ByÂ Chris Agbiti
Only a few Nigerians can still, perhaps, retain in their memories the event of July 16, 1999, no thanks to our collective malady of amnesia. So, what happened on July 16, 1999? A brief narration of the chain of events culminating in the said event of 16th July, 1999 under review may be necessary for a proper grasp of the lesson. The locale was in Adamawa State of Nigeria.
The dramatis personae consisted of Atiku Abubakar, Boni Haruna and two other gentlemen. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his running mate had just won the governorship election of Adamawa State under the platform of PDP in an election conducted by INEC.
However, before their swearing in, the then PDP Presidential candidate, Chief Obasanjo, just out of prison and desperately in need of a strong political machinery to realize his presidential ambition saw the usefulness of Atiku Abubakar as head of the political structure ofÂ late Yarâ€™Adua and thus, persuaded him to renounce his mandate and be appointed his running mate.
Upon his acceptance of the offer of Obasanjoâ€™s running mate by Atiku, INEC as the electoral umpire officially wrote to Atiku of its decision to conduct a Bye_Election to fill the governorship vacancy he had left behind. However, Boni Haruna, the Deputy governor Elect, and the PDP, would have non ofÂ the INEC decision to conduct another election, as according to them, the fact of Boni Harunaâ€™s victory at the poll had already conferred on him certain constitutional rights that entitled him to be automatically sworn in as the Governor following Atikuâ€™s abandonment of his mandate.
And so, to the court they all went to ventilate their grievances. The matter commenced at the Federal High court and raged on until it finally berthed at the apex court. At the Supreme Court, it became necessary for the court to interpret Section 45 of the then Decree 3 of 1999 (now the 1999 constitution) which provides for the conditions under which a Deputy Governor may be sworn in as Governor. According to the said Section, a Deputy Governor shall only be sworn in on the occurrence of such eventualities as â€œdeath, resignation, impeachment, permanent incapacity or removal for any other reasonâ€.
It never contemplated such abandonment as happened in Atikuâ€™s instance. However, finding itself in such a challenge demanding the assertion of its role of social engineering, the Supreme Court, in a split decision, felt a need to advance a remedy, albeit uncanny, to the strange constitutional ailment, and, EUREKA, came the ultimate remedy that became the commencement of a political terminal disease for Atiku.
The Learned Justices of the Supreme Court, per UWAIS CJN (as he then was) found succor in the dictionary definition of the word, â€œ DIEâ€ which according to him finds synonyms in, â€œ breath oneâ€™s last, deceased, depart, expire, finish, decay, decay, decline, disappear, dwindle, ebb, end, fade, lapse, vanish, wane, wilt, wither, fizzle outâ€ and finally decided that even though Atiku was biologically alive, his renunciation of his mandate as Governor-Elect to run with ChiefÂ Obasanjo as Vice President, in effect, had the same consequence as â€œdieâ€ within the contextual meaning of the dictionary definition of death given above.
And thus, Atiku was, in effect,Â pronounced judicially dead, thereby clearing the coast for Boni Haruna to be sworn in as the Governor.
While the above Supreme Court judgment might, probably, have been treated with the usual exchange of banter by Atiku and his acolytes, it is doubtful whether he ever took time to reflect soberly on the spiritual implication of such weighty pronouncement handed down from the sacred temple of justice. Ever thought of why court is regarded as a â€œTemple of justiceâ€? Judges in law courts are near perfect clones of God. The word of God is law, for it must authoritatively accomplish those things to which it is sent. Same goes for courtâ€™s judgments. Hence, the spiritual nexus between spoken word, a fortiori, spoken word from the Temple of justice and divinity.
The above explains, in my own opinion, the aura of political atrophy manifested in his obsessive desperation for political relevance haunting Atiku and threatening to â€œ dwindle, ebb, end, fade, lapse, vanish, wane, wilt, fizzle out, wither, expireâ€ him from the political scene ever since the supreme court judicially pronounced him dead to enable Boni Haruna to be sworn in as the Governor of Adamawa State.
The only remedy, (and I doubt its efficacy in the circumstance) is for Atiku to undergo a form of spiritual and, then political exorcism, otherwise, all his present efforts to bring himself to politicalÂ reckoning and relevance, just as his other futile attempts in the recent past, I am afraid, may all amount to fetching water with a basket.