By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
Heavens Gate is a drama series on national TV produced by my church ( The City of David) to espouse Christian values and edify the society.
We can call this other clandestine production- Hell’s gate , radio drama! You listen to that 37 minute audio clip and you shake your head in sheer disbelief.
Ekiti once had an enviable reputation. The famed home of professors and petition writers has acquired other reputations lately. It is running head to head with Rivers State in political violence and mutilation of state legislature and judiciary.
Politicians routinely rig elections in Nigeria and only an exceptional few don’t. Government officials wield stolen money and arbitrary powers. They determine electoral contests in their conclaves. But this Ekiti drama crossed a line.
When Fayose, against odds and to the surprise of many, won the election in Ekiti , his victory became a case study for even experienced politicians. A riddle that had to be understood. Many are still puzzled.
.Even if his victory could be understood , the margin of his victory was in a sense comparatively grotesque. A petrified Fayemi and his confused party could only mutter incoherent words of submission.
Many conveniently attributed his victory to ‘stomach infrastructure’ . A brand of exploitative politics that has acquired a legendary status . You can bleed the treasury if you like and buy and distribute gifts to the electorate from time to time or on the eve of an election. Others argue that Fayose is popular amongst the local poor. Stomach infrastructure is unfortunately designed for such popularity. You can embezzle billions meant for a state project and spend a few thousands distributing bags of rice and chicken to market women the day before Christmas . And be popular. A man of the people!
The virus of stomach infrastructure has afflicted many. Governor Aregbesola actually sat on a moving truck while flinging cards and cash at the poor soliciting their votes in Osun some weeks ago . An Omoluabi can do no wrong, perhaps. And men of the federal road safety corps watched. Perhaps the Sarakis patented stomach infrastructure. Tinubu had thousands queue for food rations last Christmas.
Hell’s gate is revelatory only because it is dramatically graphic. The opposition had cried out when their members were arbitrarily arrested all over Ekiti on the eve of the elections. They had cried when APC governors were refused entry into Ekiti just before the election while PDP men had free access. The Fed Govt sent in the military ostensibly to curb violence. Now we know about “Passover” stickers!
An audio recording of what should be discussions between some PDP stalwarts and some government security officials have left many mouths agape. Security officials have always been known to be available for hire for election ‘jobs’, some low level thuggery . Tafa Balogun and the billions of money found in his account may suggest top echelons of the police have always been part of electoral frauds but the army had never been involved on any high scale.
Any where else, that audio recording will be a phenomenal scandal . The president, the Chief of Army Staff and Secretary to federal government were all mentioned. And so implicated. Those implicated should be rushing to seek exoneration through an impartial thoroughgoing public inquiry. But since we understand the limits of our expectations, we can just make comedy out of it. What else can we do? Perhaps since we cling on to comic details longer than our collective amnesia allows for atrocities, an interrogation of the scandal may come in the future . Perhaps.
No one really wants to over heat the polity now. Only Fani Kayode and Okupe have the license to do that now . Perhaps Lai Mohammed’s turn will come. Strangely the presidency has been mute.
Since the real dramatis personae will deny their participation, let us assume other unknown actors played those roles. Borrowing the meaning of ‘unknown’ from Fela , lets just assume some ‘con artistes’ played the characters – Obanikoro, Fayose, Brigadier Momoh, Chris Uba, Olubolade, Omisore , Abdulkareem etc in a room that has a door that creaks when it opens and that can be locked to prevent intruders when exchanges get hot or really sleazy.
Let’s review the performances of the main characters beginning with the man who may have ‘impersonated’ Obanikoro. We can name him “Showboy”. Without doubt “show boy” must be a citizen of Koro nation! He was in charge , soft when he should be , cajoling when necessary, issuing subtle threats and dangling carrots. Even the ebullient character “Poultryman” playing Fayose deferred to him many times. He was perhaps the one sent by the presidency.
Listen to showboy talk at the Brigade commander, or shall we refer to him as “Samanja”:
…”You cannot get your promotion without me sitting on the military council…”
“….if I am happy tomorrow night , the sky is your limit… and if I am unhappy.. hmmm.”
