JUDICIARY NOT ABOVE CRITICISM – JITI OGUNYE
A human rights lawyer, Mr Jiti Ogunye, shares with AYOOLA OLASUPO his thoughts on the statement by the Supreme Court and developments on the interpretation of the litigation between the Federal Government and some states over the new naira notes
The Supreme Court in a recent statement condemned the way people criticised its judgments, especially in the cases involving Godswill Akpabio and Senator Ahmad Lawan. Some people have said there is nothing wrong with criticising court judgments because judges are not gods. What is your position on this?
My position on criticism of court judgments, specifically Supreme Court judgments, is a long-standing one and that position is that the judgments by all our courts are subject to review and criticism. The judgment by our courts, in particular the Supreme Court of Nigeria, can be commented upon by lawyers and non-lawyers, debated in the public, analysed and people can form opinions on them. No matter the intensity of such public discourse, the law established by that judgment or the issues resolved or settled by that judgment will remain unchanged. Public outcry or opinion does not change the prayers granted by a court of law or amend the orders made by that court. The court having spoken through their judgment should be less worried about what the people say about such judgment because during judgments, they carry out their exercises not in expectation of any public adulation, endorsement or condemnation. If judgments were delivered in expectation of public feelings, they will no longer be judgments so our courts should worry less about such.
But that does not seem to be the case in this instance?
In the past, we told our colleagues that the judiciary is our court system as well as the third arm of government. The legislature does its work, makes resolutions and passes laws but people criticise that institution. People also insult them by calling them names when they make certain laws. That does not mean they will charge anybody for contempt of the legislature. The executive arm of government enforces the law and does a poor job like the present situation we are in now. People are not only condemning them, they are even cursing them. The judiciary cannot claim it is above criticism. What is not permitted is for people while claiming to be criticising to engage in personal attacks, ridicule or subject them to all sorts of abuse or even allege corrupt practices when no evidence exists. That can undermine that institution of democracy. Because people don’t understand this, the situation can switch into anarchy when people unjustifiably condemn and demonise the judiciary in a way that it becomes weakened. When the executive and legislature are dealing with the people, the judiciary would have been so weakened that it would no longer be in the position to interpret and save the law and be the last hope of the citizenry. So, we also have to be careful. You can easily weaken the court, which is the hallmark of democracy and guarantees that people talk the way they feel. Even if they accuse us of falsehood, let our conscience be our defense. Let our conduct speak for us rather than exercising an awesome power to punish anybody who has committed contempt of court. So, the courts use their power sparingly because if the Supreme Court were to convict anybody for contempt of court, which court would such a person run to for an appeal? They know that as a court, they are the guardian angel of our democracy, which then takes us to the issue of appropriateness of the occasional issuance of statements by the Supreme Court in respect of matters like this. My sincere opinion is that it is not appropriate because it will appear as if the court will then be taking issues with the members of the public, particularly persons and people who write opinion articles.
You said court judgments are subject to public review, how best can people do that subsequently without getting on the nerves of the apex court?
We are in the age of social media, which has amplified peoples’ prejudices, undigested views, refined commentaries, etc. Everybody has now taken the liberty of commenting on the judgment of a court, including those who are not lawyers. We are not saying people who are not lawyers cannot talk but the fact that our justice system is law-based, rule-governed and is technicality-driven will take somebody who is learned about the law to do a fair criticism of the court judgment. This is because what the ordinary person may perceive as justice may be different from what someone who is a lawyer and knows the pitfalls, the technicality of criminal procedure would say as to whether the judgment is consistent with the principles of law or have changed the law on a particular subject.
Could you give us examples?
