How to save Nigeria from Constitutional anarchy
It is no longer news that five Nigerian Governors may not have to present themselves for election come 2011. April. What is still news is the number of States that may yet be involved in this exemption. I read that INEC wants to appeal the ruling. I know that some prominent lawyers like Mr. Femi Falana were contacted to defend the interest of some of those who may be directly affected by this ruling. It is no news that the ruling Party PDP will benefit most if the ruling is allowed. The above scenario could have been predicted as far back as the year 2007.In fact in 2008 the Late President Yar Adua, while visiting Yenagoa, had consoled the then Governor Chief Timipre Sylva to take his election annulment with equanimity hinting that the Governor may turn out eventually amongst those who could have their tenure elongated. This prediction came to pass with the judgment of Adamu Bello of the Federal High court Abuja on February 23, 2011.After the judgment, it was reported that Lawyers were baffled; politicians dazed and it took INEC another couple of days to say it intended to appeal.
I am baffled that lawyers are baffled. Could it be the same lawyers that we hope will get us out of this situation? Fortunately, it was only the ruling Party PDP that is not surprised because they even presented an argument in favor of this extension. Does it not show how far scholarship has regressed? I am baffled that no one seemed to have cared earlier enough to give a prior remedy to this situation rather than waiting for political funders running helter skelter after the milk had been spilt. I miss Gani Fawehimi. Were he here he would not wait for political funding to point the way for Nigeria as our lawyers today are wont to do. Recall that I had warned everybody about this contradictory constitution in several articles. No one seemed to take notice. Check out:”The constitutional basis for the rule of Law in Nigeria”, “Nigeria Needs A Revolution”, “What The Nigerian Revolution Is Not About” Overview of the Nigerian revolution”. Unfortunately, as we hurried to push President Goodluck Jonathan into power, these warnings about the inconsistencies in the 1999 constitution was swallowed by superior legal positions proffered by the same lawyers and politicians now pretending to be baffled by the manifestation of the obvious. Unfortunately today, it is too late to cry just because you find yourself disadvantaged by what your nonchalance helped to bring about.
The so called constitutional amendments by the National Assembly did not think of doing more than getting political office holders back to power. It was a big betrayal for a good legislature must have anticipated this situation and dealt with it at the outset. The irony is that everyone will take away some hit from fluid situation whereby injustice has to be done for the constitution to stay. Of course the ruling Party is expected to manage it to their advantage as they are doing. Any other party in this shoe will probably do the same. But the danger posed by an inconsistent constitution remains potent. It is not enough to manipulate it to your favor or for opposition to raise their heads after burying it in the sand for so long like the proverbial ostrich. It is not enough to come together and agree to do unconstitutional things like the hurried appointment of a Chief justice outside procedural avenues or even such seemingly trivial things as the last declaration of the National Assembly permitting the then Vice President to become acting President. We close our eyes to such unpardonable self imposed mistakes that expose the incompetence of the sleeping legislature in Nigeria as well as the impotence of our so called lawyers. How can they be baffled? They were there all the while drafting decrees to undo their own people and again finding novel ways to make these decrees dubious Acts of the national Assembly thereby perpetuating militarism in our national life.
How can anyone feign ignorance of the fact that we rushed into this election too soon without the basic democratic backbone in place or that the ruling Party was handed a blank cheque in this direction. It seems to me even if I have to admit it grudgingly that the PDP is the repository of all the foresight needed to navigate these uncertain roads. Since my warnings fell on deaf ears, I then went ahead to predict in the article “What the 2011 elections portends for Nigeria” that the ruling party would be difficult to dislodge from power. I was baffled then by the way the debates were being consistently drawn away from substance to irrelevance by the same people who are crying owl today. Everyone seems to push irresolutely and unknowingly for a strengthening of the ruling party as a way of dislodging them. Suddenly everyone appeared to know it all even in this unpardonable ignorance.
I remember particularly someone who was so pissed of by my insistence of changing the constitution that he openly queried how constitutional review would put food on his table. Someone accused me of trying to divert attention from the real issues at stake including the need for better leadership to emerge for Nigeria. It was a struggle to endure all that. It was always going to be a dialogue of the deaf, apology to Ikemba. Now, we are trying to manufacture another contraceptive that would deny the inherent double-speak of the constitution in terms of annulled elections and tenure .If we were in an open military regime things would have been easier. Perhaps a decree would do it and we would require lawyers to draft it. The decree would ban any person who challenges any law found inconsistent with the decree itself from participating in politics. This time it would take a bit more than decree to stop someone whose election was nullified as having not taken place, in a sense it was fictitious, from starting his tenure afresh when a new election was mercifully granted him.
I am speaking specifically of Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State. Ironically it was the same people who are today sailing upstream, trying to hire baffled lawyers that clinked glasses for their victory at nullifying this election in 2008.It was lawyers that made up both benches. They were not baffled by this law. They did not know that it would play out like this.
Consider the humiliation for an elected representative of his people to be told his election was only a hallucination. Much of the negative rumors persisting in Bayelsa State today can be traced to this public relation disaster introduced by the annulment of the 2007 elections. Now people can wake up and accuse their government of not performing well even when the evidence is overwhelmingly in the opposite. Why not, when the courts say the governor deceived the people into thinking that he won the election, and even went ahead to rule the State from 29 May 2007 - 16 April 2008. Then the election was annulled and the time spent was thrown away as a mistake. The next governor on the interim was appointed. Rt. Hon. Werinipre Seibarugu (Acting Governor: 16 April 2008 - 27 May, 2008) Then the governor was returned overwhelmingly at the polls. It could have been the opposition that was returned. But it was not to be. It was Chief Timipre Sylva (Executive Governor: 27 May, 2008 – Date.)
So you can imagine the justice done by the high court ruling to the effect that these governors must complete their tenure starting from their swearing in day. Any counter argument would only again in a roundabout way vindicate the governor. If you argue that he should not get the so called extension which is not really extension in the real sense, then you have argued that indeed there was an election in 2007 which vindicates him. If you then insist that his tenure commenced in 2007, then at least Bayelsans were not deceived in 2007. It does not end there, prepare for another accelerated hearing because now the major suit will commence. It means that there was no rerun election or if it held, it must have been a 419 arrangement outside the constitution which may demand heavy damages to be settled.
There are no quick fixes in this matter. The only way out is the Governor Peter Obi's narrow way out. Extend the tenures and then adopt this change into the constitution if the need arises. No matter how you look at it, the delay in judicial execution was not the fault of the governors nor was it that of INEC but it is the symptom of a bad constitution which makes for abnormal institutions and processes. The people to receive most blame are the legislature and the government of the day who in the Nigerian context must push the houses by way of empowerment to do their duty. In fact blame all Nigerians who kept quiet at the face of our constitutional delusion. The lawyers are just there to implement anything or rather get baffled by anything while lining their pockets.
Nation building is a more serious thing requiring all hands to be on deck but it is higher knowledge that must lead through. Where are those intelligentsia who decided to bury their heads in the sand of time? Where are the seers, the prophets? It is important that constitutional crises be avoided at this time so that those anti democratic forces who since last week have returned to trenches are not given any yard to implement their heinous plan on Nigeria. You may recognize them in their activity if you look very carefully at the polity. When someone is not in advantaged position yet he refuses to negotiate, it is a sign of ulterior motives. See them becoming emboldened in the theory that you can build house without a foundation .Actually they do not intend to build anything but pull down what exists just because they are unable to rule it. I had cautioned earlier that this plot is to take off in Bayelsa State and we must be vigilant at their changing tactics. Peace has no alternative!
*Mr. Nworisara , a political/media consultant is based in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.