ANALYSIS: As Nigerians Await Supreme Court On Rivers State’s Judgment…Articles/Opinion, Featured, Latest News, News Features/Analysis Friday, January 29th, 2016
By Tajudeen Balogun, Head, African Examiner, Nigeria Bureau
Having realized that the issue (ongoing alleged cases of corruption and raging clamour for application of the rule of law), which I intended to discuss last week (but could not) is still trending, I decided to focus on it today. But as I was concluding, then dropped the news of another bigger story. I must confess that the thought about possible accusation of bias and partisanship first ran through my mind (should I discuss it). Still, I reasoned further that the matter in question, giving its attached variables, such as its bearing on the growth and future of the Nigerian democracy, and more significantly, the promise made by the key party in the matter – to adduce reasons for the choice of their action, prompted my conclusion that the issue as it were, if discussed in a medium like this, (to an independent and objective mind), is far beyond “personal”, rather, very critical, and of National interest.
This ultimately spurred me to finally zero my mind on the ruling on Wednesday, by the Nigeria Supreme Court on the appeal filed before it, by the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The truth must be told here. Not only members and supporters of the ruling All progressives Congress (APC) and Rivers State Governorship candidate, Dakuku Peterside, as well as keen followers of the Nigerian politics, were shocked about the apex’s court ruling, so also were the PDP supporters and apologists.
Why most Nigerians considered the judgment strange is very simple. The large scale of violence and killing before and during last Presidential and Governorship elections in the State, as well as various electoral malpractices were documented and not disputable. What more? The State Election Petition Tribunal and Appellate Court have separately admitted that the polls fell short of standard and did not satisfy the provisions of the Nigerian Electoral Act.
Therefore, what really happened and which factors informed the unanimous ruling of the seven-man panel of the apex court which delivered one of the very uncommon judgments in the history of Nigerian (still) growing democracy? As a journalist and writer, who aspired that his views and opinions be accorded due recognition and respect, I hold tenaciously that the principle of objectivity and balance must never be compromised for anything. Yet, after receiving the report of the ruling late Wednesday, I was aghast and could not withstand the shock, therefore resorted to online chatting with our publisher in the United States (US); asking for his reactions. Just like millions of Nigerians, he was momentarily short of a coordinated and definite response, regarding the variables that determined the judgment. In fact, what we collectively concluded on was to do some findings to get to the root of the matter. This is matter is a “big story” (as I thought, while still on the chat). Readers should note that this is not personal and about sentiment, rather, for the good of everyone and our society as a whole.
But before I rest on this aspect, again, I wish to ask some questions. First, did anything go wrong somewhere? Could Supreme Court judges have based their ruling on technicality, instead of the real, key and empirical issues? Is the ruling as a result of compromise by a particular party or side in the litigation to satisfy personal interest? Did anyone influence the judgment? And as it is said, did ‘something’ exchange hands in this matter?
Well, the brief follow-up (pronouncement) by the leading judge after the declaration was that the reasons for the verdict would be made public in about two week’s time, specifically, February 12, 2016. Not only the legal Practitioners are interested in the reasons, for interpretation and future professional engagement; but the entire Nigerians are anxiously waiting for the ‘one-in-all’ feedback.
However, before this happens, it is necessary I consider some of the views already being expressed as well as conclusion being drawn as possible reasons and the need for the judgment to go the way it did.
I have heard people suggesting that the jurists might have estimated the huge and damning cost, in terms of spending; violence and its attendance casualties; the fear and tension inherent in the rerun of a State reputed for political brigandage. Personally, I cannot reconcile this with the law; right of the people in a law court; the facts of case before the court and the eventual judgment.
These are my thoughts on the above. If for instance, this happened to be among the reasons to be given by the judges, then my position is that, we might be endorsing a situation where politicians could routinely go berserk; become so desperate and resort to doing anything, except killing self, just to contest and win an election, having realized that the court would underplay these undoing, in the name of peace! Nigerians, we must be very critical, insightful before drawing conclusion not only on this matter, but others.
If allowing peace in Rivers State was the reason for the apex court ruling, I wonder if the same treatment would not be extended to Akwa Ibom (which had similar circumstances with Rivers State) in the same court. So, what are we really saying? That people could influence and sponsor attack and killing of other fellow human being, just to contest and be elected into a political office? I say no and repeat, NO to that please!
In any case, are we suggesting that the police and other law enforcement agencies, except the Military, are not efficient and effective enough to confront and stem political violence in this country? No wonder, the recent Kogi and Bayelsa Governorship Elections were fraught with violence and killings. But we must realize, this is a man- made problem and certainly, it is not as if there are no solutions to it. The fundamental challenge is wrong mentality and one of the ways out, is the political will to change the orientation of the voting public, in particular, those seeking to be elected into public. Also, the leaders must be bold to lead by examples.
Again, I have heard some, defending that the court could not rely on the newspapers report or election monitoring feedback by the local or international bodies, rather, on the facts of the matter before it. In as much as one might wish to agree with this position, the question again is that which facts are we talking about here, which is hidden from the public or which has not been received; examined and considered by the two lower courts of instances (the State Election Petition Tribunal and Appeal Court)? Which of the facts of the suit is not yet in the public domain as relate to Rivers and Akwa Ibom last Presidential and Governorship elections? That the reports on killings; attempt on lives of the opposition members and their families; violence before and during elections; over voting; connivance by the law enforcement and electoral officials, as well as evident impunity on the part of powers that be then, were concocted and fake?