One of the judgments that was criticised in recent times was delivered on the basis of the appropriate civil procedure that ought to have been used. Any lawyer that knows civil procedure will tell you that if you want the court to declare your right as the owner of a land, you will have to use a procedure that allows you to conduct a trial so that you can call and give evidence. You won’t use a procedure where you merely filed an affidavit and there will be no trial. The truth of the falsehood being alleged can be established by trial where the judge will have the opportunity to listen to witnesses, look at their countenance, their conduct in the court and facial expression to be convinced whether they are telling the truth or not. So, you cannot secure a declaration of land ownership without trial. If you use originating summons where an affidavit is used without trial, your action is likely to be struck out. In the same vein, if you are alleging fraud, it has to be demonstrated and established in the trial where there will be witnesses and documents will have to be tendered whereas, if you are using originating summons, such will not happen. The court is likely to say that the person has used the wrong procedure.
Many people found it discomforting that the apex court overturned the judgments of the Federal High Court and Court of Appeal, especially when many people believe that Lawan did not partake in that main senatorial primary in Yobe State having participated in the party’s presidential primary. How do we reconcile the contradiction between the judgments?
There are three layers of court created by the constitution. We have the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The first point to note is that the exercise of the constitutional right of appeal and the access to justice saw that the right of appeal will be guaranteed so that the person seeking justice can in good conscience exhaust all the layers and then be satisfied perhaps that they have given it their best shot to get justice. The exercise of that right presupposes that when climbing that ladder, at any of the stages, there could be an alternation of success or victory for either party. A party may lose in the High Court and win at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, and vice versa. While it is true that in our jurisprudence, the Supreme Court gives you consideration to what it called concurrent findings of the two courts below, if the two courts below as a finding of fact see that this is what has happened except there is something special to disturb that findings. This lubricates the will of justice where three heads are better than one. If they have found the fact and it’s consistent at the two levels, the Supreme Court will just deal with the law. While this is a principle of law, the truth of the matter is that the Supreme Court reserves that right, power and the will to determine legal principles to deliver justice according to the law.
In the case of Lawan and Bashir Machina’s case, was the Supreme Court judgment not against the provision of the Electoral Act because it has been argued that Lawan did not participate in the senatorial primary but in the presidential primary?
The allegation is that he didn’t participate in the senatorial primary, the court stated that the procedure in which that person is challenging the case came by way of originating summons because he is alleging fraud. That was what the court said. You are alleging fraud, why are you coming by way of originating summons? The rules of the court are stronger because they are made under the respective laws of the court. We have the Federal High Court law, and the laws establishing the deeds of the state under which rules ought to have been made. I am saying that except there is evidence establishing that that decision was actuated by corrupt practices like bribery and corruption, it is not appropriate in my view to just make assumptions that it is because this person is the sitting Senate President and more powerful than the challenger that was why they favoured him. That decision is against the decision of the two courts below and that is why the court is there anyway. There is no obligation on the part of the Supreme Court to follow the two courts below.
Lawyers have backed the Supreme Court, insisting that the apex court should be treated with respect, but some commentators also said respect should be earned, as they noted that the judiciary should be seen as unbiased and dispensing justice and not just judgments. What do you think?
Judges should be upright. They should do justice according to the law and be corruption-free. They should also work in tandem with their judicial code of conduct. Yes, these are the things people commonly say. Those advising the judiciary are entitled to their right to freedom of speech. However, it depends on the way one characterises such exercise of the right of freedom of speech. The judiciary does not need such backing from lawyers. What they need is to do justice according to the law and be fair to all.
Some of the judgments of the Supreme Court are viewed as having some form of political undertone, like the Imo State governorship election that installed Hope Uzodimma and now the cases of Akpabio and Lawan. What is the way forward for the court to be seen as fair?
Well, the courts are a very tough terrain when it comes to political issues, especially elections or primaries of political parties. The basic solution is for the courts not to be troubled with political cases and that is why we must emphasise free and fair elections. There are too many political cases that are inundating our courts and they are doing damage to our courts. In taking them, our courts continue to suffer reputational damage. There is equality of all before the law. People file cases that are important to their lives every day whether they are taken to the police or their land is being taken. Such cases have been in the court for years and for them to go to the Appeal and Supreme courts, it may take them nine or even 13 to 14 years, but for political cases because they are timed by the constitution and Electoral Act, when an election is challenged, it takes a maximum of six months before it gets to the Supreme Court. We should conduct free and fair elections either at the primaries or general elections such that winners and losers can shake hands. Losers can be convinced that they have been defeated fair and clear and to take courage and those who have won will be magnanimous in their victory. We should conduct free and fair elections so that we will not need to bother and burden the judiciary, put pressure on them and subject them to a situation whereby the integrity of the court will be subjected to pressure and test. Their integrity is supposed to beheld constant.
