Courts in Ekiti state are due back in session this morning after last month’s attacks on senior judicial staff, including the state Chief Judge, Justice Ayodeji Daramola. However, it is now obvious they will not, after all. For two days, September 22-26, political thugs descended on the premises of the state High Court which incidentally is the venue of the tribunal that is deciding the appeal of outgoing governor Kayode Fayemi, APC candidate in the June 21 governorship election. The poll was won by PDP’s Ayo Fayose, but APC went on an appeal after its candidate had conceded defeat initially and congratulated his opponent on his landslide victory.
On September 25, the day Fayose turned up uninvited in court, mayhem was let loose. Club and machete wielding thugs invaded the court and viciously attacked a senior judge, Justice John Adeyeye, who was not even a member of the election petition court. His offence was that he confronted Fayose for bringing into the court premises an unruly crowd of supporters to disrupt not only the work of the election panel but that of other courts. For his crime, he got a beating of his life and his official attire was shredded. Not satisfied the thugs headed for the office of the Chief Judge, threatening to deal with him also.
Apparently, Fayose feared that the decision of the tribunal to delay until today a decision in the matter arose his suspicion that something was fishy. He suspected an APC plot to have his victory reversed. His supporters might have acted on the basis of that suspicion. The October 14 date was set by the National Judicial Council (NJC) to which Justice Adaramola had sent an SOS.
However, as it is, the tribunal and indeed all other courts, cannot reconvene today because, according to Premium Times, an authoritative online publication, an order from the Presidency, controlled by the PDP, has come barring the courts from sitting until after Fayose’s inauguration on October 16. The Commissioner of Police, Mr. TaiwoLakanu, confirmed to PT that there had been such an order but would not say where it came from. Obviously, some higher authority, sharing Fayose’s concerns, has decided to force the matter.
On his part, the governor-elect has denied he had a hand in the unprovoked attacks on Justice Adeyeye and his colleagues. “I ‘m not aware that a judge was beaten up….How can I order people to beat up a judge that has nothing to do with me? At what point was this judge beaten up? Was he a member of the tribunal? Because I went to the tribunal, not the regular court.” However, his subsequent words gave him away. “But I want to point out that a situation whereby judges or judicial officers , who should be custodians of the law got compromised by politicians, then anarchy sets in. ..
“If you have been defeated in all the 16 local governments and you now want to come through the window, it won’t be like ice cream party to APC. I would not be too cheap like Segun Oni. I am not going to be cheap at all because I am elected by the people. The strategy of APC will not work. Nobody, no matter how highly placed would remove me cheaply.”
Does it mean that Fayose masterminded the attacks of September 25-26? Only a properly constituted panel of inquiry can say for sure. And this is what we urge the NJC to do. In June Ekiti made a whole big difference in how to conduct credible elections in this country. Some politicians’ desperation or unwillingness to wait out the legal process must not bring us back down to ground zero.