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EKITI: LONG, TORTUOUS LEGAL JOURNEY TO JUSTICE

By NBF News
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On May 11, 2007, Ekiti State stepped into what could now go for the most tortuous governorship election contest in Nigeria. That was the day Dr. Kayode Fayemi filed a petition at the state elections petitions tribunal challenging the declaration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that Engr. Segun Oni won the state election of April 27.

That contest and battle in the courtrooms and out of it - in the streets, media houses, polling stations and many more - ended yesterday after three years, five months and four days.

Within this season, about 16 judges heard the matter, examined the documents from both Fayemi and Oni and came up with decisions.

The first decision at the Ado Ekiti tribunal gave the victory to Oni. That was not acceptable to Fayemi, who proceeded to the Court of Appeal in Ilorin for reversal. The Ilorin court nearly granted Fayemi his prayers early last year but for a little shortcoming, where it ordered a re-run election in 63 wards, which stretched through 10 local government areas of the state. In these places, the appeal tribunal held that there were ambiguities that needed to be clarified through a repeat election.

Oni was already sitting on a keg of gunpowder, as the number of valid votes the tribunal upheld was in favour of Fayemi. It declared that Fayemi had 72, 795, while Oni got 65, 993. With the result, Oni was hanging on a loose string, and that heightened the tension and suspense in the re-run battle, which came later.

On April 25, 2009, the day of the re-run election, Ekiti was a battleground. Even the late President Umar Yar'Adua had to visit the state and campaigned for Oni of PDP, prior to the election. The leaders of the Action Congress (AC) left nothing to chance, as former Lagos governor, Bola Tinubu and others stormed the state to drum up support for their candidate.

At last the results came, but in a sharp twist, Oni got more votes. The election result gave Oni 109, 000 and Fayemi 106, 000. That was the scene where the electoral commissioner, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo, burnt her fingers.

Fayemi and his party also rejected the result. On June 2, 2009, Fayemi commenced the next turn of legal protests against the result. That is the one that ended yesterday. The tribunal still insisted that Oni won fair and square. It was still not acceptable, and AC headed to the Appeal Court that gave the final decision, which enthroned Fayemi yesterday.

In three and a half years, Ekiti made record of having two governorship elections and sets of litigations - petitions, arising from the elections. Finally, it has ended and that has given Fayemi, who had the last laugh, four years of governorship tenure that will end on October 14, 2014.

With the development, Ekiti has swollen the ranks of states that enjoy staggered and separate governorship elections. It started with Anambra State and stretched to Edo and later Ondo State.

With the Ekiti victory yesterday, the ranks of the opposition have swollen with AC today controlling three states - Lagos, Edo and now Ekiti. In the words of Nigerians, the development is healthy for democracy to grow.

'It is a sign that PDP has to really battle on real democratic grounds to retain what it has or lose it. With the opposition widening, the ruling party would no longer remain adamant and aloof to the cries by Nigerians that PDP has never been a good example of democratic norms and ideals,' one Nigerian said.