When the cases keep coming, how can the courts withstand the pressure and ensure that cases are determined fairly?
The system of adjudication in elections has effects on political cases because political cases can be divided into election petition proper and pre-election matters. For election matters, right from the tribunal, the way it is structured is that you don’t have one judge deciding the matter but three justices. The number itself is an arrangement, an antidote or guarantee against corrupt determination of justice. The issue now is if you want to corrupt them, are you going to corrupt all of them?
In one of your tweets, you described the CBN deadline for old naira swap as heartless and tactless, and you urged the CBN to extend the deadline by six months. But the bank feels part of its aim to curb vote-buying may be defeated if it extends the deadline till after elections. What do you make of that?
I think they will still extend it. What is going on is executive rascality. Judiciary rascality is a term that lawyers understand to mean when an appellate court is sitting over a matter and a lower court also attempts to sit over the same matter. I borrowed that term to talk about executive rascality. When the executive arm of government is defying the court and logic, indeed it is an agent of destabilisation. Looking at the recent crisis, when it started people were saying it was a good policy but right now many banks have been attacked across the country.
Now that the Supreme Court has adjourned hearing till February 22, what are the implications, because the CBN already said the old notes had become invalid?
The wheel of justice grinds slowly but surely. Supreme Courts are confined to the game before them. If the parties before them do not raise it with evidence it will then appear as if they do not know what is going on. They should bow to the order of the Supreme Court not to flagrantly disobey the way it is being done by the CBN and the executive.
Some filling stations and banks have refused to collect the old notes contrary to the Supreme Court’s order that parties should maintain the status quo. What do you think people do at this point?
You are aware that even state governments have issued statements that it is illegal to reject old naira notes because their duty is to protect lives and property. The situation will cause commotion and confusion when people have the old notes and they are being rejected. That’s why I said these are agents of destabilisation. They are undemocratic elements. The suspicion is that these guys are promoting civil disobedience and are attempting a subversion of democratic governance because you can’t be a government and through your actions you are as well promoting chaos. In the fullness of time, Nigerians will realise what their true mission is. Certainly, this has gone beyond monetary issue. When the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele and Buhari’s pictures will not be on the new notes, then what is the usefulness of this arrogance of power, rigidity and stubbornness? For me this has gone beyond the money issue. Why should they be punishing people like this?
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GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION AND LESSONS OF THE POSTPONEMENT
Disappointing as the postponement of the governorship elections in the country may seem, given the anxiety and preparedness of Nigerians to cast their votes tomorrow, the rescheduling of the elections from March 11 to March 18, 2023, may be a blessing in disguise. T
The postponement followed a ruling by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, sitting as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, granting the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the right to reconfigure the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) machine; and the commission’s statement that it will need five working days to reconfigure BVAS used in the 176,974 polling units where voting will take place for the election.
The development provides perhaps a rare chance and privilege for INEC to execute a credible election that will be acceptable to majority of Nigerians and the international community. This time around, Nigerians expect nothing short of a free and fair election. In the long run, if all the chequered events are anything to go by, the 2023 elections may well be the litmus test for the survival of Nigeria’s fragile unity and democracy.
It is gratifying that the court took reasonable steps to protect the rights of political parties challenging the result of the presidential election to preserve and inspect election materials to support their claim of a flawed election of February 25, 2023; while at the same time making it possible for INEC to conduct the gubernatorial election. Specifically, the court ruled that the two political parties disputing the presidential election results, Labour Party (LP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), can apply for certified true copies of backend data of BVAS.
