You know, if the Ekiti gubernatorial rigging conference of June 20, 2014 were a television or stage story from one of Nigeria’s great dramatists, it would have been a rib-cracking success.
The trouble is that both the event—as audio-taped by the courageous Captain Sagir Koli of the 32nd Artillery Brigade—and the frightful aftermath, are real.
The audio tape, as analyzed by specialists and people who know the participants, identify one of them as Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Nigeria ambassador to Ghana, former Senator and at the time, a junior Minister of Defence in the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. He has recently been renominated for another Ministerial chair.
On the tape, Obanikoro asserts himself: “[I] am not here for a tea party, am on special assignment by the President.”
In his first response as the tape goes public, Obanikoro denied being the person heard, denouncing the audio as fake. He has since then admitted to Senators, the support of whom he is trying to gain in his quest to return to the federal cabinet, that he had participated in the meeting but that the objective had not been to rig.
The entire experience was about the determination of the Peoples Democratic Party to make Ayo Fayose, a former governor of the State, its new governor.
Fayose was at the meeting. At first he also denied having been present, and blamed the All Progressives Congress which he denounced as a party of liars, alleging that computer software had been used to make his voice sound like his voice.
"There are softwares that can re-create voices and even bring the voices of long-dead notable persons back to life,” he told the manipulated people of Ekiti. “There are softwares that can turn printed text into synthesized speech, making it possible for anyone to use recordings of a person's voice to utter new things that the person never said. One of such softwares is called 'Natural Voices.'”
But times change quickly, and Fayose was soon admitting that Fayose, the governor, was the Fayose on the tape.
That was partly because another person heard on the tape was identified as Jelili Adesiyan, the Minister of Police Affairs, who was present at the election-eve meeting in Akure on behalf of the PDP.
“I was there, Fayose was there, Otunba Omisore was there, Senator Obanikoro was there,” Adesiyan declared to Sunday Punch. “I am not denying that there was a conversation but it was not what they are saying.”
Following Adesiyan’s admission, Fayose hopped from denial to denunciation.
“…Listen to the tape you will see that I was the one accusing the army of compromise,” he said, with no apology for his lie that that the tape was an invention. “Listen, take time to listen. But they would come back with propaganda and saying it all as if the whole world of propaganda belongs to them," he said.
Two-time governor Fayose is the father of several children, and it is unclear exactly how they feel when they face their friends who have listened to their father’s scandalous performance on the tape. The governor almost engages in fisticuffs with General A.A Momoh as the PDP mugging team orders military man to implement the rigging scheme and work with PDP agents to that end. Momoh’s brief included the arresting of selected APC stalwarts, including Bimbo Daramola, the Director-General of the opposing Governor Kayode Fayemi campaign.
That plan included the use of a confidential and restricted “National Security Task” sticker on official cars to help separate the PDP rigging machine operators from others and help General Momoh’s Special Team prevent APC voters from reaching the polls. Add that to the widely-reported arrest of APC members in Ekiti during the election period and the scandalous use of masks by so-called security officers and it is clear that a shameful political crime has been committed.
On the tape, Fayose alludes to these schemes, but in admitting that the tape was authentic, he says he was only “accusing the army of compromise”. Adesiyan says it was just a conversation, and that the meeting was to persuade General Momoh to release some detained PDP agents.
General Momoh has so far said nothing. But he is known to have set up a panel of inquiry to hunt-down Captain Koli. There is evidence that as part of that process, he grabbed Adamu, the captain’s 15-year old brother, and had him bound and tortured.
Momoh is alleged to have been acting in the election at the instance of the Chief of Army Staff, who was executing President Jonathan’s script.
Little wonder then that the president has denied the authenticity of the tape. “It’s all fabrications,” he told the Wall Street Journal. “Why should I investigate things that are not real?”
That was despite the key figures on the recording admitting their participation. Late last week, even the political traveler Femi Fani-Kayode, who is currently the spokesman of Mr. Jonathan’s campaign, controverted his boss.
“We have listened to the audio clip and we make bold to say that the discussion that took place in it did not make any mention of any form of rigging in the Ekiti state governorship election and neither did it contain any evidence of any conspiracy to rig,” he said.
Few things in Nigeria can demonstrate why Nigeria does not work as the “Ekitigate” tape does. Every time there is the opportunity to do the right—and sometimes easier—thing, Mr. Jonathan chooses the wrong. Even on a recording in which his name was deployed to do evil, he failed to identify the opportunity to defend what is right.
But the reason the Ekiti rigging masterplan is such a sad story is that somewhere in Abuja, the Chief of Army Staff is ignoring this clear opportunity to clear the name of an army which tortured a 15-year old. The CAS is afraid, or complicit.
Somewhere in Abuja, the Director General of the State Security Service is ignoring this opportunity to serve his country, afraid or complicit.
Somewhere in Abuja, the Inspector General of Police is sitting on his hands, afraid or complicit.
Impunity, complicity, an absence of integrity and professional pride are ruining Nigeria’s security services as their commanders accept errand chores for politicians. In a quiet coup, the most scurrilous civilians have taken over our disciplined forces.
In the end, the lesson to learn is that weak men—men of weak character—cannot provide strong leadership. Weak men cannot build or lead strong institutions. Weak men may loot and steal and kill, but they cannot a strong nation build.
Let the history books reflect the fiction that in June 2014, Fayose defeated incumbent Governor Fayemi by an incredible 203,090 votes to 120,433, beating him all over the state, including in Akure and Fayemi’s own local government of origin.
Let those books record that Kayode’s loss was, in effect, an act of armed robbery of the people. And let them show that the people of Nigeria found out how the grand act of brigandage and deception was carried out in full view of a scoffing world but nobody gave a damn.
I name this feeling: shame.
- Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense