one of the most lettered and sophisticated states in the country as well as being 100% homogeneous. When gentleman Funminiyi Afuye, speaker of the Ekiti House of Assembly, died on the 19th October, no one needed a soothsayer to know that Ekiti could burn again, so to say! When Gboyega Aribisogan was reportedly elected as the new speaker in a seemingly seamless and peaceful election, I was surprised. First, because Aribisogan was known not to be the Ekiti godfather’s favourite and, secondly, because it looked too good to be real going by the trajectory of Ekiti politics and the undercurrents that we were familiar with, beginning with the choice of Oyebanji as the PDP candidate and that of his running mate. Remember how many APC stalwarts kicked against the choice of Oyebanji before everyone apparently was placated and they sheathed their sword! Just as seven Ekiti legal luminaries are protesting the “impeachment” of Aribisogan was how seven Ekiti APC governorship aspirants protested the emergence of Oyebanji as the Ekiti APC governorship candidate. The seven were: Opeyemi Bamidele, Dayo Adeyeye, Bamidele Faparusi, Demola Popoola, Afolabi Oluwasola, Femi Bamisile and Kayode Ojo. Because the case is still in court and is, therefore, ”sub judice”, as lawyers would say, let us just say that the choice of Oyebanji’s running mate was also no less acrimonious.
The seven illustrious Ekiti sons who have shown their indignation at the kangaroo impeachment of Aribisogan is led by no less a personality than Aare Afe Babalola, legal luminary of no mean repute, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, founder of the highly-rated Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, the largest employer of labour and the highest tax payer in Ekiti after the state government. Chief Afe Babalola was 93 years old last October 30 and is the recipient of numerous awards and honours both locally and internationally. The other six Ekiti sons filing behind him are also respected, reputable and accomplished leaders in their own right. They are, all of them SAN, Wole Olanipekun, Dele Adesina, Olu Daramola, Femi Falana, Dayo Akinlaja, and Gboyega Oyewole. Severally and jointly, the seven would qualify any time, any day as the toast of any community; be it locally, be it internationally. It is, therefore, not only sad and unfortunate but also uncharitable that these are the “men of timber and calibre” (apologies, K. O. Mbadiwe!) that the Ekiti APC, speaking through its publicity secretary, chose to denigrate with putrid words that foul the air to high heavens. The gratuitous insult heaped on these illustrious sons of Ekiti; nay, of Nigeria, shall not stand. It must be withdrawn and an unreserved apology tendered by the Ekiti APC.
What did the Ekiti-7 say to deserve the tongue-lashing they received from Ekiti APC? That the party should respect its own Constitution and the Constitution of the country; that it should respect the laid down rules and regulations of the Ekiti House of Assembly; and that it should stop making Ekiti a laughing stock in the comity of other states. Is that too much to ask? The politics behind the Ekiti House of Assembly crisis is scantily-concealed. In Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart”, Eneke, the bird, was asked why he was always on his wings and he replied that since men have learnt to shoot without missing their mark, he, too, has learnt to fly without perching! Godfathers are learning new tricks to rein in their godsons. Swearing on oath has failed them; witness the Uba and Ngige Okija shrine tragicomedy! No thief trusts another thief. “Gentlemen’s agreements” are held up and torn into shreds, like Adolf Hitler did the Versailles Treaty, once power changes hands. So, to ensure that godson stays in line, a gun must be held to his head. First, install a trusted deputy who will take over from him in the event of any eventuality. Secondly, enthrone a House of Assembly leadership that will do your bidding at any Time-T, as they say.
Tell Gov. Biodun Oyebanji that a godfather is like the devil; when he gives you a cap, he demands for your neck in return! They are the Yoruba proverbial “A je k’omo o ta/Je k’omo o je’re/Ma je k’omo o ko ere oko de’le” You work, they do the eating. They are like the biblical Midianites who came at the nick of harvest time to plunder the sweat of the Israelites. Oyebanji’s publicly-stated alibi notwithstanding, the unspoken truth why he cannot come to Aribisogan’s rescue is because, with his election still in court, he cannot stand in opposition to his godfather. That is understandable but he should note that once they succeed in digging a pit around him, like they are trying to do now, they will come for him! Like biblical Mordecai warned Queen Esther, Oyebanji should not think he will be safer in the Oke Aya’ba Government House anymore than Aribisogan was safe in his speaker’s seat. And like Martin Neilmoller, quoted above, has said, if you keep quiet when they come for others, no one will be left to speak out for you when, ultimately, they come for you – because they will surely come for you!
But come to think of it, what is my own in all of these? Are any of these folks worth fighting for? Are they not different fingers of the same leprous hand? Are they not the same band of rampaging locusts fighting for supremacy one over the other for selfish and self-serving ends?
* Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD'S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.