The ruling, delivered by a three-member panel, led by Justice Joseph Ikyegh, effectively removed fears that the aggrieved parties might not get justice if INEC was allowed to reconfigure the BVAS machines. No doubt, many Nigerians are disappointed with the postponement of the election, but it seems to be inevitable if the commission is to be held accountable for the election’s conduct.
Already the stakes are high and last minute permutations are taking on frenetic and violent dimensions in many states of the federation. On the one hand, a new political consciousness generated by youth social media advocacy is wrestling power with the old politicking class. Regrettably, none of the two divides appear devoid of money politics, nepotism and cronyism.
On the other hand, incumbency is in a desperate fight not to succumb to change; and this fact has been noticeable in many states including Lagos, Ogun, Delta, Rivers and Kano. Sadly, pockets of violence and tragedies springing up are being given political colouration that may complicate the prevalent high tension.
Never before has the southern elite been so bitterly polarised along ethnic and religious lines as this present moment. The bigotry has been so inanely conjured that it is worth questioning why such bitterness has been pent up for so long in the minds of the elite. This is sad for a country with so much potential and a promising youth population seeking guidance.
With a generous budget provided for the general elections amidst biting economic crunch, INEC could have performed better than it did at last Saturday’s presidential election, particularly in the light of obvious malfunction and technological drawbacks of the BVAS machine which the commission described as ‘technical hitches’ Moreover, INEC had assured Nigerians that the results would be transmitted electronically to prevent any suspicion of fraud. Now that the commission has assured that all data of the last elections are secured, it must ensure that its configuration of the BVAS machine does not distort the rights of the complainants to preserve election materials.
This distrust does not befall on INEC alone, as security officers appeared to have been overwhelmed or caught napping in the last election. Notably, however, some arrests of troublemakers were made nationwide; the police should follow this up to ensure that the guilty is sanctioned appropriately.
Some security personnel neither enforced the law nor secured their polling units as some voters were reportedly attacked or assaulted by political thugs in some polling units, and in the presence of security operatives.
Despite efforts by the government and well-meaning Nigerians to ensure that citizens exercise their civic responsibility without fear of molestation, there are unscrupulous Nigerians bent on truncating this democratic process by intimidating people and violently compelling them to vote for candidates against their wishes.
To ensure adequate delivery of proper law and security enforcement, police officers and civil defence operatives must be satisfactorily mobilised for the task. Security operatives should be disciplined enough not to be partisan and be willing to deter miscreants from fomenting trouble at the polls.
It is important for the courts and judicial authorities to manage grievances on the elections professionally and without bias. Public sentiments now indicate apparent distrust for the establishment as well as perceived misgivings for the capacity and willingness of the judiciary to execute justice.
Past events of judicial infelicities in which courts became the handmaids of politicians and the recent supposed disregard of the Supreme Court ruling by state authorities are examples of executive rascality that sends dangerous signals to the public.
The argument here is this: if courts as sacred temples of justice could be wantonly abused, disregarded and desecrated by the power and financial weight of politicians, then they cannot be trusted to execute justice for the insignificant common man.
Nevertheless, Nigerians should be aware of the power of their voices and votes, because the triumph of the people’s power is evident in the turn of events. This is the time for Nigerians to be calm, orderly and circumspect. Elections as means to an end, should not be taken as a matter of life and death. All hands must be on deck for the common good.
It is time also for legal teams representing politicians to rise above the narrow-minded interests of their clients or the pecuniary benefits of their services as they pursue the cause of justice. They should put on the moral armour of sagacious thinking, courage and a sense of the public good. This is the time to think Nigeria. And all these demand sacrifice, patience and persistence.
The postponement of the governorship election provides Nigeria with a second chance to reverse the missed opportunities of past elections. Much as the electorate and party officials should organise themselves to elect the candidates of their choice, they should be diligent in exercising their franchise in accordance with laid down rules as provided by the Electoral Act.
