The Verdict Is In: Atiku Must Stand

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

Double speak, hypocrisy, self denial and double standards are hallmarks of compromised men. If anyone in Nigeria is compromised at the moment, it will be Professor Iwu who working under either the shadows of patronage or blackmail (over his fake credentials) by the President has since consigned the word Independent in the pseudonym, INEC, to the thrash of willful doublespeak and shameful side stepping. At this point, let me make it abundantly clear that I personally do not have problem with any candidate or citizen no matter how highly placed being disqualified from standing for election especially those with questionable pedigree. But my personal opinion does not count in this matter, for as I have always insisted and would always insist- the rule of law is greater than any one of us. Indeed, as I have repeatedly mentioned: undermining the rule of law is an invitation to the undesirable consequences of anarchy.

Professor Iwu astounded the world last week, when against all entreaties he went ahead to fulfill the wishes of his masters by disqualifying the enfant terrible of this administration and the Vice President of the Federal Republic, Atiku Abubakar from standing in the upcoming presidential election. Even after numerous court judgments ruling clearly that the power of disqualification is exclusively that of the courts, INEC insisted on using the absurd notion of self executable clauses of the constitution to say the constitution precludes the candidacy of the Vice President. He went even further to declare before the world that he has an order from the President to disobey the Supreme Court regardless of the outcome of the predictable judicial challenge of his actions.

Quite notably, sections of the Press and indeed public commentators have dwelled on the proprietary or otherwise of the disqualification of the Vice President. Most of these opinions are heavy on bias, personal dislikes or likes, political sentiments and above all hear say. The missing link has what does the constitution say or did it not say about the disqualification? Did the constitution disqualify the Vice President? I am not a lawyer, but I can read and write. I am a co-custodian of the constitution of my country as a responsible law abiding citizen and can research and debate its content. Beyond the arguments for self executable clauses or otherwise, this is what the law says:

Section 137(1) (i) of the 1999 Constitution which provides thus: “A person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if (i) he has been indicted for embezzlement or fraud by a Judicial Commission of Inquiry or an Administrative Panel of Inquiry or a Tribunal set up under the Tribunals of Inquiry Act, a Tribunals of Inquiry Law or any other law by the federal or state government which indictment has been accepted by the federal or state government.

The section went further down the line to state: “Any appeal against the decision is pending in any court of law in accordance with any law in force in Nigeria, subsection (1) of this section shall not apply during a period beginning from the date when such an appeal is lodged and ending on the date when the appeal is finally determined or as the case may be, the appeal lapses or is abandoned, whichever is earlier.”

The purport of the section is that though a person may be disqualified if indicted by any of the panels enumerated in Section 137(1) (i), such indictment is subject to review by a court of law including a Magistrate Court. During the pending of such an appeal for review to the court, the indictment will remain in abeyance and unless upheld by the court, the indictment shall not be a ground for disqualification. It is already public records that the Vice President is in court challenging his indictment separate from the fact that another high court had thrown out that indictment in a case involving another co-indicted. More puzzling is the fact that even after Governor Orji Kalu (enfant terrible principal) had gone ahead to show the unintended consequences of kangaroo indictment by indicting a number of PDP candidates and gazetted such in line with this section, INEC still doesn’t see it fit to stop such from standing for election even when no known appeals/judicial review exist. If that is not double standard I don’t know what is.

Why Atiku must stand

I am on record as being against Atiku’s candidacy; indeed, quite early I had predicted that like Buhari and IBB he stands no chance of becoming President on May 29. Call it wishful thinking or plain realism; I have learnt to hedge my bets carefully in the murky world of Nigerian politics and each time I throw the dice Atiku does not just come out on top: period. To show my confidence however in my predictions, I had asked for a gentleman bet in that article and I am yet to get any. However, I am a strong advocate for Atiku’s right to run for the often mentioned reasons of the rule of law and the second reality which is political: which I shall acquaint you with.

