5th October, 2010
For the umpteenth time, the good people of Ekiti State await the judiciary to do theÂ needful and give them desired justice in the electoral disputation over the 2007Â governorship election. It may sound foolhardy that the election, which tenure expires inÂ a few months is still under judicial contestation. But then, muddling such disputes andÂ wearying the victims of electoral fraud in Nigeria has been one of the strongest tacticsÂ the electoral thieves that have written the history of elections in Nigeria withÂ fraud-felt pens have employed to further their interests. For long, the people of EkitiÂ have looked up to justice to avail them the opportunity of having the governor theyÂ elected govern them but for long, the judiciary has indulged in needless equivocations toÂ keep their hopes in abeyance. The dawn of what is being promised as a new electoral orderÂ provides sufficient grounds for the judiciary to clear the tars that had gathered fromÂ playing judicial footsie with a case that should be simple, as it is laconic.
The Ekiti electoral disputation has contributed its fair share in muddling the integrityÂ of the judiciary and if the judgment of the first tribunal that looked into the April 14,Â 2007 election, which was eventually tossed away by the Appeal Tribunal, wasÂ controversial, the split decision of the second tribunal, which looked into the messyÂ 2009 re-run and affirmed the results of the re-run (infamously referred to as Ido Osi)Â was horrible. Amidst allegations of lurid and shameless financial overtures by the stateÂ government, the state and national leaders of the PDP to secure victory for the PDP, theÂ judgment itself was a study in illogic, equivocations and muddling of facts.
Now that the Appeal Tribunal is about to give judgment on the Ekiti re-run, there is needÂ to remind the judiciary that it must do a lot to clear itself from the raging controversyÂ about its integrity, as well as its not-so-encouraging perception as the seller of lastÂ resort on electoral issues in Nigeria. There is need for the judiciary to re-assureÂ Nigerians that it is prepared for the challenges of a new electoral order that is notÂ shackled by the shameful attitude of some of its members to compromise the desire ofÂ Nigerians for a free and fair electoral order that would guarantee them the rightÂ leadership choice from 2011.
Much has been said about the corruption in the judiciary. It is even a rave issue thatÂ now straddles the bar and bench in Nigeria and all have come to admit that the NigerianÂ judiciary is very corrupt and needs redemption. The corruption among those thatÂ constitute election tribunals is outstanding and generates concern among judicialÂ players. The Ekiti case provides a ready instance where the judiciary, through theÂ alleged low actions of some of its members, has fallen so low below expectation andÂ methinks it is the reason why the President of the Appeal Court has taken charge of theÂ appeal. Public perception is that Ekiti electoral dispute provides a fertile ground forÂ howling manipulation of the judiciary through inducement to ensure the people are saddledÂ with beneficiaries of electoral rougery. This may or may not be true but the judiciaryÂ needs to clear this impression before the next general elections.
As the Appeal tribunal prepares to deliver judgment in the Ekiti issue, we need to remindÂ them that the Ekiti case is always referred to as a fertile ground for judicialÂ corruption because of the factors and events that encase the gubernatorial electionÂ there. Most of the issues are well known to Nigerians but the Ido Osi debacle stands outÂ because it got rave attention from prime national and international media as it happened.Â It happened before our very eyes and in very shoddy and embarrassing manner thatÂ explaining it away has so far been very difficult. Giving it judicial stamp is asÂ abhorrent as it is indicting.
It may be apt to recap some of the controversial issues that has ensured that EkitiÂ remains under contestation for almost four years. The election of April 2007 was aÂ cocktail of desperate manipulations as most Ekiti people knew that Kayode Fayemi won theÂ election. By the time nineteen state assembly election results were declared and the ACÂ was comfortably leading by 13 seats to 6 for the PDP, the party notorious for witlessÂ electoral forgery, knew it had lost the state. What followed was a rehash of the kind ofÂ inverted reasoning that came into play in the re-run polls of 2009 where the PDP ensuredÂ it got the remaining 7 assembly seats allotted to it and also the governorship.