They should be reminded that the right to campaign for candidates of their choice is not a licence to engage in criminality and whip up ethnic and religious sentiments. Party chieftains, religious groups and community associations should enlighten their members on the extant laws against hate speech and all forms of discrimination.
While INEC deserves commendation for the management of the election process by many of its well-meaning staff and field partners, the much acclaimed BVAS machine that was touted as the game changer performed below par.
Nigerians expect that with the approved reconfiguration, the BVAS machine will perform with far better output than last Saturday’s elections. Prof. Mahmoud Yakubu and his staff must deliver credibility and justify the resource and excellent manpower expended on the 2023 election.
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OBI: THE ‘TRADER’ WHO CHANGED THE GAME
DIRISU YAKUBU writes about the game-changing performance of the candidate of the Labour Party in the just-concluded presidential election, Peter Obi, who polled over six million votes
What started as a joke a few months ago has morphed into a national movement labelled by many as the third force expected to produce a new government in the next few years.
Not many gave him a chance when on May 24, 2022, he communicated to the leadership of Nigeria’s largest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, his intent to resign his membership in pursuit of a presidential ambition on the platform of another party.
For Peter Obi, the enigmatic political figure loved by the young and the old in equal measure, the move meant it was time to unchain himself from the shackles of politics of the old order.
Riding on the wave of mass support, symbolised largely by youths tired of the system that had seen them toil for years with little to show for it, Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party in the just-concluded poll, has demonstrated the inelastic power inherent in true love. Spending less than a fraction of what the President-elect, Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress and Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party spent during the campaigns, Obi won in 12 states including Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory.
A few weeks before election, many pundits wrote him off, citing his “no shishi” (a candidate not given to monetary inducement) disposition as the reason only a few would eventually vote for him. How wrong they were!
His “no shishi” political philosophy singlehandedly changed the national campaign landscape where hitherto politicians used to shamelessly share money, foodstuffs, clothing, etc. Every politician became extremely careful not to be caught dolling out cash or gift of any kind to persuade voters to support him.
Born on 19 July 1961, Peter is partly Okonkwo, the main character in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart as his fame “rested on solid personal achievements.” At a relatively young age of 61, Obi has brought honour to the nation’s politics through a combination of hard work, honesty and records uncommon with politicians in this part of the world. Obi is integrity personified.
An alumnus of the prestigious Christ The King College, Onitsha, Obi studied at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, bagging a degree in Philosophy in 1984.
His quest for more academic laurels further took him to the London School of Economics and Columbia Business School, earning postgraduate degrees in Financial Management/ Business Policy and Marketing Management respectively.
Obi’s resignation from the PDP and pitching tent with a less fancied, less respected and less formidable Labour Party saw a meteoric rise in his political fortune. Few politicians and naysayers gave him a chance given the popularity of the two candidates of the political behemoths, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party.
To worsen matters, Obi’s home state governor, Charles Soludo, came short of writing the former Anambra State governor off when he declared the race a two-horse contest between Tinubu and Atiku.
Obi’s huge support base derives in part from the sundry youth groups made up of artisans, students, musicians, entertainers and social media influencers who deployed their mastery of social media to drum up support for him.
Unlike the support base of Atiku and Tinubu who were waiting for “logistics” to hit the streets to mobilise for their candidates, Obi’s supporters who dubbed themselves as ‘Obi-dients” used their personal resources to sell the LP’s manifesto to Nigerians.
On Twitter and Facebook, Obi-dients held several educational sessions, enlightening Nigerians on the dangers of pitching tents with the old order. Many heeded the message, which culminated in his impressive outing on Saturday.
Peter Okoye, one half of the P-Square musical group literally put his life into the Obi project, earning himself commendation and condemnation in the process. His fallout with Seun Kuti, a fellow musician and son of late Afrobeat founder Fela Kuti, readily comes to mind.
Worthy of mention too is Mr Macaroni, skit superstar, who never hesitated to remind anyone who cared to listen that he was for Obi in rain and shine.
