Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Prof Auwalu Yadudu was a former legal adviser to the late General Sani Abacha, former military Head of State. He was also a delegate to the National Conference where he served as the deputy chairman of the Standing Committee on Law, Judiciary and Human Rights.
A very simple, friendly, but highly regarded and disciplined academic, the Professor of Law of Bayero University, Kano, shares his viewpoints on the judgment of the Supreme Court on the Imo governorship election dispute, the setting up of Amotekun, a regional security outfit by states in the Southwest region and the current emirate crisis in Kano State, where he in concert with a few other elders has dragged the government and state assembly to court. Excerpts:
I will want your reaction to the establishment of Amotekun, the regional security outfit by states in the South Western region of Nigeria?
Well, my view is that I have my serial concern about a project which is not clearly defined, a project that is not clearly defined in law so that I will be able to know whether what is being attempted meets the requirements of the law or violates the law. Now, on the other hand, I don’t think I will entirely agree with the Attorney General of the Federation to go out of the way, in the absence of clear, legal definition and clarification, to say that what they are doing is illegal. If he is expressing an opinion, it is an opinion that I think has gone too far because as we sit now, I do not exactly know the full ramification of what the region wants to do. There are some matters of clarification: One does not know whether the enterprise, the project is one that has received the endorsement and legislative support of all the states that are involved or if it is the legislation of one being implemented across the region or the states. Again, my concern is that one should be in the business of standing in the way of an entity, a state or even a local government from embarking on a legitimate exercise to project the security and the safety of its people. The safety, security and welfare of the people are the prime goal of governance. So, to that extent, I have no reservation in endorsing such an enterprise, to the extent that it is spelt out in clear legal terms or in policy terms that one can now look at and say that it either wrong to this extent or entirely wrong. But for now, my concern will be to await clarification and not to rush and declare it illegal. I think that would be too far.
But do you think that we are matured for this kind of regional policing?
Again, I don’t know what they want to do…. All I have seen are vehicles with pictures of Ametokun and the explanation by the Governor of Ondo State at the launch of the programme that they want to complement the efforts of the state. To me, as I said, I will not rush at a hundred per cent endorsing or a hundred per cent condemning it when I do not know the full ramification and clarity as to what is being done.
Some people have suggested that it is a good idea, let’s go to court and test the law…
Well, if you go to court, what do you go to court against. You go to court when there is a piece of legislature, which either citizen can challenge or if you say that there is a dispute between let us say the Federal Government and the states. You don’t go court over discussions that take place at beer parlour or at fish joints. The court would not listen to that. Those are statements and they do not have any legal force. Now, going to court would be hinged or triggered with the enactment of a legislation that clearly spells out what this outfit is, what powers it has and whether or not they bear arms, all these things. The legislation would be able to spell these things out. In the absence of such legislation, it is my view that there is no sense for going to court. To challenge what or to advocate for what?
So, the idea is for us to wait and see where we are going before we are able to think or speak about this whole issue?
No, no, no! We can speak about it, but you asked whether a legal dispute is an answer. Yes it is an… ultimately it can be an answer when there is a piece of legislation that either the Attorney General disagrees with or the state passing those legislation strongly feel about and they don’t think it should be displaced. There is no such legislation as far as I am aware.
The Supreme Court, a few days ago, upturned the victory of the governor of Imo State and handed it over to Chief Hope Uzodinma. It has elicited a lot of reactions from the learned minds. How do you see the judgment?
I have not read the judgment of the court, but what is reported is that the court felt that a petitioner has made a sufficient case to say that the votes he, the petitioner, has earned have been totally excluded in the computation of the results, which led to the pronouncement of another person as winner. The court was of the view that whoever excluded those votes had no power to do so and they are willing to admit those votes and based on their understanding and calculation of the votes, and also meeting the requirements of the constitution, Hope Uzodinma has been declared the winner, based on their own calculation. It is no more than that.
But what is your reaction to the judgment? Do you feel it is a wonderful judgment or do you feel something different could have been delivered?
I would not go to the extent of saying whether it is wonderful or it is not wonderful. I would like to rationalise the reasoning. I am only commenting on the newspaper report of what has happened. On the face of it, it looks justifiable. On the face of the reports, it looks justifiable.
So, you don’t share the view of some Nigerians that probably the Supreme Court has danced a little bit to the ruling party?
