A twist in the Ekiti tale

The case was supposed to have been closed.

The nation had spent months trying to figure out how an incumbent governor who was said to have been ‘performing’ by all accounts, could lose in every local government to a man who had been impeached years earlier, and whose antecedents are colourful, to say the least. Much of the discourse centered on the phenomenon of ‘stomach infrastructure’, which essentially held that certain things – like not being ‘stingy’ and ‘connecting with the grassroots’ – mattered more to the electorate than good roads and other social services.

Those terms are euphemisms for the kind of governance that got us to where we are as a nation, and expose an irony about the Nigerian electorate: For all the weeping and grinding of teeth about corruption, most of the people that cast their votes at elections would like their own piece of the ‘cake’ – however small or badly baked – whether in form of rice, contracts, tips, and any of the legion ways by which favours are dispensed in our society.

Of course, there are those who would disagree. There are those who hold the opinion that it is demeaning to say the people of Ekiti sold their votes for rice and other things, and that maybe the government of Kayode Fayemi is not as good as ‘outsiders’ make it out to be. Fayemi certainly made some missteps, like taking on civil servants and teachers in reforms, and also not developing his own political structure (read, ‘patronage networks’) in the state. The former could have been left for his second term, and he paid the price. Furthermore, educational reforms in other APC states were scaled back, for fear of creating discontent that will have an effect at the polls. Sacked teachers were recalled, and planned assessments of teachers were cancelled.

However, it seems there remains a twist in the Ekiti tale. After the initial statements that implied we would have a peaceful procession to a change of government, the atmosphere has gotten to boiling point. A suit was filed by a group called E-11, challenging the eligibility of Fayose to even run for office at all. First, let us also establish that there is grounds for a suit in the first place. Section 138(1)(a) of the 2010 Electoral Act says:

An election may be questioned on any of the following grounds, that is to say:

  1. That a person whose election is questioned was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the election.

Section 182 (1)(i) of the 1999 Constitution says:

No person shall be qualified for election to the office of Governor of a State if:

He has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a Tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a Tribunals of Inquiry Law or any other law by the Federal or State Government which indictment has been accepted by the Federal or State Government.

Now, Fayose’s impeachment as Ekiti governor in March 2006 on charges of corruption certainly falls under this umbrella, a fact which would disqualify him from running. In addition, if he did not state that he was impeached in the nomination form submitted to INEC, it would go against Section 31(5) and (6) of the 2010 Electoral Act which say respectively:

A person who has reasonable grounds to believe that any information given by the candidate in the affidavit or any document submitted by the candidate is false may file a suit at the High Court of a State or Federal High Court against such a person seeking a declaration that the information contained in the affidavit is false

If the court determines that any of the information contained in the affidavit or any document submitted by that candidate is false, the court shall issue and order disqualifying the candidate from contesting the election.

The above would explain recent happenings in Ekiti, where the judge presiding over the case brought by the E-11 was manhandled by thugs loyal to Fayose, and property vandalized. Such behavior means that there is a real fear the ruling could go against the governor-elect. It also casts serious doubt over Fayose’s claim to be a different person the second time around. His first term was littered with incidents of intimidation of political opponents, as people like Femi Bamishile, the family of the late Ayo Daramola, and many others can attest.

The events between 2003 and 2006 in Ekiti were clearly not enough to convince a majority of people to deny him a return to power, and even before taking his oath of office on October 16, we have probably been given a foretaste of things to come.

But for this little matter before the court.

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