Ekiti; Olusola Adebayo in the eye of the storm

Nigeria -A 74 year old Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo is the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) for Ekiti state. She conducted the controversial April 14, 2007 governorship election that was challenged twice at the lower election tribunal and the Appeal court by the AC candidate, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and which the appeal court voided and ordered a re-run of the polls in ten of the sixteen local government areas. Bayo Ohu writes

Mrs Adebayo, a widow has been under intense pressure by the AC to resign her appointment after being accused of partisanship and her alleged closeness to former president Olusegun Obasanjo who the opposition claimed appointed her to do the biddings of the ruling PDP in Ekiti state. She refused to resign her appointment and the INEC authority waived pressures to remove her from office.

As the Resident Electoral Commissioner for Ekiti State, Mrs. Ayoka Adebayo was saddled with responsibility of organizing the re-run elections in the ten local government areas as ordered by the Appeal court which she did and was supposed to announce the results of the rerun. But suddenly amidst the controversy that trailed the re-run polls and the crisis that engulfed the state, she was on Sunday night said to be indisposed, and therefore unable to announce the result in four other local government areas.

In fact, there is an unconfirmed report that Mrs. Adebayo may have resigned her appointment in her attempt to resist the alleged undue pressures on her by politicians to announce some fake results, which she considered unethical, and due to this scenario, she might have decided to quit the assignment. But the INEC headquarters said that the REC is indisposed and until she recovers and come back to her desk, it could not announce the winner since it was the responsibility of the REC to do that.

Mrs. Adebayo, who the INEC boss, Maurice Iwu, erroneously claimed yesterday, was ill, surfaced in Abuja, today, from Abeokuta, her hometown, hale and hearty. According to sources, her journey to Abuja followed an invitation by the director-general of the State Security Service, SSS. Her resignation may have been because she decided not to succumb to pressure to announce the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party as the winner of the weekend re-run election in Ekiti state.

A copy of her letter, according to sources, has been dispatched to Maurice Iwu. Iwu told a news conference yesterday, in Abuja, that one of the reasons the winner of the Ekiti state governorship re-run has not been declared was because Mrs. Ayoka broke down on Sunday as a result of the hectic activities involving the re-run election held last Saturday. The other reason Iwu gave for the stalemate was that the election in Oye must be conducted and the result known before a winner would be announced.

However, family sources of Mrs. Adebayo’s told P.M. NEWS, this morning, that the woman INEC commissioner is hale and hearty. The sources debunked the official line by INEC headquarters that the woman took ill on Sunday. ”Her health is sound. Since Sunday she has been talking to her family members to explain the situation in Ekiti. Mama is not ill at all. She is okay.”

Indeed, to put a lie to the claim by the INEC chairman that Mrs. Adebayo was indisposed, the woman left for Abuja, today, to answer a summon by the State Security Service. She was said to have been summoned to give her report on the Ekiti election imbroglio.

Sources close to her said ”the woman intends to tender all the documents in her possession about the election and give her official report. So far, the woman remains adamant that the election in Ido-Osi and Oye are inconclusive. She also does not intend to cave in to pressure that she announces the PDP candidate, Engr. Segun Oni, as the winner of the election based on the falsified result from Ido-Osi.”

In the 74 years of her existence, Adebayo has worked in several private and public establishments. But her current assignment as the REC in Ekiti State is probably the most challenging of all.

This is based on the tension that has enveloped the governorship election rerun that was fixed for Saturday, but which has lingered till today, amidst confusion, violence and anxieties occasioned by threats of rigging.

A widow who lost her husband, Mr. Oluwole Adebayo, to murder by unknown gunmen in 1990, Ayoka hails from Owu, Ogun State, and hometown of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The relationship between the two is said to be very close and entrenched, according to a publication in March 9 edition of The NEWS weekly magazine.

While Ayoka’s late husband, a former employee of West African Portland cement, was said to be a cousin of Obasanjo, the publication also reflected an insinuation that she maintained more than blood relationship with the former president.

The magazine had based its observation on a claim made by an estranged wife of the former president, Oluremi, in her recently-published book, Bitter Sweet: My Life with Obasanjo.

But in an interview published along with The NEWS story, the resident commissioner denied having any form of illicit relationship with Obasanjo.

She said, “Because I am from Ogun State, I should know Obasanjo. There is no relationship more than that. I am from Owu in Abeokuta. But there is no relationship between us aside from the fact that we are both from Ogun State.”

In the same interview, Ayoka pledged that she would lead INEC to conduct a credible rerun election, adding that she had mobilised the commission into action immediately the Appeal Court ordered the rerun.

She said, “This time around, God help us, we will conduct a credible election.” We are going to have free and fair election. I am not for any party. When I came here in January, when I came to Ekiti, I held a meeting with stakeholders. All political parties were present and I told them that I am here to serve Nigeria in Ekiti State.

“I have not come to Ekiti State to serve PDP, AC, NDP, NCP or any other party. I have come to Ekiti State to serve all the political parties equally as well as everybody, including our dear Nigeria and that is what I will do.”