Olakiitan Victor, in Ado Ekiti, reports on the current climate of socio-political crisis in Ekiti State
The governor of Ekiti State, Mr Ayodele Fayose, has become a household name in Nigerian politics. Some admire his populist politics and courage while others loathe him for his rather vociferous manners.
Defeating two former governors, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo and Dr Kayode Fayemi, in elections they contested as incumbents, attested to Fayose’s political prowess and popularity. But events of the recent past seem to have considerably eroded the goodwill the governor enjoyed. Many appear to dislike the way he has been attacking the administration and personality of President Muhammadu Buhari. Now, Fayose’s political rhythm and perception in the eyes of Nigerians has changed.
Many now see him as a rabble-rouser, who is making enemies for himself in a desperate attempt to score cheap political points needed to cover up his past misdeeds.
Fayose played a prominent role in the failed second term ambition of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. The highly vociferous governor deployed all the resources at his disposal to try to plummet the rising profile of Buhari, the then candidate of the All Progressives Congress.
Fayose sponsored myriad newspaper and television adverts to deride Buhari’s personality, painting him as someone without astuteness and intellectual acumen to steer the ship of the country. In one of the highly defaming adverts, Fayose alluded to Buhari as inherently senile and too frail at 72 to lead the country.
The governor was quoted as saying, “I was 23 years when Major General Muhammadu Buhari was the Head of State in this country. Nigerians can’t forget in a hurry the Decree 4 of 1984, the War Against Indiscipline and clamping of politicians from the southern part of Nigeria in detention. What did he forget in Aso Rock? I know Nigerians can’t leave a much youthful President Jonathan for an old man, who ought to be using pampers now. He is of the same age with my mother. He has failed in the past and he will fail this time.”
Since the inception of the APC federal government, Fayose has tried to maintain his anti-Buhari stance. The governor has even gone to the extent of sponsoring paid adverts cataloguing a 12-point prophecy of gloom under the Buhari government. Among them are fuel scarcity, removal of fuel subsidy, and the free fall in the value of the naira.
Today, the average Nigerian knows that Fayose is one of Buhari’s political traducers. At two different occasions, Fayose narrowly escaped an alleged impeachment plot, which he accused Buhari of masterminding. First was under the former APC-dominated House of Assembly, where 19 APC lawmakers allegedly made spirited moves to impeach the governor. Second was the arrest of a member of the House of Assembly, Hon. Afolabi Akanni, by the Department of State Security in an alleged move to force Fayose’s impeachment.
Battle Shifts to the Bank
The battle shifted to the banks recently. On June 20, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission froze Fayose’s personal account and those of many of his associates. The governor’s personal account in Zenith Bank, Ekiti branch, was allegedly frozen on the orders of the anti-graft agency. It was also rumoured that the governor’s account in Access Bank was frozen. EFCC hinged this on Fayose’s alleged involvement in the $2.3 billion arms deal under Jonathan to finance his governorship election.
In reaction, Fayose, who had earlier issued a cheque to make withdrawal, which was rejected by the bank, visited the branch located at Onigari, GRA in Ado Ekiti, where he described the account’s freeze as criminal and illegal. He called it a desperate and callous attempt to muzzle the opposition. Making allusion to Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution, Fayose said he enjoyed immunity as a sitting governor and urged the federal government to fight corruption within the ambit of the law.
The governor stated while at the bank, “I got wind of the fact that the EFCC had placed restriction order on my personal account and that of my associates. I came here today and I have been able to see it. This action shows that this government has no respect for the constitution because I enjoy immunity under Section 308.
“I support government fighting corruption, but it has to be within the ambit of the law. You can investigate me; it is their right, but they have to wait till 2018, because I will be done by then. They should not be in a hurry because I will personally come to them for investigation. I have become a figure in this country; I don’t have anywhere to run to. This rascality of EFCC must stop. If they like, let them investigate the whole world. Is it because they are the sitting government now that nobody can ask them questions?
“We will take every legal procedure to get things right. I am not leaving this bank until they give me my statement of account. They must put it into writing because EFCC has no right under the law to freeze my account. They did not communicate me. They want to destabilise the state and we will use all legal means to make them obey the constitution. They can investigate me, but they can’t coerce me.”
The governor also tried to call the integrity of the Buhari administration’s anticorruption war to question when he alleged that the president’s wife, Aisha, was involved in the Jefferson’s scandal in United States.
But in a statement by presidential media aide, Mallam Garba Shehu, the presidency quickly dispelled the defaming attack and branded Fayose as childish for raising dust against the president’s wife. Shehu clarified that Mrs. Buhari had no business, either closely or remotely, with the US Congressman, Jefferson, saying the Buhari that was convicted in connection with the scandal has no relationship with the first lady.
Fayose said, “Mrs. Buhari was accused of wiring $170,000 into Jefferson’s account and the man has been convicted in US. So Buhari and APC should not see themselves as saints.”
