Wednesday, June 10, 2009

War in Ekiti

IT is often said that the most important step in the treatment of a malady is the correct identification of the condition. But what is not often taken into consideration is that a correct diagnosis of an infliction does not carry with it the much-desired cure and this can lead to a great deal of suffering and frustration for the unfortunate victim of the said affliction. For example, I know that for nearly a month now, I have suffered from a crippling attack of what I have identified, correctly no doubt, as mental paralysis, a condition which has made it impossible for me to even attempt in any meaningful manner, the demons of the empty page such that I have found it excruciatingly painful to write more than one coherent sentence at a time. I have therefore been cruelly prevented from experiencing the satisfaction that can be derived from coining a sweet turn of phrase, the sometimes effortless transfer of what started out as inchoate ideas into a river of words flowing joyously across the pristine page and more than these, the conclusion of an article destined for the Op-Ed page of the Guardian. I know what was wrong with me but had no clue as to what could be done to alleviate my suffering and so I have suffered the agonies of the damned, constantly finding myself at loose ends and wishing desperately that the situation would disappear as suddenly as it appeared so that I could get on with my life as best as I could in this land of strangulated opportunities.

In the course of my malady I have not only been able to identify what was wrong but more than that, I have been able to determine the immediate cause. Right up till the partial rerun of the Ekiti governorship election I had been as normal as normal could be and on the morning of Sunday 26/4/09, I was under the impression that all was well with me and so, my immediate reaction to reading The Guardian's account of the shameful stabbing in the back of democracy in some parts of Ekiti State was to put pen to paper. But I did not go beyond the first vitriolic paragraph before I was struck down by what I have described as mental paralysis. I thought that I knew what I wanted to write and more important, how I was going to write it but tried valiantly as I did, I continued to draw a stubborn blank. I put pen and paper aside with the determination to pick them up again with telling effect very soon after but day after frustrating day, he situation persisted as the catastrophe in Ekiti was relentlessly played out with the inevitable result that democracy as it should be known was quite casually assassinated among the rolling hills and townlets of Ekiti State.

On that, the second day of what has turned out to be the Ekiti governorship election saga when I was shocked out of my wits by the brazen effrontery which accompanied the brutalization of what was supposed to be a simple election process, I had no idea as to the depths which we were to be made to plumb but I must confess that a small, nagging voice continued to pour its irritation into my ears, warning me that it was early days yet and that we were dealing with a debauched band of cynics who were quite prepared to do anything necessary to hang on to their ill gotten gains in the shape of the Ekiti governorship. I now suspect that it was the determination to ignore this voice that caused me to be stricken with a severe paralysis of my mental faculties, a condition which has been as it is frustration, so much so that even after coming this far, I am not yet certain that I would overcome it long enough to bring this piece to what can be regarded as a logical conclusion.

The point needs to be made now that after the debacle in Ekiti, there can be no democracy as it is known in other parts of the world, in Nigeria. More than that indication, there has never been anything close to democracy in Nigeria and all he woes which bedevil our body politic stem from this single fact. If we are in such a mess because of our stern denial of democratic principles, it stands to reason that we will be immersed in our current cocktail of troubles for as long as we continue to tread the ruinous path to which our bruised feet seem to be tenaciously glued.

For the potential analyst of the Ekiti debacle, there is a surfeit of facts to work with but it must also be said that these facts are encrusted with so many obfuscations and outright lies that getting them out into the open is like prospecting for gold in an unknown territory, surely an exercise in futility. But there has to be a starting point and a convenient one is the ruing of the Appeal Court to the effect that the election of Mr. Oni in 2007 was so beset with irregularities that it had to be set aside and re-election prescribed in sixty-three wards scattered throughout ten different Local Government areas. In other words, Governor Oni was an impostor and the beneficiary of a rape of democracy in the way of a gamekeeper which has turned poacher. In any other serious polity, this should amount to a serious indictment, one which would have barred the transgressor from further participation in any elections even if it is for the post of dog catcher. But this is Nigeria, a patently undemocratic country and a person whose hands, both of them, were caught deep inside the till was not just put forward for a rerun election but was backed to the hilt by a shameless institution masquerading as Nigeria's premier political party.

The first step in this long running show of shame was the announcement by the Chairman of the Party, of the constitution of a large and awfully high powered committee under the chairmanship of no less a person than the Vice -President whose own election was only reluctantly, some say tendentiously validated by a majority decision of the Supreme Court. This committee took its work very seriously indeed and hauled the President, not one known for his enthusiasm for political campaigns, to come all the way to Igede (Where in the world is that?) to support Mr. Oni's candidacy thus raising the stakes to the highest level even before the Speaker of the National Assembly gleefully, if disingenuously announced, supposedly on the wave of inexplicable euphoria, or is it hysteria, that the Nigerian Army would be mobilized to Ekiti, not to defend the territorial integrity of the nation but to manufacture a doubtful mandate for their man.

The rerun elections in Ekiti took place in only 63 wards in 10 Local Government Areas and as elections go should have caused no more than a few ripples disturbing the surface of the liquid contents of a tea cup but this is Nigeria where just about anything can happen, but why are we so different from other people? General elections took place in South Africa, a country so influential that she was invited as of right to the G20 summit in London, am assembly to which Nigeria did not have the credentials for invitation. The first free elections took place in South Africa only as recently as 1994 yet the elections in SA went off like a charm and did not lead to any mayhem on the streets. The Indian elections which has been taking place over the last month or so has involved no less than 700 million voters throughout the vast subcontinent and so far any disturbances there are scaled far below that of Ekiti where only about a millionth of the Indian electorate were expected to vote.

The rerun elections have come and gone and Mr. Oni is back on the throne. In the last six months the governors of the States on either side of Ekiti successfully fought to retrieve their purloined mandates from the saintly members of Nigeria's premier political party. The applause which greeted these retrievals was spontaneous, prolonged, deafening and widespread with teeming crowds jubilating in the streets and byways of their respective States suggesting that the ascension of those governors to power conformed to the wishes of a strong majority of their people. Mr. Oni's return to the Governor's lodge was not marked by any show of public approval. On the contrary what should have been a triumphant return was low-key, extremely subdued even apologetic and furtive to match the mood of the people who feel that they have been screwed again, and this, more than anything else in my opinion testifies to the open and shameless rape of democracy on the rolling hills of Ekiti.

My relief on the completion of this piece is as palpable as the blows with which some election observers were greeted on their arrival in the lion's den which Ekiti was, to bear witness to the cynical violation of our nation.