Like most Nigerians who are not fanatical supporters of the former ruling party, the PDP, I used to think that on account of the political crimes that committed in the infamous Ekitigate scandal of 2014, the only thing standing between Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and a long prison sentence is the notorious Section 308(1) of the Nigerian Constitution. This of course is the “immunity” clause in our 1999 Constitution that shields Governors and Deputy Governors from prosecution for any and all civil and criminal liabilities and behavior while they are still in office. This is why I used to think, quite bitterly, that but for Clause 308(1), Fayose would be in prison right now where he belongs – with many others among our political elites. Well, in 2019 Fayose’s term as Governor will end and he will no longer be protected by Clause 308. Will the chickens come home to roost for him then? Alas, this is not certain for it is no longer a foregone conclusion that even then Fayose’s Ekitigate crimes will catch up with him. This is the starting point for this week’s column. To start us off, a few words on Ekitigate before we link it later in the discussion with the latest mega-scandal of the Buhari-APC regime, Mainagate.
Ekitigate is rather unique in the history of one of the worst political offenses both in our country and in all the constitutional democracies of the world – the illegal use of the institutional violence legally concentrated in the military and security forces of the state to rig elections. Now, this offense, in itself, is not rare in Nigeria. As a matter of fact, it is pervasive in our country and is usually perpetrated with maximum impunity, often rising to unspeakable levels of barbarity, even by our own very low standards. For instance, in the periods of Obasanjo and Jonathan administrations during the reign of the PDP, this political crime reached chilling levels of homicidal destructiveness in states like Rivers and Akwa Ibom. So again, Fayose was doing nothing uncommon in Ekitigate, even if it was still an unconscionable political crime. However, with Fayose and Ekitigate, two things happened to make that particular mega-scandal unique. First, the crime was exposed for the whole world to grasp right at the very scene of its perpetration. Secondly, when caught in the act, Fayose not only offered no denial, as a matter of fact he admitted his participation in it, almost with a boast! Permit me to give a short elaboration of this observation.
As the whole world knows, the “Ekitigate” scandal was exposed in a recorded conversation that was widely circulated on the Internet. Well, “conversation” is a wrong word for what Nigerians and the whole world heard on that YouTube post. A more appropriate word is a tirade, raised to the level of an uncontrollable rant. Throughout the clip that we all heard on the Internet, Fayose was the aggressor, the bellicose verbal pugilist. The cowering object of his unrestrained harangue was a Nigerian Army Major who was reduced to the level of mumbling spinelessness. “Have you and your men not been given the monies my men brought to you from me? And haven’t your own Army Headquarters given you instructions to obey my orders, to deal with any opposition politicians and their supporters that I ask you to deal with?” Names were mentioned. Huge sums of money were indicated. The raging fire of Fayose’s anger toward the Army Major seemed to have been stoked by his feeling that the military officer seemed not to realize that his superiors at Army Headquarters were all errand boys to him, the one and only Fayose whose power was second only to that of Goodluck Jonathan, the Head of State himself. Cowed but not completely subdued, the Army Major was saved from total ignominy only by the simple but profound fact that he it was who recorded the whole “show” and had it broadcast on the Internet. But all the same, his admission that he and his men received corrupt largess from the Ekiti State Governor, and his cowering servility before Fayose’s, all smeared the Nigerian army and the security forces in great dishonor.
Thus, in the Ekitigate scandal, Fayose was caught red-handed and his crimes broadcast to the whole world. But what was truly astonishing, what most Nigerians could not comprehend, was the fact that Fayose did not for a second deny that it was his voice, his arrogant threats and unholy imprecations, that were heard in the recording that everyone heard on the Internet. I thought to myself: well, if he could not deny that he was the evil wrongdoer in the tape since experts could easily prove that the voice we heard was his, why did he so readily confess to the crime to the point of being actually boastful about it? This is the point at which, as the saying goes, the rubber meets the road; it is the place where, in the context of the issues that I wish to raise in this piece, Mainagate confronts Ekitigate.
Since Mainagate is a more recent mega-scandal whose shock waves are still blowing across the swamplands of Nigerian political corruption, we can deal with it more succinctly. Abdulrasheed Maina, a man on the run, a fugitive from the law who had absconded allegedly with more than 11billion naira of pension funds unaccounted for. He suddenly shows up, not in a discovered hideout, but openly as a fully reinstated top-level bureaucrat in the Buhari administration’s civil service. The Chief Law Officer of the land is aware that he is back and in the administration. Presumably, all the other superintending heads of the investigative and security services of the nation are aware of this fact, for how could a first-class fugitive like Maina come back without their connivance? The old-age pensioners whose lives have forever been destroyed by Maina’s crimes are still here in their hundreds of thousands, though thousands of other pensioners have gone to their graves, the probability of any future restitution effectively beyond their reach. Maina is back and is in business once again. But wait! As soon as the public raises hue and cry that Maina has come back and is in the administration, Maina disappears again. Maina go; Maina come; Maina go again! De thing wey man pickin dey suffer for dis our country!