Also that the reports of violence reported by both the local and international mass media in the last general polls in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States were frame-up? Even those who do not reside in Nigeria, but who have access to the various mass media (off or online) no matter how remotest, would not accede to this allusion.
If there is any controversial evidence of facts, many would agree it is about the adoption of the Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) and its certification with the smart card reader before any eligible individuals could vote. But even, if this was the issue in Rivers case, then wahala wa O! (there’s problem). I said this because issue about the card reader was raised in other (States) election petitions and despite the discrepancy in the rulings on it at various levels of litigation, there is no petition that has been lost in the long run, so far, base on this ground.
In the mean time, the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) and National Assembly (NASS), with the necessary support from the Federal Government must begin now, the process of admitting and incorporating the use of PVC and smart card reader into our Electoral Act, before the general elections. This is ultimately to avoid the contradictions over the rulings on it by different courts across the land.
Of course, I read a post on social media, bringing spiritual angle to the debate. The fellow inferred that the day General Overseer of the Redeem Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pa Enoch Adeboye visited Wike in his office, signaled the amazing dimension. He offered, ever since, he had concluded the table would turn in his favour. The folk said the Governor has given his life to the Christ – become “born again”. No wonder too, a mega Holy Ghost service was held last Sunday, by the same RCCG, with Pa Adeboye, Wike and supporters in attendance at the Adokie Amasiemaka Stadium, Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
As a Muslim, I detest seriously and deeply too, spiritual arrogance. Wike has been so visible at the various Church denomination services since he assumed office last year May. He has also deemed it necessary to publicize some of the services he involved. Only him could explain better, the reason (s) for this, vis –a-vis his overnight ‘discovery of God’.
Still, my view in all of these is that if truly as it was said, Wike has now become a repentant Christian, such that and that accounts for many new wonders happening in his life (including the Wednesday verdict), I passionately urge him to seek more forgiveness on the blood that has been shed, for him to attain his present position. He should also take note that as a born again Christian (as suggested), that he who goes to the equity must come with a clean hand; that never in his life, should it happen by or through him again, the type of the bloodbath which featured in the process that ushered him into power. My faith teaches me that the Almighty God he has decided to “serve” now is a forgiving one.
In addition, if he could be so humble and truthful to himself, Wike should liaise with the opposition in the State; apologize for his wrongdoing as well as his party; get dossier of those killed and work out a substantial and monumental compensation for their relatives and family members. This however should not be done with the intention to score cheap political points, rather, as parts of his spiritual cleansing exercise and ultimately, to ensure salvation. If sound sanctimonious here, apology, but I have no choice for the benefit of the newest born again Governor in town. Wike should also realize that this is one of the measures his main challenger, Peterside would have put in place, if he had been favoured to be in the same office.
Mr. Wike, this time, the ball is in your court, therefore, you at the liberty to play at the desirable direction. And I must add that, no one can deceive God, even if that is very possible with the fellow mortal. The same Elections which were bloody in Rivers and Akwa Ibom were contested freely and won peacefully in Lagos, Cross Rivers, Oyo, Kaduna, Katsina and other States of the Federation. It is up to you Mr. Governor.
Expectedly, since the judgment has been delivered, I have not heard accusations about President Muhammadu Buhari muscling the Judiciary; the allegation that the President, his party and its Leaders were plotting to make Nigeria a one party Nation. Of course, we do not hear this time, the allegation that PMB is trampling on the rule of law as always made by the ‘unrepentant wailers’ on the various cases of alleged corruption ongoing at the various courts in the country. Rather, the reactions have been it was a ‘victory for Nigerian democracy and Rivers State’; it is the ‘victory for the people of Rivers State “who freely gave me the mandate” I hear them. Don’t ask me please, awon wo tun niyen (who are those)? Very interesting, Wike’s allies have quickly adopted and keyed into the Peace theory as possible reason for the Wednesday’s ruling. A typical of seemingly incurable Nigerian politician, I submit.
Well, the APC which has found itself at the receiving end, to me, has applied wisdom in the matter. Even as at now, I do not know of any comment, made by it as a party (at the national level). And its Rivers State chapter had followed suit, when it said the ruling was a “temporary setback” yet, was hopeful of victories in the backlog of rerun polls at both the State and NASS legislative levels. The Chapter has also vowed, it would neither applaud nor decry the ruling. Can something else be more calculative; moderate and reasonable than this? Hopefully, some people; somewhere will begin to learn and truly, put Nigeria before any other interest.
Anyway, some folks have reasoned that the strange judgment was a saving grace for President Buhari, as the ruling was a clear indication of neutrality by him with the judiciary arm of government. I do not have responsibility to launder neither the Presidency nor Mr. President Image. I am sure; his aides on that, would do better in that regard if and when necessary.
However, I sympathize with him, with respect to his position; his perceived simple philosophy of life; his hard and unyielding posture to corruption and the different types of characters he is dealing with, who do not necessarily share the same worldview with him, even within his ruling APC. Ultimately, I wish Mr. President, myself and who wish Nigeria well success.
Finally, as I have mentioned severally earlier, the Wednesday, January 27, 2016 ruling on Wike’s appeal at the Supreme Court on Rivers State’s Governorship legal tussle is still inconclusive, until the reasons as promised, are provided. Nigerians and the entire world cannot wait to have those strong factors that affirmed the poll, widely adjudged to be a travesty. So, for now, I join millions of the compatriots who posit that: neither hailing, nor condemnation yet. Until the day, the fingers remain crossed. Happy new month!
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