By Phrank Shaibu
History tells us that a society sows seeds of dissent when people entrusted with its leadership become economical with the truth or remain silent in the face of injustice.
In fact, to keep silent in times of injustice is in itself injustice. Such a situation not only destroys the hopes of the people in a society but multiplies their pains in pursuit for development. Regrettably, the political events in the past two months in Kogi State captures a pathetic example of how democracy works particularly when people put their self interest well and above collective quest for justice. Howbeit, it is common knowledge that in most growing democratic communities, instances of unabated lawlessness are usually adduced to men and women who remain silent in the face of grotesque acts of injustice and abuse of the rule of law.
In any case, an honest reappraisal of the Kogi State situation has become very necessary in the face of the recent comments of the Chief Justice of Nigeria- CJN, Justice Dahiru Musdapher. Specifically, few weeks ago, Justice Dahiru Musdapher during a public function at Ilorin stated that “In Kogi State, it was widely reported that the President of the Customary Court of Appeal had to swear in a Governor when the Chief Judge who was constitutionally charged with the role, had refused to do so, until he had ascertained the true import of the decision of the Supreme Court. This is clearly wrong”.
The CJN’s statement without a doubt has given most watchers of Kogi politics a double shock. First, is the tragedy of having an illegitimate State Governor, which is terrible for the Kogi people and Nigeria’s democracy. Second, is the strange quietness of those who should have shown genuine and prompt concern on the Kogi issue by virtue of their official capacities and responsibilities in protecting rule of law in Nigeria.
The breaking of silence by the CJN on the controversies surrounding the unlawful swearing in of Captain Wada Idris as Governor of Kogi State has exonerated the Nigerian judiciary of favouritism and alleged conspiracy in the Kogi political dilemma. The CJN’s statement has not only left the enthronement of Wada Idris as Governor of Kogi State unlawful but also made the weakness of our law enforcement agencies more apparent. However, more than anything else, the position of the CJN is very encouraging as it has made many people to see the Supreme Court's verdict as reflecting the right strength of character needed for fairness and justice in Nigeria’s democracy.
A lot of the people that thrust their support behind Wada Idris’ continued stay in office as Governor of Kogi State based on their reliance on the seeming authority of the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega now have three major things to contend with. First, is that Prof. Jega of INEC has long reversed himself by publicly declaring that what he actually offered to Kogi State on resolving the political impasse was a mere advice not directive. The difference between advice and directive is not ambiguous and there is no need seeking further interpretation here. According to Prof Jega ‘we gave the advice in order to avoid unnecessary rancor and controversy’. That the advice from Prof Jega was neither based on any known electoral principle nor the constitutional mandate of the INEC, makes it invalid or best regarded as an opinion with no authority to convey implementation. As such, anyone, who acted on such, could have done so out of personal discretion and not as a legitimate act. The second point of note here is that the purported claim by Wada Idris that INEC directed on his installation as Governor of Kogi State has even lost any iota of power and justification as the CJN has spoken essentially as an authority of finality in the interpretation of the Nigerian constitution. A third point that should be very worthy of mention is the non recognition of the election that produced Wada Idris in the eyes of the law but sadly this important aspect will form a sufficient discourse another time because it is presently before a court of law and it will be most appropriate to avoid any issue that would be suggestive of subjudice or regarded as contempt of court.
Nevertheless, from the statements of the CJN, what is obvious is that any pending legal tussle of this nature will not take any court of competent jurisdiction too long to rule on the case. Even at that, it is not impossible that some persons may deliberately wish to prolong litigations on this issue in a bid to get some extended stay in office for Wada Idris but any objective analyst would understand that it is just hokum and the law enforcement agencies must take all the blame for any further mess because from albinitio, the advice of Prof Jega INEC had no legitimate backing to grant Wada Idris access to the Kogi State Government House especially when another person, the Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly had already been sworn in by the one and only Chief Judge of Kogi State in accordance with the directive of the Attorney General of the Federation that conveyed the decision of the Supreme Court.
Obviously, before the CJN’s statement, what those perpetuating the injustice in Kogi state politics have shown is that they believed they were free to behave as they chose, whether within the constraints of moral parameters or rule of law. Even most people in authority or appointees of the Government were not wishing to state their reservations explicitly on the illegality of Wada Idris rather they made some limp official statements thereby creating more confusion and misunderstanding on an issue of simple interpretation.
Worse still is that almost a month after the CJN broke the silence, none of these horrors has created an echo in the ears of law enforcement agencies. Indeed, it is a shame that the unnecessary caution and indifference in dealing with the Kogi issue by the law enforcement agents has created a new but lamentable impression on their respect for the rule of law. The failure of those in leadership, law enforcement agencies and the many institutions that should be helping to build democracy in Nigeria to respond in substance on the political crisis in Kogi State constitutes serious bad faith. The complacency of these major players on the illegitimacy of Wada Idris is saddening and their approach to addressing the problem shows a misplaced focus in a growing democracy.
It is therefore important to state that anyone who still supports Wada Idris as Governor of Kogi State in the face of these emerging facts must either be economical with the truth or deliberately missing the point. For emphasis, this is not about whether Wada Idris won an election or not. It is about how the Supreme Court decision of a country has been respected or disrespected. Granted, that some of the people in the camp of Wada Idris may have advanced some arguments before the CJN commented on the issue but there is nothing to gain from rehearsing them here because the simple fact is that everyone should respect a Supreme Court’s decision and the rule of law in every focused democratic society.
While some people are busy seeking ways of advancing democracy in Kogi State, it is sad to observe that some persons who felt unsatisfied with the ruling of the Supreme court are very involved in twisting facts that portray the Supreme Court ruling as unfavourable to the interest of the ruling Party. In reality, the decision of the Supreme Court regardless of whether it is in favour of or against the ruling Party now, does not have any bearing on the Party's chances of victory in a next legitimate general election as the issue addressed is about Wada Idris illegality and the Kogi people. Strengthening of the ruling party with illegalities for the purpose of remaning in power is absurd and unacceptable. Indeed, the problem the Kogi people have is not necessarily with the ruling party but with a few gullible persons in the former leadership of the party that produced Wada Idris as Kogi state Governor under a platform of illegality.
Realistically, if the Kogi people desire to be absolutely honest about their legitimate options, the first step would be to ensure that Wada leaves the Kogi State government House immediately for the Speaker of the State House of Assembly to be rightly sworn in as Acting Governor of the State until a new election is conducted as directed by the Attorney General of the Federation in line with a Supreme court ruling.
The continued intransigence on this matter by Wada Idris and his supporters is understandable from the point of self aggrandizement but this is a betrayal of their obligations as politicians that want progress for their people. It is therefore difficult to see how a continued stay in office by Wada Idris as governor will serve the cause of justice or preserve the integrity of the Kogi state treasury which is largely funded by tax payer’s hard earned money. This is where the principles of natural justice call for nothing less than the stepping down of Wada Idris as Governor of Kogi State.
The occupation of the Kogi State Government House is an invitation to anarchy and it well known that if country chooses to live by anarchy, it must be ready to face the consequences of disregarding the law. The CJN has spoken and disabled the conspiracy of silence which has attempted to stifle democratic progress. As such a potential solution to this significant issue would be for the enforcement agencies to undertake their responsibility and do the needful. However, this time if Wada Idris does not step down, the law enforcement agencies should not allow him walk away into the sunset.
It’s time to move from the Wada Idris saga to a next stage of swiftly preparing for free and credible elections in Kogi State.
History is waiting for us!
*PHRANK SHAIBU, is a Public Communications Consultant based in Abuja.