The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been casting aspersion on the Supreme Court over the recent ruling on the Imo State governorship election. What’s the implication of this trend on judiciary and the nation’s democracy?
When you have people who are not democrats, when you have people who are used to having their ways by all means, this is the type of result you get. To me, this is rascality beyond bound. Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and the presiding justices have spoken and there is nothing they can do to about it. To come out for rallies against the Supreme Court ruling is the height of rascality. And it is unfortunate that the National Chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, and the presidential running mate in the last general elections, Peter Obi, were among those people who were casting aspersion on the judicial arm of government. They need to apologise to Nigerians, they need to apologise to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in its wisdom nullified the election in Zamfara State that APC won and insisted that the party had no candidates even though the INEC accepted the list of its candidates. The same Supreme Court declared that there was no candidate for APC in Rivers State and gave everything to PDP. APC as a responsible party did not come out to complain or show this kind of rascality the PDP has shown.
The National Chairman of the PDP is not qualified to lead that party. I have said it severally in different fora that he does not have the temperament to hold a party as large as PDP and I have been vindicated. Secondly, there are three arms of government-executive, legislature and the judiciary. If we have to copy democracy, we have to copy it properly. But what is emanating from the PDP is unfortunate. It is unacceptable and it is condemnable. Democracy is not practised the way they want it practiced. When the Supreme Court ruled on Zamafara State, they described it as epitome of justice. But now, they could come out to condemn the Supreme Court and even asked the CJN to resign in the case of Imo. It’s very unfortunate. They don’t even know the fact of the Imo State matter. They were all talking in ignorance and in ignorance, they will continue to wallow. If they know the fact of Imo, they will hail the decision of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has shown the monumental fraud the PDP wanted to perpetrate in Imo and declared the rightful winner of that election in that state.
It appears politicians have not learnt their lessons. In most cases, they will rig elections, go to court to seek redress and turn round to discredit the court, if the judgment does not go in their favour. Are they mindful of the implication of all this on the growth of democracy?
They know the implication, but because of their parochial interests, they forget completely that this democracy we are practising is a nascent democracy. And all of us must ensure that this democracy is not truncated. And how do you truncate it? It is this kind of rascality demonstrated by the leadership of the PDP that can truncate our democracy. We have to know that the Supreme Court is the highest Court in the land and whatever they decide in their own wisdom must be accepted by all of us. There is no room for either protest or casting aspersion on the honourable justices. Once you begin to do that, you are calling for anarchy. And that is not democracy.
Would you subscribe to the agitation for the review of our electoral law?
The electoral law must be subjected to serious review because as it is today, we are putting onerous burden on the petitioners who cannot in all ramifications prove irregularities, prove violence to nullify election. If you want to prove irregularity, you must call witnesses in every polling unit. For example, in presidential election, we have over 8000 polling units and if you only prove irregularities in four or five polling units, it will not be substantial enough to nullify an election. We copied the democracy we are practicing but we have not copied it properly. We all know that all powers emanate from the constitution. And where there are disputes on electoral matters, the courts are saddled with the responsibility of adjudicating. In the case of the governorship election, you can go up to the Supreme Court. In case of the presidential election, you start from the court of appeal as tribunal up to the Supreme Court. For the National and House of assembly matters, all cases end at the Appeal Court. Supreme Court is the highest court of the land. You have nowhere else to go after the Supreme Court. Emeka Ihedioha himself said though he did not agree with the Supreme Court judgment, but he accepted it and called on Imolites to give support to the present governor, Hope uzodinma. But contrary to what the former governor said, the rascality that emanated from Wadata Plaza, the PDP Secretariat, is better imagined than experienced. And it is condemnable.
The Attorney General of the Federation recently declared dissolution of council administration in Oyo State by Governor Seyi Makinde as unconstitutional and ordered reinstatement of the elected officers. Is anything wrong with the dissolution?
