The breakdown of due processâ€¨- By Tony Momoh
We are regressing into anarchy. Anarchy is a situation where there is noâ€¨order or control in a country or government or institution. It is a strong indictment to say that we areâ€¨regressing into anarchy. I have threeâ€¨cases to illustrate what I am saying. One is the indiscipline that is manifesting in the verbal war betweenâ€¨two former heads of
state, Generals Obasanjo and Babangida which showed clearlyâ€¨that in a state of anomie, the well-known esprit de corps of the men in khaki,â€¨whether serving or retired, can be publicly ignored. â€¨ â€¨The second is the poor showing the whole world is watchingâ€¨at the mountain peak of the judiciary in which the two top heads of the two topâ€¨courts of the land have been shamelesslyâ€¨exchanging blows clearly lacking in judicial finesse. The third is the obfuscating measure beingâ€¨taken by a party to a petition questioning the conduct of the April electionsâ€¨in redefining what amounts to national security.â€¨ â€¨Let us take them one by one. First, Obasanjo vs Babangid. â€¨ â€¨Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was Head of State of Nigeria twice,â€¨1976 - 79, and 1999 - 2007. Gen Ibrahimâ€¨Badamasi Babangida was head of State of Nigeria between 1985 and 1993. Obasanjo was 70 many years ago, but Babangidaâ€¨joined the club on August 17 when he spoke to the press of the past and thus touchedâ€¨the tail of the tiger that Obasanjo has been known to be for years. â€¨
â€¨In reviewing the past to the press at his home in Minna,â€¨Babangida (IBB) said, like the lizard would in self-praise, that during hisâ€¨tenure as Head of State, he was able to manage poverty to achieve success whileâ€¨someone else, for eight years, managed affluence and achieved failure. If anyone was in doubt about who was thereâ€¨for eight years, and managed affluence and achieved failure, IBB fired anotherâ€¨shot from the hip when he said the administration of his former boss lackedâ€¨creativity and innovation. Who butâ€¨Obasanjo was he referring to when he again said that if he had had his hands onâ€¨$16 billion that was squandered on the independent power project, he would haveâ€¨given Nigeria not just electricity but nuclear power.
And who else earned $180 per barrel of oilâ€¨for years while he, IBB, was struggling with making do with only $10 a barrel. â€¨ â€¨When Obasajo (Obj) was informed that IBB had insinuated thatâ€¨he lacked vision and foresight, he was on fire. He took time to be sure thatâ€¨IBB did question his capacity to see the future. He reached out to the time he left, in 1979,â€¨and the time he returned, in 1999, and spoke of the near absence of any majorâ€¨achievement that those who came after him had to show. He was emphatic that ofâ€¨the 20 years of his absence, IBB was there for eight years, and made no impactâ€¨in the supply of power. â€¨ â€¨He spoke some verses of the Bible (Proverbs chapter 26) thatâ€¨provide options on what to do when you are confronted by a fool. One says you should ignore him so that you doâ€¨not become one yourself; and the other, that you answer a fool so that he willâ€¨not think that he is a wise man. He saidâ€¨IBB must be a fool to be so mindless as to associate him with lacking inâ€¨visioning. â€¨ â€¨
He put it this bluntly, 'Babangida should be pitied andâ€¨shown sympathy rather than anger or condemnation because (of) the old sayingâ€¨(that) … a fool at 40 is a fool forever; … and I would say a regret at 70 isâ€¨regret too late. Well, a regret at 70 is a regret to the grave.' â€¨ â€¨What IBB said and what Obj said that got me thinking was theâ€¨one referring to having foresight or not having one. My mind went back to January 2007 when Obj,â€¨(he was our president then) made a statement to the same effect, that heâ€¨ignored Abacha's Vision 2010 project because he found it