Ekiti Governorship Primaries: Oni Vs Fayemi And The Imperativeness Of The Judiciary

That Oni is in court against Fayemi over the Ekiti State Governorship Primaries that took place in May this year is no longer news. What is now the issue is the pressure being mounted by some interests on Oni to withdraw the case from court.  Principal among those seeking withdrawal are some leaders of the Party, APC, based in the Southwest led by the National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Jagaban of Borgu. Other stakeholders are the APC elders in Ekiti. Of course, some individuals with hidden interests have also called on Oni to withdraw the suit.

The major reasons cited by these pressurizers are (1) that it will be in the interest of the Party; (2) Oni’s followers will lose out in the scheme of things in Ekiti if he does not compromise with Fayemi; (3) Oni congratulated Fayemi before and therefore should not go back on his word to support the victory of the Party; (4) In a poor reference to ethics using a definition that meant “discretion” more than
“ethics”, a writer making a quotation out of context, concluded that it is not ethical for Oni to go to court. There are a few other reasons but which are highly personalized to be reckoned with.

There is also the very perverse and highly non-sensical comments from some Goebbelsian propagandists who are determined to blackmail and paint Oni different from who he really is. They claim as they did during the primary election that Oni works for Obasanjo and that his presence in APC is to help Obasanjo destroy APC as a Party. They also claim that Oni would have left APC for PDP had he won the Primary.
This is in spite of many assertions by Oni that he is not leaving APC for anywhere and the denial that he is not in APC as Obasanjo’s agent.

While all this pressure is being mounted on one side, there is greater pressure from the grassroot stakeholders in Ekiti supported by a broad-based coalition of interests that Oni should not withdraw the suit. In fact, the pressure is such that were Oni to withdraw the suit, it would appear he may have a hard time retaining his prestige,
status. the respect and adoration Ekiti people have for him. It should be noted that Oni was extremely hesitant to proceed with this suit because he did not want anything he does to be viewed as seeking vengeance against Fayemi. He agreed in the end because of the watershed nature of this case. As it is now, no amount of pressure or blackmail would make him withdraw the case.

As I argued before, I will state here again that Oni’s suit is very good for our democracy and anyone who is desirous of making positive and beneficial contribution to our democratic evolution would encourage a judicial determination of the issues raised even up to the Supreme Court if that becomes necessary.

We have three arms of government. All three put together is the government, not one or any two of them. Given the brand of democracy we have adopted, if this were to be the US, the Executive arm headed by President Buhari will be referred to as the Buhari administration.
Each time they would talk of “The Administration”, they would be referring to the executive arm of government. They also call their Legislature, Congress which here we call the National Assembly. The third arm of government is the judiciary, or the Courts.

As citizens, we are required to be good natured to all three arms. All three have impact on our lives. The executive determines how we are governed and which direction we move. The legislature is responsible for the laws that govern our relationships and engagements. The judiciary equitably administers the laws and ensure conflicts within the system are reduced to the barest minimum. While the executive and the legislature can wake up any day and act without any prompt from the citizens, the judiciary cannot wake up and bring out a case to adjudicate upon if none is brought before it. Citizens and institutions do not need to patronize the executive and the legislature for them to initiate and act on issues in their branch of government. However, the judiciary must be patronized for it to be active and engaged. So, when citizens claim that no two people return from court and stay as friends, it is an outlandish claim, very grotesque and should be confined to the realm of fallacy. It is a claim we must never accept as valid if we are indeed in agreement with the principles underlining our democratic structure.

Where there are disputes, disputants must be encouraged to approach the Courts and give the judiciary the chance to mediate and determine the issues. If there is no patronage of the judiciary, the third arm of our government system will be stymied and our governance system will be emasculated. We must all get used to the need to keep our democratic system functional and balanced as a tripod and stop the
anti-judicial mindset that sees engagement of the judiciary in conflict resolution as damning to inter-personal relationships. It need not be so and it is not designed to be so.

Specific to the Oni/Fayemi suit, it is very important for our democracy that we allow the courts to settle the issues in dispute.
Whichever way the matter is settled, it will be teachable moments for all those who are and who will be taking part in our democratic space.
As I stated elsewhere, Oni is primarily seeking judicial determination of two issues which determination will help shape our political engagement for the better.

The first issue is: should an appointed officer (distinct from an elected officer) of government resign the appointment before contesting any election or should the public position held by the aspirant as was the case here be held as insurance policy in the event of failure? In order words, should government use a subsisting public office to underwrite the risk of failure of an aspirant under partisan
circumstances? Would there be similar gesture extended to other aspirants not in public office? Or how can we underwrite the risk of aspiration of public office appointees with their positions held in lieu for them and at the same time, guarantee a level-playing field and equity for other aspirants? In the case of elected officials, I believe they retain their positions because of the explicit provision
of term tenure in the statutes that created the elective offices. A determination of this issue by the courts will go a long way in setting some standard of responsibility and accountability for our public officers.

The second issue Oni is asking the court to determine, from my layman perspective, is whether or not a criminal indictment by a state or federal government constitutes a moral burden to overcome while seeking a public office, elective or appointive?

These two issues are actually very fundamental to our democratic evolution that it will be a disservice to Nigeria were this case to be withdrawn from litigation and adjudication. This might even be a case where process technicalities may become secondary to the substantive issues raised. All lovers of our democracy must allow this case to prevail and let it be determined one way or the other. Nigeria as a
nation will be the better for it especially as the standard and even understanding of ethics by all will be enhanced significantly by the outcome of this case. It will be selfish and self-centered to canvass the withdrawal of this case which will amount to putting self and the Party over the national interest. We must all encourage the courts to function and outcomes from them should not be taken as instruments for
enmity and grudge.

While concluding this piece, I had reports that some group of elders of APC in Ekiti met and threatened to expel Segun Oni from the Party if he fails to withdraw the case from court. If that is so, it will be an interesting development to the extent that it will be the mother of all contempt. We should just wait and see.

Otunba Ben Oguntuase
14 September 2018


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