By Phrank Shuaibu
Disobedience of court orders remains a critical barrier to credible governance in new democracies. Of Specific interest and reference is what has been allowed to take place in Kogi State of Nigeria
where the Supreme Court of Nigeria in its ruling ordered that the State Governor vacates office for the Speaker of the State House of Assembly to be sworn in as the Acting Governor until a new election is conducted. Unfortunately, eight weeks after the directive was issued by the Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to all five affected states by the judgement, Kogi State remains the only state which fragrantly disobeyed the court order. Instead, some so called powerful politicians from a section of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party PDP succeeded in inaugurating their choice person, Captain Wada Idris as a full-fledged State Governor.
Ordinarily, democracy setting in its purest or most ideal form would be a society in which all adult citizens have respect for the rule of law irrespective of their political class, socio economic status or religious affiliation. However, in Kogi State, it is very sad that some people have assumed superiority over the Apex Court on the interpretation of the constitution and are even fighting, kicking and screaming to ensure that an illegality is upheld even against a fresh additional order of the Supreme Court of Nigeria. Indeed, it is easy to assume that most people in this boat have neither shame nor knowledge about what the Nigerian Constitution says on the rulings of an Apex Court but in reality, what these politicians think is that they have the cheque and crude political contacts to disregard the orders of any Court of law in Nigeria provided that the powers at the centre ignore them or do not have conflicting interest.
This tragic incident of Wada Idris by Kogi State PDP is another example of the shameless disobedience of court orders in a democracy in Africa.
The truth of the matter is that the whole issue about the arrival of Wada Idris at the Kogi State Government House is unlawful and the mathematics on his continued stay as Governor does not just tally at all. First, the strategy that took Wada Idris to the Kogi State government house through the back door was not only riddled with holes but reeks of shameful opportunism as well. For emphasis, let’s start with holes in their plot. From the way the directive of the Attorney General was disregarded to the manner in which Justice Ibrahim Atadoga, the President, Kogi State Customary Court of Appeal was ordered by the removed Governor Ibrahim Idris to speedily swear in Wada Idris to how over 200 anti riot policemen were mobilised to execute the operations, makes it obvious that the Ex governor, Ibrahim Idris wanted to rule or control the affairs of Kogi State until donkeys grow horns.
On the other hand, the acceptance by Wada Idris and some PDP leaders to be used to usurp democracy is pathetic especially given the fact that Justice Nasir Ajanah, the State Chief Judge had earlier explained to them that he was constrained by the orders of the Apex Court to swear in the Speaker of the House of Assembly, a directive which he legitimately carried out until force and naked intimidation were applied by the Ex Governor Ibrahim Idris and his cohorts to deny the Speaker access to the Kogi State Government House.
The key point is that Wada Idris is illegally occupying the Kogi State Government House, an office which the Speaker of the State House of Assembly was ordered by the Supreme Court to run its affairs until a new election is conducted.
It is as clear as a goat’s behind that Prof Ahmed Rufai Alkali, the former PDP’s National Publicity Secretary’s claim that the Kogi State PDP abides by rule of law is false, otherwise, the Kogi State PDP would not have disobeyed the directive of the Attorney General of the Nigerian Federation. Their preposterous claim that Prof Jega, INEC Chairman endorsed their action is unconstitutional, ridiculous and an amateurish logic to mask their illegitimate actions. Otherwise, if as they claimed that they were empowered by INEC, why didn’t they just show us the section of the constitution that makes INEC’s decision superior to that of the Supreme Court? The fact is that Wada Idris and his promoters have committed a political suicide through an old discredited tactics of injustice. The nature of democracy they crave for has not taken Nigeria anywhere but backwards.
The attempt by some people to smuggle their mundane reasons for supporting Wada Idris onto the national agenda is very regrettable.
It is also very unfortunate that some politicians from a section of the ruling Party have acted as clique of inadequately prepared, narrow-minded demigods who are above and beyond the law, possessing the absolute power to interpret, bend, manipulate and subvert court orders at will. As such, what the Federal government so proudly trumpets as a judicial system free of undue influence or control by the government has been made to appear false.
In a genuine democracy it is impossible to believe that a few persons could have usurped the judiciary and engaged in tactics of physical abuse and unconstitutional intimidation to remove a legitimate sworn in Acting Governor of a state without the reproach of the authorities that are mandated to protect the rule of law. Indeed, the actions of these men paint a devastating portrait of a democracy where disobedience of court orders is permissible by the Government.
