Searching for truth in Ekiti

By Casmir Igbokwe

Published: Sunday, 10 May 2009

Dumped on uninhabited islands without food for weeks, over 300 dogs began to eat one another. Pulau Ketam villagers had reportedly rounded the dogs up last month and cast them away on two islands off Selangor, a state in Malaysia. Their reason was that the increasing population of stray dogs fouled the streets and sometimes bit children. However, one animal rights group in Selangor is making efforts to rescue and rehabilitate the dogs.

In Nigeria, dog eat dog is a common phrase. But the domestic animal is not the cannibal here. Human beings are. And in no sphere is this more visible than in politics. Our politicians can roast their mothers just to win elections and be in government.

Four days after the April 25 rerun election in Ekiti State, I had an encounter with some prominent Nigerians at the residence of the Deputy British High Commissioner to Nigeria. It was at the celebration of the birthday of Queen Elizabeth.

Almost all the people I interacted with were not happy with the goings-on in the country. They condemned the charade called elections in Ekiti. They toasted to the health of the Queen and to the system where she reigns as the monarch. They complained about our own awkward system.

At a point, I retired to a corner to lick my red lips (the redness has nothing to do with lipstick but red wine). I looked critically at the faces of Ernest Shonekan, Atedo Peterside, Frank Nweke Jr., Edwin Clark and many other eminent Nigerians. I saw warmth. I saw smiles. I saw radiance. But I wondered what the British nationals and other foreigners at that gathering would be thinking about us. 

No doubt, we are a good people and a great nation. But this greatness has been obliterated by our perennial search for truth. Nobody knows what to believe; or who to trust.

 Again, Ekiti elections come handy here. We are all too familiar with what has happened in that state in the name of elections. We saw charms and ammunition on display. We saw thugs arrested in front of some politicians’ houses. We saw how people who were into some illegal deals battered journalists who were recording their perfidy. We witnessed how some of the 10,000 policemen looked the other way while some people committed atrocities in some wards and local governments. We noticed how the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, announced the results in five LGAs and suddenly developed cold feet in announcing other results. We heard that she went into hiding; that she was ill; that she had resigned. She said she could not do something that would go against her Christian conscience. The police declared her wanted.

 After some pressures here and there, the woman resurfaced and claimed to still be part of INEC family. She went back to Ekiti to announce what her Christian conscience did not initially permit her to do. Mr. Segun Oni won with a fantastic result in one local government – Ido-Osi – and his supporters gloated.

Where is the truth in all these? Somehow, I praised Adebayo on this page last week not that I had absolute confidence in her short-lived heroism, but I thought that our little voices of support would make her stand resolutely by her convictions. How mistaken I was!

 I am not a politician. Neither am I from Ekiti State. I support neither Segun Oni of the Peoples Democratic Party nor Kayode Fayemi of the Action Congress. As a journalist, I am biased for truth. And if truth must be told, something was wrong with Ekiti rerun election and the results as announced by INEC.

This is why I find the reaction of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Afe Babalola, on the Ekiti crisis rather worrisome. In an interview he granted THE GUARDIAN yesterday, Babalola was quoted to have said that he “watched with total dismay, the ugly events that happened at the collation centres, where people of the noble profession (lawyers) joined in what I call shameful and barbaric acts.” These were people who peacefully protested the irregularities that trailed the announcement of the results.

 When the reporter sought his comment on the manipulated results, our respected legal luminary said the report he got about the allegations was that the media blew what happened out of proportion.

 He then lectured, “I have had the opportunity of addressing the media several times on the ethics of the profession. Some media organisations deliberately publish falsehood to please their owners…”

To an extent, Babalola is right. Some journalists and their media organisations deliberately try to distort facts to suit their pecuniary objectives and political interest. The situation was not different in the reports on the Ekiti rerun election as a few misguided journalists tried to distort the facts about the election. But as in journalism, so it is in law, medicine, accountancy, and so on.

 However, with all due respect to Babalola, journalists did not manufacture the thugs that wreaked havoc on the day of the election. Journalists did not withhold the Ido-Osi result to wait and see what results would come out of other wards. Journalists were not behind all that transpired between Adebayo and the Nigerian state. They merely reported what they saw and discerning Nigerians know where to locate the truth.

 If Babalola had told us about the ethics of law with regard to the behaviour of lawyers he felt disappointed in, I would have paid more attention. But, with all due respect, I don’t think he is qualified to talk about the ethics of journalism. Journalism is a profession that thrives on objectivity and truth. And since there is no absolute objectivity, it is biased against injustice, against rigging, against falsehood and against any form of fraud.

These malpractices were prevalent in Ekiti and most of the reporters who covered the elections reported them with illustrative pictures. To that extent, they have not breached any journalism ethics. We should not divert attention by heaping blames on them.

The blame should rather go to the Presidency that has been mouthing electoral reforms but could not do much to show a good example of that in Ekiti. The blame should go the politicians who vowed to win elections by all means. The blame should go to all elders who knew the truth but chose to either keep silent or distort facts.

While we continue to hit and eat ourselves like the Malaysian dogs, other nations like Ghana and South Africa reap bountifully from their own organised democracy. The year 2011 beckons. Where and how will Nigeria’s democracy be by then?


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