difficult to depend onâ€¨someone who had no sight. Looking at Shonekan who was the power behind theâ€¨Vision 2010 Programme, easily the most comprehensive socio-economic re-engineering project in our history, fromâ€¨independence to now (they were seated on the same high table at the outing), heâ€¨said, 'How can you have vision when you have no sight?' â€¨ â€¨I took exception to that statement, not because I wasâ€¨defending Abacha but that I know as a fact that you can have vision withoutâ€¨sight, that vision is spiritual and sight is physical. Don't the blind 'see'? I wrote a piece on it entitled Between Sight and Vision, in my columnâ€¨in the Sunday Vanguard of January 28, 2007 (See Vol 2, Democracy Watch, A Monitor'sâ€¨Diary, pages 269 -292). â€¨ â€¨Imagine Obasanjo who never ever conceded that anyone but heâ€¨had answers to all problems of man, being told by someone he terrorised with that much taunting that may have played part inâ€¨his stepping aside, that that Obasanjo, lacked vision! His reaction, to me, was understandable, butâ€¨as former head of state and a general, did he have to throw decorum to theâ€¨wind? â€¨ â€¨But looking without emotion into the statement that IBBâ€¨made, I read signs of things to come into it. It is very much unlike IBB to speak that volume of 'truth' about hisâ€¨military colleagues, least of all those who were his bosses.
That he would come out this bluntly, is whatâ€¨must be analysed. Time will be theâ€¨witness of where this open breakdown of due process will lead.â€¨ â€¨The second example I want to give of our regressing intoâ€¨anarchy is what has been happening in the organ of government that interpretsâ€¨our laws, the laws they are now themselves observing more in the breach thanâ€¨the observance. And, with more guile thanâ€¨shame, the gladiators, two bosses manning our two apex courts, the Supremeâ€¨Court and the Court of Appeal, are destroying the very foundation of ourâ€¨judicial system. The body that shouldâ€¨bring sanity and order, and impose due process, the National Judicial Councilâ€¨whose work is unambiguously settled in the Third Schedule to the Constitution,â€¨is the body setting examples that will forever remain in the black book forâ€¨those who ought to have built their country, but through greed, compromised theâ€¨values that would have grown it. â€¨ â€¨The Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu,â€¨is the chairman of the National Judicial Council which is a 23-member apex bodyâ€¨of the judiciary that is responsible for the recommendation of the appointment,â€¨promotion and discipline of judges at both state and federal levels.
The President of the Court of Appeal, Justice â€¨Isa Ayo Salami, is a member of the council, of which a large number of theâ€¨members are directly appointed by theâ€¨Chief Justice. â€¨ â€¨The problem between the two justices became public knowledgeâ€¨when the ruling on the Sokoto governorship election petition was stopped by theâ€¨Chief Justice. A committee set up by the NJC asked for amicable resolution ofâ€¨the degenerating relationship between the boss of the Supreme Court and that ofâ€¨the Court of Appeal. â€¨ â€¨But the NJC set up some other bodies that came up absolving the Chief Justice ofâ€¨allegations that he had asked that the decision in the Sokoto case go the wayâ€¨he wanted. Salami was asked to apologiseâ€¨to the Chief Justice to let sleeping dogs lie. Salami did not think that was a neat thing to do, insisting that he owedâ€¨no one any apology in the face of obvious meddling that had been undeniable inâ€¨the Sokoto case. â€¨ â€¨The NJC then met and without the presence of the chairman orâ€¨his deputy who should chair the council in the absence of the chairman, emergedâ€¨with two embarrassing conclusions - that Salami having failed to apologiseâ€¨stands suspended as the President of the Court of Appeal.