With the political stage set, Obi kept his eyes on the ball towards the goalpost. He had garnered a worthwhile experience as a two-term governor of Anambra State. He was not a neophyte in the management of political stardom.
Peter Obi had contested the governorship election in Anambra state in 2003 on the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and ‘lost’ to PDP’s Chris Ngige. He challenged the victory in court and almost three years later, he was declared the authentic winner of the poll.
Seven months in the saddle, he was impeached in controversial circumstances. Not one to give up without a fight because of his belief in the rule of law, the soft-spoken Philosopher-King sought legal redress in court, leading to the nullification of the impeachment by the Court of Appeal on 9 February 2007.
In 2010, he won a second term in office beating PDP’s Charles Soludo (incumbent Anambra state governor).
Questions have been asked about who truly is the authentic political leader of the Igbo nation after the demise of Chukwuemeka Ojukwu. With many Ndi Igbo laying claims to that title, it was to Obi that Atiku Abubakar turned to in 2019 for his choice of running mate when he ran against Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential election of that year.
Full of experience and hindsight, as skeletal preparations for the 2023 presidential election began, Obi was quick to realise that the process for the selection of the party’s candidate would be anything but transparent in the PDP.
As a result, he communicated his intention in writing to the Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee to resign from the party. He subsequently joined the Labour Party in a defection that can be described as one of the smartest political moves in Nigeria’s recent political history. Soon after joining, highly respected Pat Utomi, a Professor of Political Economy perished his presidential ambition for Obi, a huge testament to the latter’s rising popularity.
As can be seen from the February 25 Presidential election, those who wrote him off were forced to have a rethink when at the end of collation, Obi polled a total of 6, 093, 962 votes in 12 states comprising Edo, Cross River, Delta, Lagos, Plateau, Benue, Imo, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Anambra, Abia and Enugu states.
It is shocking that the so-called behemoths, Tinubu and Atiku, barely managed to win the same number of states.
Obi’s 25 per cent score of total votes cast has been interpreted as a statement of intent as many see him as a future president if he sustains the tempo.
Meanwhile, the Vice presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Datti Baba-Ahmed, who worked tirelessly with Obi with the aim of changing the face of governance in the country one and for all, has vowed to seek legal means to contest the electoral process that produced the president-elect, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Baba-Ahmed made the pledge at a press conference held at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja on Wednesday.
A livid Baba-Ahmed stated that LP was determined to fight the injustice that dashed the hope of distraught Nigerians through all legal and peaceful means.
This is even as the LP presidential campaign council claimed that the manner the Independent National Electoral Commission hurriedly announced the results and gave out Certificates of Return to both Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, reeks of collusion.
The development is coming barely 24 hours after Tinubu was announced as the winner of Saturday’s presidential poll.
The APC standard bearer polled 8,794,726 votes to defeat his closest rivals, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party’s Peter Obi by 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes respectively.
Baba-Ahmed decried that the election did not meet the minimum standard as prescribed by INEC guidelines and the Electoral Act 2022.
He said, “It is our position that the purported result did not meet the minimum criteria of a transparent, free and fair election. In addition to the most condemnable attacks, violence, voter intimidation and suppression, the election was conducted in clear violation of agreed and promised INEC rules and guidelines, the Electoral Act 2002 as amended, and indeed the Nigerian Constitution. As evident, the institutions of the state and leaders that were supposed to ensure the sanctity of the election, again and as in the past, collaborated and colluded to subvert the will of the good people of Nigeria.
“Please be assured of our determination to fight the injustice that has been perpetrated on Nigerians through all legal and peaceful means. While painful, we implore you to please remain peaceful and calm. As our fight and determination for a New Nigeria is just beginning, we equally encourage you all to continue with the campaigns and vote massively for Labour Party in the forthcoming governorship and states house of Assembly election on Saturday 11th March 2023.
“Our Principal, His Excellency, Mr Peter Obi, will in due course speak to you all and indeed the nation.”
