Given the gragra of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over their invitation of the immediate past Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, one would have thought that the moment he arrived at their office, they would lay him on the floor and flog him with a horsewhip. As things have unfolded so far, it turned out that the invitation was more of routine questioning. They might genuinely have a dossier on him, but it is doubtful his case has been neatly investigated, sealed watertight, and ready for prosecution in a short time. His Tuesday appearance in their office is the fanfare that precedes almost all the EFCC cases that eventually go cold. Ideally, when an organisation that investigates crimes invites you for a “chat” as the EFCC did, it means their homework is complete and without a good lawyer accompanying you on that journey, you are as good as gone.
In Nigeria, such invitations have so lacked administrative efficacy that politicians manipulate the summonses to their benefit. They turn what should be a serious process into a pilgrimage; their journey to and through martyrdom. You do not get to brand yourself an “opposition politician” in Nigeria until the EFCC sends for you. Their attitude is helping politicians construct the persona of victimisation. Recall that earlier this year, shortly after the Peoples Democratic Party lost the election in Ekiti, the EFCC posted a tweet where they suggested they would be going after Fayose. The timing of the tweet, its vengeful and flippant tone, combined with the rancorous aftermath of the Ekiti election, all made the EFCC invitation to him suspect. Is this about justice or about repressing the politician who has become the All Progressives Congress’ nemesis?
Fayose’s theatrics at the EFCC office are a joker, and he could pull that card on them because they do not take themselves seriously enough. Fayose arrived at their headquarters wearing a black T-shirt with an inscription: “EFCC, I am here.” That level of boldness was already a touchdown. He was accompanied to the EFCC office by Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, and the former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode. Before, Fayose’s visit, he claimed he had moved to Abuja to counteract any impression the EFCC might have that he was running out of Nigeria. He told reporters that if he had stayed in Lagos, they might imagine he was trying to escape the country. By going to Abuja, he won a major PR victory on their back. Fayose’s action is now going to be a devised formula for other politicians summoned by the EFCC. The strategy will be to stupefy the EFCC by taking the battle to their turf.
Here is one thing to remember as we criticise Fayose: He did not invent this drama, he only infuses it with his own brand of crass politicking and madness. What he did with the EFCC on Tuesday was similar to what Bola Tinubu also did in 2011 when he was tried in Abuja for allegedly operating foreign accounts while he was Governor of Lagos State. Tinubu was accompanied by three South-West governors whose presence not only helped to make light of the accusations of corruption, his party — the then ACN — also claimed that they were being victimised by the “repressive PDP government” because of their opposition politics. In 2014 too, when the current Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasiru el-Rufai, was invited to the DSS office to be questioned for some inflammatory comments he had reportedly made, he too went there with aplomb. El-Rufai was driven by then Rivers State Governor (why always Rivers!), Chibuike Amaechi (who is now Buhari’s Minister of Transportation), and a then serving senator, Chris Ngige (now Minister of Labour). They too alleged that el-Rufai’s invitation was a ploy by the PDP government to silence their activities as opposition politicians. Today, they are the party in power, and the old script of intimidating the opposition is still being re-enacted. We are stuck in this same rut, cycling passionately to nowhere.
The difference now is that Fayose refuses to play the victim in the conventional way. He is neither acting meek nor intimidated; instead, he is showing himself as deranged. His intended audience will construe his action as bravery, a brash display of manly strength; the very kind one needs to survive the excesses of the Nigerian madhouse. Fayose will be cast as the hero; a roughly hewn Robin Hood who robs the Nigerian political class of some of their hypocritical pretence so that the poor and downtrodden can feel better about their disempowerment.
If there is any lesson for us in Fayose’s EFCC drama, it is that we urgently need our institutions to be apolitical and their activities divested from the politics, or the perceived politics, of the ruling party. Our bureaucracies regularly function as an extension of the President’s mood. When Olusegun Obasanjo was in power, it was not a coincidence that most of those who were hounded by the EFCC were his political enemies. The same is almost true for every government that has been in control since then. When the PDP was in office, the APC was the victim of repressive state power. Now that their positions have flipped, the PDP is the new victim. Tomorrow, if the PDP gets back to Abuja, the APC will be the victim. For how long do state institutions want to suffer credibility issues when they should be cultivated into efficacious, autonomous and respected organisations?
One final point: Lately, at the nation’s Independence Day Gala Night in Abuja, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo turned the occasion into an opportunity to diss his fellow politicians. The one he said about the Osun State PDP governorship candidate, Ademola Adeleke, convinced me that their party still lacks reflexivity. Osinbajo was quoted to have said, “Yet another very important politician insists, and still insists that the most important attribute for leadership is dancing, and boy could he dance! And for those who think that that is ridiculous at least 200,000 people voted for him in a particular election.”
Come on, if not for the high-handedness of the APC, Adeleke would have disgraced them properly in that election. The same is likely true for Ekiti State election. If it was truly free and fair, the APC would be out in the cold by now. If Osinbajo paid better attention to things, he would find it was not “ridiculous” that more than 200,000 people voted for a man who should be considered a clown; better suited for entertaining children at birthday parties than for a serious leadership position. Yet, it bears thinking: When voters throw their votes in the direction of candidates who hardly come with a little more than their proclivity for showiness, those people see through the mess and want their realities to align.
They are tired of the insufferable yet suffocating self-righteousness of the APC that purports to fight corruption while it perpetuates the same; a band of leaders that feed their impoverished populace with promises and propaganda; the lovers and venerators of soul-crushing poverty. People look at the noise the APC makes about the PDP’s corruption and they cannot reconcile it with the acts of the APC; they cannot understand while the EFCC will put up a tweet threatening Fayose that they were coming for him while they are deaf and dumb on the videos of Abdullahi Ganduje allegedly caught on video receiving bribes. When you have a polity where crime and punishment are mediated by which political camp a politician belongs to, you should not blame people for casting their votes for those who do not pearl clutch nor pretend that there is anything ennobling about leadership process in Nigeria. There is nothing “ridiculous” about people who are forced to choose between odious choices passing over the pretender for the drama queens.