Supreme Court has spoken on this issue. Once local council administration has been constituted through election, you must leave all elected officers to serve out their tenure. On the alternative, if you want a chairman to be removed, the councilors are constitutionally empowered to impeach the chairman if he has been found to commit an impeachable offence. Just like in the state, the president cannot wake up one day and dissolve the state executive. The Attorney General was only reiterating what the Supreme Court has pronounced on local government councils. Once there is in place elected council officers, they must serve out their tenure. Any governor that wakes up one morning, and dissolves a local council, maybe because he had a bad dream, is committing an unconstitutional error and is null and void. These are mistakes we are making in our democracy by electing people who refuse to follow the constitution. We must ensure that we abide by the rules and regulations of democracy; we must ensure that we adhere to the provisions of the constitution of this country; we must toe the line of what the Supreme Court has said.
Who has the power to supervise the local government administration?
Item 7 of the constitution says and I quote, “there should always be a democratically elected local government council, every time, all the times”. But because of lack of checks and balances, the governors have pocketed the local governments. Local government is supposed to be autonomous. They used joint account committee as enshrined in the constitution to muzzle the local government. But the 1999 constitution as amended is very clear on this. There must always be a democratically elected local government council.
Some people have expressed reservation at the quality of personnel at the local government level. What do you think needs to be done to shore up human capacity at the grassroots level?
We are collectively guilty of that position because people just sit down and criticize. Credible people, qualified people, educated people do not show interest in local government elections or elections generally. Politics is too important to be left to politicians alone. Retired civil servants, retired Permanent Secretaries and so on should begin to show interest in local government elections so that qualified people with requisite capacity can be elected to man the local government because it is the closest tier of government to the grassroots. It is the most important level of government. But we have collectively failed in that regard by leaving dropouts, riff-raffs and street boys to take charge of local government councils as Chairmen and councilors. We must wake up to the realities of our time. We must ensure that local government councils are manned by experienced people who can manage the resources available at that level.
You must have also been following conversations on the security outfit recently launched by the South West codenamed Amotekun. What is your take on the matter?
As far as I am concerned, I have no problem with Amotekun. But it should be limited to the states and law must be enacted for its existence. If that is the best way to police your community, you can enact law to back it up and empower people you want to use as vigilante. Even our law allows private citizens to arrest a criminal who is seen to be committing crime. So, if the states, in their wisdom, come up with laws enacted by their state assemblies to establish vigilante group, I have no quarrel with it. I think what many Nigerians have quarrel with is the regional outfit which is unknown to the constitution because we don’t have such tier of government in Nigeria. We should follow the constitution. Let each state come up with a law establishing such outfit and in accordance with our constitution and in consultation with our security agencies. I think with partnership and collaboration with relevant security agencies, the states can come up with such outfits so that the society can be better off.
One of the fears being expressed by those who are opposed to Amotekun is that it could be a ploy to declare Oodua Republic. Is there any way the security outfit threatens the unity of the country?
It was because they created it in form of South West Regional outfit. That ought not to be so because we don’t have such tier of government in our constitution. We only have federal, states and local government. If each state comes up with a law enacted by it own House of assembly to establish its own Amotekun, there will be no reason for that fear. If they believe that such outfit will go a long way to police their communities, so be it. All of us will support it. But by coming out to declare it as Western region outfit, that is where fear comes in. Why Western region? Do we have such tier of government in Nigeria? The answer is no.
Do you see a nexus between the creation of the outfit and the agitation for restructuring?
I don’t know what you mean by restructuring. Restructuring means different things to different people. By the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, there is the exclusive legislative list, which is reserved for the Federal Government, as well as concurrent legislative list, where the federal and state governments can make laws. But where there is a clash between the two lists, the laws made by the Federal Government will prevail. If all powers are derived from the constitution, let us not act outside the constitution. If all elected public officers limit themselves to the provision of the constitution, we will have no problem. This country is too good for such sentiments. To me, Nigeria is a great country; it is only this democracy we are practising that is giving us problem. If we copy the democracy we are practising correctly, we will have no problem.
But the restructuring people are clamouring for is one that will allow states to manage their own affairs.
(Cuts in)…Are they not managing their affairs now? All we need to do is to call for constitutional amendment. If the powers of the Federal Government are too much, we can amend the constitution to devolve powers.