CERTAIN characteristics distinguish Nigerians as special breed, still creation of God like the rest of humanity. However, the worry is our penchant to embrace an issue or set of rules today and turn round to reject or denounce the same position tomorrow, depending on our vested interests. In its crudest form, premium is placed on everything as an opportunity. Even without qualm?
Inevitably, events in the country on various issues have generated different reactions. Mass dismissal of election petitions by the Supreme Court, dissolution of boards of parastatals, demand of Rivers State government for the principle of derivation for the allocation of oil revenue, appointment of new vice-chancellors for almost one quarter of federal universities, etc.
Whatever merit of the election petitions might have had, the Supreme Court was more concerned about retrieving the image of the judiciary seriously damaged by the various conflicting rulings of different election petition panels. So embarrassing were the rings that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed had to highlight the disturbing situation publicly. The reaction should not have been the mass dismissal as each case should have been treated on its merit. Instead, that merit was sacrificed under the cover of judicial technicalities, some of them very convenient that “case are not tried on the pages of newspapers” or criminal allegations cited to annul one or two elections “were not proved, beyond reasonable doubt.”
Significantly, in the most contentious cases of Rivers and Akwa Ibom states, governors were merely removed for re-run elections to prove heir purported victories beyond reasonable doubt or even the petitioner to prove his case in a re-run. What was wrong with that? The petitioners and the ousted state governors had the equal chance to prove that the election to be re-run was marred or not marred by violence. Another major difference int he re-run elections, if not scuttled by the Supreme Court rulings, would have been that unlike the 2015 elections when tight police security was ordered to be removed from the south-south zone, that tight police security would have been in place for the re-run elections and would have averted the threat of bloodshed made by the anarchists int he three states.
Politicians and political parties also exhibited their part in the selfishness and hypocrisy. For example, on the mandatory holding of primary elections for nomination of candidates, at least 21 days before any election, an election petition tribunal in south south (decided at Asaba) the APC lost a National Assembly seat to the PDP. But when a similar issue was raised at the election tribunal for the Lagos governorship, the point was rejected and the Supreme Court upheld that ruling. In which case, APC should not have been made to forfeit its National Assembly seat by the ruling of the election tribunal at Asaba.
The same APC, which successfully resisted the supremacy of the card reading machine in determining the election petition in the Lagos governorship petition, succeeded in citing the failure of the card reading machine to secure the annulment of a governorship election in south-south. But in reality, how valid was the verdict of the Supreme Court that allegation of overwhelming violence, resulting in murder, arson and, in fact, anarchy, was a criminal offence not proved beyond reasonable doubt, especially in the election petitions for Rivers and Akwa Ibom?
Perhaps, to convince the Supreme Court that genuine elections did not hold in Rivers and Akwa Ibom, the election petition panels should have visited various morgues in Rivers and Akwa Ibom to inspect the tens of corpses of the victims. Earlier the election panels for Rivers and Akwa Ibom shifted their sittings to Abuja instead of Port Harcourt and Uyo to ensure the complete safety of all the panel members. The defendants int he Rivers and Akwa Ibom governorship petitions challenged the validity of the proceedings at law courts up to Supreme Court.
Remarkably, the Supreme Court ruled that the two panels were right, for the safety of the members to shift their proceedings to Abuja. Was that ruling not an admission that even months after a supposed elections, possible violence still ravaged both Rivers and Akwa Ibom States? What further evidence that real elections did not hold in those two states? How else could it have been proved beyond “reasonable doubt” that overwhelming violence marred the elections in the two states?
Whatever the feelings, everybody must abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court, as the final arbiter in Nigeria. Against next elections, brigands in Rivers and Akwa Ibom states should feel free to scare opponents from voting by displaying fresh blood-oozing souls of human beings at polling booths. Nobody would be able to prove the culprits beyond reasonable doubt, especially at the Supreme Court. And as for the implication of the Supreme Court ruling on those who were killed, the deceased either did not die or they killed themselves.
Chief Justice Mahmood and leader of Nigeria Bar Association, Mr. Alegeh, had the guts to take umbrage at allegations of corruption on the bench. That allegation is hereby repeated as may be unexpected, beyond reasonable doubt. Where was Chief Justice Muhammed when either his juniors, contemporaries or seniors were faulted by the National Judicial Council (NJC) and accordingly recommended to Aso Rock to be retired or dismissed? Or were they so treated because of meritorious service?
Meanwhile, those purported state governors now rejoicing should learn from history. A state governor there was in 1983 who thought he successfully rigged that year’s election and was kept in office by the same Supreme Court. Within three months, he fell from office and before then, was even bereaved from a plane crash. Delay in or escape from judgment of the Supreme, even if ten years later? Impossible.
On display, our hypocrisy or selfishness is always without shame. Otherwise, it was mere routine that serving university vice-chancellors mostly ended their career and were succeeded by new ones.That was pure administration. Contrary to the unnecessary controversy that the vice chancellors were sacked, the committee of vice chancellors not only was aware but also that, at least, eighty per cent of them completed their tenure. Of the lot, only Bolaji Aluko of Federal University, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, was gracious enough to confirm that situation as he spoke. Each of them completed their tenure of five years.
It was particularly unfair to have labelled the ex-vice chancellors as sacked. Such falsehood, in this country of strange peculiarities might be excavated in future by mischievous element to stain or indeed halt the public prospects of those concerned.
On that score, many of these former vice-chancellors were not even fair to themselves for keeping mute and thereby wallowed in the falsehood of being victimised instead of owning up to the completion of their tenure. Who victimised them? Academics always lobby to be appointed vice-chancellors in the first place. And once you lobbied for such a public post, some time, some day, that patronage lapses. What is more, whoever dishes out patronage reserves the prerogative to withdraw such patronage and extend it to others. It is not a family monopoly since others also merit the patronage.
And who is talking about security of tenure? Even the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria may not necessarily sleep soundly at night. Does the Constitution, which got him elected not also contain provisions for his removal from office through impeachment if warranted and attainable with two thirds membership of the National Assembly? The tenure of the ex-vice-chancellors was ordinarily not renewed and again, that is the prerogative of the Nigerian President who, by the way, is also the sole Visitor and, therefore, Kabiyesi of all federal universities in the country.
To be concluded next week