That is the most stupid argument to make, that the Supreme Court has danced to the ruling party. Did the Supreme Court dance to the ruling party when it completely sent parking the governors, the senators and the House of Representatives of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara? Was it dancing to the dictates of the opposition party when it did this? Or was the Supreme Court dancing to the dictates of the opposition party when it said that the All Progressives Congress has no candidate in River State and the elections took place without All Progressives Congress participating? The Supreme Court adjudicated on a dispute that is before it based on the evidence before it, before it decided the way it decided. No more, no less. You cannot accuse them in this case only, by reference to this case only. They have decided other cases, which have completely gone against the ruling party. Why are you looking at this case only?
The presidency has just ordered the withdrawal of troops from some of the states…
(Cuts in) I don’t know anything about security issues, so I don’t want to comment on that.
(Cuts in) I am just saying I am not a security expert, I will not comment on something that I am not too conversant with. That will be unfair for me to say whether they are right or wrong or whether we are ready or not.
In the recent times, we have had cases of disregard for orders of competent court by the system. How do you see the trend?
It is wrong. It is wrong for any agency of government at the state and federal level to ignore an order of a competent court of law. An agency of government, whether federal, state or local government, knows what to do when faced with an order of the court…but not to completely ignore it. That is wrong.
What would they have done?
That is why I said, they know what to do. If it is a matter that can be appealed, they should appeal against it to have it overturned. If the appellate court agrees with them, they can overturn the order. It is not right for an agency of government, state, federal or local government to flagrantly disobey a court order.
How does this impact on the impression we have of the present administration? We have the Dasuki case, we have also a couple of the judgments that took so long to be obeyed. How do you see the trend?
Well, I think that they have their justification in some cases. One may not entirely agree with them, but I don’t think one or two cases are sufficient to condemn an administration as being disrespectful of the judiciary or of undermining the judiciary. There are very many other cases that they have complied with and I don’t think that you can use one case or two cases to say that they have completely undermined the rule of law or judicial autonomy.
If you are asked to advise the Federal Government on this, what area would you ask them to improve upon?
Well, the best thing is that they should be proactive when there is a challenge. It’s often the practice of government not to take things seriously, until an order is given and then they are confronted with something that they cannot handle. And then, of course, certainly the rule of law is the bulwark upon which democratic governance rests. And it is in everybody’s interest that orders of the court are respected and if it is disagreed with, steps are taken to vacate them. Otherwise, we are not safe. It is not just the individuals only, even the government itself. This is because the respect the government evokes from citizens is based on their own respect for the rule of law. If they undermine it, they don’t have to expect my own respect.
Away from all these, there is this issue of the Malabo thing that was probably there when you were…
(Cuts in) I don’t anything about that.
The Kano Emirate crisis has been on for some time now. You are certainly an elder by every justification. May we know your take on the crisis?
My take is that I disagree with the action that the government has taken in passing a law without following due process and also in passing a law that has completely undermined centuries of traditions, a law that is wrong for the traditional institution and wrong for the government, which is why I am one of those who have sued the government against the law that they have passed, and I am seeking to see that the court declares those laws as illegal and void and of no effect.
There are rather too many litigations in regard to the emirate crisis. Would their numbers not eventually undermine them?
Well, I am pursuing the one that I am part of. I don’t know about the others. In any case, what do you mean by too many litigations? Those who are dismissed, they have a right to challenge their dismissal or removal. These who are kingmakers, they have a right to say that we are kingmakers, otherwise I don’t know of any other case.
The Tofa-led Elders of Kano, which is one of the groups that have gone to court, do they have the jurisdiction to institute the case?
It is for the court to decide. When you go to court and you challenge something, you will expect the other party to say you have no jurisdiction, you have no standing and you are only one of 12 million people, but it is for the court to “yes” that these people have no standing and they are busy bodies, but until the court says so, you cannot deny what they have said.
But why did it take the elders of Kano so long to come into the matter. You people spent so much time before your intervention.
I don’t know how you count what time…the litigation against the new law was almost immediately after its enactment. Now, the first enactment, there were a lot of other engagements of a peaceful conciliatory nature taking place. So, you would not know what were those steps and what had happened to them. Perhaps going to the elders of Kano is a matter of last resort. So, it is not that it has taken them forever to engage the government. There have been conciliatory efforts, there have been peace-keeping efforts and there have been other things that you don’t have to know.
If you have to advise Ganduje as your friend or as somebody you respect, what would be your advice at this moment?
My advice I think would not go to Ganduje, but to the government and to the state assembly. It is that if you want to take action of a legal nature, comply with the due process. It is in your best interest and it is in everybody’s best interest that due process is followed and by due process I mean that if you are passing a law that changes completely this history, what are you afraid of that would make you not hold a public hearing for people to air their views. And perhaps, you may even make a better law if you have held a public hearing on the matter before you rushed in one day and passed a terrible piece of legislation. So, my view would be follow due process and you have no problem.