Friday, 6 April 2007

I see

Enter the lawyer

Somehow, I can see that many fellow bloggers have simply decided that the debacle masquerading as preparations for elections in Nigeria is beyond redemption, and I do not blame anyone for their disinterest.

On Tuesday, I did say that the seemingly conflicting judgements of two courts on the powers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to bar candidates and eligibility of candidates to contest elections to curtailing the powers of the INEC seems to have been given an interesting breather.

Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) whose career I have followed with interest for years has been at the forefront of the Civil Liberties movement in Nigeria since 1987, he was probably the best prepared to take on the mantle of the presidency of the Nigerian Bar Association which he won in 2006.

Now, this bigwig says that the judgements are in no way contradictory, but complementary, this is worth taking a pause for and I will listen to what he has to say.

The judgements

The first judgement which came from the Court of Appeal, the superior court, he says, "merely resolved the issue that INEC has the power to screen and disqualify a candidate", fair enough - so the INEC knows that it can disqualify a candidate that is settled.

The second judgement which came from the Federal High Court and hours after the judgement of superior court, he says, "reviewed the process of disqualification, which INEC exercised" he goes on to say, "it was the issue of the reasons for disqualification, which the court held in the case of Atiku, that the reason for disqualification is not proper, hence he (Atiku) cannot be disqualified", well, that does look like the crux of the matter, and one could argue that there has been a lapse in due process by INEC because they seem to be driven by tenets that have excited serious legal scrutiny.

A peal of appeals

This for me looks like a good basis for seeking further legal clarification in the courts and it should be left to the appellate process to resolve. For instance, it is testament to the fact that the judgment of the lower court exercises a different legal requirement of the INEC that the INEC has decided to appeal that judgment.

This is like Mr. Agbakoba said because INEC's manner of disqualifying the vice-President was suspect if not illegal.

The vice-President it would appear was disqualified on the basis of the report of the Administrative Panel of Inquiry set up by the Federal Government, a report that was rubbished by the Lagos High Court months ago - hence, it would appear, the INEC really for now has no legal basis for disqualifying the vice-President - he should run for elections.

The Attorney Miscreant

Enter Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN), the legal lackey of the Federal Government as the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, a man who with all his learned expertise has done more to undermine the rule of law and make a ridicule of our international legal reputation.

He was the one who could not invoke the appropriate measures to handle corrupt governors in Nigeria that he ended up appearing in courts himself in the UK to argue the question of immunity of governors and was in cahoots with the FBI to try and undermine the vice-President in the United States.

He has rubbished the view of the President of the NBA because it makes seriously uncomfortable reading for the Federal Government whose head has turned a personal vendetta into a political stalemate in terms Nigeria having good governance in the last 18 months and has usurped the independence of agencies to conduct their activities in a proper manner, in order to achieve a personal end.

Attacking the lawyers

So, Chief Ojo, thinks the interpretation of the judgements by the NBA is politicising the issue, which is quite rich coming from the Attorney General, but really, what the Federal Government fears is the possibility that the postponement of the election might lead to the much reviled political enemy of the President having the opportunity to present himself to the Nigerian people.

I would think the NBA is probably better acquainted with the quest for due process and justice than the Federal Government and I think attacks on the NBA because they have not been subsumed into the craftiness of the Federal Government will pay no dividends.

Rather, it is very much like a struggling drowning and wounded man flailing in a sea of sharks, I expect the NBA not only to rise to this bait but swallow the fisherman before they are done; as the saying goes, only fools tread where angels fear to tread.

Still hoping for justice

Every sleight of hand exercised in our name by the Federal Government as it goes about trying to succeed itself is a rape of democracy, but if justice does fall in favour of vice-President Atiku that he gets the opportunity to contest the elections, the out-pouring of sympathy might just put him in Aso Rock and accomplish the eternal nightmare of the ruling party.

The powder-keg of unrest that is being primed for a major explosion as these elections begin to look pre-determined, doctored, rigged and unfair might as well stay plugged, but I would not hedge my bets.

Meanwhile, there would be no rest for the courts till the last bit of clarity is forced down the throats of all those who refuse to respect the rule of law.

References

Atiku Stands Disqualified, Says FG - DissDay

Presidency Slams NBA over Position on Atiku - DissDay

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