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Goodbye, Governor Agagu by Niyi Akinnaso


Goodbye, Governor Agagu

This may be the last time I will address you as governor and the last advice I will give you in that capacity. My advice is that you should not appeal the recent verdict of the Elections Petition Tribunal in which your election as Governor of Ondo State on April 14, 2007 was nullified, while Dr. Olusegun Mimiko was affirmed as having lawfully won the same election. Instead of filing an appeal, I advise that you begin to pre­pare your handing over notes and deliver them to Governor Olusegun Mimiko within the shortest possible time.

This advice may be surprising to you, coming from a friend, and knowing that a number of my friends, including Dr. Tayo Dairo, the state chairman of the PDD, have been working with you. This is why I ago­nised over giving this advice publicly. However, this is one occasion when our desire for true democracy and the love of our state should trump per­sonal considerations. This is the time to put aside personal grudges against a political opponent and work for the interest of our state. This is the time to nurture a judicial system that is prepared to rule against flawed elec­tions, even if such ruling is unfavourable, as it must be to one side in a dispute.

I chose this public forum in the hope that I might convince like-mind­ed observers to reinforce my advice. In particular, I want to use this forum to appeal to those around you, who might have contributed to the clouds surrounding the controversial elec­tion. If your supporters excused you from the electoral flaws, it is because they, too, hoped to benefit from the outcome. We do know, however, that the tribunal did not excuse you or them.

My advice that you refrain from appealing the tribunal's verdict was informed by various factors. First, as presented by the tribunal and wide­ly publicised, the evidence against the election declared in your favour is overwhelming, and some of it is shameful. There is no point in going into the details here. Suffice it to say that Ondo indigenes at home and abroad have been the butt of electoral malpractice jokes since newspapers began documenting the evidence brought against you by the plaintiff. The other day, someone called Mike Tyson my cousin and wanted to know the name of his street in my town, a painful reference to reports that Tyson’s picture was found on a voter registration card used in your election.


Second, Dr. Mimiko's margin of victory as indicated by the tribunal is symptomatic of the relatively lower esteem in which you are held in the state. I don't doubt that you truly love the state and have a vision for its devel­opment. But majority of your "subjects" does not love you enough as to return you as their governor. Besides, they seem to prefer the alternative vision offered by Dr. Mimiko. It is unfortunate that the artificial wall built between you and the people has prevented informa­tion about their disdain for you from fil­tering through. Perhaps now you know that it is real as people took to the streets and bars in jubilation over the tribunal's verdict against your election. Third, our generation owes it to future generations to lay good examples in leadership, civic responsibility, and respect for the rule of law. If we, the so-called educated elite, cannot change the political culture of rigged elections for the better, who will? At different times early this year, your son and mine mar­ried two beautiful young women from the same esteemed family. What legacy do you want to leave for them and their children?

You are in a unique position today to demonstrate at least five things: that political power is transient—some­one holds it today, another tomorrow; that power holders are respected only if their power was honourably acquired; that the kind of power worth holding on to is one that was legitimately bestowed; that free and fair elections are the cor­nerstone of democracy; and that the rule of law is supreme in a democracy.

To be sure, you have the right of appeal, as I mentioned in my previous essay (Punch, July 24, 2008), but it is futile to exercise it at this point for sev­eral reasons. For one thing, it is a con­tradiction of your initial reaction that "We have heard the judgment and as believers in Project Nigeria and respecters of the rule of law, we accept­ed it." Although you went on to indicate your desire for appeal in the same state­ment, the question remains as to why you want to appeal a judgment you "accepted". Moreover, it is not likely that the majority of the people of Ondo State will- respect you, even if you were rein­stated by the Appeals Court.

Perhaps I should tell you about some of the unwholesome theories circu­lating about your planned appeal. Some critics think that you are only buying time to cover your tracks in the treasury. Others argue that you may be planning to regain victory by borrowing strategies from a neighbouring state. Yet, others surmise that you might be hoping for vic­tory in an Appeals Court, which some observers perceive as compromised. This is why well-meaning observers, including some of your friends, think-that the path of honour at this stage of the game is to bow out. Such an action will save you, your family, and the people of Ondo State the agony of the appeal process and, most importantly, the negative conse­quences of a reversal of justice.

There is no doubt, of course, that your lawyers would like to convince you that your case is good on appeal. That is what lawyers do, especially when they know that their client can pay for their services. If you give in to them, then you would also have succumbed (or so it would seem) to a basal instinct - to delay Dr. Mimiko's access to power that was lawfully bestowed upon him by the peo­ple of Ondo State, who, as you well know, would never tolerate electoral or judicial injustice. Historians and posterity will judge you on how you manage this mat­ter.

By Niyi Akinnaso

• Professor Akinnaso teaches Anthropology and Linguistics at Temple University, Philadelphia, United States.


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