Mike Ojoobanikan

Don’t Set Ekiti on Fire!

 

BY MIKE OJOOBANIKAN

One can no longer refer to Ado Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State, as sleepy again. Neither can it be waved off as backward or rustic. These are old stereotypes reserved for the age of innocence when your typical Ekiti man’s pastime was pounded yam and egusi soup, church, mosque, books, palm wine or women! With the creation of Ekiti from the old Ondo State, the veil was yanked off the face of the major towns there. Not only have dual carriage ways become new features, area boy’s phenomenon, pick-pockets and other desperadoes have completed, for the state, the flip side of its modernity. So also is political violence, the threat of it or a combination of both.

There is no need to go far because what happened in the state on Wednesday 11 July 2018 was a major proof that the state has lost its innocence. The Police fired teargas to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters at the entrance of Ekiti State Government House when they were moving to a rally in support of Professor Kolapo Olusola Eleka, the party candidate.

Eleka was supposed to take off his Victory Walk from the new pavilion, close to the new overhead bridge at Fajuyi Park but the police had earlier sealed it off, claiming that PDP did not obtain permission to hold a rally in the city that Wednesday and that they wanted to prevent chaos in the charged atmosphere preparatory to the election.

Not a man to say die, Governor Ayodele Fayose, as those who witnessed the situation claimed, decided to go ahead with the walk. In the stampede that ensued, he slumped and fainted. He and his supporters claimed that he was beaten up and tear gassed at the entrance of the Government House. Since then, Fayose has been going about with neck collar, Dino Melaye fashion…

Fayose narrated: “I was slapped and beaten by mobile policemen in my own state. They shot at me. As I speak with you, I am in severe pains, I am experiencing pains. I plead with the international community to intervene, Nigeria is in trouble, Ekiti is in crisis. In the last few days, they have arrested PDP members, teachers, and civil servants, people of good conscience should come and save Ekiti. They said they were under strict instruction from the Presidency to kill me and my deputy, who is the candidate of our party. These are army of occupation who are here to occupy our land. I want you to stand and remain standing, I pray they don’t kill me and put Ekiti in crisis. I am passing through these pains because of my people. I will go back to the hospital after addressing you to receive further medical treatment.”

Eleka too explained what happened: “A situation whereby a policeman will slap a sitting governor is not good. The President must be warned. International community should warn President Muhammadu Buhari. When they were beating me and Mr Governor, I told the Commissioner of Police in charge of MOPOL unit that you are beating a Deputy Governor, he asked me ‘who is a deputy governor?’ That was the same question he asked the Governor.”

However, the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) Operations, Mr Habila Joshak, stated his side of the story: “We are not here to usurp the authority of Governor Ayodele Fayose. We are not here to rubbish him because he represents the people. But we are not going to allow any authorized rally that can trigger violence in the state. You can see that the state is tensed up. As law enforcement agent, we must be proactive and take actions that can prevent crisis rather than trying to quell it after it might have broken out. I want every registered Ekiti voter to come out and vote. I guarantee your safety. My men will be civil, so people are free to come out to vote. Nobody will be harassed, that is not part of our duties. Our duty is to secure not only the electoral materials but all the citizens. We are going to be professional and watchful, because we don’t want to be bedevilled with cases of hooliganism, ballot snatching and hate speeches before, during and after this election.”

Joshak is not the only one to maintain security in the state during the election. He is working with Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), Mr. H.H. Karma and three other commissioners of police (Ali Janga , J.B. Kokumo and G.B. Umar) who will take charge of the three senatorial zones.

The above notwithstanding, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, an All Progressives Congress (APC) leader has dismissed Fayose as a stand up comedian! Adeyeye, through the Director of Press of his campaign organization, PAAM, Chief Niyi Ojo, said: “Fayose has always been a dramatist. He has always been acting drama. Ekiti people should ignore him and remain resolute in their determination to throw him out of office and out of Ekiti State completely ‪on July 14.‬”

Adeyeye has every reason to be agitated. At a welcome rally for him when he defected from PDP to APC on 1 June, a governorship aspirant in the state, Bamidele Opeyemi, was shot in the stomach and leg. He was rushed to the Ekiti State Hospital, later Lagos and overseas for treatment. Opeyemi was at the podium with the APC governorship candidate in Ekiti, Dr. Kayode Fayemi; Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu and Adeyeye when the gunshots were fired. The gunshots were, according to media reports, said to have emanated from the gun of an unknown gunman kitted fully in Mopol uniform at the rally at the APC Secretariat in Ado-Ekiti to usher Adeyeye to the APC fold. The suspected gunman was, as the media put it, pounced on by a mob and would have been lynched, but was rescued by the police and whisked away.

The shooting of Bamidele was like a precursor to what was to follow, one of which was the deployment of 30,000 policemen, 4 COPS, two helicopters and 250 patrol vehicles, including five Armoured Personnel Carriers, for the ‪July 14‬governorship election. As explained by the Force Public Relations Officer, acting DCP Jimoh Moshood, the poll would be supervised by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police, Operations, Joshiak Habila, who would be assisted by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, four Commissioners of Police, eight Deputy Commissioners of Police and 18 Assistant Commissioners of Police.

Whatever any analyst may say in support of APC or PDP in Ekiti, I blame the Police for being overtly provocative. How could the Police be asking a political party to obtain permit before it could hold a rally in an election week, even when its rival, APC, held its rally the previous day? It is not fair, truth be told. To make matters worse, why should the Police fire tear gas to a crowd holding a victory walk, when the people were not rioting? These are the actions that cast the Police as an interested party in this dispute.

All this makes me to start wondering: Why will politicians make public office a do or die affair? Is it when they turn Ekiti to Sodom and Gomorrah that they will be satisfied? For the electorate who want to die for the politicians, I wish to let you realise that when the people you want to die for (their children are overseas, studying), hold their nocturnal meetings to reconcile, you will not be there.

In 2009, during the legal battle between Kayode Fayemi of Alliance for Democracy and Segun Oni of PDP, there was a weird drama in court. Mr. Segun Ajayi, who lost his leg fighting on behalf of one of the candidates, brought his severed leg (refrigerated for the purpose) to court as an exhibit! Everyone was alarmed. Not in the wildest imagination of the amputee would he see Fayemi and Oni belonging to the same party, APC. He has lost his leg…The two are now in the same boat.

Final words: Politicians must ensure they act as good sportsmen ‪on July 14‬ in Ekiti. The Police must maintain even handedness. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must play an unbiased umpire. For the electorate, the politicians you see and want to kill yourself for will, in the next four years, treat you like something the cat dragged into the living room. You will need forms and contacts to see them in the office, even for two minutes. Put on your thinking cap, use your tongue to count your teeth.

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