Ogebe Verdict: Celebration To Reason

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

Yar’Adua needs people of integrity who are knowledgeable to achieve his goals for the country. The only way to ensure integrity is constant vigilance. That is what the Office of Accountability or its equivalent in the President’s office is responsible for.

Our education system and our ambitiousness will always guarantee knowledgeable people in Nigeria. It is my patriotic duty at this time to draw the government’s attention to things that they may have to give serious thought to and to address if they are to be the vehicle through which we will realize our national goals and aspirations. The Yar’Adua administration needs some serious pollsters, people who will judge the public’s readiness for certain policies. Some policies may be economically sound but politically inept. Has the administration so far pursued any such policies? I am afraid so. I hesitate to say that this administration is falling prey to one of the very temptations that bedeviled the past administration: moving too fast and not maintaining a good time schedule for the implementation of policies.

There is only so much that Nigerians can take at a time especially if they are very drastic changes. Past government introduced retrenchment, privatization, deportation and devaluation all within a short period not to mention students’ loans. They were all policies which the country had to fall upon in recent times with the exception of deportation of aliens, to straighten the economy. However at the time when that administration was rushing us through, but Nigerians were difficult to swallow at such breakneck speed. The decision to give the senators dollar car loans from the national treasury instead of allowance by that administration was wrong from all views. I was surprised to read a sycophant said the government could find the money. In the four-year term of our Honourable Members, their gross income per head will be no more than $9000. Assuming they spent all their incomes in repayment of the loans, they will still have an $11000 deficit. The amount was too much. It amounts to bribery of the legislature. The damaging effect that opinion analysts should have told the government is that it becomes a legacy of this administration although we keep hearing that similar loans were advanced without due process during the Obasanjo administration.

Every indication shows that ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo did not believe in the democratic principle of separation of powers. From the time he became President in 1999, Obasanjo sought to control the National Assembly. He has been very successful in determining who emerges as President of the Senate. Senate President’s, who have opposed Obasanjo, would loose their jobs in disgraceful circumstances. The President was surprised by Pius Anyim, a man whom he installed as Senate President, but could not effectively control. Before Anyim, Chuba Okadigbo tried to insist on the independence of the Senate as a co-and-equal partner of the Executive branch, but was thrown out of office. Adolph Wabara was a willing tool in the hands of the President until he was compromised by his insatiable appetite for money.

However, it has not been easy for the ex-President to control and manipulate the House of Representatives. From Speaker Buhari to Na’abba, these young men, who have led that body, have refused to kowtow to the ex-President. Invariably, their tenures at the helm of the House were fleeting. The Judiciary branch has not been spared the President’s contempt. Chief Justice Uwais recently described the Obasanjo Administration as a lawless administration. No Nigerian, who has followed the Obasanjo Government and its attitude to the rule of law, would disagree with Justice Uwais. The Obasanjo Government consistently flouted and ignored Court orders, choosing only to obey the rulings that favour it. The ex-President’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was as guilty as the ex-President in ignoring Court rulings that do not favour it.

Two years ago, the Senate voted to reject a constitutional amendment allowing ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo to seek a third term, bringing an apparent end to an issue that had bitterly divided Africa‘s most populous nation. Although Obasanjo supporters did not immediately rule out other attempts to amend the nation’s constitution, but in recent time there was a dramatic and seemingly decisive shift in sentiment against efforts to keep him in power. Assuming Obasanjo was not a candidate in 2007 elections , Nigeria would had been on track to experience its first peaceful transition between civilian governments since winning independence in 1960.Debate over possible third term was marred by accusations of bribery and violence on the part of supporters inducing Lawmakers opposed to the proposal to cheer and hug one another as the outcome of the voice vote became clear.

How can an ex-President now posing PDP Nebuchadnezarr, who was waging war against corruption , have directed governors in his party to donate one hundred million naira each? How were the governors supposed to raise such money without engaging in corrupt practices, which he now hunt them from the fence. Ironically, the ex-President may be one of the opponents of the war on corruption. In that case, there is no chance that anybody with a discerning mind would see the ex-President’s anti-corruption campaign as anything other than a powerful tool of intimidation aimed at his enemies.

In a notice of appeal filed at the Court of Appeal‘s registry, Buhari said that the court, which also serves as the Presidential Election Tribunal, was wrong in its decision to strike out Obasanjo‘s name as a respondent to the petition. The Court of Appeal had, on September 11, struck out Obasanjo‘s name as a respondent to the petition on the grounds that he did not take part in the conduct of the election. The Court of Appeal also said that Obasanjo was not a proper party to the petition under Section 144 (2) of the Electoral Act, 2006. Dissatisfied with this decision, Buhari, in an appeal filed on his behalf by Chief Mike Ahmaba (SAN), said he made several allegations against the former President and that only him could defend the allegations. He said that Obasanjo had already joined issues with him in his reply to the petition. By deciding that Obasanjo did not participate in the conduct of the election, the Court of Appeal had delivered judgment on a substantial part of the petition prior to the hearing of the petition,” the notice of appeal stated. Buhari said that it was wrong for the Court of Appeal to limit itself to the police when allegation was made against soldiers. He asked the apex court to allow his appeal and set aside the order of the Court of Appeal striking out Obasanjo‘s name.

The judges in Nigeria have in the last two or three years gained a huge amount of respect because of willingness to show independence from the executive … There might be some concerns that, on this one, the new-found independence of the judges has been tested and some Nigerians, obviously the opposition Nigerians, will say it has been found wanting …On the other hand, despite coming to power in these contested circumstances almost a year ago now, Yar’Adua has gained hugely in stature and his style of ruling the country … he has carved out a support base. If this thing is now put behind them … and the view is Yar’Adua survived this, I think we may well see a kind of ‘Yar’Adua phase two’, which will be a tougher president …There was a real danger of a power vacuum at the top so, in the stability stakes, Nigeria is a stronger place after this announcement.

From a political stability perspective, this is likely to be positive. Yes, we have seen a strengthening of Nigerian institutions with the courts able to overturn a lot of the results of the state elections and call for re-runs in certain states. At the presidential level, however, what mattered most to markets was policy continuity and a reduction in uncertainty. As such, we expect the decision to be positive for the performance of Nigerian markets but it is a very disappointing judgment. We had expected the tribunal to go beyond mere technicalities and look at the issues raised in the petitions and address the yearnings of Nigerians for fair and credible elections. Although the tribunal has taken us two or three decades back to the era when electoral disputes were decided on technicalities rather than substance. I believe the petitioners may appeal and the Supreme Court will look at the real issues they raised.

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1 comment

obiora March 6, 2008 - 11:08 pm

Good one


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