The political flu in Ekiti

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 3 May 2009

THIS is a season of flu. Currently, there is swine flu in Mexico and some other parts of the world. In Nigeria and some other African countries, the flu is political. And it is malignant, life-threatening and deadly.

In Kenya, for instance, over 1,000 people died in post-election violence in 2008. The coalition government formed in the wake of that violence is currently shaky. Relations between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga are said to be frosty. Women have gone on sex strike to protest this development.

In Ekiti, women have also come out in full force to protest the political logjam in that state. Last Wednesday, thousands of women protesters trooped to the major streets of Ado-Ekiti to vent their anger on the stalemated governorship rerun election in the state. Old women marched half naked. Their younger counterparts were part of the protest, but could not bare their breasts.

I think the protest could have attracted more attention and made more impact if the younger women had defied shyness to toe the line of their older colleagues. Yes, the situation in Ekiti warrants even much more than that. It demands total nakedness if that will force our do-or-die politicians to retrace their steps.

Or how do we explain that we cannot conduct a free-and-fair election in 63 wards or 10 local government areas? How do we reconcile the fact that 10,000 policemen could not guarantee peace and security on the day of the election? How can the Independent National Electoral Commission and some other gladiators feed us lies with impunity? How can a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria conduct himself as Senator Ayo Arise allegedly did on Election Day and still remain a free man?

In Nigeria, there are more questions than answers. Better, the more you look, the less you see. What happened in Ekiti penultimate Saturday was expected. It was more than an election. It was a supremacy battle between the ruling Peoples Democratic Party and the Action Congress for the soul of the South-West.

And so it was not surprising when Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State boasted in a rally in Ekiti on April 4, 2009 that the PDP would win the rerun election by all means. There were allegations too that the ruling party planned to deploy soldiers to the state. Perhaps, the hue and cry that trailed the alleged plan to deploy soldiers put a check to that plot.

But the desperadoes would not relent. They brought in thugs and armed them with charms and ammunition to terrorise the citizenry. Empowered and emboldened, the thugs went to work on the Election Day. They killed. They maimed. They rigged. Not even journalists and observers were spared. Our photojournalist, Segun Bakare, whose pictures of the thuggery came out the following day in SUNDAY PUNCH, became the butt of attacks by female thugs. How primitive can we be?

Just as Nigerians anxiously awaited the results of the election, the do-or-die politicians went to work. The INEC announced the results from five local government areas. There were some problems with the remaining five. The electoral body cancelled the election in Oye-Ekiti. There were reports of manipulation in Ido-Osi. But the INEC said it would announce the results of the remaining four local governments on Sunday evening. That was not to be.

The next thing was that the Resident Electoral Commissioner for the state, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, disappeared. Then different cock-and-bull stories started flying in the air: “Mrs. Adebayo is ill;” “She has resigned;” “No, she is still a member of the INEC family.” What a country!

Obviously, the woman is under pressure. But who is really putting her under this tremendous stress? Her boss in INEC? The Presidency? Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who appointed her? The PDP candidate, Segun Oni, or his AC counterpart, Kayode Fayemi?

Adebayo holds the key to unlocking the answers to these questions. There are insinuations, especially from those close to the government that Obasanjo is manipulating her for his selfish reasons. Those who hold this view point to the not-too-cordial relationship between Obasanjo and his erstwhile benefactor, President Umaru Yar’Adua. They buttress this belief by noting that Obasanjo did not attend the two PDP rallies in Ekiti though he is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the party.

Many other Nigerians believe the amount of irregularities during the election overwhelmed the woman. She had noted in her resignation letter that the circumstances changed in the middle of the election. Hence, her conscience as a Christian could not allow her to further participate in the process. The same woman emerged a day after to say she was a member of the INEC family.

At 74, Adebayo has nothing to lose but everything to gain if she followed the path of truth and principles. No matter what, she should resist any attempt to force her to go against her good conscience. History is replete with women who sacrificed their liberty in order to make the society better. Adebayo should let her name be among these women.

INEC has fixed Tuesday as a new date to hold the inconclusive election in Oye-Ekiti. But the AC is threatening to boycott the entire process. The stage is set for a fresh crisis in the Fountain of Knowledge. Too bad!

There is the need for every citizen to be vigilant. Let’s have more Adebayos, whose spirit will resist any rigging in any state. Let’s have more youths who will stay under the rain or sun to protect their votes. Let’s have more women (and men) who will go on sex strike or even protest nude if need be.

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