Despite the presidency’s threat of possible resort to litigation to save Mrs Buhari’s integrity, Fayose said he stood by his allegation that Buhari’s wife was involved in the Halliburton scandal. The governor challenged the president’s wife to visit the United States of America to convince Nigerians that she was not the Aisha Buhari mentioned in the judgement convicting William Jefferson.
“It is on record that the president has visited USA three times and his wife did not travel with him. Equally, she ought to have visited USA last year September to chair a United Nation programme, but she sent wife of the Senate President, Mrs Toyin Saraki, to represent her,” Fayose stated.
Ekiti Assembly Joins Fray
Ekiti State House of Assembly also criticised the EFCC for ordering the freezing of Fayose’s bank accounts. The Assembly said it was illegal for the anti-graft agency to have given the order without valid court order, saying the body ought to have approached the court through an ex parte motion before issuing the directive.
Chairman, House Committee on Information, Hon. Gboyega Aribisogan, and the chairman, Committee on Health, Hon. Samuel Omotoso, called for the immediate removal of the restriction of the restriction order on Fayose’s account, saying it contravenes section 308 of the constitution, which confers immunity on a sitting governor.
The Assembly challenged the EFCC to commence a probe of Fayose’s predecessor, Fayemi, for alleged financial profligacy while in office. It summoned the immediate past Commissioner for Finance, Mr Dapo Kolawole, to appear before it to clarify issues bordering on the state’s finances.
Aribisogan stated that the Assembly had passed the following resolutions:
“That the EFCC should investigate all allegations of financial mismanagement made against former governor of Ekiti State, Dr Fayemi, without further delay;
“That the EFCC should defreeze the account of Governor Fayose immediately, because it is illegal, null and void, due to the immunity he enjoys under Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“That the EFCC should work within the legal framework of its establishment and stop being an agent of the APC;
“That this honourable house passed a vote of confidence on Governor Fayose today, being exactly two years after the conduct of his election adjudged to be free and fair by the international community and all concerned;
“That the APC-led Federal Government should concentrate on good governance to reduce poverty and several security challenges in the country, rather than embarking on a wild goose chase of perceived opposition elements as seen in its several attempts to muzzle Governor Fayose of Ekiti State and many others.”
PDP Condemns EFCC Action
The state chapter of PDP also condemned the freezing of the personal account of Fayose. A statement by the party’s state publicity secretary, Mr. Jackson Adebayo, said Buhari had exposed himself as a dictator by the freezing of a sitting governor’s account.
“We want to say categorically that the federal government is sliding into rascality in dealing with opposition while the face of dictatorship has been unveiled in Nigeria as it was the practice of the military era,” the statement said.
Adebayo alleged that EFCC’s action was part of a revenge mission by APC following the defeat it suffered in the hands of the Ekiti electorate during the June 21, 2014 governorship election and subsequent elections, where it was roundly beaten by PDP.
Fayose said penultimate Tuesday that contrary to allegations by EFCC that he benefited from the $2.3 billion arms deal through the office of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki, his election was funded by Zenith Bank Plc, fund raising, donations from friends and associates, and sale of campaign souvenirs.
He said, “I have no financial transaction whatsoever with the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) under Col. Dasuki (rtd) and former Minister of State for Defence, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, either by cash, cheque or electronic transfer.”
The governor challenged the EFCC to publish statements made by Obanikoro, his son or any other persons associated with money from the NSA office where they claimed they gave him money for the election.
“EFCC is only acting a movie scripted, produced and directed by the All Progressives Congress (APC) government of President Buhari just to silence me being a major opposition voice in the country,” Fayose alleged.
Fayose said: “I must say it categorically that I don’t have any link financially with Obanikoro and I know as a fact that he (Obanikoro) has not; and cannot mention my name, as beneficiary of whatever money any company in which he has interest could have gotten from the ONSA if truly Obanikoro collected money from the ONSA as being claimed by the EFCC.
“Therefore, bringing Obanikoro and his son’s narrative or that the Zenith Bank is telling different stories, having been blackmailed and coerced into submission by the EFCC is a joke that will not fly.
“I wish to state further that if it becomes evidently clear that those who willingly provided money for my election can no longer stand by what they did, may be because of threat from the EFCC, I will not hesitate to name names.”
The governor, however, challenged the EFCC to also beam its searchlights on the funding of APC elections, especially that of Buhari. He said, “Since we are now in the era in which financial assistance from Nigerians to fund elections is being criminalised, the international community, especially those funding EFCC must insist that the commission probes the funding of APC elections before further funds are released to the commission. Most importantly, Nigerians are interested in the $60 million allegedly donated to the APC campaign by Sahara Energy, on which EFCC has been forced to suspend investigation.”
Fayose threatened legal action over the freezing of his account.
The situation in Ekiti State appears to be escalating into a pitched battle between Fayose and a widening range of social and political forces. Besides his troubles with EFCC, he is currently battling students and various labour unions in the state over unpaid wages.
There appears to be no end in sight to the battles facing the governor. How far he can hold his ground in the face of the multifarious forces remains to be seen.