In this interview with OLUSOLA FABIYI, Lagos lawyer, who is also an indigene of Ekiti State, Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), speaks on the outcome of the June 21 governorship election in the state.
Were your surprised with the outcome of Ekiti governorship election?
I was flabbergasted by the outcome of the results. Based on several projections in the media I thought that Governor Kayode Fayemi was going to win the election.
Why did you say so?
Going by some development projects executed by the government, I had hoped that Fayemi would defeat his opponents. I never knew of the decision of the vital stakeholders in the state to vote him out of office. That decision was taken before the emergence of Mr. Ayo Fayose as the PDP governorship candidate. The loss of the election by Fayemi has nothing to do with ‘stomach infrastructure’ or the popularity of Fayose.
You think so?
On a critical analysis of the political situation in Ekiti State, Fayemi is a victim of the ideological crisis of his party, the APC. Of course, the arrogance of some of the governor’s aides who were allowed to wield enormous powers equally contributed to the loss of the election.
I have read very interesting but diversionary commentaries on the election results. Some of them have deliberately denigrated the Ekiti people. Most commentators have forgotten that the Ekiti people felt relieved when Fayose was impeached in October 2006. In fact, his removal was celebrated by the Ekiti people. Most of the commentators have also forgotten that Senator Babafemi Ojudu defeated Fayose with over 45,000 votes in the election to the Senate in the Ekiti-Central Senatorial District during the 2011 general election. Rice and money were also distributed by Fayose then.
Was this the basis for the gang up?
That was the basis of the gang up against the Fayemi regime by teachers, civil servants, local government staff, undergraduates and their parents . Whether they are right or wrong, time will tell. Those who have reduced the ideological crisis to what the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), has erroneously referred to as ‘stomach infrastructure’ are merely begging the question.
People thought that Fayemi’s achievements would speak for him during the election?
From 1999-2003, the Bisi Akande administration in Osun State was rated one of the best in the country in terms of infrastructural development. But it lost the election because it did not carry the people along. Fayemi has just suffered the same fate. He assumed that the Ekiti people understood the programmes and policies of his regime. Not much was done to explain the basis of the sacrifice they were asked to make. Can you imagine that the closure of miracle centres by the regime was opposed and misinterpreted by those who were profiting from examination malpractice?
Is it right for the APC leadership to proceed to court after Fayemi conceded victory?
With respect to the validity of the result of the election there isn’t much to contest in court. Apart from the case filed by the E-11, a socio-cultural group which is challenging the competence of Fayose to contest the election in court in view of his impeachment, I do not believe his victory at the polls should be challenged in an election petition tribunal. To that extent, the APC ought to build on Fayemi’s concession speech and reorganise its affairs. However, the APC should sue the Federal Government in a Federal High Court to justify the restriction of the movement of some governors, the arrest of a serving commissioner in Fayemi’s cabinet and 14 other unarmed protesters at Ado Ekiti who were later transferred to Abuja and charged with terrorism, the arrest of 25 party members on election day, the militarisation of the electoral process, the imposition of curfew and other incidents of impunity carried out by the army, the police and other gendarmes before and during the election. A government which cannot maintain adequate security in the North-East region which has been overrun by insurgency ought to justify the deployment of 36,790 soldiers, police and civil defence personnel, all bearing arms and terrorising people including those who have no business with the election.
Did the election not reflect the wish of Ekiti people?
Frankly speaking, I don’t know about the wish of the people. Out of a population of 2.3 million people in Ekiti state 1.6 million people are qualified to vote but only 750,000 were registered to vote. Out of that figure only about 50 per cent voted. Fayose, who won the election scored only 203,000 votes. In the circumstance, you can only talk of the wish of the registered voters.
Fayose said he’ll not embark on industrialisation of Ekiti, what does this portend for the state?
Fayose is perfectly entitled to his views. I wish him well. As I said earlier, the Ekiti people have gone back to Egypt with Moses firmly in the wilderness. I can only wish them luck. In fairness to the governor-elect he says that he has changed his old ways. Let us wait and see.
What does ‘stomach structure’ phenomenon portend for Ekiti?
It is not fair to insult Ekiti people for voting for the candidate of their choice. Did Americans not vote for Mr. George Bush instead of Mr. Al Gore? Did they not pay for the consequences of their decision? Is the world not paying for that choice with the rising wave of terrorism all over the place? Even in the Bible, did the Israelites not ask for Barnabas who was a well known criminal in place of Jesus Christ? For goodness sake, can you blame a people who have been traumatised and pauperised for years for collecting bags of rice and money from politicians once in four years? Governor Fashola knows that the concept of “jeun s’oke” did not originate from Ekiti State. It has its origin elsewhere. I am sure that the governor is not unaware of the celebrated case of Olu Falae v Obasanjo in which the petitioner alleged that rice and salt were distributed by the PDP to entice voters during the 1999 presidential election. Even though the allegation was proved beyond reasonable doubt the Court of Appeal held that there was no evidence that the beneficiary, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, authorised the criminal action. Since then, rice and money have always been distributed by political parties and candidates through proxies during elections in Nigeria.
Do you think the Ekiti election was actually rigged?
The election in Ekiti was not rigged. I witnessed it. I spoke to people before and after the election. Fayemi gave a good concession speech.
But the APC has raised the possibility of photo-chromic ballot papers being used in favour of the PDP.
I have been told by many APC members that photo-chromic ballot papers were used. I think the allegation is bunkum. Unless the party is ready to confront the reality of the election it is not going to draw the vital lessons from it. There were protest votes against the government. Instead of questioning the credibility of the election the APC should engage in a critical review of the verdict of the electorate.
What do you foresee in Ekiti during next year’s general election?
Many states today have to take loans to pay salaries because of shrinking statutory allocations. It would soon be clear to Ekiti people that the ruling party has no solutions to the crisis of infrastructural decay, unemployment, falling standard of education, corruption and abuse of office confronting them like other Nigerians. Having raised the expectations of the people, the Fayose administration will be under serious pressure to perform.
The PDP said if the election was rigged, Ekiti people would have revolted. Do you believe this?
No doubt, there would have been a violent eruption if the election was rigged. It happened in 1964.
What do you foresee coming up in Osun election?
Ceteris paribus, I am convinced that Governor Rauf Aregbesola will win the election in Osun State. Even the PDP members admit that he is a grassroots politician. So, you cannot accuse him of being disconnected or alienated from the people in any sense. In spite of the crisis of relevance that the APC is going through, Aregbesola’s socialist background has influenced his policies and programmes. Those programmes have endeared him to the people. Even the World Bank has taken officials from 12 states to Osun State to learn about job creation in the midst of massive unemployment caused by the neo-colonial capitalist system. Through the school feeding programme, the Aregbesola regime has boosted the rural economy in his state. No doubt, there are limitations in view of the dwindling statutory allocations from the federation account but he has engaged the masses in a pedagogical relationship. In 2011, he made sure that the presidential candidate of his party, the former ACN, Mr. Nuhu Ribadu, won the election in Osun State. That was based on ideological commitment of some sort. But that was not the case in the other states in the South-West region.
What’s your assessment of Nigeria’s democracy from 1999 till date?
For the majority of Nigerians the democratic experiment has been an unmitigated disaster. While President Goodluck Jonathan recently measured our prosperity on the basis of private jets owned by less than 150 people it is better to rely on the evidence of the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics that 113 million Nigerians live on less than $1 a day.