In a related development, the Chief Spokesman for the LP Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, said the drama leading to the presentation of a certificate of return to Tinubu was a well-rehearsed script
“It was pre-planned. But, of course, we have just concluded a meeting with His Excellency Peter Obi and we are moving in our legal team who are compiling our pieces of evidence and results.
“There are other Civil Society Organisations planning to go on civil disobedience to show their displeasure in terms of seeking a political solution to the problem.
“The truth is that we are fighting the process and not necessarily those who have already been elected. The process must be fought to give resilience to those who hope to contest future elections. This level of impunity and shenanigans cannot be allowed to continue in our country. This is why this battle must be fought to a logical conclusion,” he stated.
On a call for a unity government in the new administration, Tanko said that the party was not interested in any of such moves.
He said, “We said that we are going to court. We are not interested in discussing anything on a government of national unity. What we have so far resolved is to head to the court for redress.”
Tinubu may have won the poll but there is no gainsaying that the President-elect is fated to live henceforth in fear of the “little boy” from Anambra who exposed his vulnerability in Lagos for the first time since the return to democracy. He beat the famous Jagaban in Lagos, his hitherto fortress.
That’s not all. The man who prides himself as the landlord of the FCT, Senator Philip Aduda, lost his tenancy of the Senate to Mrs Ireti Kingibe of the LP. Mrs Kingibe, a serial contestant of the FCT seat won only because Obi made it easier for voters to vote for anyone on the ballot on the platform of the Labour Party.
In the South-East, the quest of Governors Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi and Okezie Ikpeazu to retire to the Senate after two terms in their respective Government Houses hit an impregnable wall as LP candidates won convincingly. The same for Abia State where the LP candidates had a field day by riding on the Obi fame.
In the South-South, Governor Ben Ayade’s impeccable English was not enough to win him a seat in the Senate. He lost to the Obi factor as were the likes of Tanko Al-Makura and Ndudi Elumelu amongst others.
He may have lost the election but only a political greenhorn will write off Obi going forward. Nigerians can’t wait for too long for this philosopher-king to take over the saddle at the centre to showcase the true essence of governance.
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TINUBU’S APC SELF-DESTRUCTS
When two brothers fight, a stranger inherits their house.– African proverb
By Hakeem Baba-Ahmed
BY the time you read this, there will be three days to the Presidential and National Assembly elections. By Tuesday 28th, the All Progressives Congress, APC, would be involved in damage assessment. The result of the on-going civil war would show in votes, hopes and regrets. It would be the job of Nigerian voters to make the judgement over the party’s performance, but the party leaders, managers, beneficiaries, stalwarts, persons whose political careers depend entirely on the voter’s verdict would be remembered as people who set the barn on fire on the eve of the feast. There are few innocents in this, unless they are buried deep in the mountains of grievances and high-stake manoeuvres. A party that was entitled to assume a fairly good chance of succeeding President Buhari’s administration despite the gaping holes in the inheritance is left to scramble for crumbs from fights over its very foundations.
If the APC wins the presidential contest, it will almost entirely be the result of the weaknesses and failures of the opposition rather than its credible finish in the campaigns. Its candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, has run the best campaign money can buy. If he does not become President, it will be entirely to the credit of the most damaging unscrambling of a party that had always been built on the ego and whims of one person: Buhari. Tinubu was the second half of a contraption meant to capture power and make Buhari president. The moment that goal was achieved his portion of the influence in that contraption shrank to the size of the designs of the other owner. Buhari became APC, now managed by other beneficiaries and opportunists who crowded out Tinubu today and opened a bit of the door for him the next day.
He did pick some of the spoils of the victory of 2015, including a rickety understanding that he would succeed Buhari as President. A deal to treat the leadership of the country like a relay baton, between two people defined and bound only by finely-honed ego and personal ambition waited for time and antics of palace fixers to be tested.