Given the many weeks and days that Wada Idris has occupied the Kogi State Government House against the orders of the Supreme Court, any visitor to Nigeria would question if this country has no strong support mechanisms to address issues of disobedience of court orders. Indeed, the political scandal in Kogi state has created national and even international headlines and a nightmarish embarrassment for the Attorney General, the Nigerian judiciary and especially National Leaders of the ruling party, PDP, who weeks ago could have stopped it from happening, but didn't.
Whether the Nigerian government can protect the rule of law in Kogi State, particularly in ensuring that the illegal governor vacates office immediately is an open question. However, apathy by the government must be abandoned in favor of action. Apathy can never be a solution for political challenges posed by some self centered Kogi State politicians; it would only exacerbate existing problems and permit corrupt elements in Kogi State to further entrench themselves.
Already with the Kogi scandal seeping into the presidency on the administration’s continued failure to speak against injustice, it is absolutely critical that the leaders of the ruling PDP be honest in their prompt action on this issue especially in looking into the very serious allegations of disrespect for court orders by Wada Idris which has almost derailed the integrity of our democratic system.
The continued silence of the Presidency will introduce doubts over its interest in carrying out real democratic reforms in Nigeria especially given that Kogi State episode if not properly addressed will portray the Nigerian government as encouraging politically oppressive tactics like the disobedience of court orders by politicians.
As such, instead of the UN and the rest of the International Community spending money to advance Nigeria’s democracy, they may be discouraged by the undemocratic actions that have been allowed to stand for too long in Kogi State.
Kogi State has been badly wounded by power hungry politicians and misdirected factions of the ruling Party especially by members that come across as cowards that are willing tools to promote illegitimacy as an acceptable doctrine of democracy. It is another thing to sweet-talk a people that you are law abiding and quite another to convince the electorate that you have respected the rule of law.
The present occupant of Kogi state government house, Wada Idris has shown that he is not governed by the Nigerian constitution. Anyone that thinks that Wada Idris would obey any existing or future Court order without the intervention of the appropriate authorities that are desirous of sustaining Nigeria’s democracy including the international community, should believe a stranger who tells you that you are not your mother’s child. If the people of Kogi State are to salvage their democracy, a much more concerted effort on the part of the international community as well as its population, is needed. You can get a government to see and hear no evil but not the electorate or the international community.
Despite the fact that gossipers have worked overtime to make the Kogi people believe that the actions of Wada Idris are supported by President Goodluck Jonathan, any close observer of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration would know that regardless of the vested interests of Mr. President in the affairs of the PDP as its National leader, Goodluck Jonathan would not waste his integrity or diminish his goodwill over Kogi State’s governorship illegitimacy. His role as the custodian of Nigeria’s democracy remains foremost and demands of him to uphold high standards of impartiality and truthfulness on issues that will advance Nigeria’s democracy. As such, the few supporters of Wada Idris are getting excited over nothing but these wrong speculations on Mr. President should not be allowed to go into overdrive by the silence of the people he has instructed to ensure that justice is done and the Nigerian Constitution respected. Otherwise, the unabated silence on the part of the Presidency will mean consent to unlawful acts.
Whether or not the government of Nigeria truly respects the judiciary and upholds tenets of true democracy would be determined from how the Government as led by President Goodluck Jonathan applies due process and protects the Judiciary under the Nigerian constitution in the Kogi saga. Nigeria does not need new heroes who will speak out against injustice, what is needed is a government that will protect the constitution.
Kogi state government right now is hopelessly disorganized and until the Presidency takes action, Kogi people will remain under the unbearable yoke of illegitimate leadership.
Furthermore, if Wada Idris is allowed to remain at the helm of Kogi State, the consequence is a government that will be synonymous with questionable conduct and what would emerge is a big dent in the state’s treasury and that is why the government of Goodluck Jonathan must take immediate action that will not make a mockery of its fight against corruption. Men with dirty hands must admit so in a democracy and do the honourable thing and step down unless Wada Idris is now suffering from the “I will not go” syndrome that usually afflicts our politicians on the African continent, In that case, the President must intervene.
* PHRANK SHAIBU is a Public Communications Consultant based in Abuja.