By Ogaga Ifowodo
Ekiti state, the so-called “Land of Honour,” can’t seem to do anything honourable. “Ile iyi, ile eye” or “Land of honour, land of integrity,” its moto boasts. Having coined the imperishable new phrase “stomach infrastructure” to define its loftiest vision of governance, and gone ahead to elect as its chief executor an impeached former governor still standing trial for the alleged embezzlement of public funds through a foul poultry project, Ekiti has in the past week shown the rest of the country what its political philosophy means with regard to the judiciary. If the alleged role of former governor and soon-to-be-governor-again Ayodele Fayose in the scandalous attack on the judiciary is anything to go by, then a heavy pall of ignominy may have settled over Ekiti for the next four, maybe eight, years.
It was bad enough that on Monday, 22 September 2014, thugs believed to be associated with the governor-elect invaded the High Court premises in Ado-Ekiti where the state’s election petition tribunal sits to hear the case filed by the incumbent governor’s party, the APC, seeking to nullify the election. A pre-election case by an independent group, the E11, contending that Fayose was not a fit and proper person for the office of governor due to his impeachment and pending trial by the EFCC for corruption was also being heard having suffered unconscionable delays beyond the election itself. The E11 group accuses Fayose of lying about his impeachment to INEC. Somehow, Fayose, his party, PDP, and supporters believe that seeking redress of perceived electoral injustice through the very machinery set up for the purpose tantamounts to his opponent, who was quick to accept defeat and congratulate him, attempting to obtain victory “through the window.” And that it ought to be resisted by any means necessary, mob action being one such means. Leading to Mayhem Monday when a mob invaded the high court premises to . . . well, take the law into its own hands. It is as if the pro-Fayose mob already knows the judgement the tribunal is yet to give and, not liking it, decided to stop it forthwith.
And so came Tragic Thursday, when the panel of judges hearing the petition ruled against a preliminary objection to hold that it had jurisdiction. Emboldened by their action of three days earlier for which no one was arrested or in any way sanctioned, the mob decided this time to beat up a judge, Justice John Adeyeye, who was hearing in another courtroom a case that had nothing to do with the petition but had come out to appeal to the governor-elect to control the riotous crowd that had surged after him to the high court premises. Justice Adeyeye’s suit was ripped off his back while the mob’s unbridled violence caused other judges to flee for their lives. The chief judge who happened not to be present at the time was nevertheless not spared as his chambers were ransacked and his record book torn to pieces, according to the high court’s registrar. The mayhem has compelled the Chief Judge to shut down the High Court in order to ensure the safety of judges and judicial officers.
Expectedly, Governor-elect Fayose has denied knowledge of the sacrilege. “How can I order the people to beat up a judge that is handling a case that has nothing to do with me?” he asks in self-exoneration. How, Your Excellency? Well, by conduct that speaks even more loudly than words. Conduct that conveys to goons the unmistakable assurance of protection from prosecution the minute you take office in just a few days. And by words, for that matter, such as these which you spoke to underline the coming reign of impunity right after protesting your innocence: “But I want to point out that a situation whereby judges or judicial officers who should be custodians of the law get compromised by politicians, breeds anarchy. . . . It is sad that most of our judges have compromised. . . . If you have been defeated . . . and you now want to come in through the window, it won’t be like ice cream party for the APC. I would not be cheap.”
There it is, sir! You nudged and urged the desecration of the temple of justice. For a former governor only days away from being sworn in to uphold the constitution and the rule of law, your words indicate a vile motive in the contemptible attack against the judiciary and the lives of those you describe as compromised custodians of the law. The order of self-help and impunity inscribed by your words has thrown Ekiti into anarchy and set the stage for your second coming as governor, the anarchy aggravated by the murder of a former chairman of the state’s chapter of the National Union of Road Transport Workers who also happened to have been one of your henchmen.
Out-going Attorney-General, Wale Fapohunda, lamented the other day on Channels Television that Ekiti is being scandalised by this premeditated act of sacrilege. True, but the real scandal was your stomach infrastructure election. For a man who should be straining every nerve to prove his detractors wrong by seeking redemption at every opportunity, your pre-inauguration outing speaks volumes about compromise and anarchy. The only wonder remains when voters’ remorse will commence in the land of honour.
Ogaga Ifowod via firstname.lastname@example.org