What was meant to be a “triumphal entry” for Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the APC candidate in the July 14 Ekiti governorship election, to Ekiti state to start his campaign last week turned awry as a result of a shooting incident that left many seriously wounded. Mercifully, attempts by APC chieftains to couch the incident as an assassination attempt on the life of Fayemi failed miserably, thanks to the power of social media and the prompt and, so far, unbiased release of undiluted information by the police. I said “mercifully” because if the pervert narration of the APC had taken roots, then, we would have been scared that we may have returned to those scary days of election violence in Ekiti, when re-run after re-run yielded not the needed respite but more confusion and violence, and when blood flowed freely as if in the killing field of today’s North-east and Middle Belt regions of the country. Imagine what the response of the man-in-the-street would have been if truly that incident had been an assassination attempt? It would have been an open invitation to anarchy and those APC leaders who tried to portray it as such had no good intentions. Apart from covering up the lapses or excesses of their political party and minimise the political damage the unsavoury incident may cause their chances in the coming election, their goal can only be to set Ekiti state on fire. They should have been more patriotic and godly. They should have been more decent. But then, criminals are criminals even if you pardon them a million times. Leopards do not change their spots. Again, we thank God for mercies.
Bad as that incident was, it could have been worse. What if Candidate Fayemi was hit by what the police said was an accidental discharge, a report corroborated by many other independent eye-witness accounts? What if Gov. Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state, who was in the motley crowd of APC leaders, was hit? What if Prince Dayo Adeyeye, who recently defected from PDP to APC, was hit? Opeyemi Bamidele, the most notable of the notables that was hit, is the least controversial in the circumstance. Not that this very fact justifies his being hit, though! If I were to write a testimonial for my Comrade, Opeyemi, any day, I will rate him highly. Politics apart, Opeyemi has a goodly heart. So, I am happy for him and his family that he survived. Thank God his blood was not used as sacrifice for the Fayemi/APC governorship campaign. As they say, if there are other evil signposts ahead of him, may the good Lord who averted this also avert the others in Jesus name – but let him watch it. In my town we have a saying: “Ekinni isu…” Kindly go to Owo or ask Gov. Akeredolu, who is from Owo, to complete the saying for you! And if I may ask my governor, what would he have said, and what would he have told his good people of Ondo state, if he had taken the shot that Opeyemi took – and if it had been fatal? Again, we thank God he escaped unscathed; otherwise, his case would have been like that of the proverbial man that enemies wanted to skin alive, who now doused himself with petrol and stood by the fire-place! Remember that Akeredolu still has a case in court challenging his victory at the polls.
Besides, the way the Ondo state governor is being linked with the reported shenanigans that led to the unsavoury incident at Ado-Ekiti leaves much to be desired. The follow-come thugs, who reportedly joined the Fayemi/APC train at Akure, the capital of Ondo state, have been fingered in the melee that triggered the accidental discharge of bullets. What role did Akeredolu/Ondo state play in that unfortunate incident? Must we be this educated and urbane and still carry thugs, stark illiterates, rough-necks, and enforcers all over the place? Must we rent crowds and elevate deceit to high art? Must we worship at the altar of God and Satan’s at one and same time? While it is appropriate for Akeredolu to support his party and its candidate in elections, he should be intelligent enough to draw the line. If he throws caution to the winds, he will not only expose himself to needless danger but also ridicule his high office and drag the good name of the good people of Ondo state in the mud. Ado-Ekiti is a warning signal everyone must heed. Once bitten…Now, members of the seventy-something odd campaign committee of Fayemi must have had the daylight scared out of them by the Ado-Ekiti incident. What Nigerian big man will bite a bullet? The incident, therefore, is a big setback for the Fayemi campaign which, late in taking off, has now been put on hold again. Yet, Ekiti needs a robust campaign so that the people can be further assisted to make an informed decision. The starting point, in my view, is building confidence in the ability of the law-enforcement agencies to maintain law and order and safeguard life and property. Otherwise, many will stay away from the process.
The police must be willing to do their job. They must do so impartially. The Ado-Ekiti shooting incident is an acid test in this regard. How they conduct their investigation into the incident and the result they release will determine if they find the stomach to do their job professionally. The politicians must also allow the police do their job. Do not hinder or hamper police. Do not harass or intimidate them either. The cry out there is that so-called “Federal might” will be employed to ride roughshod over opponents; for the Ado-Ekiti incident, we have seen that even Federal might can prove counter-productive. It can backfire badly. Everyone gains, institutions are made stronger, and the system matures when we play by the rules. This is the oxygen that gives life to our renascent democracy. Impair them and you smother democracy. The “trigger-happy” policeman or policemen on what has been described as “illegal” duty at the Ado-Ekiti incident must not be covered up but must be exposed and punished. Their procurers must also be exposed and punished. Any attempt at cover-up will badly dent the image of the police; it will also rebound badly on the APC and its candidate not only in the Ekiti election but also in subsequent elections nationwide. Politicians must eschew do-or-die politics or politics with bitterness. The people must be allowed to exercise their franchise in a free and fair atmosphere. They must not be intimidated and their votes must count. Election-monitoring groups locally and internationally must scrutinise the Ekiti elections, giving it the attention it deserves. Foreign countries who love to see democracy take firm roots here must do no less. Whatever will not be tolerated in the 2019 General Election must not be allowed to rear its ugly head in next month’s Ekiti governorship election. A stitch in time, as they say, saves nine!
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