The political plus of Atiku’s candidacy is becoming a reality everyday. Indeed, the fight between the President and his Vice has opened a new channel and opportunity in Nigerian politics. For one, when the PDP was a united big umbrella in 2003 it was a ferocious rigging machine to confront. A mammoth combination of all possible alternatives: two faced dictators like Obasanjo and IBB, militricians like Atiku, con-men like the Uba brothers, thugs like Adedibu, political jobbers like Jerry Gana, strategists like Maduekwe, murderers like Omisore and Fayose, performers like Donald Duke, sticky fingers like Anenih, Alams and Odili, technocrats like El Rufai and Soludo, forgers like Enwenrem, Ibori, Iwu and plain benchwarmers like Lucky Igbinnedion. In the sum total of it all, what you had was what the Cicero of Esa Oke referred to as a carnival (when he referred to APP as a club and AD as a cult: how succinct).

But this carnival or cannibals were deadly powerful. They did and undid: stole your votes, rigged their way in, killed the Cicero, raped the land, looted our treasury, killed our brothers in Odi, forged their way in to government, jumped bail abroad, stole election registration equipment etc. And for all of these, all we get from their leader is a call to manage them! It is true that President Obasanjo prior to his presidency had called for one party state and PDP is his tool to achieve this life goal. The fight between the President and his Vice, and indeed the decision of his Vice to stands fundamentally breaks up this criminal group and dream. The President knows there is one man in Nigeria that can give the current PDP a run for their money, one man that knows as many tricks or ways to rig the election as they do, one man capable of demystifying the PDP in many local and states contest- that man used to be an insider, he is VP Atiku. So every Nigerian that has an interest in seeing a truly competitive three way election come April must stand by Atiku in his moment of need. Because when he stands, it means the beginning of the end of monolithic politics and death of one party state. I rest my case.

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beemoney March 24, 2007 - 11:25 am

I do not think a call for Atiku to stand in the election comes across well. The fact is we forget who we are when we try to equate political happenings in Naija to what obtains in the west. Like it or not, we are Africans and commonsense should tell us that democracy as operative in the west can never and will never work for us. We must develop and tailor our own type of democracy in line with our ways. Atiku and pro-Atiku 2007 Nigerians must accept the will of the majority in this matter….Atiku is not eligible to run. Period! No matter how they arrived at that must be acceptable to us all. I mean these are people (OBJ and Co.) whom we have handed the running of the nation for the past couple of years. If they now think Atiku who was once their ally is no longer suitable for the job, they must have a good reason. Afterall, IBB was also "clandestinely" disqualified and has peacefully accepted his fate. Why should Atiku now treathen anarchy and doom??? I believe, if our courts and our so called constitution have failed in identifying rouge-politicians then ideally it becomes the duty of OBJ to personally identify who would not be suitable for governance and eliminate that person (no matter who) from the political system in order to sanitise same for the future. Pls, tell me if non-entities like Atiku, Kalu, Tinubu, IBB, Annenih etc are eliminated from the fray, a careful look will immediately reveal that we are seeing a more mature political crowd forming. Personally, judging by the presidential candidacy of the PDP in the forthcoming elections I will be surprised if any other party could've come up with a better duo for the prime job!!! It is time we understood that not all laws are for the general good. Some laws become obsolete in that they have outlived their usefullness. Are we supposed to be held in ransom by those laws as some unscrupulous politician takes the nation for a ride? Atiku must wait to vacate Aso-Rock and then face charges of corruption against him by the EFCC. When VP appears to be fabulously rich and nothing seems to account for this wealth, then I am sure every sensible man will realise he has been stealing and I don't think we out to wait another 8years to find out (If he continues in Aso-Rock) beyond 2007!

andrew uyi-okundaye March 22, 2007 - 3:37 pm

Atiku must stand- in the school of thought the aforementioned name needs to contest in the next election. You do not have to be a fan or a support of Atiku but he has played his cards well by going with the rule of law, l think Iwu was wrong and has subsequently shown disregard for the rule of law. He might be playing to a bigger gallery in Aso Rock but one of the rules of democracy is to respect court judgements. Why is Aso Rock scared of Atiku? l think that its up to Nigerians to decide the faith of Atiku, l am a strong advocate of the will of the people which is not often the case in Nigeria where leadership emerge by selection thus, defeating the notion that people deserve the government they get. The best thing to happen since 1999 is the failure of the third term programme and IBB pulling out of the race, sit tight leadership must not be allowed again, recycled politicians must not be allowed again. The energy and resourses spent in stopping Atiku could have been used in the energy sector. We must demand servant leadership, we need leaders and not rulers because treason doth never prosper: what is the reason? if it prosper you dare not call it treason

Multi March 22, 2007 - 5:11 am

Interesting piece, Michael!!


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