Ekiti Beckons To The Judiciary For Justice

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For the umpteenth time, the good people of Ekiti State await the judiciary to do the  needful and give them desired justice in the electoral disputation over the 2007  governorship election. It may sound foolhardy that the election, which tenure expires in  a few months is still under judicial contestation. But then, muddling such disputes and  wearying the victims of electoral fraud in Nigeria has been one of the strongest tactics  the electoral thieves that have written the history of elections in Nigeria with  fraud-felt pens have employed to further their interests. For long, the people of Ekiti  have looked up to justice to avail them the opportunity of having the governor they  elected govern them but for long, the judiciary has indulged in needless equivocations to  keep their hopes in abeyance. The dawn of what is being promised as a new electoral order  provides sufficient grounds for the judiciary to clear the tars that had gathered from  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 integrity  of the judiciary and if the judgment of the first tribunal that looked into the April 14,  2007 election, which was eventually tossed away by the Appeal Tribunal, was  controversial, the split decision of the second tribunal, which looked into the messy  2009 re-run and affirmed the results of the re-run (infamously referred to as Ido Osi)  was horrible. Amidst allegations of lurid and shameless financial overtures by the state  government, the state and national leaders of the PDP to secure victory for the PDP, the  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 need  to remind the judiciary that it must do a lot to clear itself from the raging controversy  about its integrity, as well as its not-so-encouraging perception as the seller of last  resort on electoral issues in Nigeria. There is need for the judiciary to re-assure  Nigerians that it is prepared for the challenges of a new electoral order that is not  shackled by the shameful attitude of some of its members to compromise the desire of  Nigerians for a free and fair electoral order that would guarantee them the right  leadership choice from 2011.

Much has been said about the corruption in the judiciary. It is even a rave issue that  now straddles the bar and bench in Nigeria and all have come to admit that the Nigerian  judiciary is very corrupt and needs redemption. The corruption among those that  constitute election tribunals is outstanding and generates concern among judicial  players. The Ekiti case provides a ready instance where the judiciary, through the  alleged low actions of some of its members, has fallen so low below expectation and  methinks it is the reason why the President of the Appeal Court has taken charge of the  appeal. Public perception is that Ekiti electoral dispute provides a fertile ground for  howling manipulation of the judiciary through inducement to ensure the people are saddled  with beneficiaries of electoral rougery. This may or may not be true but the judiciary  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 remind  them that the Ekiti case is always referred to as a fertile ground for judicial  corruption because of the factors and events that encase the gubernatorial election  there. Most of the issues are well known to Nigerians but the Ido Osi debacle stands out  because it got rave attention from prime national and international media as it happened.  It happened before our very eyes and in very shoddy and embarrassing manner that  explaining it away has so far been very difficult. Giving it judicial stamp is as  abhorrent as it is indicting.

It may be apt to recap some of the controversial issues that has ensured that Ekiti  remains under contestation for almost four years. The election of April 2007 was a  cocktail of desperate manipulations as most Ekiti people knew that Kayode Fayemi won the  election. By the time nineteen state assembly election results were declared and the AC  was comfortably leading by 13 seats to 6 for the PDP, the party notorious for witless  electoral forgery, knew it had lost the state. What followed was a rehash of the kind of  inverted reasoning that came into play in the re-run polls of 2009 where the PDP ensured  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 faulted  including forensic proof of the criminal forgery of the PDP, the state election tribunal  indulged in a horrific mathematical abracadabra that saw the shrinking of Fayemi’s votes  and the bolstering of Oni’s votes. Fayemi went on to appeal this judgment and the Appeal  tribunal was to rule that Fayemi got more valid votes than Oni in the election while it  ordered re-run election into some wards where there were noticeable evidences of fraud.  The re-run election merely brought out the tardiness of the INEC and the collaborating  PDP in electoral rigging. Held under a tense and dangerous atmosphere, brought about by  the desperation of the PDP to return to power, no one fathomed that the PDP will adopt a  seemingly stupid ways to cart away the mandate that was evidently Fayemi’s.

By the time the votes from about ninety five percent of Ekiti State had been cumulatively  collated, the PDP found out that only a miracle will return it to the Ekiti government  house. It held up the system and manufactured about fifteen thousand votes from Ido Osi  to make up for the shortfall it was suffering against Fayemi. Under intense pressure from  a combined PDP force that included the presidency, the PDP hierarchy at the national  level, South West PDP, neighbouring PDP governors, the security agencies and the INEC  leadership, the Resident Electoral Commissioner Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo buckled and threw in  her resignation rather than acceding to the PDP’s request for her to announce the fake  Ido Osi results, which were gathered in private residences of PDP members. The poor woman  was smoked out by a combined effort of the above mentioned forces and was forced to  renounce her resignation and announce the discredited results, on the basis of which the  PDP got back Ekiti State. An awed and shocked nation watched in utter disbelief and  protested as loud as possible but like a dog in heat, the PDP was far gone in debauchery  to reject this obvious façade. It was there that Ido Osi entered the political lexicon of  Nigeria to represent an audacious and desperate way of working from the answer to satisfy  some pre-determined causes.

At the election tribunal, Fayemi was to bring tons of evidence, including human limbs and  certified proofs of electoral fraud to prove what the whole world knew as the sordid  events of Ido Osi but the tribunal was to disallow all these on incoherent reasons and  flippant excuses, which fueled grave allegations of compromise against the members of the  tribunal.

With the Appeal Tribunal set to give judgment on the lingering Ekiti case, there have  been worrying allegations of multiple plots to divert or arrest the impending judgment  and this followed the same trend of allegations that were raised against the Ekiti  tribunal. There have been pointed allegations of serious efforts to ensure that the  judiciary still drags along the malfeasant allegation of connivance with the PDP to keep  PDP in power in Ekiti. Even as one is tempted to dismiss these series of allegations, one  is worried that these may not be smokeless fire after all. Given the events of Ido Osi  and how it is fully berthed in the public domain, Nigerians feel that it will take only  judicial chicanery to uphold it or explain it away. Because Nigerians were very much  awake to the shenanigans and the dirty maneuvers that birthed Ido Osi, there would be no  reason the judiciary can adduce to force that bitter pill down the throats of Nigerians  and the demolition of the phantom Ido Osi figures will consume PDP’s ambition to hold  unto the mandate of Ekiti people. So I believe that Justice Salami and co will be alive  to these very important indices in arriving at the final judgment on Ekiti.

More than dampening the enthusiasm about 2011, the Ekiti election issue, if  satisfactorily handled, will boost the integrity and confidence on the judiciary and  serves as demonstrable indication that the judiciary is ready to curb the widely  perceived corruption in its midst and work in tandem with the wishes and aspirations of  Nigerians for a credible election in 2011. The just reconciliation of the lingering Ekiti  case on the side of justice will boost the confidence of the people in the judiciary to  help Nigerians conduct a credible election in 2011. Any controversial verdict meant to  give the PDP room to enjoy an unmerited mandate will worsen the confidence crisis  engulfing the country’s electoral process and its judiciary and will sever hopes for  credible elections in 2011.

•Peter Claver  Oparah writes from Lagos.