KOGI: JUSTICE JEGA AND THE INEC COURT OF JUSTICE
The Nigerian polity over the years has been immersed with endemic disregard for the rule of law. Rather than have respect for court orders and embrace them as one of the important processes that strengthens democratic institutions and facilitates peaceful transition of power, most politicians see them as hindrances to acquiring the spoils of democracy. The situation that has cropped in Kogi State has been very worrisome especially after the Supreme Court ordered that Alhaji Ibrahim Idris vacate office as Kogi State Governor and the Speaker, State House of Assembly be sworn in as acting governor. The state of affairs in Kogi has produced many illegal actions that have serious wholesome consequences for Nigeria's democracy, rule of law and good governance.
The seizure of political power by the use of undemocratic means, such as force to gain unfair political advantage by one individual or group of individuals over another is highly condemnable.
This is tantamount to what has just happened in Kogi State where Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, the ex governor in absolute defiance to orders of the Supreme Court connived with a section of PDP leadership and the President of the Customary of Appeal of Kogi State to employ every available illegitimate means to impose Captain Wada Idris as the governor of Kogi State.
Usurpation of the Judiciary or disobedience of court orders by politicians aside from eroding the credibility of the rule of law and impacting negatively on democratic activities will legitimise and perpetuate the vicious circle of the existing culture of corruption of public office holders. This is so because politicians or persons who fund activities that encourage injustice must obtain assurances on ways to recover their investments or secure financial means by which they would finance another round of injustice to either maintain power or to force power shift to their self anointed candidate. As a result, the capacity of such a government to deliver social services like maintaining roads, providing electricity, water, schools and health systems would be drastically reduced or even completely non existent or ineffective.
Unfortunately, the foregoing happened in Kogi State in line with the wishes of men like Nigeria's Vice President, Architect Namadi Sambo and some PDP stalwarts. The many unjustifiable actions sponsored by Ex governor Ibrahim Idris to ensure that he wins a seeming political victory, simply put, are investments geared towards subverting democratic process and development of the State either by intimidation of the Judicial or disempowerment of political opponents by force.
In Nigeria's democracy, the consequences of the present political situation in Kogi State glare at us. Unfortunately, it is dispiriting that the PDP leadership could not reflect quietly on the consequences of their actions before descending into political wrangling. Indeed with confirmed involvement of some top government functionaries on one side and the growing dissatisfaction by a large section of the electorate on the other side, Kogi State politics has become an extremely sensitive issue, possibly as sensitive as religious conflicts. This is so because the disobedience of court orders for the specific purpose of imposing an individual to govern a people is not only fundamentally wrong and unconstitutional but may be considered by the electorate as an insult to their sensibilities.
The nature, extent and magnitude of illegitimacy associated with the Kogi saga has no doubt heightened the possibility of violence that may pose a serious threat to President Goodluck Jonathan's quest for security and stable democratic transition, as well as the attainment of the long term goal of consolidating Nigeria's democracy. As such, given the special circumstances of Kogi State politics, targeted efforts must be made to ensure that the present political conflict does not turn violent. The need to monitor the existence of some persons within the PDP fold that directly or indirectly promote injustice cannot be overemphasized. Otherwise such persons will help fertilise the breeding ground for a culture of political crisis through continual disregard of court orders.
More importantly, in Kogi State, the PDP leadership is a major part of the problem because its claim that the INEC Chairman, Prof Jega confirmed the appropriateness of swearing in Wada Idris as State Governor does not demonstrate PDP's willingness to tackle the predicament in Kogi State amicably. Ordinarily, one would expected the PDP to understand that it's continued reliance on Prof Jega's interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling is baseless because the INEC overreached itself on its constitutional duties. In addition, the recent declaration by the Supreme Court through the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher that the governorship election which produced Governor Wada as Kogi governor-elect was never before it for determination, should have informed the PDP that the game is over.
Even though many polity watchers had earlier accused the INEC Chairman, Prof Jega of fuelling the crisis in Kogi State through his misinformed statement on Wada Idris as the rightful Governor for Kogi State, the recent muteness by Prof Jega after the interpretation of the Supreme Court Judgement by the Chief Justice of Nigeria as it relates to Kogi State, is a confirmation of Prof Jega's admittance of error. Otherwise, if INEC was not clear about the judgement, it would have gone back to the Supreme court to seek further interpretation on an judgement that has no iota of vagueness or ambiguity.
What is now expected of Prof Jega is a public apology to erase any doubt on his perceived bias on Kogi State democracy. This may help put a stop to speculations that he was manipulated by the ruling party and even lured them into taking actions that are considered as contempt of court. Given these emerging revelations, it will most honourable for the PDP to stop its illegitimate actions which it rested on Prof Jega's error especially now that Prof Jega's faulty advice has been confirmed a false premise for the justification of the continuation of Wada Idris as Governor of Kogi State .
Whilst welcoming the assurances and commending the courage of some respectable individuals in taking positive interest in the Kogi State political crisis, urgent actions must be taken to ensure that the PDP's quest to upturn justice by disobedience of court order is arrested for a new dawn to emerge in Kogi politics
* Phrank Shaibu is a Public Communications consultant based in Abuja
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