By Monday Japhet Emo
Ekiti State is reputed have produced more professors than any other state in Nigeria, in fact legend has it that every family has at least two professors. So it is understandable that the process of selecting such cerebral people into positions of leadership will be fierce and stiffly contested, especially that of the position of Executive governor who normally has puppets as legislators and has proverbial powers of “the genie” to dispense largesse from the crumbs allocated to the state from the federal purse. Given the allure for lucre the stake cannot be higher, this is against the backdrop of the fact that ruling over a state with intellectual giants and heightened level of awareness is normally not as easy as spreading propaganda and sloganeering. The battle for the heart of Ekiti people promises to be an epic worthy of following keenly.
The fast approaching June, 21st gubernatorial election will be a crucible to test the independence of INEC, impartiality of the Police, the authenticity of NGOs (electoral observers and activists) and the famed intellectual prowess and political sophistry of Ekiti people.
The news of the outbreak of pockets of violence following the commencement of campaigns is worrisome, therefore a potpourri of reputable drunkards across the country were quickly strewn to form an Ad-hoc committee (President Goodluck Jonathan style) to find out the immediate and remote causes of the violence and chart a proper course of moral rectitude for the most intellectually endowed state.
It was with elation and a deep sense of Maslow’s self-actualization that I received my nomination, and joined a group of other equally fulfilled and “high” drunkards to Ado-Ekiti. In order not to waste valuable time like delegates of the constitutional conference we set about working out the modalities of bringing peace to the election tours of the contending gladiators.
Our August Committee was headed by no lesser a personality than Professor Ayobanjo Gbenga known in our drunkard’s circle as Gbenguze. A gracefully aging Gbenga with speckles of grey hair dotting the hairs around his temple and his salt and pepper goatee beard gave him the kind of respect most sober people can never command.
In his hey days he was known across the South West to guzzle ten litre of good palm wine mixed with three bottles of Guinness stout and still go ahead give a class full of green post graduate students a full lecture on economic and political theory.
We settled at Iyin-Ekiti for jars of palm wine and well-cooked bush meat to savour the country side and get ourselves attuned to our environment so as to prepare ourselves for the task ahead we enjoyed the fresh air from the thick vegetation of the country side and the camaraderie that flows so easily amongst drunkards, it was in the midst of the laughs, shouts, playful jabs and worn out anecdotes that we learnt from a stray native that one of the gubernatorial aspirants was from Iyin, the zone was also home to a former governor of the state, in order not to be compromised we left for Ado immediately.
It was unanimously agreed amongst our committee that a closed door question and answer session be held between us and the major aspirants. Our secretary fondly known as “fingers” wasted no time in scripting a communique and sending out letters of invitation.
Trust politicians, they appeared for the semi hearing the next day fully prepared and we had to definitely and resolutely turn back pressmen which split our committee because some members were positioning themselves for one hour of fame.
A long table to seat twelve was arranged for under a mango tree with three chairs for the leading contenders facing us. We encouraged them to shake hands as they arrived and took their designated seats.
I personally threw the first salvo: “Gentlemen, we don’t have all day therefore we implore you to be very concise and straight to the point, we shall not entertain ramblings and name calling. So my first question goes to Hon. Michael Opeyemi Bamidele aka MOB: you were Commissioner for Information, Strategy and Planning in Lagos State, you became a member House of Representatives all under the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria now subsumed under All Progressive Alliance, why did you defect to the Labour Party…”
A member of our committee and a lawyer with big reputation stood up angrily and asked MOB not to answer the question as it was completely out of our Terms of Reference.
A member simply known among us as 7 by 7 for his mastery of juggling seven bottles of lager with another brand of alcohol fired next: “Dr. John Fayemi Kayode aka JFK, you were rumored to have bought and distributed several choice jeeps to traditional leaders in the state as gifts ostensibly to sway their…” “shut your mouth you drunken fool, who the hell do you think you are to ask such questions, we are here to make peace not to stoke the embers of bitterness” an old burly drunkard simply known as Lasisi thundered pointing his thick fingers at 7 by 7.
We gathered he is a lawyer with glasshouse chambers, to strut his stuff, he even waved a paper before all present and added “I have a court injunction here stopping all committees and pressmen from asking the Governor questions that cause disaffection among the good people of Ekiti State.” It took the intervention of the soft spoken Professor Gbenga to bring the now badly fractured committee members to collect themselves.
A case of Hennessy and other choice whiskey and brandy was set before us to calm frayed nerves, calm they did calm so we continued gently. “Governor Ayo Fayose, can you clear the air on your complicity or innocence in the murder of Dr. Ayodeji Daramola and set the record straight in your investment in poultry during your stint as governor?” The high pitched and modulating voice of Stella asked.
All at once different members set out using unprintable words against each other and it was about to tip over into fisticuffs when the genteel voice of Prof. Gbenga calmed everybody down. Another round of fine champagne was passed round.
In between sips and gulps of the golden liquor, a dowdy man with disheveled hair with a wry smile playing across his lips announced airily “gentlemen, all the issues raised are before a competent court of law and a respectable and assiduous judge, therefore anything said here might bias or taint the proceeding which I believe most of us here would not want, it is always better to let the law take its course.”
He sat down as smartly as he stood up, took a sip and went ahead to whisper and smile with the man sitting next to him as if he had not spoken at all. I could barely see again but I thought I saw the three contestants separately make phone calls reporting the proceeding.
I was still floating in Dutch Island when I heard Prof. Gbenga thank the contestants for their time and ushered in the police commissioner and electoral commissioner and another commissioner I could not readily recognise to answer questions as to how they will conduct and provide security for the sure-to-be-tough elections.
I heard the affable chairman ramble about stopping a repeat of Madam Ayoka Adebayo’s drama of resignation and accusations against the police for openly taking sides with certain candidates and turning a blind eye at the violence perpetuated against supporters of other candidates.
The gaunt and austere figure of Akabueze standing ramrod stiff and belching loudly cursing Nigerian politicians for scuttling all avenues for reaching a peaceful resolution to our problems and finding means of pulling the vast majority of poor Nigerians out of poverty.
“What show did you guys put up here? I mean so this committee was compromised even before we sat, what a sad turn of events, my heart bleeds for Nigeria, even the revered Prof. Gbenga can fall this cheaply?” He asked nobody in particular, he staggered slightly and held his balance as he continued talking, Akabueze legend has it retired years ago because a lucrative department and the masters could not stand his anti-corruption stance.
As we drove through the winding road leading out of Ekiti we were all silent each man to his thoughts and the dangers of pandering to primordial and sentimental attachments to elect people into sensitive positions was all the more demonstrated by the failure of our committee, the whole journey to Lagos was made in silence and forced naps, the bonhomie that made all of us chuckle like children evaporated and each member of the committee am sure was suspecting the other.