By Ochereome Nnanna
The victory of Dr Olukayode Fayemi, the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the 2007 elections in Ekiti State is another elixir to bolster the courage of those who refuse to bow to injustice in Nigeria.
Since the elections were held, a good number of people are now occupying the governorship seats of their states even though the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conspired against them. The list includes Hon Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole of Edo, Chief Olusegun Rahman Mimiko of Ondo State and Mr Peter Obi of Anambra State.
Fayemi’s case seemed hopeless. On five previous occasions, he waited for justice but it was his opponent, Engineer Segun Oni, that went home smiling. You will recall that the INEC had declared him the loser of the election. He went to the Election Petition Tribunal for redress.
After losing, he approached the Court of Appeal, which ordered run-off elections in some local councils. The INEC, once again, awarded the election victory to Oni in an episode in which Mrs Ayoka Adebayo, the Resident Electoral Commissioner in Ekiti State played an ignominious role that put her on the list of forever disgraced public officers.
At first, she said her Christian conscience would not allow her to do what the powers that be wanted her to do – announce a falsified result.
The principalities and powers in control of Aso Villa, Sir Louis Edet House, the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications and the INEC national headquarters, forced Adebayo out of hiding. She not only resurfaced to declare herself “still a part of the INEC family”, she obviously forgot all about her Christian conscience, and awarded victory to Oni.
As a reward for a job well done, she was allowed to continue on the job. To the surprise of many, when President Goodluck Jonathan was presented with an opportunity to repopulate the INEC Board and the state Resident Electoral Commissioners with clean hands, he flushed out the much maligned Professor Maurice Iwu and left Ayoka Adebayo to continue her discredited career in Ondo State.
Of course, Fayemi returned to the Election Petition Tribunal to challenge the result. He lost once again. It was only at the Appeal Court that he won the one and only victory that put the matter to bed conclusively. I have two questions to ask myself.
What if Ayoka Adebayo stood firm on the side of her Christian conscience when the Presidency, the Inspector General of Police, Mike Okiro; the Minister of Information, Prof Dora Akunyili and the INEC Chairman, Iwu, were threatening her?
What if she came out refusing to deny someone his hallowed mandate? What would have happened to her? I do not see the Federal Government, in the white glare of the whole world, touching a grey hair on her 74 year-old head.
I am wondering how many millions of younger Nigerians such an elder would have inspired to always stand up and never be afraid to do the right thing.
I am also wondering how many young Nigerians (and the not-so-young ones as well) have been negatively affected by her volte-face, which not only kept her on the job but made her comfortable enough to throw a lavish 76th birthday party while Fayemi was being sworn-in in Ado Ekiti? Her story is that of the (temporary) triumph of evil against good in a country where the wicked reap all the rewards.
Adebayo’s perfidy and the reward she got for it sent signals to other Nigerians that it is more profitable to collaborate with evildoers than to serve the country honestly and selflessly. No matter how rich Ayoka became after that shameful outing, her name and that of her family have been soiled irreparably and her children will be the butt of snide jokes wherever they go.
They will be forced to hide their identities in any decent circles. If integrity is a convertible currency that one’s children and grand children can cash at any time, Adebayo’s legacies will get doors slammed on the faces of her children and grand children, especially in the new, better Nigeria that will soon unfold.
The second question I have for myself is this: What if Fayemi had, like many of his types in the past, given up the fight and gone to Oni to negotiate his mandate away? It has happened to so many politicians who were cheated at the polls.
They contemplate the apparent futility of fighting someone who is in the government house and spending public funds on a battery of fat-cat Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs). Not only is the opponent paying the lawyers with public funds, he is also funnelling hundreds of millions of naira to the judges setting on the tribunals to buy justice.
Meanwhile, those who advanced the poor candidate some financial assistance have since moved on, while his banks are on him to pay up. The lure of negotiating to end the whole matter, at this point, becomes irresistible.
But in Fayemi’s case the friends that encouraged him to enter the race stayed in his corner through thick and thin.
Their moral, financial and psychological backing was unflagging. In fact, the ACN was already getting ready to field Fayemi again in 2011 if the case had failed at the Appeal Court.
You may say whatever you like about the person and style of Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, but one thing you cannot take away from him is his intrepidity. This was what helped him to win elections in Lagos from 1999 till date, overcoming the Olusegun Obasanjo rigging machine and growing the CAN into an emerging major political force.
Great things like the event in Ekiti State remind us that justice is worth fighting for. While we fight we should never lose heart because when victory comes, there is nothing like it.