By Phrank Shaibu
For anyone that has observed with reasonable interest Nigeria’s transition to democratic rule, it would be difficult to deny that the arrival of Prof. Attahiru Jega at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Nigeria’s regulatory agency on electoral issues as its Chairman has not come with tremendous improvements in many aspects of the nation’s electoral process.
The many reforms carried out by Prof Jega, an erudite scholar and former academic unionist in the past five years have received commendations even from a wide range individuals and institutions including critics on Nigeria’s beleaguered democracy.
That Prof. Attahiru Jega has made some remarkable progress at INEC is a statement of fact. Unfortunately, his recent remarks on providing a solution to the Kogi State political impasse which unconstitutionally thrust two governors on the people of Kogi State is a clear reminder of the fact that nobody is beyond making comments that may not be too apt.
In fact, you cannot expect to take a place on the national stage or position on a national issue and not explain yourself. That is exactly, what Prof Jega did but unfortunately it backfired with adverse consequences.
Specifically, Prof Jega’s very recent public explanation that he only voiced an advice and did not come outright to proclaim Wada Idris, the embattled Kogi State politician as Governor of Kogi Sate against a valid directive of the Attorney General of the Federation on a Supreme Court ruling would have been very good lyrics and sweet melody for the ear and heart if it were a song.
Unfortunately, his audience is neither made up of music analysts nor a set of fun lovers awaiting entertainment in a musical concert. Prof Jega’s remarks are on a vital national issue.
His statement that ‘the decision of INEC in calling for the inauguration of the Governor-elect, Captain Idris Wada put an end to the debacle in Kogi state’ is very sad, unimpressive and confusing and presents him (rightly or wrongly) guilty of conscious lying because ever since Wada Idris was imposed on the people of Kogi State, the only authority he has been brandishing is a purported letter of seeming authority from INEC and this impunity has neither brought democratic satisfaction to the people of Kogi State nor made the law courts free from litigations bothering on Prof Jega’s so called advice.
Again, Prof Jega goofed when he stated that “If you compare the Kogi governorship case with other cases, you will see that they are not the same.
“When the Supreme Court said tenure has expired in May last year, it is only the speakers that can take over as provided for by the constitution. But the case of Kogi is different. We had done an election and declared a winner in Kogi State.
“We were waiting for the tenure of the incumbent to end and the Supreme Court ruled that the tenure of the incumbent expired May last year. So, why would you hand over to a speaker when there is already an elected governor in waiting?”.
Indeed, Prof Jega has a point but if he had done his research or consultation as he said he did with his lawyers, he would have realised that it is not his discretion nor advice that matters on a Supreme Court ruling but what interpretation the court gives to it.
Nigeria has a constitution that is not ambiguous so as to allow INEC any interpretation it deems fit. There is no point for Prof Jega to go to extraordinary lengths to try and justify some statements he has made because it is common place knowledge that the everyday duty of the court is to interpret the meaning of the laws which is usually referred to as the duty of statuary interpretation.
It is therefore important at this juncture to remind Prof Jega of the position of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Dahiru Musdapher that “Any dissatisfaction with a decision of the court should be followed with an appeal and not proclamations of non-observance of court orders”.
It is doubtless that INEC has some accomplishments but it also has lots of failings, its self assigned role in the interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling on Kogi state stands out because its Chairman’s explanation over INEC’s action is laced with inarticulate and unsound reasoning especially on its insistence that the Commission took the right decision in defiance to a court order.
By reason of INEC’s expertise, accumulated experience and knowledge on the Nigerian constitution as it relates to the Court rulings, its chairman’s action becomes highly suspicious. To begin with, if Prof Jega’s insistence that his advice to Wada Idris is right, then it may be very unproductive for anyone to debate with him except the law enforcers because it may just seem like trying to get an eight year old to go the dentist.
Indeed, If I were a Judge of the Supreme Court, after reading Prof Jega’s public remarks, I would have no choice than to ensure the decision of the Apex Court is not ridiculed and Prof Jega summoned for either obstruction of Justice or overthrowing Nigeria’s constitution.
From all objective reasoning, Prof’s Jega’s denial of issuing a directive has been made very controversial because INEC’s reckless documented instruction for the installation of Wada Idris as Governor is already a public document that has been tendered in an Abuja Federal High Court.
Indeed, when men of authority like Prof Jega pride themselves in disobeying the orders of the court, then anyone can follow suit.
It is therefore most likely that Wada Idris merely perpetuated a crime perfected by Prof Jega because it is either that what Wada Idris provided as supposed authority from INEC is a profoundly distorted picture of Prof Jega’s intention or that Prof Jega is now economical with the truth.
Therefore, the reliance on INEC’s advice is an absurdity, notwithstanding the controversies of an existing written document; an advice remains a recommendation that has no binding force or authority.
Even in the face of these embarrassing disclosures, Prof Jega seems to be in a class of his own when it comes to being stubborn and rigid.
First off, his attitude towards his mistakes is very worrisome because he appears to conveniently forget that his affirmation that there is genuine difference between advice and directive, yet a contentious written communication from INEC to Wada Idris forms some of the apparent contradictions and absurdities in his remarks in providing a viable resolution for the Kogi state imbroglio. Any objective thinker would read Prof Jega’s mind.
Coincidentally, the linked propaganda or order that the Chairman of INEC instructed that Wada Idris should be sworn in as Governor has been demolished with public disclosure by no one else but Prof Jega himself.
In simple meaning, Prof Jega’s claim that what he offered in the Kogi debacle was a mere recommendation and not in any way an instruction, sufficiently destroys every imaginary string that Wada Idris was holding on to for a continued stay as Kogi State governor. What this means is that the illegal occupation of Kogi State Government House by Wada Idris is a naked exploitation of the Kogi people and their resources.
Now that Wada Idris has been forced into a very precarious balancing act as he has been ironically spared the hard time of distinguishing between ‘advice’ and ‘directive’ by Prof Jega, it will obviously be his wish for an endless litigation at least to allow him keep power in Kogi State and even use the present unholy silence of the law enforcement agencies as the only existing shield to sustain injustice for his continued control of Kogi State’s lean resources.
However, the real truth is that whatever Wada Idris and his co travelers are resting on is akin to a makeshift bridge that would not stand the test of time. Continuing on this path will lead them to more troubles.
Truly, if really Prof Jega is willing to visit the Kogi debacle with an element of conscience and fairness, he must be open to reason that in a focused society, people do not float where the river takes them rather they build a boat and take it where they like. Where the people of Kogi State want to go in a democracy lies in their choice.
What makes perfect sense for the people of Kogi State is that Justice is done and Judgments of the Supreme Court is obeyed. Therefore, Prof Jega’s continued skewed role in Kogi political crisis will always be questioned in the eyes of the law as irrationality and the fact remains that Prof Jega cannot be a part of how an injustice should be remedied in Kogi State.
As long as there are men and women of goodwill that are able to speak out against injustice that has been thrust by INEC and its associates on the Kogi people, Prof Jega’s position will certainly be debated until justice is done and seen to be done
*PHRANK SHAIBU, is a Public Communications Consultant based in Abuja.
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