He was also being recommended to theâ€¨President for retirement. Both decisionsâ€¨were without even a thought for the fact that Salami had gone to court toâ€¨challenge the call on him to apologise; and to question the competence of theâ€¨body so to do.â€¨ â€¨The decision of the NJC is rousing people to varyingâ€¨conclusions, one of them that Salami is being sent out of the Court of Appealâ€¨because of what awaits the ruling party in the various election petitions inâ€¨the tribunals that would ultimately come to the highest court that would handleâ€¨them. Anyone who has heard theâ€¨revelations in tribunals where fake ballot papers were discovered to have beenâ€¨used during the April elections at all levels, should read between the linesâ€¨when they hear that those who have been masters of vote manipulation are afraidâ€¨of any judge associated with uprightness. Salami is one such judge. Hisâ€¨refusal to go to the Supreme Court was disarming enough. His refusal to apologise for what he believedâ€¨he did not do was even smarter. Because having apologised for what he allegedâ€¨on oath, what other route would have been left for him if he had been asked toâ€¨retire or face charges for lying under oath. â€¨ â€¨The way they have taken will lead us to undreamed-ofâ€¨repercussions.
What powers has the NJC â€¨to take decisions so clearly shown to be the assigned roles of the Presidentâ€¨and the Senate of the National Assembly, Whatever the NJC wants in the area of stopping a judge from performingâ€¨his functions will have to follow due process. The decision of the NJC to stop Salami from work when the matter ofâ€¨which they are a defending party is before a court, is a choice for avoidanceâ€¨if not direct boycott of due process. And the polity will lose.â€¨ â€¨The third illustration of our regressing into anarchy is theâ€¨reason INEC has given for denying the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)â€¨access to the direct data capturing machines which during the registration of voters late last year recordedâ€¨details of the 73 million voters for theâ€¨2011 elections. They say it is againstâ€¨national security to open up the facility because the secrecy the registeredâ€¨voter is entitled to would be revealed. Byâ€¨letting people know who voted for what, their identity would be revealed andâ€¨that is not in the interest of national security. â€¨ â€¨What is not in the interest of national security is failureâ€¨to perform the duties so clearly settled in Chapter 2 of the Constitution. They are political, social, economic, educational,â€¨environmental, cultural and foreign policy.
Every political party seeking registration from INEC must reflect theseâ€¨national duties on government in their manifestoes. The chapter does not mince words as to whoâ€¨has sovereignty. It belongs to theâ€¨people of Nigeriaâ€¨who documented what those who exercise legislative, executive and judicialâ€¨powers must do. The summary of thatâ€¨assignment is that their priority is the security and welfare of the citizens,â€¨150 million of us. Any act outside thisâ€¨brief is not in the national interest and so is against national security. â€¨ â€¨The access sought by the CPC and which the Court of Appeal,â€¨chaired by Justice Isa Ayo Salami, granted after the senior lawyers representingâ€¨all the parties had met for some five hours and emerged with a consensus not toâ€¨oppose the request, is what INEC is now saying cannot be given because ofâ€¨national security implications. â€¨ â€¨What forensic experts are looking for are those votes thatâ€¨are not valid because of multiple thumbing and other measures that wouldâ€¨disclose whether the votes in a particular unit were those cast by peopleâ€¨registered in that unit and had been accredited for the purpose.
If a vote in a box fails the test, then it isâ€¨not a valid vote. It is one cast by, forâ€¨want of a better word, a ghost, And whatâ€¨is the name, the identity of a ghost?â€¨ â€¨So the pressure to deny access to the data in the possessionâ€¨of INEC is a choice to move in theâ€¨direction of anarchy because it flies in the face of due process. â€¨ â€¨The three illustrations are diverse but there is a unifyingâ€¨thread - the movement is directly driven by vested interests. And it is vested interests, more thanâ€¨anything else, that undermine the people's interest, the nationalâ€¨interest. We must gba break before we manipulate this country into a political ditchâ€¨it will be difficult to get out of.â€¨ â€¨ â€¨
Prince Tony Momoh, National Chairman, Congress for Progressive Changeâ€¨(CPC), Plot 1132, Festus Okotie Eboh Crescent, Utako District, Abuja, August 19, 2011.â€¨