Olakiitan Victor, in Ado Ekiti, examines the crisis rocking the Ekiti State House of Assembly
The March 4 arrest of a member of the Ekiti State House of Assembly, Hon. Afolabi Akanni, by men of the Department of State Services has elicited much furore. It has returned Ekiti to the era of one day, one trouble, when the state occupied centre stage in national discourse.
About 11 members of the Assembly have fled the state for fear of being arrested by either the DSS or the police. The lawmakers addressed a press conference in Ibadan on Tuesday and claimed that some people were on their trail.
People expected that the crisis would subside after Akanni’s release on March 23. But the crisis is exacerbating, with fierce exchanges between those loyal to Governor Ayodele Fayose and the opposition All Progressives Congress.
The first allegation from the Fayose camp after Akanni’s arrest was that an impeachment move was being plotted against the governor. Later, they raised alarm over an alleged plot to declare a state of emergency in the state. The governor himself broke the news in Abuja at a press conference.
This makes the whole crisis look intriguing and confounding.
Arrest and Rumour of Death
At first, the Assembly nearly misled the public with its declaration that four of its members had been abducted during the alleged invasion of the legislature by DSS operatives. Aside from Akanni, those listed to have been arrested and clamped in detention included Hon. Badejo Anifowose, Hon. Musa Arogundade, and Hon. Sina Animasaun. The statement created tension in the state.
The speaker of the Assembly, Hon Kola Oluwawole, while breaking the news of the alleged abduction said 18 lawmakers had been listed – out of 26 members – for arrest, so that Fayose could be impeached. His statement sent a grievous message to members of the public, because the whole process looked similar to how Fayose was impeached in 2006 through the instrumentality of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
When Akanni’s incarceration lingered and there was no hope that he would be released soon, the government of Ekiti State quickly broke a sad news that the lawmaker had died in the custody of the DSS. At an emergency press conference in Ado Ekiti by the Commissioner for Information, Mr Lanre Ogunsuyi, the government insisted that the lawmaker developed an ailment midnight, Thursday, March 16 and died at dawn.
Those that addressed the conference included the speaker, Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Ajayi Owoseeni, special assistant on communications to the governor, Lere Olayinka, and Akanni’s lawyer, Mr. Obafemi Adewale.
Ogunsuyi said, “We call on the DSS to immediately clarify the situation as to the status (dead or alive) of Hon Akanni by producing him physically for all Nigerians, particularly, his immediate family to see. While we await the DSS to come up with its clarification, we urge every resident of Ekiti State, particularly the people of his immediate constituency in Efon to remain calm.”
The government added that what fuelled their suspicion was the way the lawmaker was held incommunicado, without access to family, lawyers, doctors and political associates. It said, “Information at our disposal revealed that the lawmaker developed a strange ailment at midnight and died this morning. This is a shocking news to us and we are seriously grieved.”
Ogunsuyi said the government will take appropriate steps as soon as their claim was confirmed by the DSS.
But the game changed shortly after Akanni was released, as the three lawmakers alleged to have been arrested along with him resurfaced, with the speaker disclosing to the public that they were advised to go underground for their safety.
Shortly after the news broke out that Akanni had died, the DSS paraded him to disprove the allegation. Though, Akanni looked sickly, the fact remained that he was still alive. He was later released on March 23.
It was fanfare as Akanni returned to a historic welcome by party supporters in Ado Ekiti led by Fayose. Another arrested state official and ex-special assistant on revenue to the governor, Mr Ropo Ogunjobi, was also in the state with Fayose on that day.
Fayose came with two ex-detainees aboard a private chopper marked 5N-BRL about 3.38pm and landed at Christ’s School playground in Ado Ekiti, where they were welcomed by a mammoth crowd comprising members of the House of assembly.
Akanni, while addressing the crowd, said his arrest and detention had further fortified his loyalty to Fayose, describing the governor as a reliable leader.
He said, “What manner of democracy are we practising? How can DSS invade a House of Assembly and arrest a lawmaker with intention to impeach a governor? They even came without a warrant of arrest. Is this democracy? Is it an offence to be loyal or honest to a governor? Fayose is our leader and I can’t betray him. Ekiti people must stand behind him.”
On his part, Ogunjobi said during interrogation the DSS accused him of laundering N22 billion being amount paid on federal roads to Ekiti by the federal government into Fayose’s accounts.
“They even said I helped Fayose to launder another N1.3 billion out of the N2.5 billion ecological fund released to the state. I said all these were lies. I can’t lie against Mr Governor,” Ogunjobi said.
Fayose Condemns Dictatorship
Fayose at the event regretted that past military dictators were endangering Nigeria’s democracy, urging Nigerians not to vote them into any sensitive position to preserve democratic values. He also presented a car gift to Akanni for his loyalty.
