The triumph of veteran labour leader, Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole in the legal contest for the gubernatorial seat of Edo State earlier in the week is one of the rare pieces of good news that waft from the badly governed and vicariously mismanaged country called Nigeria in recent times. The fear that the judiciary, which showed some spurts of sanity in the mad enclave as the depravity of the Obasanjo era inched to its climax, had been enmeshed in the same miasma that has enwrapped the country, unleashed a mass feeling of helplessness and hopelessness among Nigerians. The belief, as the Obasanjo madness neared its crescendo and the scripts of the violent rape of the country’s electoral process were being scripted, that the judiciary, which did a lot to tame that predilection to insanity, will correct the predictable malfeasance that regime visited on the electoral process, had fast been percolating as the judiciary churns out one questionable decision after another from the various tribunals.
From Sokoto to Kebbi, from Oyo to Osun, from Abia to Akwa Ibom, from Ogun to Ekiti, from Delta to Plateau and in so many other states, it seemed the judiciary was in a rat race to return the country to the age of judicial atrophy, which we thought we had escaped from when Obasanjo happened on his weird political permutations. From one controversial ruling to another illogical decision, the tribunals retuned verdicts that mocked and derided the entire process and the judiciary itself. While the questionable and often very contradictory decisions spewing from the tribunals dealt deep gashes on our collective hopes for a sane and credible electoral process, it exerted a serious toll on the integrity of the judiciary and ate away all the goodwill its handling of the pre-election cases invested on it.
The Oshiomhole case therefore was eagerly monitored by Nigerians who believe that it will say a lot about how we have migrated from the electoral jungle the 2007 sham process imposed on all of us. Because the judiciary remains an integral part of the electoral process; made even more important by the deliberate subjection of the process to wholesome manipulation by unscrupulous mandarins who have descended on this country in recent times with destructive fury. Nigerians wanted to test the decaying integrity of the courts with the Oshiomhole case such that when it came, it was received with equal fervor from a citizenry that was increasingly getting frustrated at how the entire system is organized to tolerate seamless atrophies against it.
When Oshiomhole’s verdict came, it served as a circuit breaker from the winding circle of frustration that had attended the various tribunals’ verdicts on the sham exercise of last year. From every nook and cranny of the country and even beyond, the country responded in one salvo of acceptance. From the South to the North, East to the West, Nigerians co-merged in a ball of celebration, which knew no religious, partisan and sectional boundaries. Nigerians clapped and cheered and reflated their sagging hopes in a judiciary on whom they placed so much expectations when the macabre charade were being shamelessly enacted in April 2007 by men who have sealed off the moderating instincts of what remained of their consciences.
The significance of the Oshiomhole’s triumph is that the vermin and maggots that have sworn to ensure that the votes of the people do not count would have to brace for tougher challenges ahead. So far, they have taken Nigerians for granted. They have regarded Nigerians with the highest level of contempt. They have treated Nigerians as nitwits that know nothing and who would come to live with just any parody, given time. They regard Nigerians as unthinking morons, afflicted by a terribly short memory who is condemned to eternally suffering renegades and vagabonds of power patiently. He is seen as a fellow, too unsophisticated and too powerless to mobilize to stave off the persistent deprecation to his person and dignity. These shibboleths are being served that there is no way Nigerians can tolerate being dragged down the weather-beaten tracks for all their lives while other lands and climes forage outer space.
The mammoth crowd of Edo indigenes, who defied the heavy military deployments all over the state to spontaneously take over all parts of Edo State immediately after that sweet judgment, speaks of this reality. The intimidating millions who never waited to be rented or hired to turn out at the stadium to witness the swearing in of the khaki-donning Spartan, the next day should serve sufficient notice to the very cabal that has progressively decimated life in Nigeria that their time is up. The forces of change and progress, which have been blunted by Nigerians’ penchant to be stubbornly impervious to reform are gathering momentum and in the chant of ‘Obama’, ‘Obama’ from the mammoth crowd at Ogbe Stadium, there is little doubt that the unrepentant hegemony that has thrived a culture of impunity is seeing its last years on the stage. The picture from the news sites on the Internet, where Nigerians poured out their hearts showed that Nigerians are sick and tired of the PDP and its awkward brand of negative of politics that has attracted so much scorn and derisions for Nigeria. It was proved beyond all reasonable doubt that Edo people knew whom they voted for and needed no extra prodding to show that fact. This is the same picture all over Nigeria, thrashing under the jackboots of irreverent thugs that have callously asphyxiated life out of its citizens.
But the Oshiomhole triumph is a tokenistic repair to the hefty injury visited the country in April 2007. There is no doubt that Nigeria is presently held in the thrall of that destructive job. Nigeria is paining and bleeding from that notorious act, delivered in the most brutal, unfeeling and callous manner. It still bleeds in the aftermath, which obtains in a governance that is on reverse, a deepening culture of impunity and institutional decay and a worsening culture of political perfidy. There are so many mandates that were stolen in the same callous manner Oshiomhole’s was stolen and restitution is the only thing needed to heal the wounds of the act that has deeply divided Nigerian people. So many states have had justice so lacerated and miscarried and the people feel alienated and are incapable of enacting the same moving spirit Edo people demonstrated with the Appeal tribunal judgment. In most states, shameless judges have given justice to the highest bidders and the integrity of the judiciary has been greatly compromised. The masses gnash their teeth in regret and anguish and the party goes on without the people being parts of it. Governance is stripped of the participation and critical partnership, which only the people could give and in this, delivery suffers.
So, the Appeal Tribunal judges should see the mass acceptance its verdict on Edo received as offering a window for it to reclaim the high horse that has been lost through series of controversial judgments on election matters in recent times. Such states like Osun, Ekiti, Delta, Oyo, Ondo, etc. provide good windows of redemption the court should employ to burnish its image and position itself as a critical part of the country’s chequered electoral process. It must give back to the people the power to choose who governs them for there lies the firing pin of democracy, which is lacking in Nigerian warped democracy.