So, where does the rubber meet the road? Where does Ekitigate embrace Mainagate in a mutuality of “barawo” politics? For the answer to this question, I ask, compatriots, that we ponder carefully the reason (or reasons) why today, Governor Fayose, has become quite easily not only the fiercest critic of President Buhari in particular and the APC in general, but also the only of one among the non-APC state governors that pitches his criticisms of Buhari in absolute terms. He has discovered, I suggest, that Buhari almost never responds to criticisms at all. On the very few occasions that he does respond, he does so almost disdainfully, as if it is irksome in the extreme for him to do so. And by the way, Buhari responds to all criticisms in this manner, regardless of whether the person or persons concerned are members of his party or not. Fayose has sensed this as “second nature” to Buhari and he has used it very well, indeed rather astutely. Permit me to offer two particularly revealing illustrations of this observation.
One: About two weeks ago when Buhari finally sacked the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, together with the former Director of the National Security Administration, Ayo Oke, Fayose’s voice was the loudest in claiming that Buhari sacked the two men, who had been charged with rank corruption of the highest order, only because the Nigerian public had been unrelenting in its demand that the two men be sacked. Having said this, Fayose went further and insisted that the sacking of Lawal and Oke was not enough and was far too little compared with what Buhari should have done in the first place, which is have them prosecuted, have them punished and have the funds they looted recovered from them. As you are reading this, please note, compatriots, that in the statement in which the sacking of Babachir Lawal and Ayo Oke was announced, the President said absolutely nothing about prosecution of the two men. At any rate, this is standard Buhari practice: he says little and he says it when he wants to, absolutely regardless of how the issue at hand relates to good governance and to his and the APC’s “change” agenda. More than any other politician today, Fayose knows this fact about Buhari and he is capitalizing hugely on it.
Two: Perhaps the single most ominous issue on which President Buhari has been both quiescent and neglectful of purposeful and inspiring leadership is the standoff in many parts of the country between cattle breeders and farming communities, this being a variant of the age-old conflict between so-called “settlers” and “indigenes”. True enough, this tragic matter did not start with Buhari’s accession to power. But there’s no disputing the fact that it has increased significantly in the space of his two years in office. Thousands of lives have been lost, most of them extremely violently. And properties have been destroyed and laid to waste, in farm produce and livestock, incalculably. Worst of all, if Buhari has been touched in any meaningful human way unfolding tragedy, he has yet to show it.
With this dereliction of responsibility and human sympathy on the part of the President, Fayose has seized the chance to batter away at whatever claims Buhari has to fairness, to courage, to humaneness. And, believe it or not, people North and South are listening to Fayose on this matter. He has labelled Buhari a Fulani chauvinist and irredentist who has remained unmoved because the killings and wastage have been heavier on the Non-Fulani farming communities. In this, Fayose is very much aware that he is widely regarded as the one who says loudly and clearly what hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, are thinking about Buhari. And if the plain truth be told, to the folks in many parts of the country whose lives and livelihood have been touched by this tragic farmers and herdsmen conflict, Fayose is nothing short of a folk hero. And indeed, sometime last year, Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the RCCG, in a speech in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti state capital, hailed Fayose as a living legend. No one had any doubt that with this extraordinary praise, Adeboye was referring to Fayose’s outspoken and incendiary declarations against “the menace of herdsmen”. Heaven help us!
One final comment on Fayose’s calculations, on his deliberate project of capitalizing on Buhari and the APC’s departures from the “change” agenda that brought them to power and I will bring this essay to its conclusion. I started the discussion by observing that I no longer think that Fayose will ever face the music for the crimes he not only committed but admitted that he committed in the Ekitigate scandal. When Fayose made that admission, the PDP was still in power. For this reason, he may have thought that he was untouchable for in 2014, the PDP had no intensions whatsoever of relinquishing power by any means short of a bloody coup. And also, there’s Clause 308(1) of the Constitution, the “immunity” clause. But beyond all these considerations and far more important, in my opinion, is the fact that Fayose knew and still knows that in our country, you can get away with anything, always on the assumption that what you plan to get away with must be very, very big. And it must cause the greatest damage possible to the country, especially the ordinary folks in their millions. Ekitigate. Mainagate. And so many others, ad nauseum.