By Tony Momoh
Many are celebrating the installation of Dr. Kayode Fayemi as Governor of Ekiti State. I am celebrating too, thank you. But I am sad, very sad indeed. I am sad because I am also mourning; and you can’t be popping bottles of champagne when you are mourning.
I would have been happier if Fayemi had been there 42 months ago when elections were held. I am sad and mourning not because Fayemi did not want to be there, or that the people of Ekiti State moved against him through the ballot box; but he could not be there 42 months ago because he was prevented from being there.
It happened in other places before his time. There are promises that it won’t happen again. But I am not so sure that that day will dawn without brutal and bruising struggle. Looking back to the elections of 2007 which introduced the do-or-die dimension to our electoral life, it is obvious that if Fayemi had not been stubborn enough in pushing his case, he may well have lost the war to confront naked fraud. Many did for reasons that are printable and others for reasons that are better locked up and left to higher laws to judge.
Reasons that are printable include those of selling out, that is being paid what you said you spent in the elections so that you would abandon your protest.
They include promises that were meant to be fulfilled if you caved in, but which in many cases were broken. A friend in the Middle Belt abandoned his case, his very good case, because he was told he would be made minister.
He wasn’t. He was told he would be made an ambassador. He wasn’t. Yes, there were also unprintable reasons why some abandoned their cases. Such reasons have to do with shamelessly stretching our culture of compromise to the judiciary which ought to be our last port of call in seeking justice.
We will be unfair to facts and history if we assert that the judiciary scored a hundred per cent in resisting pressure; but praise must go to those among them who, by their decisions, proved that integrity is not a total stranger in the manifestation of life in a highly, morally polluted environment we have reduced this country to.
You can now best appreciate why those who stand firm and boldly mouth their beliefs, in spite of threats and carrots, have given us hope that settlement as an art form belongs in a low cadre in the assessment of worth. We must not fail to continue to salute those whose resistance bore fruit – Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State, and now Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State.
But I mourn because while Fayemi waited 42 months, and there are some others still waiting for the final pronouncement on elections that were held in 2007, we do not seem to be wanting to address a situation where someone who ought to have been jailed for electoral fraud had to be sworn in to access funds of the state, disburse those funds, and when he discovers that he had no business being there, walks away free and unpunished.
I would have been happier if we had accepted what the Uwais electoral reform panel suggested that until all issues to do with an election had been settled, no one should be sworn to take office. That failure to accept the Uwais panel recommendations and build them into our electoral laws may well make waiting for more than 42 months part of our democratic culture.
I celebrate that the people of Ekiti State were patient enough to wait for the courts to decide where the wind of rulership would blow, and that this waiting paid off. But what if the wind had blown the way of Oni and not Fayemi? When those who refused to be compromised resigned but were forced to return to announce the result of the rerun, and the unexpected happened, did we celebrate? We did not, could not, but swearing in took place all the same! Fayemi said he would continue the battle, pleaded with the people to be patient.
They were patient, and the waiting paid off. But what if the waiting had been in vain? Who can swear that all the judges looked in the mirror at the end of their pronouncements on election matters and told God that they did justice according to His dictates? So where there were miscarriages arising from inadequacies either of evidence or strength of character of the adjudicators, there is registered in the bowels of time a record that one must answer for – that they looked the issues in the face and disobeyed their conscience because of material and flitting gain.
My fear is that Fayemi’s boast that never again “in the history of the state of enlightenment shall a government not duly elected by the people be imposed on them” is a prayer that will never be answered were we to let our guards down, from now on.
Those who live on fraud learn the tricks that sustain fraud. We must ensure from the experiences of the past, that we do not wait for the courts to win elections for us. In 2003 and 2007, the ruling party forced results on Nigerians that were never the outcome of their mandate. You were asked to go to court if you are a real democrat.
We have been in court for too long and we must know that we cannot continue to depend on courts to win elections for those who are cheated. Elections are won through registration, voting, ensuring the votes are counted and that the votes count. We must fight every inch of the way, from registration to the announcement of the results.
We must decide that we want and would have litigation-free elections in 2011, and thenceforth. We must celebrate the victory of the people of Ekiti State and praise the Court of Appeal that brought laughter to their faces.
But we must mourn the death of fairness in our management of elections and move to attend to the root causes of such mismanagements.