On Nigeria: Matters arising

Justice Mohammed Liman of the Federal High Court Lagos ruled on Thursday, February 4th that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), as presently constituted could not constitutionally conduct any elections in Nigeria. The learned judge relied on section 159 of the 1999 constitution, which states that not less than one-third of all members of the commission can form a quorum for any meeting at which decisions may be made, which should guide the activities of INEC, so described in part I of the third schedule of the 1999 constitution. Part I of the third schedule, 14 (1) states that the commission shall comprise 13 members, including the INEC chairman. At present, INEC has only 4 members; other members have retired, and the current INEC chairman's tenure had expired last year. With this judgement, INEC cannot conduct the Anambra state governorship election (scheduled to hold on February 6th) or any future elections for that matter until INEC is properly constituted. But only the president of the federation can appoint members of the commission. But where is the president? There is a matter of urgency, having regard to the Anambra state governorship election. Section 178 states as follows:

(1) An election to the office of Governor of a state shall be held on a date to be appointed by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

(2) An election to the office of the Governor of a state shall be held on a date not earlier than sixty days and not later than thirty days before the expiration of the term of office of the last holder of that office.

Incumbent Governor Peter Obi of Anambra state was sworn in on March 17, 2006. By section 178 (2) above, governorship election in Anambra state cannot be held later than February 13th, 2010. It must be clear to dribblers of Nigeria that their game is up.

The constitution of any nation remains its guide into the future. The journey of state remains chaotic if those elected or charged to uphold and defend its provisions elect to do the opposite, as is the case with Nigeria's legislators (dominated by the PDP), President Yar'Adua, and the Minister of Justice, Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, who is a disgrace to my family, the Tiv nation, Benue state, and the Nigerian judiciary. It seems he is completely fixated on personal gains rather than national redemption. I had warned Mr. Aondoakaa in our closed forum that they would use and dump him. One of the people on the forum wondered then if Aondoakaa “had slept with your wife.” It is sad to see a man you should be proud of go down. Mr. Aondoakaa is ending up in an ignominy; and this is entirely his fault and choosing.

Here are the facts. If INEC should go on and conduct the Anambra governorship election as scheduled on Saturday, February 6th, in defiance to the Judge Liman judgement, the outcome will miscarry as it will be legally contested. This judgement came less than 48 hours before the scheduled election. If Yar'Adua and his kitchen cabinet refuse to cause to be transmitted to the national assembly the declaration of his absence, in accordance to section 145, which will thereby afford Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to assume the office of Acting President with full executive and commanding powers in less than one week as I write, then Anambra state will be thrown into fresh crisis. There could then be no governorship election after February 13; Anambra state shall have no Governor after March 17th, and it can only be imagined what the scenario will be then. This is what blind executive obduracy can cause a nation. Even if President Yar'Adua and his gang of constitution revisionists give in, and a written declaration surfaces in the national assembly between now that I write and middle of next week, how could Acting President Jonathan make credible appointment of the required number of INEC Commissioners in order to make up the number within hours before February 13? The scenario for a coup has been forced. I can see that even if Goodluck Jonathan should assume the position of Acting President next week, he will not last in his new position. There will be a forceful overthrow. Nigerians must brace up for this. I see interesting days ahead. Certain people will be consumed by their contrivances; but in the end, it will serve the nation better.

I read the Akunyili memo with interest but pity for this lady, who is desperate to redeem her image. I am not persuaded that she did that memo out of genuine interest for our nation. It has come too late, and will not serve much useful purpose as it could have done if she had written it last year. The die is cast; the rumble in the jungle is set. As things appear now, the hunter has become the hunted. The trap setter is taken in his handwork. Yar'Adua, his kitchen cabinet, and their deeply corrupt collaborators in the national assembly have boxed themselves into a corner now. If there were going to be any elections in the future that would feature PDP I would advise Nigerians, whether their votes would count or not, to massively punish PDP by voting against any candidate they put forward. But I am not very convinced of such elections now.

I must conclude by speaking my heart to fellow patriots. We must learn to know true leaders. Irrespective of the foibles of President Obasanjo, he gave people like me hope to return to Nigeria. To me, he has accomplished more than any Nigerian leader, dead or alive has ever accomplished. But this is the most vilified man by Nigerians. I had voted for President Yar'Adua because he said the right things when I listened to him talk during the campaigns.

I listened to him talk to the business community. I admired him then. But just few weeks after he was sworn in I knew I had voted the wrong man. I did write and warn Nigerians then (2007) that we were at “the doorsteps of the worst era of corruption in Nigeria.” What options did we have at that time? We had Atiku Abubakar, Mohammadu Buhari, and Pat Utomi, among major contenders. I couldn't have voted for any of them for very personal reasons, which I need not publish here. When the national assembly threw out the constitution amendment bill in June 2006 because of “Third term”, I warned we had made a terrible mistake we would regret later. In Nigeria today, the good leader (by which I mean the one that produces results of development) will most likely be vilified by those whose trademark is sabotage of our common interest. They control the news media. Obasanjo was not a good politician; but he was a good manager of men and resources. He gave Nigeria respect abroad, debt forgiveness, hopes for national development, a name on the global telecommunications map, well-equipped federal medical centres and university teaching hospitals (and even got states to contribute more than 20 billion naira for 774 rural health care centres, which Yar'Adua stopped, while opting for medical treatment abroad at great national cost). Obasanjo started a modern rail network, which Yar'Adua stopped (The first phase was to be completed this year).

He built electric power plants and pushed up power generation, in spite of the resistance by Northern senators in 2005. I wrote an article at that time lampooning those senators for their negative attitude when they queried the location of all power plants under the National Integrated Power Scheme (NIPS) in the Niger Delta, and none in the North. Yar'Adua came and fired Mr. Foluseke Shomolu (his Special Assistant on Power) for doing a memo to correct the government-sponsored propaganda that Obasanjo spent “10 billion dollars on power infrastructure with nothing to show for it.” Nigerians jubilated and called Obasanjo names then. What has become of the “probe” in the House of Representatives? Where is Hon. Elumelu who headed the “Probe panel”? Is he not found to have stolen money meant for some electricity projects, in spite of all the vows he made at the panel to do the right thing? When can we learn to respect what we have? We had screamed about the PTDF and Siemens scandal, more so because we thought our enemy Obasanjo was involved. What can we say now that the worms of truth have started coming out?

Let us learn to identify our heroes, correct constructively those who under-perform, and encourage our beautiful ones who have fought for a better nation. But we abuse, pour curses and any foul invectives we can imagine on them and those who disagree with us. We have not done well as a people. No wonder our suffering continues. The time has come for personal repentance and national renewal.

Leonard Karshima Shilgba is the President of the Nigeria rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org ) and Assistant Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria. ( [email protected] )

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Articles by Leonard Karshima Shilgba