“…I am not here for tea party, I am on a special assignment given me by the president…..”
“…….you must arrest Daramola by tomorrow morning!” But others objected:
“…tonite!… arrest him tonite!..”
Daramola, Fayemi’s campaign manager, was arrested that night.
Poor Samanja! Boxed in by desperate Hyenas.
Musiliu Obanikoro has denied any involvement . The denial was lacking in specifics. He talked about natural voices being manipulated. There are reports he has gone to seek redress in court. Femi Falana laughed at the suggestion that Obanikoro was heading to court. He is innocent until proven guilty just like all the others. He has my sympathy. He has so much more to do to refute the authenticity of that recording.
In the court of public opinion , unlike the court of law, the dynamics are different. Something tells me Bode George whom he referred to as a fraudster despite judicial acquittal won’t buy his story. He is not helped by the fact that discussions revealed in that tape manifested hours after on the field as the soldiers rounded up APC stalwarts in many locations , beat them up and detained them. We may never know where the “materials INEC gave” and the “ cloned ballot papers” ended up.
The most theatrical character must be poultryman. He deserves an Oscar for a brilliant individual performance. I have watched him closely . He has no regards for bounds of propriety. He is self indulgently impulsive. On the PDP presidential campaign rally in Ado Ekiti he threatend to match APC with violence, talked about how someone used Justice Salami. He promised to fight with his last breath for Jonathan. Perhaps we understand the magnitude of the debt he owes the president better now .
On the podium that day, when reminded his time was up , he yelled “ ..don’t talk to me like that, I am a governor, I am not just anybody, I must say all I want to say, you have to be careful….” . Quintessential Fayose. The official retreated, thoroughly embarrassed and Jonathan smiled . Perhaps he smiled the smile that comes with a shake of the head elders sometimes reserve for delinquent youths.
Now compare that with Poultryman’s :
“.Can’t you let me talk, cant you let me talk, am not a small boy…” as he resisted Showboy to whom he had otherwise deferred .
Poultryman must be exceptionally gifted . He matched Fayose’s inflections , tones, sighs, yells both in English and in Yoruba and he matched even his puffs and episodes hyperventilation. Check these excerpts:
“…Look Brigadier, when I was a governor 12 years ago you were an ordinary captain, so who do you think you are….?
“…the chief of army staff called me and reassured me that this man will deliver “
“…he is disarming police working for us … this is unbecoming…”
That was poultryman skewering Samaja.
Fayose has denied any involvement. And he has to. Otherwise the chief of army staff and the president will become criminal conspirators in subverting the people of Ekiti. Otherwise INEC would have to explain the “soft copy” we heard was given to poultryman.
And Samanja , beleaguered and suppliant, struggled to mollify the “bloody civilian”, mere governorship aspirant, with many doses of …your excellency sir, your excellency sir. You can’t but believe he forgot he was supposed to be a General. Shouldn’t we rather name him ‘Mutuwadole’
What will reduce a Brigadier General to a nitwitted truant student receiving barrages from an impatient principal in presence many junior students? Even for a drama it would have been an unlikely script. Pure comedy. At some point some one asked him: “ are you taking notes?”
Brigadier Momoh is yet to speak of his involvement. You would expect that with such a scandalous clip in public domain the army should have given an official reaction. Brigadier Momoh was moved to the brigade in Ondo that oversees Ekiti shortly before the Ekiti elections. The Army will call it routine affairs.
But lets assume they will deny any involvement. They have to explain Captain Sagir Koli to us. He is not fictional. What is the Army waiting for?
When I heard Samanja say “…..if I start crying now…” I remembered Abacha and a crying General . Samanja imagined that crying will prove his innocence.
When poultryman issued his decisive threat meant for Samanja saying
“…If he wants to spoil it let him go and tie his head because we will wage war against him …” I shivered. Poultryman is not a meek man.
The rating now has to be 16, for strong language.
Samanja said Chris Uba commanded a strike force. Strike force? Why remind us of Sgt Rogers and kudirat.
If this drama was staged to ridicule the government , let the govt investigate and bring the perpetrators to book. I like govt language.
Let’s continue to remember till we know what happened in Ekiti.
Je suis Ekiti.