By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Charles Kumolu and Gbenga Oke
The about a dozen legislators of the Ekiti State House of Assembly were escorted into the Vanguard corporate headquarters last Wednesday by four heavily armed mobile policemen, reflective of the troubled times that have recently befallen them.
Unlike many other Nigerians in precarious conflict situations, the Ekiti lawmakers were not in conflict with armed robbers, insurgents, ethnic militias or sorts. They were rather in battle with the instruments of state in the form of the Department of State Services, DSS.
Believing that the pen might be mightier than the swords of coercion being marshalled by the DSS, the legislators were in Vanguard to protest what they claimed as the abduction of four of their colleagues by the agents of the DSS on Friday, March, 4, 2016.
Those held according to the legislators were Sina Animasaun- Ekiti West Constituency 11; Musa Arogundade-Constituency Ado 1; Badejo Anifowose-Constituency Moba 11 and Akanni Afolabi
However, surprisingly, the DSS has acknowledged the presence of only Afolabi, around whom death speculations revolved last Thursday. Expressing their reservations over the way and manner the House was supposedly violated, the chairman of the House committee on information, Mr. Gboyega Aribisogun said:
“We are here because of the very serious crisis going on in Ekit State. On March 4, 2016 which was a Friday around 11 am in the morning we were at committee meetings in various offices. Suddenly, we heard noise outside, while people were running helter-skelter, vehicles were also driving recklessly. At a point, they started shooting. It lasted for about 20 minutes. At the end of the confusion, we did a head count and realised that four of our members were missing.”
Voice of opposition: Affirming that the operation against the Ekiti legislature was a direct assault to quash the voice of opposition to the All Progressives Congress, APC, led federal administration as represented by Governor Ayodele Fayose, he said: “This thing is being orchestrated by the APC led government so they can either silence Governor Ayodele Fayose, who has been the only one speaking out against any policy that is not in tandem with what is expected in a democracy.”
Recalling how he claimed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC was used in the past to suppress and supposedly hound Fayose from office in 2006, he said:
“That was when they used the EFCC against him. The second in command to the EFCC Chairman, Mr Lamorde was actually the one, who placed the impeachment notice on his table and asked the lawmakers to come in and sign and collect money in 2006. Now they are using another agent of the state which is the DSS. We don’t assume that these things can occur in a democracy.
“How can four people be taken away like that and nobody will talk? We hired a SAN in Abuja for them to tell us the offense or offenses they committed but they have not told us.”
APC script: Alleging that the actions against the legislators was a script by the APC in the state to upturn the supposed popularity and mandate of Fayose, he repeatedly pointed at actions and inactions of the APC spokesman in the state, Taiwo Olatunbosun.
“What we have noticed is that from the beginning of this crisis till this moment, the Spokesperson of the APC in Ekiti State, Taiwo Olatunbosun, is always telling the next line of action on the social media. At the beginning of this crisis he said that the next thing was that they will start arresting PDP members, the following week they started arresting the State House of Assembly members. He later updated a post that the next to be arrested would be the Special Adviser on Internally Generated Revenue. The next morning, the man was arrested.
“The next day, he said they will come and pick the Commissioner for Finance, the next day, the man was arrested and later released after three days.”
Pushed to the wall, the legislators said that they are now seeking for help given what they claimed is the failure of the judicial process to extricate their colleagues from the hands of the security agents.
Not too cordial relationship
It is a strange call some critics of the administration in Ekiti would say given what is claimed as the not too cordial relationship between the administration in Ekiti and the media.
Even more, the legislators were pushed in their interactions with Vanguard editors to explain why as an independent arm of government they would take up the issues and causes of Governor Fayose as their own agenda.
Their answer inevitably went home to drive what they termed as the political consensus on the leadership of Fayose in the state.
“We are completely behind Governor Ayodele Fayose who they are running after. Initially, they wanted to use fear to break our ranks but it never worked. In the middle of the whole thing they introduced financial inducement but it never worked. This time, it is now threats to our lives and our family members. We beg the media to actually help us. Let them know that this democracy must be preserved, this democracy must be sustained, and this democracy must be prolonged. It is because of the sweat of most journalists that we have this democracy.”
Errors APC administration
The legislators were quick to affirm Governor Fayose’s primacy in the opposition to what they claimed as the errors of the APC administration. Indeed when challenged that they should encourage the governor to face governance rather than stirring up himself as an opposition leader, the legislators said: “There was no time the Governor has deviated from his work, he has been working tirelessly. And let me remind you that when PDP was in power, it was not only Lai Mohammed that was engaging the government of President Jonathan, Rotimi Amaechi was more even vociferous against Jonathan but the fact that he is now in APC does not mean he did not play the role of Lai Mohammed at that time. When Tinubu was Governor of Lagos state, APC had a spokesperson but Tinubu was seen lambasting Obasanjo over the seizure of local government funds then. So Fayose coming in to stand in for Amaechi this time should not be seen not doing his job.
“This is democracy and all over the world, people speak out. It is actually good for you to speak out and be punished than for you to keep quiet. In Ekiti State, we have a strong culture which is fighting for the helpless, speaking out against cheating. It will be difficult to convince or ask the Governor not to talk, it is not to his own advantage. In fact it is even taking him extra time to do the talk but the end result is for the benefit of all of us because monsters in government are created when nobody is calling them to order. The dictators of old did not start as dictators, it is stylishly. In human nature, you might want to expand in a little time. The Governor will continue to talk and we the assembly, they should take all of us. We are not afraid of the DSS, we are so resolute and decided they should take us all and keep us till 2019 when our tenure ends, nothing will happen to Fayose.”
Loyalty to Fayose: Given the loyalty of the legislators to the governor, they were asked to confirm or deny allegations of a secret oath between them and the governor. The answer was straight to the point.
“Governor Fayose is a Christian and you never can ask him to go on oath. In fact he detests anybody that brings such thing to him. Many people see him from afar but if you move close to him, you will realize he is not a fetish person. If people believe it, it is fine and if they don’t, it is also fine but God is there watching us all.”