It has been a long race in which many spectators, officials and managers joined at will. The rules changed many times, except the one that kept Buhari ahead so that other participants in the race could benefit from being left to their devices. It was good enough for an increasingly smaller circle, except for Tinubu who now finds that he has fight for space among many others who have also assumed roles as kingmakers or powerful courtiers.
It got worse for Tinubu when he found out that there was a scramble for his position as anointed successor. He must have remembered the borrowed phrase used by Buhari at his swearing ceremony which warned that he owed no one a debt, and was available to everyone. Many politicians would have walked away, murmuring treachery and betrayal. Not the old fighter that is Tinubu. Ego and ambition that matched Buhari’s reinforced a strong sense of indignation, and he threw everything into a fight for what he believed was his, but was about to be snatched by an assortment of all-comers.
It was an expensive and bitter battle, made more difficult by the appearance of hostility at Tinubu’s access to the ticket from Buhari. If Tinubu felt bitter that he was reduced to grovelling and deal-making with APC governors from the North, many of whom would not have answered his greeting a few months earlier, no one would have blamed him. By then the reality that Buhari was APC, and APC was Buhari must have firmly registered on Tinubu. He then had to fall back on a few Northern governors who had learned the art of twisting arms from Buhari. They made their deal, went in, killed the notion of an anointed Northern candidate in Buhari’s grasp and made the ground a little more level for Tinubu. It was a key bend in a long marathon.
The nation watched a party in all its political disarray show the power of a few political fixers and tremendous wealth which bought power. Tinubu emerged from a bruising selection process and ran into a storm over his choice of a Muslim as his running mate. The distinction between political correctness, principled stubbornness and risky foolhardiness were lost in his decision to run with a Muslim in a country that had turned faith into an expensive political commodity. Tinubu lost many friends and gained only a few over his choice of a Muslim running mate. Large sections of the targeted Muslim voters were not impressed. The Christian community was divided between seeing his choice as a supreme act of hostility, and others who saw it as a political risk they could live with.
By the time Tinubu’s expensive campaign to succeed Buhari left port, the impression of a party that had no respect for loyalty or sensitivities of the population was spreading faster than insecurity under Buhari. It was already burdened by the empty legacy of the party’s administration under Buhari. That means it had to start from below ground zero. To denounce the record of its own sitting president who was at best indifferent to its success at that stage was dangerous. To whitewash it and attempt to sell it to a nation that knew a lot better was to take a very poor risk.
Tinubu had to run on his own steam and manoeuvre between huge obstacles. He was running for the first time for the presidency against an experienced PDP candidate who just beat Buhari’s record by running for the fifth time. The North was not going to be an easy ride with Atiku’s presence there. His own primary constituency in the South-West was going to require some work to substantially line up behind him. Labour Party’s Obi was going to eat deeply among offended Christian communities in the North, and its barricades in the South-East were going to keep him almost entirely out. The South-South is up for grabs to all three, so he could not expect too much there. The appearance of some limitations on his health, real or exaggerated, has not helped his campaign around providing a strong leader who will pull the country out of its current mess. The North is at best ambivalent against him.
Still, it would have been wrong to write off Tinubu’s chances if the on-going civil war in his party, which is compounding the misery of most Nigerians, is not eating deeply into the sympathies of Nigerians for his party. The circumstance and events triggered by the implementation of the Naira redesign policy is a cruel turn of the knife at the back of the Tinubu project.
Those who think the final rug has been pulled from under Tinubu’s feet will not be blamed for being conspiracy theorists if the timing, the process and the high stake actions of the president, key appointees and governors cannot be proved as normal coincidence. It will be difficult for Tinubu’s campaign to avoid being smeared by a president who ignores the Supreme Court, a CBN governor who appears to live in his own world with only Buhari’s photo on the wall, APC governors treating the Constitution and the president with disdain, a distressed nation groaning under additional burden and an election that is imminent. It appears that Tinubu himself has received the legacy of a party he helped form: a political contrivance around the ambition of only one man. He did inherit Buhari, but it will be a cruel trick if it turns out to be an empty inheritance.
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