The governor alleged, “President Muhammadu Buhari and Olusegun Obasanjo are not democrats. They have no respect for the constitution and the rule of law. But no matter what they do, we won’t succumb to intimidation. Today, I am excited because we have won the battle again. They took Hon. Akanni to Abuja as a captive, but he is back now as a hero, shame onto DSS, shame onto our oppressors.”
Claim of Police Invasion
Many thought the return of the detainees would put to rest the protracted crisis. But that was not to be. It took a more dangerous twist, as the governor claimed that armed policemen from Abuja had invaded the state to commence late night arrest of leaders of PDP, top government officials, and 11 members of the House of Assembly commencing from March 29.
The governor alleged that police officers, led by one CSP Mohammed Abubakar of the Force Criminal
Investigation Department, Abuja, were in the state in connivance with the APC, the party currently in control at the federal level, to effect the arrests. Fayose said those listed for arrest would be slammed with allegations of stockpiling arms during the June 21, 2014 governorship election.
Special assistant to the governor on public communications and new media, who made this known in a statement, said the new plot was an aftermath of the failure of the DSS to achieve the plot of coercing the House of Assembly members to impeach Fayose.
The statement alleged that the policemen were in Ado-Ekiti, the state capital, with Mr. Aluko and the state APC chairman, Jide Awe.
“We are aware of the arrival of policemen from Abuja to Ekiti State with the intention of arresting 11 members of the House of Assembly, two PDP leaders per local government and some other top officials of the government,” the statement claimed. “Ridiculously, the offense for which the policemen are to embark on this indiscriminate arrest is owing to Temitope Aluko’s malicious outburst that those listed for arrest stockpiled arms during the governorship election conducted in Ekiti close to two years ago. And why is the police not arresting the APC chairman, Jide Awe, who is wanted for alleged murder and TKO Aluko, who was declared wanted by the court for perjury, and instead providing security cover for them?”
But Aluko, in his response, said Fayose was only running from his shadows over his recent outburst and confessions on the rigging of the June 21, 2014 governorship election in the state. Aluko, who disclosed that he remained a member of the PDP and secretary of the party in Ekiti, said, “The APC has been petitioning me and it came as a rude shock to me when the government (Ekiti State government) said that I’m Judas. They are the Judas anyway, because they betrayed me. I am still a member of the Peoples Democratic Party. It is APC that is petitioning me over this issue I trashed out on Channels Television recently. They petitioned me, and I have stayed 12 days with SSS, five days with police and five days with the EFCC. So I’m actually on bail from these security operatives.
“During the interrogations, they asked me so many questions and as truthful as I can be, I gave them the answers, because I said I wanted to do restitution and that is what I’ve done. So if Lere is now saying that somebody is a Judas, it is Lere that is the Judas. I know what transpired between me and Lere but I won’t say it here, and Governor Fayose, if he is running away from his shadows, that is his problem.”
Aluko added, “But if Fayose is now saying all these things… I worked for him, we did everything together, he cannot deny it. And if he is now talking about glorifying somebody and calling me Judas, they are the Judas.”
APC did not take Fayose’s vituperation against Buhari lying down. The party appealed to the federal government to place the governor under security watch over his alleged attempt to bring down Buhari’s government.
The APC state publicity secretary, Taiwo Olatunbosun, said in a statement on Monday that in the alternative, the federal government should begin a process of trying the governor for treason to prevent anarchy in the system.
The statement read, “We have heard of reports of Governor Fayose inciting the people to stone the operatives of the DSS anywhere they are seen. This is besides saying many unprintable things about the president, such as saying that he would soon die, and declaring the DG of DSS, Lawal Daura, a personal- non-grata in Ekiti State.
“It is regrettable that Fayose cannot separate his personal views as a man constantly at war with the Nigerian law from the views of lawful Ekiti people, who are ready to submit themselves to the Nigerian law where the rule of law and good governance flourish.”
“That is why the governor is wasting state resources on helicopter charter to ferry an accused person, Akanni Afolabi, from Abuja to Ekiti after which he took six pages of several newspapers on frivolous adverts to publish court records on the accused bail application and topped it with the donation of a new car to same Akanni, who is still under investigation over several criminal cases.”
Dim Prospects of Peace
On Wednesday, members of the Assembly held a special session to celebrate the return of peace to the legislature and reunification of some members. But things suddenly changed the next day with the outcry of the lawmakers in Ibadan that they had fled Ekiti over an attempt to arrest 11 of them.
As of now, the Assembly has neither been closed down nor taken over by security agents, but nothing seems to be happening there. Members seem to be apprehensive that they could be rounded up by security agencies during plenary. What they now do is occasional press conferences. With is sordid scenario, there seems to be little hope of an early resolution of the crisis. But many blame the situation on Fayose’s style of governance and believe he must have a rethink for peace and stability to return to the state.