See accompanying Petition:

The good people of Ekiti State recently got a taste of what is to come, as the current political dispensation in Nigeria comes to a close in the next 12 months. The test came in form of a bye-election organized by the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC] to fill the spot vacated by a federal representative who was recently appointed as Ekiti's Deputy-Governor.

Prior to her appointment as Governor Ayo Fayose's deputy, Mrs Abiodun Olujimi represented Ekiti South federal constituency II which comprised 3 local government areas: Gbonyi, Emure and Ekiti-East local government areas. Mrs Olujimi, who hails from Omuo-Ekiti in Ekiti-East local government, replaced Mr Fayose's previous deputy who was impeached by the house of assembly a few months ago.

Leading up to the April 22nd election date was an un-nerving string of allegations and counter-allegations of plans of electoral malpractice between the governor's People's Democratic Party [PDP] and the opposition Alliance for Democracy [AD]. As one side beat its chest and tried to demonize the other as much as it could, it was apparent to observers that the election was going to be a testy battle of wits between the rival parties involved.

The election finally held, with the PDP featuring Mrs Florence Akinwale, a retired government worker against AD's Samuel Idiowo, a retired official of the Federal Ministry of Education in Abuja. Mrs Adewale is the wife of the current Chairman of Emure LGA - an area that falls within the contested federal constituency. Mr Idiowo on the other hand is the joint candidate of a broad coalition of opposition parties that came together under an umbrella called Ekiti Agenda.

What played out during the early Saturday morning election in Ekiti Federal Constituency II would later leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the most optimist of observers of Nigeria's political playfield. In the words of one resident professional in Ekiti who has lived and worked in Ekiti for almost three decades, it was "a sham of an election". The individual goes further to say "We are hopeless in this part of the world as long as this continues". Those were the words of one disenchanted citizen out of many others in Ekiti and Nigeria at large.

It was 2003 re-enacted; ballots boxes were stolen, opposition was intimidated by the power of incumbency through state security apparatus, opposition politicians were beaten up by political thugs and later detained. A respected govenorship aspirant was assaulted [and later arrested], cars were smashed and destroyed, people were caught in the middle of illegal thumb-printing of stolen ballot papers and so on and so forth. All in a small bye-election which barely lasted four hours that took place in the small state of Ekiti!

At the end of the day, the party of the incumbent governor in the state, the PDP, was declared winner by INEC. According to the INEC announcement, PDP represented by Mrs Akinwale trumped the rival party represented by Mr Idiowo by a massive 77,000 to 8,000 votes in approximate figures. In other words, Mrs Akinwale of the PDP received about ten times the number of votes her rival got - in an election where both parties were deeply popular with the people!

As it was in 2003, so it is in April 2006 in Ekiti. It breaks one's heart to witness this kind of babarism called elections in Nigeria. People behave like they have no conscience or decency in them. Yet, our people refer to God at every opportunity they get. On Sundays and Fridays, our places of worship are packed full and we shout ourselves hoarse calling upon that Higher Being. Our politicians sermonize 'at' us like they are holier than the rest of us, yet they don't show any ounce of godliness in managing our affairs.

The truth is, such day-light robberies of our hopes and aspirations, abuse of our trust, fleecing of our commonwealth shall continue until such a time comes that we summon the courage to mount a massive civil insurrection. The Babangidas will continue to take us for granted; the Obasanjos will continue to lord over us like Rome's Caesar; the Atikus will continue play with our sentiments; the Fayoses will continue to manipulate us - unless we liberate ourselves.

The forces that control our society from the top down are desperate power-hungry forces. They are blinded by greed for power and they assume a larger-than-life impression of themselves. They have the resources to keep us in perpetual bondage - unless we take our God-given rights in our hand to defend ourselves. We cannot sit back and expect another miracle like the type that took former Head of State Abacha away. The right to life and liberty has been given to every man by God. It is up to us as humans to use what we have to get what we deserve and want.

The Ukranians freed themselves from the bondage of a Russian-leaning autocrat by spending days in the cold of the winter that brought the government to its knees, such that a rigged election was re-run and the wish of the people prevailed. The Lebanese were galvanized into protesting Syria's decades-long occupation of their land after one of their own was assissinated. Their protest paralyzed governance until Syria bowed out of Lebanon in shame. South Africa saw the end of apatheid after fiercely continuous protests. And lately, the small South Asian nation of Nepal braced a royal shoot-to-kill order with daring protests that eventually saw the king bowing to popular protest against absolute rule.

But in Nigeria, we go to churches and mosques to pray day in, day out, for God to deliver us with miracles; when we have naturally been empowered with our right to life, liberty and justice ab-initio. Our past experiences under successively oppressive dictatorships should naturally make us have zero tolerance for any form of dictatorial tendencies, but here we are feeding an incumbent's ego to continue to rule us because he happens to fair better than the failed despots that preceeded him. Perhaps we are our own worst enemies. Here we are folding our hands looking while we continue to be robbed of our hopes before our very eyes.

Let's take charge of our affairs by standing up for our rights. Let us adopt a ZERO tolerance for self perpetuation under whatever guise - Obasanjo. Let us reject all personifications of failure from leadership in this country - IBB and fellow recycled pols. Let us say NO to manipulators in power - the lying governors and other incumbents like them. Let us ask what those who offer themselves have to offer. Let us stop looking for miracles from God but ask Him to PHYSICALLY give us the courage to fight for what is ours - so we can live in peace and prosperity.

It is either we use our God-given rights to get free or we remain where we are and delude ourselves that Mr XYZ "is trying" - because he has just filled the pot-holes of the highway to your village or mine. Let us set a high standard for governance and rule of law in our land by NOT rewarding mediocrity anymore. May we find the courage to absolutely reject that which is not ours in Nigeria.

Afolabi Ogunleye April 26, 2006.