Fayemi and the AC went to court and with a load of evidences that can never be faultedÂ including forensic proof of the criminal forgery of the PDP, the state election tribunalÂ indulged in a horrific mathematical abracadabra that saw the shrinking of Fayemiâ€™s votesÂ and the bolstering of Oniâ€™s votes. Fayemi went on to appeal this judgment and the AppealÂ tribunal was to rule that Fayemi got more valid votes than Oni in the election while itÂ ordered re-run election into some wards where there were noticeable evidences of fraud.Â The re-run election merely brought out the tardiness of the INEC and the collaboratingÂ PDP in electoral rigging. Held under a tense and dangerous atmosphere, brought about byÂ the desperation of the PDP to return to power, no one fathomed that the PDP will adopt aÂ seemingly stupid ways to cart away the mandate that was evidently Fayemiâ€™s.
By the time the votes from about ninety five percent of Ekiti State had been cumulativelyÂ collated, the PDP found out that only a miracle will return it to the Ekiti governmentÂ house. It held up the system and manufactured about fifteen thousand votes from Ido OsiÂ to make up for the shortfall it was suffering against Fayemi. Under intense pressure fromÂ a combined PDP force that included the presidency, the PDP hierarchy at the nationalÂ level, South West PDP, neighbouring PDP governors, the security agencies and the INECÂ leadership, the Resident Electoral Commissioner Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo buckled and threw inÂ her resignation rather than acceding to the PDPâ€™s request for her to announce the fakeÂ Ido Osi results, which were gathered in private residences of PDP members. The poor womanÂ was smoked out by a combined effort of the above mentioned forces and was forced toÂ renounce her resignation and announce the discredited results, on the basis of which theÂ PDP got back Ekiti State. An awed and shocked nation watched in utter disbelief andÂ protested as loud as possible but like a dog in heat, the PDP was far gone in debaucheryÂ to reject this obvious faÃ§ade. It was there that Ido Osi entered the political lexicon ofÂ Nigeria to represent an audacious and desperate way of working from the answer to satisfyÂ some pre-determined causes.
At the election tribunal, Fayemi was to bring tons of evidence, including human limbs andÂ certified proofs of electoral fraud to prove what the whole world knew as the sordidÂ events of Ido Osi but the tribunal was to disallow all these on incoherent reasons andÂ flippant excuses, which fueled grave allegations of compromise against the members of theÂ tribunal.
With the Appeal Tribunal set to give judgment on the lingering Ekiti case, there haveÂ been worrying allegations of multiple plots to divert or arrest the impending judgmentÂ and this followed the same trend of allegations that were raised against the EkitiÂ tribunal. There have been pointed allegations of serious efforts to ensure that theÂ judiciary still drags along the malfeasant allegation of connivance with the PDP to keepÂ PDP in power in Ekiti. Even as one is tempted to dismiss these series of allegations, oneÂ is worried that these may not be smokeless fire after all. Given the events of Ido OsiÂ and how it is fully berthed in the public domain, Nigerians feel that it will take onlyÂ judicial chicanery to uphold it or explain it away. Because Nigerians were very muchÂ awake to the shenanigans and the dirty maneuvers that birthed Ido Osi, there would be noÂ reason the judiciary can adduce to force that bitter pill down the throats of NigeriansÂ and the demolition of the phantom Ido Osi figures will consume PDPâ€™s ambition to holdÂ unto the mandate of Ekiti people. So I believe that Justice Salami and co will be aliveÂ to these very important indices in arriving at the final judgment on Ekiti.
More than dampening the enthusiasm about 2011, the Ekiti election issue, ifÂ satisfactorily handled, will boost the integrity and confidence on the judiciary andÂ serves as demonstrable indication that the judiciary is ready to curb the widelyÂ perceived corruption in its midst and work in tandem with the wishes and aspirations ofÂ Nigerians for a credible election in 2011. The just reconciliation of the lingering EkitiÂ case on the side of justice will boost the confidence of the people in the judiciary toÂ help Nigerians conduct a credible election in 2011. Any controversial verdict meant toÂ give the PDP room to enjoy an unmerited mandate will worsen the confidence crisisÂ engulfing the countryâ€™s electoral process and its judiciary and will sever hopes forÂ credible elections in 2011.
â€¢Peter ClaverÂ Oparah writes from Lagos.